Friday, November 16, 2007

The Appropriate Level of Praise for a Congressman

Some commenters here have (perfectly understandably) bristled when I point out things that Pat Tiberi has done right. Mr. Tiberi is after all still a conservative, still a partisan Republican, and still enables President Bush in some of his most egregious policies.

On the other hand, Mr. Tiberi has, in recent months, made some votes that would seem to indicate a willingness to at least appear moderate and in touch with his constituency (not to mention get back in the good graces of the Dispatch... I mean, Riskind is not calling out anybody in particular, but Pat's professional behavior from last November until the SCHIP vote has made the CD's endorsement editorial look more and more tragicomic), and I'm not willing to play it both ways. It's pretty awkward for me to jump and scream at wrong-headed partisan votes (of which there have been plenty) and then insult him when he avoids making wrong-headed partisan votes.

To be fair to my critics, though, this attitude on my part runs the risk of the exceptions carrying more weight than the rule. So how to cover something like the recent ENDA vote, in which Tiberi broke ranks with the GOP and voted, commendably, to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation?

Well, I guess one could do it as the Washington Blade does:

Republicans from Louisiana, Ohio and Virginia were among the 13 who received Human Rights Campaign’s lowest congressional scorecard rating in 2006, yet voted Nov. 7 to support ENDA...

...“The people that we see on this vote is a sign of the progress we’re making,” he said. “It really is uncharted territory for some of these folks, and we appreciate the strong support they gave this bill.”

Sammon said Republican support for ENDA also shows some GOP congressmen are aiming to win over moderate voters next year.

“You have folks who are looking ahead to 2008 and they see the landscape is going to be very difficult and they need to reach out to moderate voters,” he said. “This is one issue to do that on...."

...Among the Republicans with zero scorecard ratings that supported ENDA were Reps. John Campbell of California, Tom Davis of Virginia, Phil English of Pennsylvania, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Vito Fossella of New York, Randy Kuhl of New York, Jim McCrery of Louisiana, John McHugh of New York, Candice Miller of Michigan, Jon Porter of Nevada, Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Patrick Tiberi of Ohio.

Makes Me Sick

There has been some significant ganging up on Bill Richardson last night and today (from the left as well as the right) for his claim during the debate that "Human Rights are more important than National Security." I haven't checked the national blogs, where I'm sure this is being discussed, and I'm not really defending Mr. Richardson's honor, as I am fearful he will spin his way into the same statement that everyone else made. The generic statement from the other candidates, Dodd and Clinton for example, made clear that Defending the Nation was more important than protecting Human Rights.

Now, National Security is extremely important, and appears higher up in the job description than Protecting Human Rights does in the Presidential Want Ad. Duh. But some things are, for lack of a better word, sacred. Take, for instance, the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So yes, we as a people get to choose what makes us safe and happy, but the only reason we have a government in the first place is to SECURE HUMAN RIGHTS. Without Human Rights, there is literally no reason for there to be a nation, and nothing to secure.

So, Mr. Dodd, Ms. Clinton, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Tim Grieves, the whole damn lot of you, you make me want to puke. For the candidates, it makes a mockery of most every criticism of W you made last night. And, for what it's worth, provides a decent piece of justification for America's enemies. You're pandering pieces of excrement. And yet, 3 months from now, I'll probably be doing my best to get one of you elected. And people wonder why I've had a hard time giving a crap about the presidential race so far.

Big Games and Little Ciphers

Hopefully, and I like to occasionally think hope eventually vanquishes ignorance, community triumphs over rivalry. Somehow, vocal arguments lose intensity and neighborhoods tighten.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You want more turnout?

I know I said I'd expand back out from the Bexley focus post-election, but this is excellent practice for the coming year. I had a commenter ask for precinct-level data, and if the commenter is a long-time reader, they probably knew I was already planning on it. Today's post is race-neutral background, I will add in analyses using actual vote data from the mayoral and council races later.

1) Precincts. I apologize for the quality of the map below. What started out as a map of Bexley was jigsaw-cut before I received it as 12 separate files. You can look at the individual pieces here, but for general reference, the map below should suffice:
If anyone has access to a better digital precinct map, I'd love a copy.

