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Elections, International

Kenya’s Presidential Results Were Fair – But Its Ethnic Divide is Concerning

Kenya held its 2017 Presidential Election on August 8th.  Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term in the first round of voting with 54% over Raila Odinga.  This also marked the 2nd election for Kenya where widespread violence and vote rigging did not occur.  The 2017 contest was a repeat of the 2013 race, which saw Kenyatta score a narrower victory over Odinga.   However, some unrest following the vote remains as Odinga has claims the vote was rigged and is challenging the results in court.  The independent election board and international observers all rank the election as fair.  There is a concern of renewed tensions however as the challenge moves forward.  Unrest following the election has left some 25 dead, but this pails in comparison to the hundreds or thousands left dead following the rigged 2007 election.

Ethnic Division in Kenya

Like many African nations, ethnic and tribal tensions remain in Kenya.  Kenya’s history has been scarred by ethnic tensions and warfare, which blew up again following major unrest following a rigged 2007 round of voting.  While the situation has improved and 2013’s vote was heralded for its relative peacefulness, their is still strong tension between major ethnic groups.  These tensions have spilled over into the political realm with the main political parties organized along ethnic lines.  This map from Odyssey Safaris shows the major ethnic groups in Kenya.  The two major political parties are formed around these groups.



Lets look at the candidates for President compared to the ethnic group they are supported by.

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta is Kikuyu and his running mate, William Ruto, is Kalenjin.  Both of these ethnic groups support Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.
  • Challenger Odinga, meanwhile, is Luo and his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, is Kamba.  Their ODM party is heavily backed by those ethnic groups.

Of Kenya’s “big five” ethnicities, only the Luhya are not on a ticket.  However, they backed Odinga in both 2013 and 2017.  Kenyatta has managed victories by doing well with other small ethnic groups and with the support of the 1st and 3rd largest ethnic groups.

The Results

In 2013, Kenyatta won with just over the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, while Odinga was down at 44%.   The results fell across very stark ethnic lines.  Many counties in Kenya saw a candidate win over 80% to 90% of the vote.   Counties with more diverse ethnic makeups or made up of the smaller tribes saw a more split vote.   In 2017, Kenyatta won with 54% to Odinga’s 44%.

Kenya 2013 and 2017

Kenyatta improved in counties made up of smaller ethnic groups, but the loyalty of the “big five” ethnicity remained the same.

Kenya 2013 and 2017 2

Kenyatta made slightly improvements in most counties.  However, he made major gains in northern counties made up of assorted groups and the the Turkana.  Kenyatta also improved in the Luhya regions, but so did Odinga.  In 2013, Musalia Mudavadi, a Luhya politician, ran and pulled large vote shares in the those counties.  Most of Kenyatta’s biggest gains were in lesser populated counties, but his general improvements across the board helped edge his vote total up.

The chart below lays out both elections by county along with the ethnic group that dominates the county most (which are estimates based on county borders and the ethnic maps).

Kenya Election Results1

The chart shows how strongly counties in the big five vote for one side.  Counties dominated by smaller tribes are more modest in support and some flipped allegiance between 2013 and 2017.  The limit of ethnic data by county (at least that I could find) is a shame but the general overview shows a clear pattern between the two elections.  Kenyatta held on in counties loyal to his party and was crushed again in those loyal to Odinga.  Meanwhile, most of Kenyatta’s best improvements where among the smaller ethnic groups that have far fewer ties to the major parties.


Overall, Kenyatta’s win holds up to the historic results and the ethnic makeup of the counties.  Paired with international sign-off, and it appears clear to me that the vote was fair.  Of course, Kenya’s stark ethnic divide is driving its political divide, and the current coalition appears to make Kenyatta’s Jubilee a solid favorite in any election.  The political health of Kenya would be better served by the parties not forming along such strong ethnic lines.  Unfortunately, that change may not take place anytime in the near future.

Congressional, Elections

The Utah 3rd District: A look back at Trump’s Mormon Problem

The GOP primary for special election in Utah’s 3rd district has received very little attention.  More focus has been placed on the Alabama Senate Primary occurring that same day and many politicos and the media are burned out by a flurry of special elections early this year.  However, the special election for Utah’s 3rd district, trigger by the resignation of Jason Chaffetz, does offer some key intrigue regarding Mormon voters and their dislike for bombastic President Trump.

