Why Bother? My Analysis on Hamilton’s 2014 Municipal Election

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CORRECTED: I mistakenly stated Aidan Johnson had won 10 of 11 polls. Ira Rosen won poll 106 in Ward 1, making Johnson’s victory 9 of 11 polls. I apologize for my error

Why Bother? That’s the question I ask myself following Hamilton’s election with its low voter turnout.

Why Bother to push for City Hall transparency, Why Bother to push for more civic engagement? Why Bother when people don’t vote and very little changes?

It easy to feel disheartened at 34.02% voter turnout. It’s even easier to just give up, and walk away.

Why didn’t people vote? There’s no single reason, and we don’t know what reasons equate to what percentage of those who didn’t vote.

What we do know is this is not a desirable outcome, and its something we need to address.

More about this in another later post, I really haven’t absorbed my emotionally draining disappointment about this. I hoped my work would contribute a small part towards improving engagement.

On The Results

The poll-by-poll results reveal the City is fairly united in our choices, this is not a suburbs versus city divide in how people voted, nor are their neighbourhood divides in the wards.

All incumbents won with huge majorities and super-majorities.

Based upon the results, Hamiltonians who vote are extremely happy with the direction of the City.

The most interesting result of the election race? The Ward 15 Public School Trustee race which was decided by only 11 votes.

Mayoral

Eisenberger strongly carried the Mountain and Ancaster. Dundas and Downtown Hamilton were won by McHattie by very narrow margins, and Eisenberger’s support in Flamborough was barely behind Clark with Eisenberger winning the suburban parts of Flamborough.

Clark won Stoney Creek, Upper Stoney Creek, and Glanbrook – the ward he represented and the areas surrounding. Even here, Eisenberger’s margins were very good.

Eisenberger won the Lower City convincingly.

He was elected no by one area of Hamilton, but by the entire City. While it may not feel so – mostly because Eisenberger ran a very quiet campaign – we have our first Mayor who is supported across the divides we created among ourselves post-amalgamation.

The Wards

Ward One

Aidan Johnson won a convincing victory in Ward One. I was watching for the poll-by-poll results expecting to see very different margins in the many neighbourhoods. Instead, Johnson won 9 of the 11 polls in Ward One. Sandy Shaw, who placed second, won the poll at Ryerson Recreation Centre. Ira Rosen, who placed sixth, won Poll 106 in Westdale.

Johnson’s margins were close in most of the polls he won, with only Poll 104 – Dalewood being a decisive victory at an individual poll.

Nonetheless, on a Ward wide basis, Johnson won a good mandate for his platform.

Also of note, McMaster students continue to join the rest of society in not voting. Poll 103 – Binkley United Church on Main West, just west of McMaster – continues to have the lowest turnout in Hamilton with only 152 ballots cast. 14% of registered voters. Keeping in mind the overwhelming number of McMaster students are not registered voters, the turnout is even more poor than the statistics imply.

Want to increase voter turnout, McMaster is our low-hanging fruit.

Ward Three

The biggest surprise of the night was the overwhelming, incumbent-like, victory of Matthew Green. In a crowded field of 15 candidates, Green nearly won a majority of total votes.

Of the 12 regular polls, Green only “lost” in two of them. I put lost in quotations because Green’s “lost” is only in election day ballots by margins that reflect his campaign focusing on getting his supporters out to the advance polls.

Green put nearly 20% of his votes into the advance ballot boxes before voting day.

In Keith Poll 301 – Eva Rothwell Centre, Green lost by 21 votes to Ralph Agostino. Agostino moved to the Keith neighbourhood early in the campaign.

North of Barton at Poll 302 – United Steelworkers Centre, Green lost by 3 votes to Agostino.

With 533 votes in advance polls, I have no doubt that Green won every neighbourhood if those advance ballots were counted at their home polls.

Voter engagement is tied directly to socio-economic position. Traditionally in Ward 3, voter turnout is concentrated in the southern portion where incomes are higher, and lower north of King, even lower north of Barton.

The candidates focused their efforts on getting people to advance polls. Almost unheard of, 16% of votes were cast at the advance poll.

We don’t know which neighbourhoods the advance votes were front.

