Saturday, October 13, 2018

Johnson County Absentee Numbers So Far

Since everyone is asking and since I am OCD about numbers I am spending time on Friday night comparing Johnson County's absentee numbers to the last three governor years.

When we closed shop at 5:30 tonight, 25 days out, we had 11727 total requests. 8872 domestic mail, 230 overseas mail, 2438 at the office, and 187 at our opening day satellite.

Same day in 2014 we had 12198: 10150 domestic mail, 56 overseas mail, 1713 at the office, and 279 at satellites. Remember, that was with 12 days of office voting in 2014 and 2010, but only five days in 2018.

25 days out in 2010 we were at 12547: 7332 domestic mail, 93 overseas mail, 1257 at the office, and 3865 at satellites. Those numbers, like all Johnson County stats from 2010, are skewed by massive satellites on campus driven by the 21 Bar referendum.

2006 is such ancient history that it barely bears comparing: Just 5657 requests total, almost all by mail. Only 327 voters at the office in 12 days; we've seen more than that every DAY this week. Back then, the Republicans weren't even trying on the early vote; they were putting everything into their Bush era 72 Hour Plans for Election Day and teaching their base that early voting was "fraud." Terry Branstad put a stop to that in his 2010 comeback and the GOP returned to their big absentee mailings of the 90s.

So to sum up: Mail is behind 2014 but ahead of 2010, office is far ahead of past years despite fewer voting days, and satellites can't be fairly compared because of the unique situation in 2010.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Voters Have Spoken And They Said, Meh

"I thought the compressed cycle and the shadow of the general election would lower turnout. But it appears that Iowa City wants to squeeze in a full-fledged city election cycle. The real loser may be the Democratic ticket as this city council vacancy sucks up a lot of energy in the most Democratic county." John Deeth, September 5 

Called that one wrong,

Instead, the lesson from Tuesday's abysmal (9%) turnout Iowa City special election is more basic and more universal: In local elections, a big field of candidates means more people out campaigning means more turnout.

Historically, turnout roughly doubles between an Iowa City primary and the final election four weeks later. But that's in a normal cycle, with six or eight candidates on the final ballot.

Tuesday, with two people on the ballot instead of the five from the primary, turnout was up just 229 people, from 3966 to the 4195 we had Tueday. Nearly all of that increase came in the absentees, which bumped from 490 in September to 666 Tuesday.



(I almost hate to tell people but we got three countable ballots in Wednesday's mail, ruining the 666...)

And most of that absentee gain was because the short early voting window was one day longer; the auditor's office was closed the day before the primary for Labor Day, and we saw about 150 voters this Monday. Only 53 more people showed up at the polls Tuesday than voted at the polls September 4.

That's unheard of between a city primary and a final city election. Again: turnout usually doubles. Tuesday's turnout falls below the record low for a regular cycle city election of 4685 (9.7%) set in 2009. That was both a yawner and a blowout that was decided on filing deadline day when townies Terry Dickens and Susan Mims drew unknown students as opponents.

This election was at least closer, with no obvious pattern or key to Bruce Teague's win. He consistently did just a little bit better than Ann Freerks across the city. In precincts with significant turnout (the student vote was negligible), Teague topped 60% on the southeast side (Twain and Grant Wood), in precinct 6 (Village Green and Town and Campus) 17 (the old City High precinct) and 24 (Windsor Ridge).  Freerks led Teague on the absentees and in precincts 4 (Manville Heights), 8 (the Weber area), 10 (south central part of town) and interestingly in precinct 21, the lefty Horace Mann precinct temporarily voting at St. Wenceslaus Church.

But turnout was down in precincts 17 through 21, the progressive and downtown core of the People's Republic. Some of the vote may have been a shift to early vote - no doubt some folks who usually vote early had the calendar sneak up on them in the primary and realized too late that there was no voting on Labor Day.

But more of that may have been the smaller field, and more to the point WHICH candidates were eliminated in the primary. And I don't just mean the "vote for my friend" people who were motivated to get out by personal ties to the defeated candidates, and then skipped the second round.

The groups that know the most about getting out voters in local elections are the old guard/townie/Chamber of Commerce faction, and organized labor and its allies. Labor was supporting Christine Ralston in the primary, but she trailed Teague by 18 votes. The Chamber's choice, Brianna Wills, was just behind in fourth place, while Ryan Hall, favored by the left of the left, was fifth.

That meant the groups who know the most about boosting turnout were largely bystanders in the second election. On the surface it seems that slightly more of the Hall and Ralston vote shifted to Teague (Hall posted on social media Monday that he had voted for Teague), but there's another layer here.

