Breaking the election down, precinct by precinct

Analysis of several maps created by The Columbian that look at voting patterns

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



On the Web:

See more than a dozen interactive maps showing geographic election trends in Clark County are on in to see which way your voter precinct swung in a variety of races, click on each precinct for more election stats, and compare how Clark County voted with other Washington counties on hot-button ballot measures.

Maps provide a closer look at election

Election maps, created by staff writer Stevie Mathieu and Web Editor John Hill using precinct-by-precinct data provided by the Clark County Elections Department, feature the following races and topics:

Presidential election: See which geographic areas in Clark County favored President Barack Obama and which areas favored his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

C-Tran tax: See how C-Tran Proposition 1, which included a sales tax increase to finance Vancouver light-rail operations, fared in different parts of the county's C-Tran district.

Statewide ballot measures: See which areas of the county voted in favor of same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, charter schools, and a legislative super-majority requirement to increase taxes.

Independent precincts: See which voter precincts favored both Obama and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican.

Benton-Probst race: See which areas favored Republican Don Benton or Democrat Tim Probst in the 17th District Senate race that Benton won by just 76 votes.

Stonier-Olson race: See which areas favored Democrat Monica Stonier or Republican Julie Olson in the 17th District House race that Stonier won by just 140 votes. Also, see the voter precinct areas that favored both Stonier and Benton.

17th District under votes: See which parts of the 17th Legislative District where the most voters decided to leave the Benton-Probst or Stonier-Olson races on their ballots blank. When a part of a ballot is left blank, that is registered by election officials as an "under vote."

Vick-Cortes race: See the areas of the 18th Legislative District with the most under votes in the all-Republican race between Brandon Vick and Adrian Cortes.

Vancouver parks levy: See where the Vancouver parks levy failed by the largest margin.

Voter turnout in presidential election: See which areas in the county had high and low voter turnout in the presidential election.

Alternative-party candidates: See which areas in the county were more likely to vote for presidential candidates besides Obama and Romney, and which of those alternative-party candidates each area favored.

County commissioner races: Take a closer look at the maps showing which voter precincts favored county commissioner candidates David Madore, Mark Boldt, Tom Mielke and Joe Tanner, and see the areas with more under votes.

It's a question that's been asked and answered this election season: Would Democratic voters throw their support behind Republican County Commissioner Marc Boldt, the more moderate of two candidates in an all-Republican race?

The answer came on election night: a resounding no.

It appears that many Democratic voters simply left that race on their ballot blank, resulting in what election officials call a large "under vote."

"The truth of it is we knew that a fair amount of Democrats wouldn't vote," Boldt said. "What we didn't know is that (the under vote) would have been that huge. We just assumed that since I was in trouble with my own party, that I might get a fair amount of the Democrats. That assumption was wrong."

More than 32,000 -- or about 18 percent -- of Clark County voters left that race blank on their ballots, according to election results. Meanwhile, the other county commissioner race -- which featured one Democrat and one Republican -- had only about 17,000 under votes, about 9 percent of the vote.

Boldt lost by about 13,800 votes.

Out of the 222 voter precinct areas in Clark County, just 37 precincts went to Boldt instead of his opponent, Republican David Madore, according to a Columbia analysis of precinct-by-precinct data from the Clark County Elections Department.

Twenty-eight of those precincts are in the county's 49th Legislative District, typically a safe haven for Democratic politicians.

Many of the precincts Boldt won were in the downtown and uptown Vancouver neighborhoods. He also scored a majority of votes in some precincts between the Salmon Creek and Battle Ground areas, according to maps created with the election data.

The Columbian produced several maps that provide glimpses of the election from all different angles. The maps, which can be found on The Columbian's website, take a closer look at independent areas where party loyalties are less firmly held; the neighborhoods that might have helped sway the recount-triggering 17th District legislative races one way or the other; how President Barack Obama fared in the county this year when compared with four years ago; and other election trends.

Under votes

While the top two primary system, in which two candidates from the same party can appear as the only choices on the ballot, seemed to discourage some voters, three-term Secretary of State Sam Reed said that usually isn't the case.

Reed, the father of the state's top two primary system, said in an interview last month that Washington's primary allows members of the party with no candidate on the ballot to get involved by supporting the more moderate person on the ticket. In Clark County's case, Boldt was considered the more moderate candidate.

"I really expected people to be upset when they got ballots where they had two people in the general election (from the) same party," Reed said. "We haven't. And what we've heard is that, for example in Seattle, we had a couple of races that were open seats, but you ended up with a more moderate Democrat, who was pro-business, versus a really liberal Democrat."

In Seattle's legislative districts, Democratic candidates almost always win, Reed said. Without a top two primary, Republicans would pit their candidates against Democrats with no hope of winning. That left Republicans in Seattle feeling like they didn't have much of a say in their elections, Reed said.

With the top two primary, "the Republicans in Seattle felt for the first time, they actually had a role," Reed said. Because they were going to push for the more moderate (candidate), and the moderate ones won."

