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As an “invigorated” (incensed, outraged, enraged) citizen of Wisconsin, I have become involved in a range of activist activities. One activity is the Recall Alberta Darling campaign.

In an effort to maximize recall and GOTV efforts, I have been studying demographic information and voting patterns from the 2008 and 2010 elections in Wisconsin State Senate District 8 (Alberta Darling’s district). Word on the street is that the district itself has been trending more Democratic in recent years, and Darling has been trending more conservative. Certainly in the high-Democratic turnout year in 2008, Darling was re-elected by only 1,000 or so votes, but the numbers for 2010 tell a different story.

(A quick update with a link to the Recall Alberta Darling Act Blue page. Thank you ALL for your support of our struggles in Wisconsin!)

Darling’s district is an interesting aggregate of urban/suburban/rural that encompasses 4 different counties (Milwaukee County, Ozaukee County, Washington County and Waukesha County) and three different State Assembly districts. Overall District 8 is mostly white (140,902 citizens identified as white on the 2000 census vs. 21,174 non-white). Note that the demographics I am citing come from the April 2004 Wisconsin Legislative Almanac, which uses 2000 census data. I would expect that some demographics have shifted significantly since then.

Not surprisingly, the voting trends in Milwaukee County (all of Assembly District 22 and part of Assembly District 23) lean significantly Democratic. District 22 consists of the municipalities of Shorewood, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Whitefish Bay, and some very small fragments of northernmost-Milwaukee. Assembly District 22 is about 86% white and 7% African-American. This district has the highest number of residents with a BA degree: 60% (not coincidentally, UW-Milwaukee is just south of the district’s border). It is generally affluent, moreso in the northerly wards, but does include some student populations. It has the highest rate of rental units among the three Assembly Districts that make up Darling’s constituency.

Assembly District 23 is an odd district: it is comprised of Mequon and Thiensville (in Ozaukee County), and Brown Deer, Bayside, and some small Milwaukee fragments (in Milwaukee County). Unlike the Milwaukee County wards in District 22, however, those in District 23 are significantly African-American. District 23 is 78% white and 16% African-American. Unsurprisingly, income is significantly higher and unemployment is significantly lower in the Mequon/Thiensville portion of this district. The highest unemployment among all of Darling’s constituency is in the Milwaukee wards of District 23. This district has about equal BA degree and High School degree recipients among people with degrees. The demographics don’t specify how many people do NOT have a HS degree in any of the districts.

Assembly District 24 is the least racially-diverse of the districts, and the most rural. It is comprised of the municipalities of Germantown (Town and Village), Menomonee Falls, Butler, and the eastern parts of Richfield. It has only 1.4% African-American residents as opposed to 96% white. There are proportionally more Asian residents in the non-white category here, and many fewer “multi-racial” citizens, than in the other districts. In this district, about 60% of the residents have a HS degree, and only 28% or so have a BA. Obama’s highest support in this Assembly District was 54%, but mostly in the 30% range.

in general, turnout in Obama-supporting wards was lower in 2010, sometimes significantly. When numbers went down, it usually happened in wards that supported Obama in 2008, or had relatively more support for Obama than in comparable wards. I am getting my Obama support and voter turnout numbers from the Recall Alberta Darling website (River Hills data not included; I have some rough numbers below).

AD 22
Milwaukee had the greatest negative change in voter turnout in AD22 (-24.1% in ward 40, right next to UW Milwaukee), with the remaining four Milwaukee wards with -15.9%, -11.6%, -10.9% and -10.5%. These weren’t the worst-performing wards, but they are pretty bad. Obama support was heavy in all these wards, often above 80%. These are the wards with high unemployment, lower income, and higher student populations.

In Shorewood, turnout change ranged from -11.0% through +3.0%, with the lower turnout in 2010 in wards with more students (based upon my personal knowledge of the neighborhoods - those wards are close to UWM and farther from the toney Lake Michigan neighborhoods). In Shorewood, 2010 turnout correlates least with Obama support in 2008.

In Glendale, turnout ranged from -1.7% to + 8.2%. All wards were up in 2010 except for wards 2 and 8 (a very large and oddly-shaped ward). These wards correlate with the highest unemployment stats in Glendale.

In Brown Deer, turnout change in 2010 ranged from -5.8 through +0.9. The wards with the low turnout in 2010 had the highest Obama support in 2008  (68% vs 57% and 60% in the other Brown Deer wards).

In Fox Point, turnout in 2010 was positive over 2008 (+2.9% and +4.5%), with higher support in the wards that had the higher turnout in 2010.

