Capital District Voting Patterns


By Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.

For the Sunday Gazette

“All politics is local.”

-Tip O’Neill

Given that the recount in Ohio did not change it from red to blue and the (Barbara) Boxer Rebellion failed, the Presidential election is now over. The result has been analyzed and reanalyzed to the point where it is now known that the earliest analyses were wrong. To the nation’s credit, voting was up in all categories, but the percentage of voters who are evangelical Christians was slightly lower, not higher, than in 2000. And the percentage of Hispanics who voted for the President was not nearly so close to 45% as was first reported. As even Pat Buchanan has predicted, it is only a matter of time before Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado turn blue. New Mexico is already purple.

But map coloring is way overdone. Millions of people who live in blue states voted for the President, and millions who live in red states voted for Senator Kerry. This election, as many do, came down to personalities. Certainly if issued mattered, the Senator would have won handily, and neither party has a monopoly on moral values. But more voters liked Mr. Bush personally, and that’s what counted.

The one statistical analysis that holds up is the geographical one. The Democrats win only those states that contain one or more large cities that can outvote their suburbs and “exurbs,” towns in a second ring around cities, further out than mere suburbs. And the same is true at the county level. Since most counties in the country do not contain a city of significant size, it is no wonder that Mr. Bush won so many of them. But did that national pattern hold true in our Capital District? Let’s take a look.


Schenectady County


As expected, John Kerry won the City of Schenectady quite handily, 60% to 40%. The closest thing we have to exurbs, Duanesburg and Princetown, were strongly for Bush. And Bush won small pluralities in two of the three large towns, Glenville and Rotterdam, by close margins, 52% and 51% respectively.  But the Democratic bastion of Niskayuna went for Kerry 57% to 43%, a borderline landslide. More remarkably, Kerry carried all 20 of the town’s voting districts. The net result was that the Senator carried the county 53% to 47%, the city and one large town outvoting the other four municipalities. This fits the national pattern for counties having at least one city of significant size.

There was only one voting machine malfunction that affected the county total. In the 35th district of the city, the machine tally had Bush beating Kerry 183 to 16, Republican to Democrat, with Kerry receiving an additional 17 votes on the Working Family Party line. Comparison to the results in all other districts indicate that the hundreds digit at one location on this machine was clearly broken, accepting neither a carry nor a Kerry, thus depriving the Senator of 200 votes. Ironically, the 35th district is centered on Pennsylvania Avenue.


Albany County

Albany, true to form, voted heavily for Kerry by a 4 to 1 margin, 80% to 20%. The much smaller cities of Cohoes and Watervliet also voted for Kerry, but not that strongly.
But where in the Capital District is there a suburb similar to Niskayuna? Why, Bethlehem of course. Its people voted for Kerry even more decisively, 59% to 41%. And this in a town where, almost yesterday it seems, local pundits were amusing themselves by telling us that “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” was the only town or city in his entire congressional district that failed to vote for Sam Stratton. Kerry did just a hair (of his many) less well in Guilderland, winning that town 58% to 42%. But the big surprise to me was that Kerry also won Colonie, a town that has not elected a single Democrat to its Town Board in its entire history, 54% to 46%.  And Kerry won New Scotland, too, 55% to 45%. Except, perhaps, for its small hill towns, Albany County has no exurbs, so Kerry easily won this strongly Democratic county.


Rensselaer County


Rensselaer county results fit the national profile for counties like it, with the cities of Troy and Rensselaer outvoting its other municipalities 51% to 49%, Kerry over Bush. East Greenbush, which Kerry won decisively, was that county’s Niskayuna. Bush won the other two large towns, Brunswick and North Greenbush, by close margins and several sparsely populated exurbs by large margins.


Saratoga County


Saratoga is a traditionally Republican county because its only “large” city, Saratoga Springs, is smaller than it largest town, Clifton Park. Kerry carried the Springs, 57% to 43%, and lost Clifton Park by only 52% to 48%, but the county’s smaller suburbs and its many exurbs went heavily enough for the President to give him a comfortable county margin.




In keeping with the national pattern, the Democratic candidate for President tends to win only those counties whose city populations comprise at least 40% of the whole county and whose inner ring of suburbs account for at least another 20%. Density matters. Acreage doesn’t vote, people do. Republicans like elbow room. Democrats like to rub elbows.


Edwin D. Reilly, Jr., a dark horse candidate for Chairman of the National Democratic Party, lives in Niskayuna.

Postscript of 6/9/2007:  Well, at least I was pleased that the candidate I favored to be Democratic nominee, Howard Dean, became and still is our national chairman.