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Lisa Murkowski’s Electoral Coalition

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) has been a major thorn in the side of the Republican Party this year.  The Alaskan Senator, along with Maine Senator Susan Collins, has been instrumental in killing assorted efforts to repeal Obamacare, as well as nearly tanking Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary.  Murkowski has quickly found herself on Trump’s bad side, but has brushed off veiled attacks.  Murkowski seems to be acting like someone not worried about re-election or a primary challenge in her home state. Continue Reading

Elections, Florida

Florida Primary Previews for SD40 and HD116

July 25th is the date of two special election primaries in Miami-Dade County.  The specials are a result of the resignation of Republican Senator Frank Artiles.  Artiles was forced to resign before the end of the spring legislative session when news broke of racially-charged language and cursing he directing at African-American lawmakers.  Artiles remained defiant in the wake of calls for resignation for a few days, but eventually quit.   Continue Reading

Congressional, Elections

What to Watch for in Montana’s Special Election

The special election for Montana’s At-Large seat is upon us.   The election was triggered by Donald Trump appointing Congressman Zinke as Interior Secretary, leaving a seat up for grabs that Democrats have not held since 1996.   The seat has attracted money and interest, but Republicans, aiming to avoid a shock result, have been the largest spenders in the race.  Republicans are running Greg Gianforte, a businessman who narrowly lost a Gubernatorial bid last year.  Democrats are running Rob Quist, a folk singer who falls into the Bernie Sander’s wing of the party.  Quist has run an aggressive campaign while Gianforte has relied more on money and paid advertising.  Polling has put Gianforte in first, with wide variations from small to modest.  Montana was solid for Trump in 2016, but its history of voting Democrat for Governor and Senator, coupled with Trump’s falling approvals, mean nothing can be taken for granted.

Montana Politics

Montana is sparsely populated, but does host some key population centers.  Only seven cities have a populations over 20,000 people.  Much of Montana’s population is in the western part of the state while the east remains much more rural.

Population Density

A super-simple summary of these cities/areas is as follows

  • Missoula — home to University of Missoula, solid democratic area
  • Butte — old mining and union town
  • Bozeman — growing city, tourism site, white-collar, high educated
  • Billings — site of large growth by rich people moving in out of state
  • Helena — Capital, more Republican/swing area, home to lots of outdoor recreation
  • Great Falls — rust-belt style city that has seen declining economy
  • Kalispell — trading port city

Montana Pop

Montana is also one of the whitest states in the nation.  The largest non-white group is Native Americans, which are clustered in assorted reservations in the state.

Race by Trac

Montana was solid for Trump in 2016, giving him an over 20% margin.  Clinton’s wins where clustered in the west and along the Indian Reservations.  Clinton won in Bozeman, a booming city with a growing white-collar and a major tourist destination (close to Big Sky), and Missoula, home to the University of Missoula.  Clinton won in Butte, an older union, mining-town region but by a narrow margin.

Montana 2016 Pres

While Clinton was losing Montana by 20 points, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock was winning by four.  Bullock won the counties hosting Great Falls and Helena and only narrowly lost in Yellowstone, home to Billings.  Bullock racked up much stronger wins in Butte and did better out west.

Montana 2016 Gov

Bullock’s win was just by winning more counties, he outperformed Clinton across the state.  Bullock did over 15% better in many counties in the western part of the state, with a very rural counties in the east staying stead-fast GOP.

Montana Bullock Over Clinton

Obama’s 2012 run in Montana was not strong, though he did win more counties than Clinton.  His 15 point loss was much weaker than his 2008 run, where he came very close to taking the state.

Montana 2012 Pres

Montana 2008 Pre

In 2008, Obama won more counties than he did in 2012, but he also had narrower margins in counties he lost.  Like any state, its not just about winning key population centers, but also keeping margins as low as possible in the rural regions.

Below is each county and how they voted in key recent elections, sorted by total votes cast in 2016.  Just a handful of counties control a majority of the vote in Montana.

Montana Counties

Montana’s East-West Split

People who study Montana’s politics and culture note a distinct east-west divide in the state.  Eastern Montana is much more rural and like the great plains, losing population every census.  Western Montana, dominated by the Rocky Mountains, is home to most of the states tourist hot-spots.  The region is growing, the site of retirees and young workers, with a growing population.  Population projects show the east continuing to lose population and the west on track to keep gaining people.

Montana Pop Drop

The western portion of the state is also much more educated than the east, with more and more residents holding bachelors degrees.

Montana Education

Compare the education map to a map showing how the partisan margin for President between 2012 and 2016 shifted.

Montana Margin Shift

As was seen in the rest of the nation, there was a clear correlation between how the Presidential votes shifted and the education/economy of an area.

