Voter Turnout in Virginia

For 2012 election-related commentary, please see these recent posts :

  1. Forget Ohio, it’s all about Virginia…and demographics
  2. Virginia Votes 2012
  3. Virginia Votes 2012:  Turnout across localities
  4. Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008

In the 2008 Presidential election, 67% of eligible Virginia voters cast ballots, the highest turnout rate in the commonwealth in the modern political period (up from 61% in 2004 and 54% in 2000). Of course, this comparatively high turnout didn’t occur evenly throughout the state. In fact, there was striking variation evident across Virginia’s localities: the maximum turnout rate occurred in the city of Falls Church, with 87% turnout among the pool of eligible voters; at the lower end, only 40% of eligible voters in the city of Radford showed up at the polls.

Voter turnout here is estimated by the number of ballots cast in a locality (as recorded by the State Board of Elections) divided by the citizen voting age population in the locality (U.S. citizens aged 18 or over, as estimated by the  Census Bureau).

The map below shows the distribution of voter turnout across the state. The dark purple cities and counties had turnout rates much higher than the state total, with 75% or more of eligible residents turning out to vote. These are mostly localities in Virginia’s big metro areas: Northern Virginia, the Richmond area, and the Hampton Roads region.

The two lighter shades of blue denote localities where turnout was much lower than the state total, less than 60%. These are mostly in Virginia’s southwestern and Southside counties.

Voter Turnout by Locality

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Food Deserts in Virginia

A relatively new term has come about in the last decade’s discussions about the obesity crisis in America – food deserts. These are areas of the country where residents have limited access to supermarkets or grocery stores. Many believe that the identification and eradication of food deserts is important, because educating individuals about healthy choices only goes so far if those individuals do not have access to or cannot afford the healthy options. First lady Michelle Obama believes so strongly in this idea that she has even made the eradication of Food Deserts part of her “Let’s Move!” initiative.
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Employment is up, wages are down

Employment rose nationwide in 2011, but the average weekly wage fell 1.7 percent according to data just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only five periods have seen declining wages since the series began in 1978 and fourth Quarter 2010-2011 is the only period to have seen declining wages occur with rising employment.

Virginia’s twelve largest localities, the only ones covered in this report, mirror the national trend. All twelve experienced employment growth, and all but one, Alexandria City, simultaneously experienced wage declines. We need to wait for more details on industry and occupational employment patterns in order to work out just why employment has risen without also driving up wages. And we need employment data for a few more quarters to see whether this divergence of employment and wages is a blip or the beginning of a trend.

Employment and Wage Change, Virginia’s largest Localities, 2010-2011

Percent Change
Average Weekly Wage Wages
4th Quarter 2011 4th Quarter 2010-11
Arlington, VA 0.3 $1,591 -5
Chesterfield, VA. 1.6 $852 -2.5
Fairfax, VA 1.7 $1,519 -1.5
Henrico, VA 1 $939 -2
Loudoun, VA 2.5 $1,136 -5
Prince William, VA. 3.2 $848 -2.8
Alexandria City, VA 0.6 $1,434 0.4
Chesapeake City, VA 0.2 $751 -0.7
Newport News City, VA 1.9 $876 -1.7
Norfolk City, VA. 0.8 $933 -2.6
Richmond City, VA 1.6 $1,027 -3.3
Virginia Beach City, VA 0.5 $763 -0.8

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, County Employment and Wages Summary

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Changes in Family Net Worth, 2001-2010

The recently released 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances data from the Federal Reserve Board has quantified what we knew to be true in the post-recession years: wealth levels have dropped, dramatically. The story of the average American family, however, like all averages, hides substantial variation in experiences. When we examine trends in net worth (total assets minus total debts) between 2001-2010 by family position in the income distribution, three different stories emerge. Continue reading “Changes in Family Net Worth, 2001-2010”

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Student loans and social benefits are not the worst problem