2) Turnout. When looking at turnout, you are always comparing one set of numbers to another set of numbers. The most common comparison is '# of votes' to '# of registered voters'. There are two main problems with the basic comparison, one for each set. The problem with determining '# of votes' is that even in a county like Franklin, which does a relatively excellent job of making the information available, you can almost never determine how many votes came from voters in a given precinct. The easy part is the number of votes cast at machines at the polling place on regular ballots. Then there are the votes that were cast at the polling place but on provisional ballots. These will not show up in the initial unofficial canvass. The ones that are counted will show up in the official canvass, the ones that are rejected, for whatever reason, may or may not be reported elsewhere. Then there are absentee ballots, which can be cast on machines at the Board of Elections HQ, mailed domestically, or sent from overseas (there may be additional, rare methods, such as accomodations for people hospitalized on election day, but we'll let those go). The domestic votes are tallied by election night, and the overseas ballots have extra time to arrive (as long as they were mailed prior to the election). These votes are often combined, but accounted for in their own category, separate from votes tallied at polling places. If you look at Franklin County data from past years, for instance, you will find that after all of the precincts are tallied, an extra line labeled 'absentees' will have a ton of votes which are added to the total. You can narrow down where those votes came from by looking at individual races - for instance in 2003 if there were 10000 absentee votes cast in Franklin County, you could look at how many votes were cast by absentee ballot in the Bexley mayoral race, and that would give you a decent (but most likely low) estimate of how many absentee ballots came from Bexley. You cannot, however, get precinct-level information from this except in rare cases where very local issues (some liquor licenses, for instance) come up. I suppose that the BOE might give you this info if you went down there and asked, but if you're willing to do that I've bored you to tears already... Anyway, this year the BOE has allocated the absentee ballots back to the precincts where the voter was registered, which is great, but it means that the numbers are not entirely comparable to past years' numbers. I will do so anyway (compare them, that is), but be aware. Oh, and this year's numbers do not yet (as of this writing), include accepted provisionals or all overseas absentee votes.


Then, there is the '# of registered voters.' This number is highly suspect, and is almost always higher than it should be. Some of those disgustingly low turnout figures you hear, especially by demographic, are due in part to this distortion. See, when a person moves to a new state, or dies, or commits a felony and goes to jail, they are no longer eligible to vote in their former precinct. It will take a while however, often years, before they are removed from the rolls. If you register to vote at a new address in Ohio, word will hopefully get back via the Sec. of State that you are no longer claiming to be eligible at your old address. But if you move to California, well, they've got better things to do. If you die, well, your loved ones have more important things on their mind, etc. And if you're just a young adult living from lease-to-lease and voting only in presidential elections, you probably won't get around to re-registering until next fall. So, in areas of high residential turnover, especially rental neighborhoods and college campuses, and in areas of high concentrations of senior citizens, there tend to be a lot of 'registered voters' who don't actually exist. In these areas, even if every adult resident came out to vote, turnout would look like 75%.

Having said that, I've pulled turnout numbers from fall of '06 (the most recent general election) and fall of '03 (the most recent Bexley mayoral election) and used them as baselines to test the assumption that "turnout was down" or that "turnout was light in South Bexley."

What we're doing here, first, is comparing the basic comparison ('# of votes' divided by '# of registered voters') across years. Most of the problems I've listed tend to stay constant from year to year, so comparing precincts to their past data is better than directly comparing precincts. Second, we're comparing the raw '# of votes' (remember why this may or may not be a great idea) from year to year, in part to compensate for the flurry of registration in Franklin County prior to th '04 election (which can make the same actual turnout in '03 look larger).

As you can see, turnout is lower across the board in an odd-year election. Furthermore, the majority of precincts are showing lower turnout numbers in '07 than in '03(remember, this includes bonus absentees in '07, but bonus provisionals/recounts etc. in '03 and '06). So, yes, it would appear that turnout was down. Was it particularly light in South Bexley? Well, it certainly wasn't confined to South Bexley, but to better make a determination, I've charted the drop from '06 (the peak value, treated here as the maximum expected turnout) to '07, both in terms of % and raw # of votes:

So, yes, the biggest drop by percent and number of voters was in my home precinct, 3-B. Turnout also dropped by quite a bit in 4-C, also in South Bexley, but not as much as in North Bexley Precinct 1-A. Even in Central Bexley 1-C, turnout dropped more than in South Bexley 3-A. The big story, then, is not where turnout was down, because that happened in all three areas. The story is where turnout was high: 2-A,2-B,4-A,4-B. Three precincts across the heart of central Bexley, and one sharing central tendencies along a strip of Broad St.

What does this mean? Well, if one were so inclined, one could take the vote percentages by precinct, assume that they would also apply to the undervote, multiply them by the 06-07 differential, add the result into each precincts total, sum, and voila - make a claim about what the outcome would have been with 2006 turnout levels. My guess is not much different, but if I have time I'll take a stab at it.

Or you could. I'd be just as happy.