Politics: June 2005 Archives

One test of a good voting system is whether it effectively prevents a candidate to enter the race as a "spoiler." There is probably a technical term for this, but there ought to be a stability of results. If A would beat B in a two-candidate race, the addition of C to the list of candidates shouldn't result in a victory for B. By extension, adding a candidate to an n-candidate race shouldn't hand the election to someone who would have lost the n-candidate race.

Because many jurisdictions don't have any sort of runoff at all, and only a handful use instant runoff voting, we often see elections where the winner is someone who might not have won with fewer candidates in the race. Sometimes the winner is someone who might have lost head-to-head with several of the other candidates, but wins the multi-candidate race because the other candidates split a common core constituency.

Here are two more recent examples.

Yesterday there was a special primary election in Ohio's 2nd congressional district, a seat previously held by Rob Portman, who is now U. S. Trade Representative in President Bush's cabinet.

Here's the final result (PDF) in the Republican primary:

JEAN SCHMIDT 14232 31.35%
BOB MCEWEN 11565 25.48%
TOM BRINKMAN, JR. 9211 20.29%
PAT DEWINE 5455 12.02%
ERIC MINAMYER 2111 4.65%
PETER A. FOSSETT 1026 2.26%
TOM BEMMES 695 1.53%
JEFF MORGAN 400 0.88%
DAVID R. SMITH 374 0.82%
STEVE AUSTIN 221 0.49%
DOUGLAS E. MINK 100 0.22%

Ohio has no primary runoff, so Schmidt wins the primary despite the 69% of the vote against her.

Had the 4th through 11th place candidates not been in the race, the distribution of their votes to the top three could have put any of the top three in first place. Even an Oklahoma-style primary runoff wouldn't fix the problem, as the top three were close enough that we can't know which of them would have finished 1-2 if the other eight candidates had not been in the race. Instant runoff voting would have produced a winner with the support of a majority of the voters. The beauty of instant runoff voting is that you eliminate the spoiler effect of an additional candidate.

We had another example in last week's Republican primary for New Jersey governor.

Doug Forrester 108,090 35.94%
Bret Schundler 93,926 31.23%
John Murphy 33,662 11.19%
Steven Lonegan 24,346 8.10%
Robert Schroeder 16,691 5.55%
Paul DiGaetano 16,551 5.50%
Todd Caliguire 7,472 2.48%

It's been argued that Steven Lonegan acted as a spoiler for Bret Schundler, peeling off enough conservative support to keep him from once again winning the GOP nomination. The counter-argument is that if the other minor candidates had not been in the race, most of their votes would have gone to Forrester. A runoff is the only way to know for sure.

A simple two-candidate runoff probably would have been sufficient to provide a clear outcome, but theoretically Murphy could have finished second in a three-way race -- the bottom four candidates had enough combined votes that if they had been out of the race and all their votes had gone to Murphy, Murphy would have finished second.

Virginia is for voters


Today is primary day in Virginia. Virginia has a one-term limit for governor, so Democrat Mark Warner will be stepping down (rumored to be planning a run for Senate next year against incumbent Republican George Allen). Jerry Kilgore is expected to defeat George Fitch in the race for the Republican nomination for Governor; the winner will go on to face Democrat Tim Kaine, unopposed for his party's nomination.

The most hotly contested races are for the lower house of the legislature. Last year, a number of Republican delegates supported a tax increase to address a budget crisis, and many of them have drawn primary challengers this year.

Unlike Oklahoma, Virginia has an open primary system. You don't register by party. Instead, at each primary you ask for the ballot of one party or the other. An incumbent facing a primary challenge might try to win renomination by luring voters who usually vote in the other party's primary.

Last week when I was digging for info on the New Jersey primary, I was surprised not to find any blogs devoted to Garden State politics, and only a few with even a mention of the contestants in the main race, but a quick search today found several conservative blogs devoted to Virginia politics. One blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, contacted me before the Oklahoma Republican Convention to write about George Allen's speech there and how he was received by the delegates. A district attorney blogs about politics under the pseudonym John Behan at Commonwealth Conservative. One Man's Trash is covering the governor's race extensively.

Bacon's Rebellion is a biweekly Virginia public policy e-zine. It's covering the election, but it also covers government efficiency, taxation, and transportation and land use. There's a blog, updated daily, and a special blog on transportation, urban design, and land use, called The Road to Ruin.

