Voting, Respect, and Tolerance

I just returned from the polls. I have voted at the same location, and around the same time of day, in every election since November, 2002. This was the busiest I have seen it and a poll worker said over 200 had voted as of 11:00 a.m., which he said was high compared to past elections.

There seemed to be more booths set up than in the past, and all but one or two were in use as I arrived. There were other people waiting to sign in or to drop off their ballots, although no line. Just a very slight delay. Not bad for a state and set of districts in which no significant offices are competitive. (I suppose the race for Community College Board or Fire Protection District Board could be hotter than I realize.) Of course, we do have a series of hotly contested state ballot propositions, but no statewide offices, and this state was not even a sideshow in the presidential contest.

I felt almost nervous as I cast my ballot, very much aware of the historical significance of this day.

The voting center is a community meeting hall, on the same grounds as an elementary school and the school district offices. In the window was a sign that appeared to have been made by schoolchildren that said “Respect and tolerance.” I could not help but feel just a bit ill about all the people walking past that sign to cast a vote to take away equality before the law. Prop 8 is likely to be close, and if the NO does not prevail, it will be because of high turnout in hotbeds of social authoritarianism such as my precinct.

Georgia very much on my mind

There may be no bigger story in the presidential race than Barack Obama winning Georgia. It is not that I think it will happen, but it is one to watch. And what a story it would be!

Look at the Pollster.com trend. Yes, John McCain remains ahead in the aggregation of polls, but Obama has been closing rapidly. And the top two have been closing just as Bob Barr, ((The LINO candidate (Libertarian in name only), former Republican House member and Clinton impeachment manager. And wouldn’t it be “something” if McCain won a plurality, but not a majority, by about 1% and Cynthia McKinney, also a former Georgia (Democratic) House member (and a GINO?) had as much as the margin. No, that was not a prediction. Even less so in that it turns out she is not on the ballot in her home state, though she is an authorized write-in candidate.)) who once was over 5% in some polls, has collapsed.

And then, of course, there is the Senate race (as discussed here yesterday).
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Election night viewers guide

Nate Silver offers an hour-by-hour guide at Newsweek. Josh Putnam has an even better one. ((Especially better for us cartophiles!))

Also, at FiveThirtyEight, Nate notes:

I’ll have an electoral map updated in real time … not just including those states that have officially been called by the networks, but also my informed opinion about how the rest of the states are going to be impacted by what we’re learning in real time.

Nate also says he will be on air with Dan Rather on HDNet.
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Electoral rules and filibuster-proofing

Far more tense for election-night return-watchers than the presidential race is likely to be the Democratic Party’s quest for 60 seats in the Senate. Sixty seats would allow the caucus, when cohesive, to override a filibuster–that is, to prevent the minority’s veto of the majority’s mandate on policy changes and court appointments. ((And unlike past Republican Senate majorities, this Democratic majority actually is based on an electoral majority.)) There are two races where the electoral rules may be almost as decisive as the voting itself, given multicandidate contests. ((If the caucus has exactly 60, it will remain dependent on two independents who caucus with the big-D Democrats. One of those is Bernie Sanders, a reliable vote. The other is Joe Lieberman, less reliable, but more so than activist Democrats give him credit for. Even at 58 or 59, some filibusters could not be sustained, as one or more of the moderate Maine Republicans (among others) would be likely to work with the Democrats on an issue-specific basis.))

In Minnesota, as in most states, a Senate race is decided by plurality (first past the post). In addition to incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, there is a strong third candidate in the race, Dean Barkley of the Independence Party. ((This was Jesse the Body’s party, at least some of the time. In fact, Barkley previously served as an interim Senator, appointed by then-Governor Ventura.)) Barkley stands at just under 15% in the latest Pollster.com polling aggregate. His support has been slipping after flirting with the 20% mark in mid-October.

Franken leads in the polling aggregate, but precariously, 39.5–37.6. If Coleman pulls out a narrow 40% win, it will be literally legitimate (as in within the law), given the use of plurality rule. However, it would be a subpotimal outcome if an incumbent were reelected so narrowly. ((It would also be suboptimal if a challenger were so elected, but less so, inasmuch as an incumbent is the more known quantity, and if he can’t either obtain close to 50%+1 or win by a wide margin, he arguably did not “earn” a renewed mandate.)) But plurality rule may allow it to happen. We do not know which candidate would win a runoff if there were one, because pollsters do not ask about second choices.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Democratic challenger Jim Martin has closed a once formidable gap on incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss. The Pollster.com aggregate shows the race at 46.7–43.9 Chambliss. However, Georgia requires a Senator to be elected by a majority of votes cast. Thus if neither Chambliss nor Martin clears 50% in tonight’s count, there will be a runoff between the two on December 2. The main third-party candidate is Libertarian Allen Buckley, who is at 7% in the most recent poll shown at Pollster.com (Rasmussen). Other polls in recent weeks have shown him as low as 2% or, oddly enough, have not asked.

Even if Martin takes the lead and holds a plurality on election night, he has not been elected.

The last time Georgia had a US Senate runoff was in 1992, when Republican Paul Coverdell defeated Democrat Wyche Fowler. ((Subsequently, Democrats in the state legislature changed the rule to plurality, but in 2005 Republicans changed it back to majority runoff.)) In that election, Fowler won 49.23% in the first round to Coverdell’s 47.67%. In the runoff, on November 24, Coverdell won, 50.65% to 49.35%.

If Georgia and Minnesota used the Double Complement Rule that I often recommend, there would have been no need for a runoff in Georgia in 1992, but there would almost certainly need to be one this year in Minnesota. The Double Complement Rule allows a sub-majority win if, and only if, the second-place candidate’s shortfall from 50% is more than double that of the leading candidate. Fowler’s 0.77 percentage point shortfall in 1992 would have been “good enough”; the only way Coverdell could have defeated him would have been to convince Libertarians in the same, larger electorate–as we’ll see below, the inter-round turnout differential was substantial–to desert their party’s candidate and give him the plurality.

