Sunday, March 08, 2009

Counting (on) students

On Friday the Pitt News had one of those articles that will be repeated in coming months: Students gear up for mayoral contest. Worth a read, but keep in mind this one little problem that distinguishes an off-year municipal primary in Pennsylvania versus the presidential election we just had. Come May 17th 19th, the date of the primary, Pitt students will have been finished with their finals 3+ weeks earlier. Thus the problem of getting votes from resident students is an awfully lot more difficult than in the general election. Few students are actually residing in May where they were during the school year. Always the opportunity for absentee ballots, but that is its own challenge.

That being said, it is very true that student turnout could sway many an election in town. In 2001, the race for mayor between Tom Murphy and Bob Oconnor was won by a margin of merely 699 votes. Some kvetched that the election's result could have been distorted by the presence of 18 year old high school student Josh Pollock on the ballot and the 1,094 votes he himself pulled. I kind of doubt the Pollack voters would have gone to O'connor by the 80-20 split they would have had to in order to alter the election. Which makes me ponder whether students will really vote as a unified bloc in the race coming up... maybe more on that later.

But on the demographics of local elections, I am pondering the news I read that Christine Stone is not going to run for City Council but is instead reported to be running for School Board in the City School District #1. If true, it's an interesting choice. Something I will come back to in April of 2011 (when we will first learn new census data) is what is at stake in local redistricting that will have to happen soon thereafter. Few seem to question why Pittsburgh City Council has little chance of more than 2 of 9 African American districts yet the city school district has been consistently electing 3 of 9 African Americans to its board. The answer is all in how the maps are drawn, but more on that down the road. What I wonder about is how the race for district 1 could play out. By my count, in 2000 School Board District 1 was 51% African American, 41% white among it's voting age population.

Demographics like that would seem to make District 1 a clear "Majority-Minority" district that will elect an minority. Probably is still the case, but as some of us know the rate of depopulation in a lot of Pittsburgh neighborhoods is pretty extreme in certain neighborhoods..... in particular neighborhoods like Homewood which makes up a big chunk of District 1. Given that it will be almost 9 years from the 2000 census when the primary takes place it's possible that there has been palpable shifts in what makes up the district. Could it be enough to alter the results?? If it does, it will say a lot about the demographic trends impacting the city.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The primary election will be on May 19th, not the 17th.

Sunday, March 08, 2009 4:51:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

If you want to vote for Ravenstahl, you vote on the 17th.

Sunday, March 08, 2009 7:55:00 PM  

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