Education Montana Scatter

The Democratic margin improved in one county, the one with the highest Bachelor’s degree %. The GOP margin, meanwhile, improved in many counties with lower-education, often sites of mines that do or did dot the west (Map from Montana Mining Association).


Democrat’s weakening in the mining and working class areas are part of a nationwide trend.  While Clinton performed weak in these areas, Bullock managed to do better, aiding his re-election.

The combination of old union, mining towns and a growing educated population have continued a long trend of Western Montana being more Democratic than the east.

Until 1992, Montana had two congressional districts, with the western 1st district held by a Democrat, and the eastern 2nd held by a Republican.  When Montana lost a seat in 1992, the two congressmen went against each-other for that At-Large seat.  Democrat Williams won by a 3% while winning his old district and losing the 2nd.
Montana 1992 Congress

Looking at several recent election in Montana broken down by the old 1st and 2nd district, the political split in the state is clear.  The old 2nd district is solidly Republican while the first leans Democratic.

Montana Divide

Clinton under-performed in the West, but tanked by record levels in the east.  Clinton’s drop in mining, working-class areas gave her one of the weakest showing in the west for any high-profile race.  Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Jon Tester only narrowly lost in the east in his 2012 re-election.  The east and west often produce large splits in how they vote, but Tester’s 2012 win saw the lowest split thanks to his strength in the east.  Democrats may under-perform in the east, but they still can keep things close, as Tester demonstrates.

The east/west split is worth keeping an eye on for the future.  Montana has narrowly missed out on a 2nd district in the last two censuses and still stands in the running for 2020.  A split in Montana could produce a western district more favorable to Democrats.  The line’s would be different from 1992 (the west is too over-populated now) — but any western variation (absent an aggressive gerrymander) would be in play for Democrats.


Montana is often written off in the political conversation most of the time, lumped in with deep red states like Idaho or Wyoming.  However, Montana’s politics are much more complex than other parts of the region.  The state’s east-west divide is real and the state’s history of electing Democrats mean nothing can be written off.

Congressional, Elections

What to Watch for In the Kansas 4th District Special Election (Updated with Results)

The special election in the Kansas 4th district is not supposed to be on anyone’s radar.  When Donald Trump picked Congressman Mike Pompeo to be his CIA director, ratings for the special election started at “Safe R.”  The district is solid red, voting for Trump by 27 points.  It includes Wichita and several rural farm counties.  Both party candidates where chosen at local conventions, with Democrats choosing James Thompson, an attorney and avowed progressive and Republicans choosing State Treasurer Ron Estes. Continue Reading

Elections, Florida

The Regional Disparity in Florida’s Judicial Retention Elections

Last week, the Florida House passed a bill creating 12 year term limits for Supreme Court Justices.   Florida justices already must retire around or shortly after their 70th birthday and face a retention election every 6 years.   The main argument for the term limits proposal was that justices have never lost their retention votes, making them less checked than the other chambers of FL government.  The Florida legislature’s conflicts with the FL Supreme Court are well documented in FL politics. Continue Reading

2016 President, Elections

Trump and the Mormon Vote: Can Evan McMullin make it on the map?

Donald Trump has problems with many different blocks if voters.   He is a bogyman to Hispanics, despised by African-Americans, and off-putting to college educated and suburban whites.  However, to me the most fascinating of Trump’s problems is with Mormon Americans, a group that is traditional one of the strongest for the GOP, but this time remains very much in up in the air.  There has been plenty written about why Trump is so unpopular with Mormons.  His vulgar nature and lifestyle certainly earn him few supporters.  However, a bigger factor is his demonizing of Muslims and anti-immigrant sentiment.  Mormons have shown to be more pro-immigration and weary of candidates that demonize groups of people.  This stems from Mormon mission trips abroad and their own history with being persecuted.  The result has been a major voting block in Utah and Idaho holding sky-high disapprovals of the GOP nominee, putting at least one of these states into a weird state of play.

Mormon in the Western Primaries  

Trump’s problems with Mormon voters stretch back into the primary season.  While Trump managed to do respectably with evangelicals in other states, especially in the South, he ran into a major roadblock in the West.  Ted Cruz crushed Trump in the Utah caucuses.  Cruz got 69% in Utah, with Kasich at 16% and Trump in third with 14%.   A few weeks earlier, in the Idaho Primary, Trump lost to Cruz 45-28%.   Utah is over 60% Mormon, while Idaho is a solid 25%.   With around 80% of Mormons leaning Republicans, the GOP caucus/primaries in these states were no doubt more Mormon than average.  Exact religious figures are always tricky to come by.  However, I was able to track down Mormon estimates by county for Utah and Idaho.   Looking at the Mormon estimates by county and Trump’s share of the vote in the Utah/Idaho contests, it’s clear Trump had a serious Mormon problem in the primaries.