The organized groups had favorites but they also had "Anyone But" candidates. The Chamber's historic boogeyman has always been the prospect of a student on the city council (which hasn't happened since the early `80s), especially a student as left as Hall. Labor-liberal types, meanwhile, were opposed to the Chamber's favorite, Wills - and it was her total collapse in the progressive precincts that knocked her from second place to fourth in the primary.

But the two Unacceptable candidates were eliminated, reducing that kind of motivation. Survivors Freerks and Teague were more or less acceptable to most of the Every Election Voters who chose to participate.

Had Hall gotten through the primary, you would have seen the townies energized like they haven't been since the last 21 Bar election in 2013. And had Wills survived, labor might have gotten seriously involved, rather than setting this election aside in favor of general election efforts.

Those general election efforts, by everyone, were just getting a good start in late August during the primary campaign, but were in full gear by late September. Opening day for early voting is next Monday and would have been last Thursday if not for the change in the election calendar that was part of the voter ID law. (As much as I hate losing 11 days of early voting, overlapping voting periods for two different elections are a logistical nightmare.) While the primary campaign was briefly able to draw focus, Tuesday's election truly felt like an afterthought.

Or maybe a preseason game?

One thing I got right after the primary: "Wills and Ralston both came close enough to be credible for a 2019 run, when four seats are up." Add Ann Freerks, with a first in the primary and a credibly close second Tuesday, to that statement. We may look back on City Election 2018 as just the opening round of City Election 2019.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Clash in Debate - Literally.

"Candidates Clash in Debate" is way too common a headline, and I have way too often joked that the Clash in a debate would be a good thing.

Finally, someone really did it.

Beto O'Rourke's reference to side two, track four on London Calling has won him a permanent place in my heart.

"Working for the clampdown" is not the MOST radical Clash reference Beto could have made - the very next song asks "when they kick at your front door, how you gonna come, with your hands on your hear or on the trigger of your gun" - but it's not a weak "should I stay or should I go" joke either. The opening line neofascism reference is sadly even more relevant now:



(The most offensive Clash reference I ever saw in politics was Giuliani using "Rudie Can't Fail" as rally music...)

I always wondered if the line "kick over the wall, cause governments to fall" was "kick over the wall BEcause government is going to fall" or if "cause governments to fall" was an instruction to the listener to overthrow the government.

If you are lucky, a band comes along in your formative years that changes your life. I was lucky enough that when I was 16, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were there for me. I've gotten kicked a bit the last few years for being too pragmatist or too "establishment," but my roots, my catalyst that started me on the road I've been on now close to 30 years, are Clash. In the end I did cause governments to fall, in a small way, by knocking on doors and making lists.

By coincidence, I have been on one of my periodic obsessive kicks and for the last three weeks I have been listening to nothing but the Clash. I'm on a weekend road trip and on the way I listed to Sandinista, all the way through, uninterrupted. Even the biggest Clash fans know that's a true test of loyalty.

This morning I've prepped a quick primer for Clash neophytes who may want to work their way in. O'Rourke has offered the best starting point. Here's the order in which to learn the Clash.

1: London Calling - flawless from the iconic title track to the concluding hidden hit "Train In Vain."

2: The Clash (first album) US version - I may be a heretic here. But the US release cuts a few weak songs from the original UK version and adds some key singles including "Complete Control," "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," and "I Fought The Law." I cheated and homeburned a custom version that includes all the songs from both versions of the album, plus a few other early songs found on...

3: A good compilation such as The Essential Clash which includes the best of the other albums and some more singles.

4: Combat Rock, side one: the two biggest hits and two great album cuts, "Know Your Rights" and "Straight To Hell."

5: Sandinista. You needed the rest for a warmup. Sandinista requires commitment. Plenty of rewards but at 2 1/2 hours (six vinyl sides, two full CDs) it is literally marathon length.

6: The Clash, original UK version. If you survived Sandinista you're hooked and moving toward completism. Four songs here you don't have yet. Short and fast except for the breakthough cover of "Police And Thieves" (also on the US version).

7: Give `Em Enough Rope. The second album is a corporate-influenced attempt to crack the US market but the opening salvo of "Safe European Home," "English Civil War" and "Tommy Gun" is first rate. Also don't miss "Stay Free."

8: Side two of Combat Rock and/or the unreleased original mix of the album, originally titled and generally bootlegged as Rat Patrol At Fort Bragg.

9: Various compilations like Super Black Market Clash to fill in the pieces.

10: Mick Jones' solo work with Big Audio Dynamite.

11: Joe Strummer's Earthquake Weather (1989) and his late Mescaleros albums (three albums 1999-2003).

12: Joe Strummer's late 80s soundtrack albums - mainly instrumental but a couple vocal tracks.

954: A bad Sex Pistols bootleg from after Johnny Rotten left the band

8321: A post-2000 Motley Crue album

22,038: Cut The Crap. Released in 1985 after Strummer kicked Jones out of the band and immediately regretted it, this is Clash in name only and the worst thing Strummer ever recorded. To be avoided.

