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Election results maps show persistent geographic divide

Keith Ivey has created an interactive map of DC's April 23 special election results. The maps seem to back up the notion that there are ongoing geographic and racial divisions in our politics, though except for east of the Anacostia (which is a big "except"), Elissa Silverman's appeal was far broader, geographically, than citywide candidates in other recent elections.

Vote share for Anita Bonds (left), Elissa Silverman (center), Patrick Mara (right).

Ivey also maps which candidate won the most votes in each precinct.

Left: Plurality votes on April 23, 2013. Bonds=cyan, Silverman=red, Mara=blue, Frumin=green. Right: Plurality votes on April 26, 2011. Orange=orange, Biddle=red, Mara=blue, Weaver=green. Images by Keith Ivey.

Ivey also notes that looking at the overall amount of ink for each candidate doesn't necessarily reflect reality. The peripheral areas where Bonds was strongest, for instance, are also less densely-populated areas of the city. He says,

The map can be misleading in the same way typical U.S. presidential election maps are, since the area of a precinct is not proportional to the number of voters there. A candidate who wins in densely populated, high-turnout areas will often look worse on the map than a candidate who wins in less dense or low-turnout areas.
One observation is that you can't really detect Rock Creek Park on the Silverman map. Rock Creek forms a bright line on the other maps, but not Silverman's. On the other hand, the Anacostia River is a bright line on everyone's map.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Mara's star is fading, and part of the reason for it is that Weaver knocked off the best chance he had of getting elected. In the last cycle, Weaver was the spoiler. By this cycle Mara is the spoiler candidate.

by JustMe on Apr 29, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Looking at this data, I would assume that people think that the election was won by Bonds simply due to race. I can not definitively say that race was not a factor but I can attest to the following: someone from the Bonds campaign visited by door no less than 3 times, Fromin once. I as recollect, no one from the other campaigns visited my community, which is racially mixed but not in the District core. I receive a lot of literature from from Silverman, more from Bonds and very little from anyone else.

The point is that the campaigns made the age-old mistake: the campaigned hard in the areas where they were strongest and not as effectively in areas they were weak. The Bonds campaign played on certain fears and that (along with other factors) was the edge.

I remember the Fenty for Council campaign, one of the reasons why he won was that he knocked on almost every door he could find. When someone does that, you get the idea that they care about the community, that they will work hard to both get your vote and keep it.

When talking to some of my neighbors, some said that they voted for Bonds not just because she was Black but because they felt she would represent their concerns. To overcome that, you must work twice as hard in those areas. If Mara, Silverman or Fruim didn't visit much, if at all, why should people vote for them?

by Randall M. on Apr 29, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

I was hoping that someone would create a map of the results - thanks Keith! Personally, when I scrolled through the results on the board of elections website I was surprised by how well Bonds did in Ward 4 and how well Silverman did in Ward 6. Wards 3, 4, and 6 had the highest % turnout.

by grumpy on Apr 29, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

What struck me was how poorly Silverman did in Wards 4 and 5 considering how many young people are moving into the Georgia Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue neighborhoods.

They're not registering and voting yet.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 29, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

Let's not blow up difference that barely exist and only use colors up to 10% to reflect the low turn-out.

by Jasper on Apr 29, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, doubly so since the absentee and special ballots have not been counted yet.

by charlie on Apr 29, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

Actually, it appears that Silverman had few areas where she garnered 60% or more in comparison with Mara. Bonds won because she generated huge MARGINS (+9,000 votes over silverman) east of the river. Silverman in wards 2, 3, 4, and 6 only came out with +6,800 margin over Bonds. That was the ballgame.

by Tom M on Apr 29, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

Great maps.

The next progressive candidate needs to live in Ward 7 or 8. The electoral strategy progressives have been using simply doesn't work, vote splitting or not.

by Ben on Apr 29, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Randall M: It's interesting that you had that experience, because I, too, live in an integrated neighborhood, but Silverman's team was the only one that stopped by my house. Bonds didn't even send a mailer.

by Tom Veil on Apr 29, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Randall M and Tom Veil - I'm also in a mixed neighborhood in Ward 5 (Stronghold) and the only, and I mean only, literature, calls, knocks, etc I got were from Mara (of all people)!