Trump did best in Western Idaho, where few Mormon reside.  Meanwhile, he failed to clear 20% in most heavily-Mormon counties and didn’t even crack 10% in Utah County, home to Brigham Young University.

Looking at the Mormon population next to the complete results of the Idaho/Caucus contests, Trump’s only wins were in counties with smaller Mormon populations.  Trump also fell into 3rd in many heavily-Mormon counties.


Someone who has not seen recent polling in Utah may be thinking “ok so they don’t like him.  But Mormon’s are super Republican, so they will still vote for the GOP nominee right?”    Well you are right about one thing, Mormon’s are very Republican.  Mitt Romney received around 80% of the Mormon vote in 2012, as did George W Bush in 2004.  Both Idaho and Utah were solidly Republican in 2012 and 2008.


While Obama managed to snag a few counties out of Utah in 2008, amid a blue wave, he still couldn’t crack 35%.  In 2008, Obama clawed his way to 36% in Idaho.

The bottom line is, Utah and Idaho are too conservative to vote Clinton over Trump.  While Mormon voters may not like Trump, their conservative ideology will only bend so far, so Utah/Idaho continued their tradition of being effectively ignored in the general election through the spring and summer.

Then Evan McMullin came along.

A Mormon Alternative

Evan McMullin announced is presidential candidacy months before anyone really took notice.  McMullin was a former CIA operations manager and House GOP staffer.  His ideology is similar to George W Bush and he represents a more standard establishment conservative.  McMullin ran to give establishment conservatives and alternative option.  However, with little name ID or money McMullin’s candidacy has not taken off across much of the nation.  McMullin got in late and only managed to get on the ballot in 11 states.   However, two of those were Idaho and Utah.  McMullin himself is Mormon and went to Brigham Young University.  It seemed that if McMullin was going to have any real impact, it would be in Utah and Eastern Idaho.

Still for some time, McMullin’s candidacy wasn’t factored in.  He wasn’t included in polls for Utah, despite polls showing a large undecided vote.  When McMullin finally started getting included in polls around September, he was polling in the 20s.   Controversy with Trump over the Access Hollywood tape and his poor debate performance further boosted McMullin, who began to make Utah is main focus.  An Emerson poll in mid-October even had McMullin leading in Utah with 31%.   In the pollster averages, McMullin still hovered in 3rd, neck and neck with Clinton for 2nd.  On the 538 podcast, Nate Silver said his model could be underestimating McMullin, and the way pollsters included McMullin their surveys could effect the results.  The 538 polls-only model projects McMullin in 2nd place with Trump getting less than 40%.


Unfortunately for McMullin, his growth seems to have flat-lined.  A new Emerson poll puts Trump back in the lead, and McMullin has not moved past 30% in the pollsters’ averages.  McMullin hasn’t really lost ground, but he hasn’t gained enough to pull ahead permanently.  The Trump campaign has taken the threat seriously though, as Mike Pence was dispatched to Utah to sure up conservatives there.  A white nationalist group also sent out a robo call in Utah accusing McMullin of being gay.

McMullin’s rough path to a 1st place in Utah is twofold.  First, McMullin is not winning the Mormon vote.  The recent Monmouth poll in Utah showed McMullin getting 37% of Mormons to Trumps 43%, with Clinton getting 14%.   Among non-Mormons (which would include liberals and conservative evangelicals that are not Mormon), McMullin only gets 7%.   Conservatives in general back Trump.  It is Mormons specifically that McMullin has strength with.  However, if McMullin is narrowly trailing Trump with Mormons, then he can’t win Utah.  McMullin would need a solid Mormon win in order to combat Trump’s strength with non-Mormon conservatives.

To be clear, Trump has not really improved his standing with Mormon’s.  In Utah, Trump has a 67% disapproval statewide, 61% with Mormons.   However, Clinton stands at an 81% Mormon disapproval, making her even less liked than Trump.   McMullin is the only candidate to sport a net-favorable with Mormons, but over 40% don’t know enough to form an opinion.  This is McMullin’s biggest problem, he is out of time and money to move those undecideds into the favorable column.


Trump’s weakness with Mormons is poised to result in him getting a dramatically lower share of the vote than other Republicans on the ballot.  The Monmouth poll gave him 37% of the vote, while Senator Lee and Governor Herbert are both over 60%.