Polls close at 7 local time, and you can see results from 7:30 on via the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Yesterday afternoon Chelan County, Washington, Superior Court Judge John Bridges ruled against Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi, affirming that Democrat Christine Gregoire won last November's election. There were over a thousand invalid ballots cast, far greater than the margin of victory. As I understand it, Rossi's team tried to make a statistical case, based on where the irregular votes were cast, that enough of the invalid votes were cast for Gregoire that Rossi would have won if those votes weren't counted. The judge ruled that it couldn't be determined with certainty which candidate received the benefit of those invalid ballots, therefore the result stands. Michelle Malkin live-blogged the judge's press conference. She links to Seattle-area political blog SoundPolitics, which has been covering the situation in great depth since last November when the recounts began.

This result is puzzling. Under Oklahoma law, if the number of irregular or fraudulent votes is greater than the margin of victory, so that the result cannot be mathematically determined, the election is voided and a new election is held. This happened in Tulsa in 2004, in a Democratic primary for City Council. Incumbent David Patrick received three votes more than former incumbent Roscoe Turner, but in one precinct, 255 votes were cast, but only 207 Democrat voters signed in. Evidently, 48 Republicans who showed up to vote in the presidential primary were also given Democrat city primary ballots. After Turner contested the election and presented evidence of the irregularities, a judge ordered a re-vote, which Turner won handily. I'm surprised a similar provision doesn't exist in Washington law.

Jim Miller, one of the bloggers at SoundPolitics, appears to have coined a new term to describe what seems to have happened in Washington -- distributed vote fraud. Rather than a coordinated effort to stuff the ballot boxes in a few precincts, handfuls of ineligible voters cast ballots in each precinct -- maybe only 1 in every 1000 voters, maybe as high as 1 in 100, but more than enough to affect the outcome of very close elections, like Oklahoma's 2002 governor's race, which was decided by three votes per precinct.

Miller's disclaimer on the topic explains what it would take to determine the extent of the problem. He also observes that Democrats tend to favor policies (like the Federal "Motor Voter" act) that make fraud easier to commit and to oppose policies (like showing photo ID when you vote) that make fraud easier to detect or deter. He writes, "Perhaps all these Democrats are wrong to think that there is an advantage for their party in what I call distributed vote fraud, but I doubt it." You'll find a longer treatment of the problem here.

New Jersey votes today


One of two states with a statewide election this year, New Jersey holds its primary today for offices from governor all the way down to township officials. (Virginia has a primary next Tuesday. Louisiana and Kentucky are the other two odd-year states; they'll vote in '07.)

There are seven candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Governor -- leading the pack are former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, the 2001 nominee, and Doug Forrester, who lost the 2002 Senate race after Frank Lautenberg tagged in for the damaged-goods incumbent, Bob Torricelli.

Kevin McCullough has posted his assessment of the two candidates. The latest Quinnipiac University poll has Forrester leading Schundler 35-33, within the margin of error. (HT for the poll to The Hedgehog Report.)

On the Democrat ballot, Sen. Jon Corzine is expected to win handily over two other candidates.

Here's the official list of candidates. Each candidate has an official slogan in each county, which I assume appears on the ballot. Forrester's slogan in each county has some variation on "Regular Republican," but in some cases it's clear that he has the endorsement of the county party organization, e.g. the slogan "Middlesex County Republican Party." Schundler uses "Bret 2005" unless a specific organization has endorsed him -- he was endorsed by the confusingly-named "Middlesex County Republican Organization." The idea of county organizations making an endorsement seems strange -- here in Oklahoma, it's against state party rules. I rather like the idea of having a slogan on the ballot; it could make it easier for voters to remember which candidate is running on which issue.

One more New Jersey oddity: You vote for two candidates for your district in the General Assembly (the lower house of the legislature). Same thing applies in the primary election.

This is the official page for 2005 election results, but it isn't clear if live results will be available. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Why does an Oklahoma blogger care about the result in New Jersey's primary? It's partly job-related -- more than that I won't say. Mostly, it's for the same reason that some people bother to look at box scores in April. It's politics, and today it's the only game scheduled -- that's reason enough.

UPDATE: NJ.com has results from the Associated Press updated at 10 minute intervals.

It's time for the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting, and Fayetteville-based blogger Matt of Overtaken by Events has photos of a pathetic little protest march down Dickson Street.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from June 2005.

Politics: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Politics: July 2005 is the next archive.

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