Maybe folks figured that because McDuffie endorsed Bonds and he lives here, why bother? But Silverman lost to Bonds by one vote (1! - in the precinct (135). Couple that with the fact that it's half of Bloomingdale, she could (should?) have taken it - and in my opinion taken it by a decent margin.

by Shipsa01 on Apr 29, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

Shipsa01, since we don't have an electoral college for DC Council elections, it really doesn't matter whether you lose or win a precinct by one vote (unless you're also winning or losing the citywide vote by one). Now, if you're saying she could have gotten hundreds more votes there, plus a couple thousand more in various other precincts, that would make a difference.

by Keith Ivey on Apr 29, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

"Progressive/reformist" candidates appeal to the majority of the young, white, mostly new residents of DC which is why they are failing. Until a "PR" candidate can genuinely include longtime residents in their "new" plan for the city it will never work. Just as the President who could never win the election without the support of a large non African American Base no Reformist Candidate (That happens to be white) can win without an African American Base behind them, at least not for some time for an at-large seat. I honestly have a hard time understanding myself what this reformist manifest is that these candidates are running on. The city has bought into supporting alternate means of transportation, high density development and all of the so called issues that plague wealthy young white & black professionals. I have yet to hear or read anything substantial about how any PR candidate plans to tackle poverty, government housing (aside from tearing it down), child hunger, a failing workforce base and other real issues that affect the lives of many day to day. The marketing of PR candidates now evolve around bike lanes, affordable housing (which only addresses, the young MOSTLY white professionals who want to live in great neighborhoods at their receptionist salary and not the single parent with 3 kids who's a cashier a safeway. I'm so fed up with Mediocre Black and White Candidates. I voted for Bonds because she at least have the less fortunate in mind unlike Silverman. If the reform and progress of DC includes leaving behind and trampling the less fortunate to make things pretty then it’s something I can never buy into.

by Robert on Apr 29, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa01, Tom Veil,

I live in Ward 5 in North Michigan Park. I get the impression that certain campaigns assumed that voters who lived in the majority of Wards 5, 7 and 8 would naturally vote for Bonds because she's Black. Again, this is just my impression, but some candidates didn't seem to campaign in the eastern sections of the District with the same "tenacity" that they did on their "home turf".

I think one or two candidates missed an opportunity to set themselves apart. I get the impression that they did not meet with the people who live in Riggs Park, Hillcrest or Benning Ridge. In these areas, did they regularly visit ANCs, churches, or literally knock on doors and say "Hi, I'm running for D.C. Council; what kind of government do you want"?

People want to be heard, they understand that politicians cannot give them everything they want (even it they promise it). How can a candidate hear if they aren't around to listen?

by Randall M. on Apr 29, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

"Progressive/reformist" candidates appeal to the majority of the young, white, mostly new residents of DC which is why they are failing.

What are you talking about? The "proud progressive Democrat" in the race won!

[Odd that she doesn't mention anything about her current employer, though.

"Bonds currently works as an executive at Fort Meyer Construction, one of the biggest city contractors. She doesn't plan to step aside from her role in that job, she said after the vote last night, but she will cut back on her hours. She also said questions about her outside employment bordered on chauvinistic. "]

by oboe on Apr 29, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

Thanks Keith for clarifying, and yes, it's correct about the latter. I was really surprised to see only mailings from Mara - and no 'knocks on the door,' or anything like that from any of the others. I get that candidates need to prioritize and monies are finite and all that jazz, but if you know you're going to split with two or three other candidates in one area, shouldn't you go after another candidate in another area and prevent (at least try) to not let that candidate run up huge numbers?

I feel like a Monday morning punter

by Shipsa01 on Apr 29, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport


Bonds, whose reaction to Gray's new budget was to praise the municipal bonds tax cuts, cares more about the poor than Silverman, who said she'd spend future surpluses primarily on affordable housing?

by Chatham on Apr 29, 2013 6:09 pm • linkreport

Barry Bonds cares profoundly about poor Fort Meyer Construction Co!

by Ron on Apr 29, 2013 6:35 pm • linkreport

The only candidate that showed any interest in my concerns was Patrick Mara. I got mail from him. Of course, I live in Bethesda now, so that didn't do him much good.

by Brian S on Apr 30, 2013 5:42 am • linkreport

Based on these maps alone, Frumin hurt Mara in upper NW.

by charlie on Apr 30, 2013 6:54 am • linkreport

I voted for Bonds because she at least have the less fortunate in mind unlike Silverman.

