South Carolina’s 5th Special Election Was the Democrats’ for the Taking

South Carolina’s 5th Special Election Was the Democrats’ for the Taking


On June 20 there was a special election in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district to replace Republican representative Mick Mulvaney, who was appointed to Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. We will compare the paltry voter turnout on that date with the turnout for the 2016 General election, and the 2014 midterm election.

2016 General Election

Republican Mick Mulvaney:     161,669.    59.2%

Democrat Fran Person:              105,772.   38.7%

American Rudy Barnes Jr.:           5,388.     2%

Other:                                                     177.     0.1%

Total:                                               273,006


2014 Midterm Election


Republican Mick Mulvaney:       103,078.    60.6%

Democrat Tom Adams:                  66,802.    39.3%

Other:                                                         82.      0. %

Total:                                                 169,962.


June 20, 2017 Special Election


Republican Ralph Norman:           44,889.      51.1%

Democrat Archie Parnell:               42,053.      47.9%

Total:                                                   87,840.


We see from the General and Midterm elections that this is a typical 60-40 lopsided and safe Republican district.  Yet, neither side made a strong showing in the special election. The Republican turnout was only 43.5% of the 2014 Midterm, and only 27.8% of the 2016 General election.  The Democratic turnout was much larger, 63.0% of the Midterm, and 40.0% of the General election.

Three theories of the small turnout on both sides: (1) there was a storm warning for a strong storm on Thursday, two days later, and people had to prepare for it and finish up other work for the week; (2) people realized that with the large Republican dominance of the House, the special election wouldn’t matter, but the 2018 will; and (3) this was considered such a safe Republican district that neither side spent much money or sent celebrities to it.

Why was the Republican turnout percentage-wise of the 2014 midterm 43.5% compared to 63.0% of the Democratic turnout? We would like to think that it was Republican dissatisfaction with Trump, but can’t be certain. The great pity is that the Democrats lost by only 2,834 votes, or only 4.2% of the midterm 2014 turnout. Just like the loss of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by less than 1% in the 2016 election, the Democrats may have over-assumed who would win these races.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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