Whitefish Bay, wards 3 and 4, had the greatest positive change (+9.8%) in voter turnout between 2008 and 2010 for AD22. These same wards had 54% support for Obama (the second-lowest support in Whitefish Bay, vs the highest of 61%).

River Hills (Alberta Darling's home) is, not surprisingly, the only non-Democratic leaning municipality in AD22. Overall, River Hills supported Obama at 47% (the lowest in AD22), and was up in 2010 turnout by +8.43%.

AD 23

As in AD22, the greatest negative change in voter turnout between 2008 and 2010 was in the Milwaukee wards. The highest negative change in all of Darling’s district is in AD23, Milwaukee’s ward 260. This ward had the highest overall support for Obama in 2008 at 93%. It is also the ward with the single greatest unemployment rate in Senate District 8. The rest of the Milwaukee wards in AD23 were -23.1%, -20.3%, -19.0%, -15.6% and -15.3%. These wards all had the highest Obama support in AD23, with the lowest at 70% and the highest at 88%.  These wards are part of an area with overall higher unemployment and lower income.

Outside of the Milwaukee wards, the AD23 wards with the highest drop in turnout in 2010 were wards 3 and 4 in Thiensville. While the support for Obama in those wards was only at 49%, that is quite a bit higher than the other Thiensville wards (at 36%), and higher than any 2008 support for Obama in Mequon, which peaks at 44%.

Bayside had both high Obama support in 2008 and growth in turnout in 2010 with the exception of ward 6. Ward six supported Obama at 67%, and had a turnout rate in 2010 of -7.5 (every other Bayside ward had positive turnout, peaking at +5.8%). Wards 3 and 7, with +5.8% growth in turnout, had the lowest Obama support in Bayside (58%).

Mequon had overall lower Obama support in 2008 (ranging from 34% to 44% support), and overall growth in 2010 turnout. The only drop in turnout was -2.6% in wards 8, 9, 18 and 21. Obama support was at 39% in these wards; at about the middle of the support range for Mequon.

AD 24

This district had the lowest support for Obama in 2008, and had a range of turnout changes between 2008 and 2010.

Butler is a small village that is 97% white with a median family income of $50,903. It supported Obama at 43%, and turnout in 2010 was down a modest 2.4%.  

Menomonee Falls had the greatest range of support for Obama in 2008: from 45% in wards 5, 6 and 13, to 37% in several different ward groups (support ranged from 37% to 45%, with most between 37% and 39%). The largest negative turnout in 2010 was in the highest Obama support wards (5, 6 and 13) which experienced a shift of -5.6% in 2010 turnout, the only negative shift in Menomonee Falls. This is the region in Menomonee Falls with the highest unemployment, and is contiguous with the high-Obama, low-turnout, high-unemployment, low-income Milwaukee wards in AD23. Menomonee Falls is 96.5% white, 1.47% African-American.

Germantown (Town and Village) supported Obama at low levels in 2008 (from 27% to 43%). The wards with greatest Obama support experienced the lowest turnout in 2010 (43% support and -8.8% turnout). The wards with the lowest Obama support in 2008 had the highest growth in turnout in 2010 (27% support and +5.1% turnout - this was in the Town of Germantown, but wards 1, 7, 15 and 17 in the Village of Germantown had 32% support for Obama and a +5.2 turnout).

The western portion of Richfield had the lowest overall support for Obama in 2008 at 24% in ward 8. This ward also had the highest turnout growth in 2010 at +6.2%.  The other wards in Richfield which are represented by Darling had modest falls in turnout (-0.2% and -2.3%). The rest of Richfield is not in Darling’s district. Richfield is 98% white with a median family income of $77,572.


I know this diary is long and fairly wonk-ish (although I'm not really much of a wonk). My takeaway from all this is that to have a successful recall effort beyond the requisite signature-gathering will depend on getting a disengaged 2010 electorate out to the polls in the summer. The people who made Darling's reelection tight in 2008 appeared to have been the ones to have stayed at home when Walker was on the ballot in 2010. That demographic (people of color, people of more limited means, the unemployed or underemployed, students) is notoriously difficult to rally to the polls. We'll also need to rally people who did not support Obama in 2008 (and who voted in 2010), but who are feeling significant anger and disaffection for the current administration and their State Senator.

map of WI state senate district

Map of Darling's district with the change in 2010 turnout annotated; I chose colors to roughly reflect Obama support.

Originally posted to badscience on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 03:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, Progressive Hippie, and Community Spotlight.

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