While Seattle Republicans might be energized by that process, the top two primary didn't appear to have the same effect on Clark County voters.

Following the premise that the enemy of your enemy is also your friend, Clark County Democrats didn't give a formal endorsement to Boldt, but they did make mention of him in their newsletter.

"About the best thing now left for anyone," the newsletter stated, "is to back Boldt, who has been defenestrated by the conservative purists in the party he served so doggedly through several terms as a legislator and county commissioner."

Democrats maintained a distance from Boldt on the campaign trail, though. Instead, they tended to their high-priority races, such as the tight 17th District Senate race between Democrat Tim Probst and Republican Don Benton, said Kathy Lawrence, chairwoman of the Clark County Democrats.

"We're not out officially endorsing Republicans; that isn't our job," Lawrence said. "Of course, there were some Democrats who were out there who were actively supporting him. … He is a known entity. People from both parties have worked with Marc (Boldt) in the community through the years."

An 18th District House race between two Republicans, Brandon Vick and Adrian Cortes, also resulted in a large under vote -- 20 percent. The other two 18th District legislative races resulted in an under vote of 9 percent and 10 percent.

In the Republican-leaning 18th, Vick delivered a decisive blow to Cortes. Not one precinct in the 18th District swayed in Cortes' direction, though Cortes did come close in some precincts in Battle Ground, where he serves as a city councilman.

The independent divide

This year, a majority of county voters picked Democrat Barack Obama as president. But they rejected same-sex marriage, said no to legalizing marijuana and sent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler back to Washington, D.C., for a second term in Congress.

Clark County as a whole once again earned its independent label, but there are certainly parts of the county that remain more independent than others.

Eighty-nine of Clark County's 222 voter precincts selected both Obama and Herrera Beutler in the 2012 election. Those precincts form a diagonal divide across the county starting in Camas and Washougal and moving northwest, through the Fisher's Landing, Fircrest, Minnehaha, Hazel and Felida areas that are near or within Vancouver.

Thirty-eight of the precincts that voted for Obama and Herrera Beutler fall in the 17th Legislative District, a district that typically elects both Democrats and Republicans to the state legislature. Thirty-three of the precincts are in the northern region of the left-leaning 49th District, and 18 are in southern parts of the right-leaning 18th District.

The independent strip seems to cut a large portion of Vancouver off from the more rural parts of the county to its north and east. In some precincts in this independent area, voters gave a green light to same-sex marriage but voted against legalizing marijuana.

The Downtown Vancouver precincts, as well as most Vancouver precincts between Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, picked Obama but not Herrera Beutler, while most precincts located above the independent divide picked Herrera Beutler but not Obama. Precincts southwest of the divide, and primarily in the west Vancouver area supported same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana, while the northern and eastern parts of the county did not.

Tight races

Clark County elections data reveal that there were just five voting precincts in the 17th District in which most voters picked both Republican Senate candidate Benton and Democratic House candidate Monica Stonier.

Those independently minded precincts are in neighborhoods near Highway 500, just east of I-205. The 17th District covers Vancouver east of I-205, extending to Northeast 219th Street to include Orchards, Brush Prairie and Pleasant Valley.

Benton won his race by only 76 votes, and Stonier won her race by just 140, according to hand recounts conducted by election officials.

Elsewhere in the 17th District, Benton seemed secure in the northern part of the district, which spans up to parts of Battle Ground. His Democratic opponent, Probst, did well in Salmon Creek and in many southern precincts in the district.

Obama favored again, barely

This year, Obama earned just one quarter of a percentage point more than his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, when it came to Clark County votes. Obama received just 428 more votes than Romney out of the more than 192,000 ballots cast.

Four years earlier, Obama earned 6 percent more of the Clark County vote than Republican John McCain, beating McCain by more than 11,000 votes.

The precincts favoring Romney this year are in the more rural areas of northern and eastern Clark County, as well as in neighborhoods along Vancouver's Columbia River waterfront. Western Vancouver and many neighborhood in Hazel Dell, Camas and Washougal picked Obama.

About 2.5 percent of Clark County voters decided to go against the grain and vote for presidential candidates other than Obama or Romney. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson earned the largest vote in Clark County among alternative presidential candidates this year, at just 1.3 percent. Green Party member Jill Stein received the second highest amount: one half of one percent.

Statewide, Gary Johnson only received 1.35 percent of the vote. Countywide, 1.31 percent voted for Johnson.

The precinct that's home to the most voters who picked alternative presidential candidates this election is Precinct 633 in Orchards, where Highway 500 ends. There, 17 people voted for Johnson, 17 people voted for Stein, and 14 people voted for Virgil Goode, of the Constitutional Party.

In 2008, 2.7 percent of Clark County voters picked alternative-party presidential candidates. Most of those voters favored independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Columbian Web editor John Hill and Columbian staff writer Erik Hidle contributed to this report.