COLUMBIA — All elections are decided by turnout.
That was never more clear than in Tuesday's special election on the strong mayor referendum in Columbia. The opponents of the referendum carried the day, 57 percent to 43 percent. Nearly 16 percent of Columbia's registered voters took part.
Richland County's 70 precincts were evenly split, with 34 going with the Mayor Steve Benjamin-backed effort to change city government, 32 going against and four evenly split. But the turnout within those precincts was drastically different.
Turnout topped 20 percent in 15 of the county's precincts. The opponents of the referendum won every one of them. In fact, nine key precincts held the key to nearly the entire 1,600-vote margin. The "no" votes outpaced the "yes" by nearly 1,400 in these nine precincts alone: Ward 24, Meadowfield, Ward 25, Woodlands, Pennington, Ward 17, Ward 13, Ward 16 and Ward 14.
Turnout was lower than 10 percent in 21 precincts. And the proponents of a new government won 17 of them. The shortcoming couldn't have been more evident than in Ward 8, where just 2 percent of voters took part in the election. Benjamin's pro-referendum effort took 68 of the 80 votes.
The map below provides a precinct-by-precinct look at the vote. Click on a marker to see the votes cast for each side.
View Map: Precinct Results for Strong Mayor in a full screen map