GRANOLAPARK: Smith gets 15 months

"How long ya in for?" Councilmember-elect Jarrett Smith shakes hands with councilmember Seth Grimes following the city council's ratification of the official vote tallies July 18.


Dear Readers,

“What have I DONE?”

That’s what Jarrett Smith, officially the Takoma Park Ward 5 councilmember-elect, is probably thinking.

What he did was win an election, sentencing himself to at least 15 months hard labor on the city council with no time off for good behavior and no chance of parole.

Smith won a special, off-season election to replace Ward 5 councilmember Reuben Snipper. Snipper stepped down in May, skipping off to Rome. That’s a move Smith may soon consider for himself as constituent requests flood in, council meetings drone on and on, spare time and home life evaporate, mountains of paperwork swallow his desk, and the choice of speedbump heights gives him a week of sleepless nights.

The election results were officially reported by Anne Sergeant, Chief Election Judge, and certified in a special city council session July 18. The council also awarded Chief judge Sergeant with a mayoral proclamation for her services to the board of elections.

Not adding up

The final, official vote tally was: 97 votes for Smith, 81 for Eric Hensal, and 33 for Melinda Ulloa.

190 votes were cast. Math-savvy readers will note that the numbers don’t add up – and that’s why the Takoma Park’s election geeks  are turning polka-dotted with excitement. Instant Runoff Voting was triggered!!

Do you feel the excitement, too, Dear Reader? Doesn’t it make you want to squeal like a happy little child?


How about if we explain that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), adopted by the city in 2006, is a way to count the votes so if there isn’t a majority in a 3 or more-way race, a majority can be determined? The way it works is that everybody votes twice – or more times – on their ballots. They vote first pick, second pick, and so forth depending on the number of candidates. If none of the candidates get over 50%, the second-pick votes are counted.

Here’s how it worked on election night July 17. Smith got the most votes, but not quite 50%, so they took all of the ballots cast for the last-placing candidate (Ulloa), and counted the second picks on those ballots. That gave Smith just over 50%.

Now are you excited? WE are – but only because this is the last time we have to explain all that.

“How long ya in for?” Councilmember-elect Jarrett Smith commiserates with councilmember Seth Grimes following the city council’s certification of the official vote tallies July 18.


The election geeks are giddy. They are even more giddy about the polling survey Takoma Park-based non-profit organization Fair Vote conducted. Fair Vote folks are the ones who promoted IRV to the city.

The poll results, posted to local listserves, have all the other election geeks – most of them current and former city politicians – clickity-clacking their computer keys composing long statistical analysis. Aren’t they cute when they get all geeky like that? It makes Your Gilbert feel all warm and fuzzy. Actually, first it makes Your Gilbert feel like a strong drink. Warm and fuzzy follows.

Here are the poll results, AND some census data with analysis from former councilmember Colleen Clay. Let your inner election geek out, Dear Readers:

– Gilbert

FairVote’s Ward Five Special Election Survey, July 17, 2012: Demographic Breakdown

On July 17, Takoma Park held a vacancy election for the Ward Five council seat. Three candidates ran, and 189 votes were cast. The election was decided in the second round of the instant runoff, 55% to 45%. FairVote did an exit survey of voters, with 92 participants. Note: 1) We also noted the gender and race and estimated the age of 31 additional voters that are included below. 2) Not every respondent answered every question, but nearly all did. 3) The questions weren’t all in this order, but are numbered for clarity. For more information, contact FairVote’s Rob Richie at (301) 270-4616 or

1. What is your age?
3.3% 18 – 24
3.3% 25 – 29
16.4% 30 – 39
26.2% 40 – 49
32.8% 50 – 59
15.6% 60 – 69
2.5% 70+

•    Summary: 51% at least 50

2. What is your gender?
42.1% men
57.9% women

3. What is your level of formal education?
0% Did not finish high school
2.2% High school graduate or GED
12.2% Some college or associate’s degree
30.0% Bachelor’s degree
55.6% Graduate or professional degree

•    Summary: 86% have college degree, with 56% having graduate degree.

4. What is your race/ethnicity? Check all that apply.
65.6% White
19.3% Black
5.0% Latino
1.7% Asian
0.8% Native American
7.6% Other
Note: All voters said citizens, so no immigrant voters

•    Summary: Two-thirds of voters were white.

5. How often do you tend to vote in elections?
2.2% Never before this time
3.2% Occasionally
35.% Usually
59.1% Always

6. Please check the box that most reflects your household’s total annual income.
6.8% Less than $10,000
2.3% $10,000-$24,999
13.6% $25,000-$49,999
11.4% $50,000-$74,999
15.9% $75,000-$99,999
50.0% $100,000 +

•    Summary: Half of voters live in households with income of at least $100,000. Less than 10% live in households with income< $25,000

7. On most political matters, are you:
40.9% Very liberal
‘35.2% Liberal
‘18.2% Moderate
2.3% Conservative
1.1% Very conservative
2.3% Other

•    Summary: 76% are liberal are very liberal and only 3% are conservative or very conservative

8. Are you registered to vote as a:
85.6% Democrat
2.2% Republican
2.2% Other party
10.0% No Affiliation

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) Survey Highlights

•    67% knew that IRV would be used
•    100% found the ballot and instructions easy
•    79% found ranking candidates very easy, 11% easy, 9% neutral, 1% difficult
•    73% support IRV for city elections, 0% oppose
•    86% support IRV for county, 14% oppose
•    77% ranked 2 or more, 23% did not (Nearly all ranking 1 candidate did not care to rank others


Former councilmember Colleen Clay, who now has way too much time on her hands, wrote this:

It is interesting to look at the numbers in comparison to the census tract.  The tract nearly mirrors the ward geography.

The tract has 1955 people of voting age, but 744 (margin of error 217) residents are not citizens.  75.4 percent of the 937 households are rental.  It would be interesting to know what percentage of voters are homeowners.

For age, the under thirty set is the under-represented group from this census tract.  Interestingly, the 30’s are exactly proportionally represented, the 40s are double, the 50-70 are triple, and over 70 are double.

Women are 55.5 percent of the tract, so slightly over-represented in the vote, but it is explained by the age distribution, as there are more women in the older age range (we’re still out livin ya!).  It’s possible that if one did a full age analysis, women might have actually showed up to vote in lower numbers by age category.  Gender seems to be mostly a non-player.

36.8% White and 49.5% Black.  7.9% Asian and 18.9% Latino in the tract.  Whites are the only over-represented group.

In the tract 31% have a bachelor’s degree, matching the voting demographic, but only 14.7% in the tract have a graduate degree.  23% have some college or an associates degree.  it should be noted the margin of error on the degree info is as high as +/- 10%   The citizenship status probably explains some of this skew.

22.1% of households report income over $100,000 in the tract.  15 percent report 75,000-99,000, almost matching the voters.

So if you are in your 30s, make between 75-99 thousand houshold income and have a bachelor’s degree, your demographic is equally represented.
If you are white, have a graduate degree, and make over $100,000 your demographic is over represented, sometimes by 400 percent.

– colleen

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.