| First, we reprise the map of top vote-getters by precinct in Tuesday's city council election.
That doesn't tell the entire story. Lovain, despite carrying precincts, did not win, and Smedberg coasted in without placing higher than 2nd.
Here we have ranked all precincts by the number of votes cast per ballot. Every Alexandrian can cast votes for up to six candidates for the six slots, but cannot cast more than one vote per candidate. A lower average indicates that more voters bullet voted or filled out a less-than-full slate.
Republican precincts cast the fewest number of votes per ballot, indicating that an effort to game the system by encouraging voters to bullet vote worked. Lastly, perverse incentives combined with strong regional bases cost two Democrats their seats, as we see below where each candidate's rank within a precinct is displayed.
Not all Democrats were unified. The only candidate with consistent citywide performance was Smedberg, who did not carry any precincts, but finished 3rd to 6th in most of the city. Donley, Krupicka, and Pepper were able to ride their strong regional bases to victory. Lovain's base was too small, and Wilson, the newest member of the council, trailed the rest of the Democratic ticket in every area of the city.
Since the top vote-getter is presumed to be elected vice mayor, even Democrats have a perverse incentive to bullet vote for the candidate of their choice, leaving Lovain and Wilson especially out in the cold. Remember, if reliably Democratic precincts had all voted straight-ticket for all six, regional differences would not be accented, and Lovain and Wilson might have stood a fighting chance. Even though Democratic precincts did cast more votes per ballot than Republican precincts, it wasn't enough to overcome Republican bullet votes.
An unranked block voting system like Alexandria's is open to bullet voting by minority groups like Republicans. Coupled with the fact that in order to be elected vice mayor, a Democrat must win more votes at the expense even of their fellow Democrats, the likelihood of a Republican winning a seat was far greater than most had imagined.