The curious case of the zero-vote precincts

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  • 08/21/2022

A bizarre series of episodes from the 2012 election are drawing increased attention.  According to a report at The Blaze, in over 59 precincts of Philadelphia,  plus 9 precincts in Cleveland, Ohio, not a single vote was cast for Mitt Romney.

This is tough to swallow, even given the legendary power of big-city political machines.  19,605 votes were cast in those Philadelphia precincts.  The challenger didn't get even one vote?  And Election Day was peppered with reports of poll watchers getting illegally tossed out of Philadelphia polling stations, at least one of which featured a giant mural of Barack Obama on the wall.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran this past University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who allowed that heavily African-American precincts have occasionally voted 100 percent for the Democrat candidate before, citing a few examples from Chicago and Atlanta in 2008.  But the sheer number of zero-vote precincts this time made Sabato think the matter is "worth looking into."

The Inquirer took a closer look at some of these precincts, noting that some of them are very small, with only a few hundred residents, and they found anecdotal evidence that complete political uniformity may indeed have been achieved:

In the entire 28th Ward, Romney received only 34 votes to Obama's 5,920.

Although voter registration lists, which often contain outdated information, show 12 Republicans live in the ward's third division, The Inquirer was unable to find any of them by calling or visiting their homes.

Four of the registered Republicans no longer lived there; four others didn't answer their doors. City Board of Elections registration data say a registered Republican used to live at 25th and York Streets, but none of the neighbors across the street Friday knew him. Cathy Santos, 56, founder of the National Alliance of Women Veterans, had one theory: "We ran him out of town!" she said and laughed.

James Norris, 19, who lives down the street, is listed as a Republican in city data. But he said he's a Democrat and voted for Obama because he thinks the president will help the middle class.

A few blocks away, Eric Sapp, a 42-year-old chef, looked skeptical when told that city data had him listed as a registered Republican. "I got to check on that," said Sapp, who voted for Obama.

Over in Cleveland, the Plain Dealer reports that according to an unofficial analysis of election data, "Obama won 96 percent of the vote in the city precincts east of the Cuyahoga River as he collected 94,088 votes there to Mitt Romney's 3,879."  Once again, these precincts are very small.  The largest of the nine "zero vote" precincts voted 542-0 for Obama, which means the others had less than 542 votes apiece.  Sporadic votes for third-party candidates were reported in a few of the precincts that cast no votes for Romney.

Collectively, Cuyahoga County simply swamped the rest of Ohio, which actually voted for Romney.  "The unofficial tally shows that Obama won Cuyahoga County by 236,478 votes," reports the Plain Dealer.  "In Ohio's other 87 counties combined, Romney won by 129,219 votes.  In other words, without Cuyahoga County, Romney was the winner in Ohio."

It seems likely that some of the Romney campaign team's miscalculations stemmed from under-appreciating the quietly awesome power of those big-city machines.  It seems unlikely, but possible, that these machines were powerful enough to generate dozens of districts in which absolute political conformity was achieved.





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