Yes, when I think of someone who has "the less fortunate in mind", my first thought is to a well-connected construction mogul who rode the public-sector-contracting gravy train to prosperity.

Bonds has a decades-long track record in DC politics during which see seems to have done very little to nothing when it comes to the less fortunate. Even in her own biography, the highlight of her career in Ward 5 politics was installing treeboxes. How is this any more less-fortunate-focused than bike lanes?

by Tyro on Apr 30, 2013 7:47 am • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] I mean, I look at this map and what this map says is that Elissa Silverman didn't reach out the the black majority of Washington DC and Anita Bonds did. That's all. There's no "geographic divide" - black people voted for Anita Bonds because she was the candidate who did the best job of working to get their votes, plain and simple. I live up near Georgia Avenue, and that's the consensus among everyone I live near. The notion that we can pin this on some kind of "geographic divide" because most people didn't get behind *your* candidate [deleted]. Yes, everyone could have gotten behind your candidate, but it wasn't something that they felt would have been beneficial. Maybe if your candidate had reached out to these areas, she would have won. Again, this stuff isn't rocket science, it's basic demographics.

The notion that [deleted] when your candidate loses an election it's because of some "geographic divide" is silly. The places that voted for Bonds are where the black people are, the places that voted for Silverman are where the affluent white people who are too vain to consider that people who aren't white and affluent like them would want to have a say in their local government.

And no, I'm not saying that Anita Bonds is the best candidate, or that Silverman didn't at some point try to reach out, but clearly she didn't do enough, Bonds won the election, and now people [deleted] need to get over themselves and realize that yes, you actually have to care about the interests of Southeast and Northeast if you want to win an election in this city. Otherwise, you're just the next generation of the freeway builders, trying to impose your vision on a bunch of people who don't want it.

by Aaron Zisook on Apr 30, 2013 8:09 am • linkreport

@Aaron Zisook
Bonds won the election, and now people [deleted] need to get over themselves and realize that yes, you actually have to care about the interests of Southeast and Northeast if you want to win an election in this city. Otherwise, you're just the next generation of the freeway builders, trying to impose your vision on a bunch of people who don't want it.

Did you examine what the candidates said and what their positions were during the campaign? Or did you just assume that black=cares about poor and white=doesn't?

As someone pointed out above, one of the candidates (Bonds) wanted to use the surplus for tax breaks while another (Silverman) wanted to use the surplus to fund more affordable housing options.

by MLD on Apr 30, 2013 8:51 am • linkreport

Aaron, I'm a little puzzled by your contempt. By your logic, the data would show thay Anita Bonds didn't "care about the interests" of people in NW at all. How is that any better than what you consider the failure of Silverman and Mara, except that it's in a different location?

What I would actually take from this election is that Bonds, with 30 years of experience bouncing around DC politics, has a better sense of how to run a campaign here, and how to better conduct the basic awareness "outreach" like mailers and people standing outside metro stations handing out flyers. (And the continued problems of vote-splitting between similar progressive candidates, but we've done that one to death here.) That doesn't make her some hero striking out against the "vain" and "affluent."

by worthing on Apr 30, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

@ worthing; yep, interesting points.

Frumin blew a lot on online ads, and I saw a lot for Silverman as well. In Frumin's case, very little return.

I did see Mara in person, none of the others.

Mara is clearly done, three and out. Should we be impressed by Silverman's campaign, or not impressed that it did not turn out more voters? 100 more voters in the precinct she won would have tipped it.

by charlie on Apr 30, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

I concur with Randall's point. The candidates put little to no effort campaigning in Ward 7. My precinct has the highest number of registered voters in Ward 7 AND is usually in the top 10 highest voter turn-out precincts in the city. Other than Bonds, none of the other candidates had any type of a ground game. No street signs, no people working the polls, and no signs at the polls.

So if a candidate puts little to no effort campaigning in Ward 7, don't be mad when Ward 7 doesn't vote for them.

The other thing that frustrates me the most about citywide candidates is that they show up in Ward 7 when it's an election. The election is over and they disappear until the next election.

