Large margins in majority-white precincts powered Mayor Brandon Scott to victory over challenger and former Mayor Sheila Dixon on Tuesday, preliminary election data shows.

An overcast election day that saw relatively few people go to the polls ended with an election night AP race call some thought could take days of counting votes to settle.

But not only did Scott, who has enjoyed higher approval ratings among white voters, have massive margins in the White L, he also ran close to Dixon in the city’s majority-Black precincts, a Banner analysis of preliminary election data found.

Though Dixon polled better with Black voters, Scott was within about 1,000 votes of Dixon in the precincts within the Black Butterfly on Wednesday night. With many votes remaining uncounted, it is not inconceivable that Scott will emerge victorious there.

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While Dixon is expected to win most majority-Black precincts, her path to victory was narrowed significantly by weaker margins and lower turnout in those precincts than has been normal.

Low turnout

As of Wednesday evening, just over 65,000 votes had been counted in the Democratic mayoral primary, according to data from the Maryland State Board of Elections, though there are still ballots that must be counted. The current total would be the lowest turnout — not including the 2020 COVID election — since at least 2011, when around 64,000 votes were cast and the city’s population was more than 54,000 people higher.

Majority-white neighborhoods generally had higher turnout, while majority-Black neighborhoods generally had lower turnout. Some precincts in majority-white neighborhoods have already seen higher-than-average turnout. Meanwhile, nearly all precincts in the Black Butterfly saw fewer votes cast.

Overall, 19% fewer votes have been cast so far in 2024 than the average for Democratic mayoral primaries in 2007, 2011 and 2016. There is no precinct-level voting data from the 2020 mayoral primary, when the vast majority of ballots were mailed in during the early months of the pandemic.

Scott dominant in the White L

Scott’s strong election night performance was bolstered by a dominant showing in Baltimore’s majority-white areas, which account for about 25% of counted votes.

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So far, he has garnered over 60% of the votes in these precincts and holds a lead in 75% of White L precincts. His average margin of victory was about 25 percentage points.

Keeping pace in the Black Butterfly

On election night, Dixon’s perceived advantage among voters in majority-Black areas never materialized. Scott trails Dixon by only a small count in Black-majority precincts.

Scott’s unexpectedly strong performance in these precincts might be related to depressed turnout, a larger factor on election day in Black Butterfly precincts than in the White L.

While many voters harbored concerns about Dixon because of the embezzlement scandal that led to her resigning from office, Dixon’s approval among Black voters was higher than Scott’s in the run-up to the election.

Baltimore Banner reporter Nick Thieme contributed to this story.

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