Clinton’s vote share is roughly the same as the Democratic candidates for Senate and Governor.  The Democratic vote remains fairly united in Utah.  It is hard to see Clinton doing much better than the low 30s.  McMullin’s candidacy, taking away Mormons that are otherwise backing Lee and Herbert, is what keeps Trump below the 40s.  Trump has a big Mormon problem, but it just might not be big enough to stop him from winning such a conservative state.

Where Can McMullin Do Best?

Let’s say McMullin can’t win Utah.  Can he win some counties?  If he does, he will be the first third-party candidate to win a county since Ross Perot.

The best counties for McMullin will undoubtedly be those with the largest Mormon population.  McMullin’s weakness with non-Mormons make any county without a large Mormon base likely out of range.  McMullin would then need to win a majority of Mormons in specific counties to get onto the map.   The Utah Monmouth poll has Trump narrowly leading McMullin with Mormons that plan to vote GOP, while a recent Idaho poll by Emerson has Trump and McMullin tied among GOP-leaning Mormons.


In Idaho, McMullin’s tie with Mormon’s is translating into 10% of the vote.  The Mormon vote is too small to allow a McMullin upset win (or even a 2nd place finish).  However, McMullin could take some Idaho Counties if he wins the undecided Mormons in the state.

To get a feel for how counties could break in the election,  let’s look at the voting dynamics in Utah and Idaho by county, specifically the counties with the highest share of GOP-backing Mormons.

When Romney ran in 2012, he got 80% of the Mormon vote.  As stated before, this was similar to George W Bush’s share, so it was not just a symptom of Romney being Mormon himself.  Mormon’s have long been a solid GOP voting bloc.  In Idaho and Utah, there are effectively three key voting blocs, Mormons that vote GOP, GOP voters that are not Mormon, and the Democratic vote (including the Dem-leaning Mormons).  For the purposes of this analysis, I am just going to assume Clinton will get the same share of the vote Obama got in 2012 (which was lower than his 2008 share).  She could fall, but she is polling ahead of Obama’s 2012 share.  So if anything I’m being conservative.   I then took the estimated Mormon share of each county, and assuming Romney got 80% of Mormons in each county (imperfect, I know), calculated the share of the vote that was Mormons for Romney, then the share of the vote that was non-Mormons for Romney (with the remaining being Obama/other).

The maps below show the share of the vote in each county that was Mormons for Romney and non-Mormons for Romney.


The maps conform with what we have seen already.  Western Idaho is very conservative but not very Mormon, meanwhile most of Utah and Eastern Idaho are where Mormons who backed Romney.  Only a few counties in both states didn’t have high shares of Romney backers (gave decent shares to Obama), and are green on both maps.

For McMullin, counties where the electorate is largely non-Mormons that voted Romney are not really in play for him.  McMullin’s best chance is the counties made up of 60% or more Romney-backing Mormons.

I ran some numbers and have two scenarios.  One scenario is McMullin manages to get to 50% of Romney-backing Mormons.  The other scenario is where McMullin gets to 60% of GOP-backing Mormons.  In both scenarios I have Clinton getting Obama’s % from 2012, and Trump getting 80% of the non-Mormon vote that Romney got.


If McMullin gets 60% of GOP-Mormons in Utah and Idaho, he will net several counties.  However, if he only manages a tie, he gets none.  Clinton will likely win more counties than Obama thanks to the GOP split.

At this point, unless the polling is off, McMullin getting 60% of GOP-Mormons is not likely.  However, he could get 60% in specific counties.  If I had to bet on one county McMullin has a real shot at winning, it would be Utah County, where McMullin went to school and Trump got 9% in the Utah Caucuses.

McMullin may or may not make it onto the map in Utah or Idaho.  Either way, he is poised to have a strong 3rd party showing.  The results out of Utah and eastern Idaho will no doubt be analyzed and debated.  The sheer fact that we are even discussing these normally solid-GOP states shows that for some groups, Trumpism is a bridge to far.

Elections, Florida

The Tale of the Panhandle Protest Vote: Expect anti-grayson and anti-murphy votes in North Florida

On the night before the 2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, I correctly predicted that Nan Rich would do best in the rural panhandle of Florida.  My prediction was based off a recent history of unknown candidates doing very well in the panhandle as a way of conservative, southern democrats casting protest votes.  My logic was simple:  conservative rural democrats in these counties show up to vote for local offices, where Democrats still maintain control, but reject the well-known Democrats for top-of-the-ballot races because they plan to vote GOP in the fall. Continue Reading