There’s an irony in that the effectiveness of campaign voter mobilization efforts make it difficult to quantify the effectiveness of neighbourhood engagement/mobilization campaigns.

The neighbourhoods in the Keith Hub – north of Barton to approximately Sherman – saw a very healthy increase in voter turnout and engagement. This points to the City’s neighbourhood development projects as one of our solutions to the challenge of voter turnout.

Ward Nine

Former City of Stoney Creek Councillor Doug Conley won a relatively tight race for the open Ward 9 seat held by Mayoral candidate Brad Clark.

This was easily the most interesting race for poll-by-poll results with Conley winning only 2 of the 7 polls, as well as the advance poll.

Conley’s poll wins came in the older areas of Upper Stoney Creek – Poll 901 at Billy Green Elementary, and Poll 902 at Valley Park Recreation Centre. In both cases, the margin of victory was narrow.

The newer development areas of Upper Stoney Creek and all of Lower Stoney Creek were won by other candidates.

How then did Conley win? By placing a strong second in the polls he didn’t win. That broad support carried him to victory where the other candidates peaked in the polls they won but didn’t carry as strong of support outside of those neighbourhoods.

Cam Galindo won Poll 903 – Mount Albion Elementary School.

Nancy Fiorentino took Poll 904 Gatestone Elementary School.

Marie Robbins carried all three Lower Stoney Creek Polls.

Where Robbins was strong below the escarpment, she placed fourth and fifth in polls above the escarpment.

Fiorentino, who placed second overall, was third in Lower Stoney Creek polls.

Both Galindo and Fiorentino found themselves in third place in the polls the other won.

Conley’s victory was close. If any of his challengers seek a rematch in a narrower field of candidates, they’ll have identified voters as a base for mounting a strong challenge.

Conley’s margin of victory can be directly attributed to voter recognition from his work in the 90s as a Stoney Creek City Councillor.

He has four years to fortify with the advantage of incumbency.

Ward Ten

The closest race for any incumbent came in Ward 10 where Stoney Creek Citizen of the Year Teresa DiFalco ran a strong campaign against incumbent Maria Pearson.

Pearson still won an overwhelming majority, and carried every poll in the Ward.

The final result: 4,090 for Pearson, 2,390 for DiFalco, and 568 for Luana Yachetti.

Ward Thirteen

Russ Powers retirement brought out candidates and voters in Dundas. This ward enjoyed the highest voter turnout in Hamilton with 43.79% of registered voters casting ballots.

The winner was former Town of Dundas Councillor, and current Executive Assistant to Powers, Arlene Vanderbeek with 3,468 votes. Second place sent to Toby Yull with 1,988 and third to Rick Court with 1,285.

Vanderbeek won every poll in the race, with Toby Yull taking second in all but one of the polls. Court took second – by seven votes – at Poll 1301 Sir William Osler Elementary School.

Ward Fifteen Public School Trustee

Eleven votes – that was the margin of victory for Penny Deathe over Nick Lauwers in the closest race of the entire election.

It’s an extremely impressive showing for Lauwers as Deathe enjoyed strong endorsements from incumbent Karen Turkstra, MPP Ted McMeekin, and Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge.

With that support, an outsider such as myself can be forgiven for expecting Deathe to land an overwhelming victory.

In terms of the poll split, Deathe carried the more densely populated areas of Ward 15, and Lauwers the more rural. Deathe won the advance poll, 4 of 7 regular polls, and 1 of 2 special (nursing home) polls.

Lauwers is requesting a recount due to the tight margin.

Ward Two Council

Jason Farr overwhelmingly – like all incumbents – won re-election to Council.

None of the polls were close in the Ward, with two very small pockets of voters who could be seen as slightly disenchanted with Farr. In the North End and in Stinson, Terry Wallis cracked the hundred mark in voters at the individual polls. Farr still won super-majorities in those polls.

And just to prove that being near City Hall doesn’t equal engagement, only 27% of registered voters at the City Hall polling station cast a ballot. There is a disclaimer to this figure, it is possible that many of the voters in this neighbourhood voted in advance polls as City Hall was the Ward 2 advance poll location.

Even with the advance poll, seeing City Hall out your bedroom window does not seem to impact if you’re engaged enough to vote.

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