All that being said, there is the matter of the 90% of the people who couldn't be bothered to go to the polls. Instead of fighting over the 10% that came out, how about come up with a strategy to get some of the 90% to the polls.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Apr 30, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

Honestly I didn't have anyone come to my door in Ward 1. Did people actually get canvassers? All I saw was yard signs. I feel like people are overplaying the door to door campaigning. There are what 300,000 households in the city? For someone to adequately hit up all the households they'd need like at least 10,000 canvassing hours. I would imagine most of them had limited resources at their disposal and focused on motivating their base rather than converting the undecided which was probably the correct strategy in this election.

by Alan B. on Apr 30, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

"For someone to adequately hit up all the households they'd need like at least 10,000 canvassing hours. "

See Fenty, Adrian.

by charlie on Apr 30, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

@MLD and worthing

Read my original post. My ENTIRE point is that this comes down to Bonds running a better campaign and appealing to the most people. Even if Silverman did want affordable housing, it's her job to present it in a way that most people like. Long story short: the fact that Bonds won is because she ran a better campaign, not due to some fictitious "geographical divide."

by Aaron Zisook on Apr 30, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

I think you have to at least admit that being the incumbent was a huge part of it as well. Overall, I think people on both sides are making a lot out of an off-cycle, low turnout election. Next year will be the real test.

by Alan B. on Apr 30, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

@Aaron Zisook

I think you are reading too much into this article; it's a look at the geographic divide, not an attempt to explain away why one candidate won or lost.

The entire point of the article is that there appears to be a persistent racial divide in DC politics. That means candidates have to reach across those divides to win.

by MLD on Apr 30, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

@MLD The article is not *just* saying that, and a lot of commenters have been questioning why people voted for Bonds when Silverman had a better policy set. Read the bit of the article about density.

Regardless, the reality is that both sides don't need to reach across the aisle; if you can capture NE and SE, you can win; that's what the map shows. It all means that if you want a candidate like Silverman to win, you've got to reach out to Anacostia and other areas. Anita Bonds doesn't need to reach out to you except as insurance.

I would be more thorough, but I'm typing all this on my phone.

by Aaron Zisook on Apr 30, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I do think that you have to campaign to the whole district - just harder to those who you know will support you to turn them out.

by JM on Apr 30, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

Would be nice if more than one button could be selected at the same time so users could add candidates together.

by Rick on Apr 30, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

"Bonds won because she generated huge MARGINS (+9,000 votes over silverman) east of the river."

Your numbers are wrong. Bonds only received 3,125 votes in Ward 7 (to Silverman's 232) and 1,932 votes in Ward 8 (to Silverman's 98). That doesn't add up to a "+9000 vote" margin, try closer to a 4,670 vote margin. 9000 people didn't vote total in Wards 7 and 8, combined, the turnout EOTR was even worse than in the other six wards. That a well-connected Dem who is also an incumbent won in those two extremely low turnout wards is a testament to the power of incumbency/party machinery, not race.

by washingtonian on Apr 30, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

"There's no "geographic divide" - black people voted for Anita Bonds because she was the candidate who did the best job of working to get their votes, plain and simple."

This is an oversimplification. Frumin campaigned in Ward 8 and got 62 votes to show for it.

Bonds was the incumbent, had the best name recognition EOTR once Brown dropped out, and she had the Dem party machine behind her, who were able to GOTV a few thousand Dem die hards EOTR in a low turnout election. That's the key to her large margins EOTR. Being black didn't help Perry Redd at all, he finished dead last.

by washingtonian on Apr 30, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

In regards to people saying progressives need to campaign harder in W7 and W8, I think this vote shows the opposite. White candidates are going to get crushed in W7 and W8 regardless (even Grosso in his huge victory lost W8 8-1 and W7 5.5-1)

With that in mind, knowing that Frumin tried and got absolutely killed in W8, why should a progressive even try at all? Any time spent EOTR is likely a waste, as it seems the votes there are already decided based on who looks most like them.

If I was running a city-wide campaign, I would spend virtually all of my time in W4 and W5, areas that turn out in greater numbers, and decide elections (W4 especially)

If you take away Bonds margin in W4, this thing is a tie (Bonds wins by like 50 votes). However, I live in Brightwood, in the heart of W4, and didn't see any of the candidates, outside of Bonds, even once.

by Kyle-w on May 1, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

I live in Ward 6 and got not literature and no visits. Didn't see any campaign literature in the neighborhood though there were a few yard signs.

I can't say who went/focused on where but obviously there were large swaths that were largely ignored.

by ET on May 2, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

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