The approximate 40–38 result that we may see in Minnesota, on the other hand, would necessitate a runoff under the Double Complement Rule. In fact, the only way we would see a one-round result, if the leading candidate failed to break 40%, would be if the trailer fell below 30%–something that obviously would not happen without a doubling of Barkley’s support creating a close race for second place, rather than for the plurality.

As for this year’s Georgia race, we would have a squeaker on our hands: the current polling aggregate is just over the runoff-triggering margin by about half a percentage point.

In 1992 in Georgia it was likewise a Libertarian candidate whose support in the first round resulted in the need for a runoff. Did most of the Libertarian voters in 1992 vote Republican in the runoff, given that it was the Republican who won? More likely, they simply stayed home.

In fact, the turnout in the runoff in 1992 was very low–barely half what it had been in the first round. ((1,253,991 vs. 2,251,576.)) One might imagine it will be a bit higher this year–especially if the Democrats have won 59 seats after Tuesday night.
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McCain’s ads

I think Nate sums up the ads I have seen lately:

the McCain campaign’s ads are routinely among the most bizarre that I have ever seen, appearing to originate from a sort of parallel universe in which cartoonish Obama heads float disembodied before sepia-toned backgrounds, in which language is distilled to a technocratic shorthand, in which the line between imagination and reality is blurred. I find them exceptionally disturbing, and that is surely the reaction they are meant to evoke.

Now that the regular season of baseball is over, I see only California or national TV. ((Actually, aside from baseball, I almost never watch any commercial stations anyway.)) And as we do not have a presidential campaign either in California or nationally, by no longer getting broadcasts from other states, I am no longer seeing any campaign ads other than those Nate or other bloggers post.

But bizarre and disturbing are exactly how I characterize those that make their way to my TV or computer screen.
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Suspense

One of the side benefits of having the MLB Extra Innings package is that I get to see what is being advertised in states other than my own.

From seeing ads during recent baseball games ((And, more importantly than anything else, what a week of games it has been!)) I get the distinct impression that there is an election campaign underway out there in some of the states. In fact, it may even be a campaign of some national significance. Intriguing.

And as to those rumors that one of the apparent candidates for this apparent national office had “suspended” his campaign for a while, I did indeed see an ad for him yesterday. It informed me that “Change is coming.” That’s a relief.
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Ron Paul Revolution Reaction

So, Ron Paul, usually described by the media as a ‘libertarian” (and a self-declared lifetime member of the big-L party), is endorsing the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, Chuck Baldwin. Not Bob Barr, the actual candidate of the actual Libertarian Party (and certainly not John McCain, the candidate of the party whose label Paul bears as a member of Congress). ((And I thought Mike Gravel was Multiparty Man!))

Interesting, to say the least. Some months ago, in correspondence with another blogger, I pointed out that Paul, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, was in many ways closer to the Constitution Party than to the Libertarian Party. Apparently Paul agrees!

The Constitution Party offer a platform for those who consider the Republican Party insufficiently resolute in its social authoritarianism, Christianism, and nationalism.

As noted at Third Party Watch, Baldwin’s message includes:

Restoring American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations;

Opposing “any legal recognition of homosexual unions” or “legalized adoption of children by homosexuals”;

Carrying out “the duty of all civil governments to secure and to safeguard the lives of the pre-born”;

“Upholding the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs”;

“Upholding our cherished First Amendment right to free speech by vigorously enforcing our laws against obscenity”;

Requiring that tariffs on “foreign imports will not be less than the difference between the foreign item’s cost of production and the cost of production of a similar item produced in these United States”;

A moratorium on immigration;

The return of a U.S. military presence at the Isthmus of Panama;

No “foreign entity” should be allowed to own any U.S. assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds, or Treasury notes.

Which one of those is a “libertarian” platform plank?
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McCain’s lack of coattails

If you follow the Pollster.com trend aggregate or the projections by Nate and company, you know that John McCain may now be slightly favored to win the presidency. ((However, Josh still shows Obama narrowly ahead, at least where it counts the most: in the electoral college.))

Strikingly, the Senate projection (posted along with projections of the popular and electoral votes at FiveThirtyEight) has not budged. Democrats are still projected to have 55 or 56 seats ((Not counting the two independents, at least one of whom can be counted on to remain in the Dem caucus. Pollster.com currently has the state of the race as 53 Dem, 41 Rep, and 4 toss-up.))

If McCain does win this, it will be the classic divided-government election: each party being reelected to the institution it currently controls. ((With the caveat that these projections do not include the House of Representatives.)) That would be really surprising, given the low public esteem in both the current Republican president and Democratic Congress. It would also be striking in that McCain’s surge appears to be driven significantly by the base-excitation of the VP candidate selection, yet that base excitement is apparently not lifting Senate candidates of the party.
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The minor party candidates

Josh Putnam, a political science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, who maintains a terrific blog on the US presidential election process called Frontloading HQ, has had a series of recent posts about the possible impact of the minor party and independent candidates.

The most recent is about the potential impact of Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party nominee who has only recently appeared in some pollsters’ questions. The post about McKinney was in response to a request from me, as I asked whether McKinney was fishing in the same pool as former Green candidate Ralph Nader (who is running as an independent this time, as he did in 2004). So, thanks Josh.

I will not try to summarize this interesting series of posts by Josh. You may read the recent post on McKinney yourself, and then, near the top of his August archives, you can see the previous posts that discussed the candidacies of Bob Barr (Libertarian) and Ralph Nader (nonpartisan).