Right after the election, I took a look at the results of the presidential race in Gwinnett County. The results surprised many, because Democrat Hillary Clinton was able to defeat Republican Donald Trump in what had been a consistently red county.
In 2012, Gwinnett had 395,934 registered voters. Of those 296,496 went to the polls, or 74.9% of eligible voters. For 2016, there were 430,935 registered voters, an increase of 35,001, or 8.8%. Of those 330,409 went to the polls, or 76.7% of eligible voters. In short, not only did the number of registered voters increase, the number who actually turned up at the polls to vote increased by 11.4% over 2012.
This year, Donald Trump received 146,989 votes compared to Mitt Romney’s 159,855 votes, a difference of 12,866 votes, or 8.7% fewer votes than 2012. Hillary Clinton received 166,163 votes compared to Barack Obama’s 132,509, an increase of 33,654 votes, or a whopping 25.3% increase in Democratic presidential votes compared to 2012. Based on these numbers, it would appear that most of the newly registered voters voted for Hillary Clinton. It’s also worth noting that in 2012, there were 684 write in votes for president, compared to 5,314 in 2016. 1,199 voters left the presidential ballot blank in 2016, compared to only 468 undervotes in 2012.
Of Gwinnett’s 156 precincts, only 24 recorded more votes for Donald Trump than they did for Mitt Romney, some by a small number of votes. For example, the Pucketts B precinct, located just north of the Mall of Georgia in Buford had 1,278 votes for Trump, one more than it did for Romney in 2012. Yet Trump’s share of the vote in that precinct declined from 70.0% to 66.8%. Meanwhile, Clinton received 579 votes compared to 526 for Obama, an increase of 10%.
While all of this makes it appear that Georgia’s second largest county has turned blue, the results of other races show that the unusual nature of this presidential race may have distorted the results. In the Senate race, Johnny Isakson got 49.6% of the vote, and led Jim Barksdale by 13,431 votes. Isakson also received 7,583 more votes than Donald Trump. Those votes allowed Isakson to win 16 more precincts than Trump did. Isakson had more votes than Trump in all but 17 precincts, in some cases by more than 10%. You can see the effect of the increased Isakson vote in the countywide map that shows the winning candidate, and the relative strength of the win.
That difference was even more apparent in the County Commission Chairman’s race, which pitted incumbent Republican Charlotte Nash against Gwinnett Democratic Party Chairman Jim Shealey. Nash won that race by a 16,546 vote margin, 52.6% to 47.3%. In every precinct, Nash received more votes than did Trump. Because Nash was unopposed in the general election in 2012, a comparison can’t be made to previous results.
Because Democrats are less likely to turn out in off year elections–only 200,721 voters in 2014–Gwinnett is likely to be Republican in 2018. 2020, though, could be a different story, depending on who the presidential candidates are.