I’m on the opposite end of the labor force spectrum from Dustin — hurtling towards retirement instead of just starting out — but the issue he described in his recent post is important for me too, as it should be for everyone. If young people are not able to gain a strong foothold in society, the long term consequences could be serious both for them and for the rest of us who depend on a strong young workforce. Hoarding social benefits the way Smaug hoarded gold is unlikely to work any better for us than it did for him. Continue reading “Student loans and social benefits are not the worst problem”

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The Individual Mandate stays, but what about Medicaid? Insights for Virginia

Today’s Supreme Court ruling has upheld the central piece of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate, but has deemed part of that act unconstitutional when it comes to another major piece, the Medicaid expansion.

Under the Act, Medicaid will expand to cover all persons under 133% of the poverty line. Under the original Medicaid rules, only certain “covered groups” were eligible; namely the aged, blind, disabled, children, or parents with dependent children.  No provision was made for poor childless adults.  The Affordable Care Act sought to change that, and conditioned all future Medicaid funding on states’ compliance with the new coverage rules.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion, deemed that the federal government forcing the states to comply with the expansion, lest they lose all Medicaid funding, was unconstitutional, stating, “In this case, the financial ‘inducement’ Congress has chosen is much more than ‘relatively mild encouragement’ — it is a gun to the head.”  Therefore, the Medicaid expansion under health reform is now optional; states can choose to accept or refuse the conditions for the Medicaid expansion without fear of losing current Medicaid funding. Continue reading “The Individual Mandate stays, but what about Medicaid? Insights for Virginia”

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We like you…but could you please stop robbing us :)

The recent debate and negotiations this week in Congress over student loans has me fuming.  The primary question is whether or not to increase interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans, loans that go to students from families that earn less than $70,000 a year.  Regardless of whether they agree to raise or maintain interest rates on Stafford loans, it could very well be the case that young people will still get burned.  Graduate students may have to start paying interest on their loans while they are still in school and the government will no longer cover the interest on subsidized loans during the six month transition after undergraduate students graduate.  These changes could cost young people an extra $20 billion dollars over the next decade added on to a cumulative student loan debt that has surpassed $1 trillion.  Student loan debt is one of those things that haunts you well after you graduate, and as a person who is still trying to pay off a small part of that $1 trillion, I can imagine how much tougher it will be for these new lower-income students throughout their lifetime.  So, I am a bit angry; not only because of what this means for student loans but how this contributes to a troubling pattern in today’s policy making that only seems to be getting worse.  I must ask:

How long must the old continue to eat the young?

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Job Gains and Losses, 2007-2012

The Pew Center on the States recently published an interactive graphic on job gains and losses among the states.  Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, they examine annual percent changes (April to April) in the number of employed persons in each state between 2007 and 2012.

This interactive graphic is conceptually very similar to the state-by-state infographic on gay rights. There are six concentric circles, each representing one year. For example, 2007 captures the percent change in employment between April 2006 and 2007. A white band represents the official beginning of the recession in December 2007. The states are organized into five regions, although the separation between the regions is not well defined. Continue reading “Job Gains and Losses, 2007-2012”

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Health and Age in Virginia’s Localities

Earlier today our office released my latest Stat Chat publication, Virginia’s Health Rankings.  The publication presents data from the America’s Health Rankings and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps projects.  These data sources include annually updated health rankings of the 50 states and of all counties in the U.S, as produced by the United Health Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The data allow us to compare Virginia to other states and to compare Virginia localities to each other.  The data also provide one way to evaluate the health of our communities relative to other areas of the country.  The Stat Chat publication provides a brief overview of the data sources and several maps showing the health rankings of all 50 states and of Virginia’s localities.

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Update: Romney’s economic advantage in Virginia?

Quinnipiac University released it’s latest poll of Virginia’s registered voters with President Obama holding a 47 to 42 percent lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a match-up.  Obama has maintained a consistent lead over Romney in all Quinnipiac polls since the beginning of the year, but there is one question that I am looking at just as closely in trying to predict which way Virginia will turn this election…

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