If you want everything all at once (except Cut The Crap) there is a beautiful but expensive box set called Sound System personally designed by Paul Simonon that includes all sorts of fanzines and stickers and buttons like we had back then.

Even I don't own that one but considering how bad CBS ripped them off I'm sure a download would be morally justified... meanwhile my vinyl Sandinista is framed and on my wall, to remind me where I started. And the world is a lesser place without Joe Strummer, who we REALLY need right now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Key numbers in Freerks/Teague wins

With all five candidates closely bunched between 15 and 27%, Tuesday's Iowa City special primary would have been a great test case for ranked choice voting

Here's something you rarely see: All five candidates won precincts, and all five candidates finised last in precincts. Of course some of those "wins" were with 10 total votes or with 24%.

First place finisher Ann Freerks ran just a little bit better than the rest more or less across the board. But the decisive number: Bruce Teague beat Christine Ralston with big margins in precincts 2 and 6, both with lots of seniors (Oaknoll in 2, Legacy Pointe in 6). Take away either precinct, and Ralston is in 2nd.

That 18 vote margin is close, but not recount close. The closet ever city primary margin was in 2009 when Jared Bazzell trailed Dan Tallon by 7 votes for the fourth and last slot. (Tallon and fellow student Jeff Shipley were competing for the right to lose to Terry Dickens and Susan Mims; 2009 got decided on filing deadline day. Where are they now: Shipley is the GOP challenger to Democratic state Rep. Phil Miller in Fairfield-based House 82. End of tangent.)

Brianna Wills was wiped out (low single digit percents) in lefty precincts 18 and 21 and in 20, mixed student/senior. Take away those three precincts, and she jumps from 4th to 2nd.

Yet Wills and Ralston both came close enough to be credible for a 2019 run, when four seats are up. But Ryan Hall is in a weaker position than he was, after winning 41% last year. In retrospect it seems clear that a lot of that 41% was votes against incumbent Susan Mims, rather than for Hall.

The first choice of both labor (Ralston) and the Chamber of Commerce (Wills) lost, so it will be interesting to see alliances shift in next 28 days.

Turnout was about 1000 more than I expected. I thought the compressed cycle and the shadow of the general election would lower turnout. But it appears that Iowa City wants to squeeze in a full-fledged city election cycle. The real loser may be the Democratic ticket as this city council vacancy sucks up a lot of energy in the most Democratic county.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day Roll Call


By popular demand I always post the list of which elected officials and candidates show up at the annual Iowa City Federation of Labor picnic.

Dave Loebsack made his appearance very very early, before I even arrived, before heading off to the Quad Cities and Burlington. Iowa City tends to take Dave for granted and thinks that the rest of the 2nd District is like Iowa City, forgetting that Trump carried the district. There are not a lot of Democratic members in Trump districts. So it was the right plan for Loebsack to spend most of his day elsewhere.

Working down the ticket we had state senators Kevin Kinney and Bob Dvorsky, Dvorsky's very likely successor Zach Wahls, and House 73 candidate Jodi Clemens.

The courthouse was well represented with all five supervisors - Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Lisa Green-Douglass, Janelle Rettig and Rod Sullivan - and county attorney Janet Lyness (who's unopposed for re-election after crushing a 2014 primary opponent).


All three candidates for supervisor were on hand as well: Rettig seeking re-election, Pat Heiden, who knocked off Carberry in the Democratic primary, and Republican Phil Hemingway. I'm supporting the Democratic ticket of Rettig and Heiden but I have to give Phil credit for being the only Republican candidate to show up at a labor event. He's been a regular for a few years and even got a labor endorsement one year running for the (non-partisan) school board.

Christine Ralston has the city fed endorsement in Tuesday's Iowa City primary and was one of the few candidates who spoke (the others were Rettig, Heiden and Wahls). Ryan Hall, who has the endorsement of SEIU and their local chair Cathy Glasson (which is more than some candidates have gotten), was also on hand, as was candidate Bruce Teague.

Also from the city we had mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole, Mazahir Salih, and Pauline Taylor, along with Meghann Foster and Mitch Gross from Coralville.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Last Post About Cathy Glasson

Today is the last time I am going to write about Cathy Glasson.

There are certain rules and norms in politics. One of the biggest of those is, if you run in a primary, you buy into the outcome, and if you lose, you endorse the winner. That's not ideological - it's simply common courtesy.

But one of the more disturbing trends in the "Movement," for lack of a better term for the left edge of the Democratic coalition, has been the normalization of sore loser-ism. It began with Bernie Sanders' refusal to recognize simple math and his insistence that a nomination was still winnable long after that was possible, and his half-assed token "endorsement" of the woman who defeated him.

Fred Hubbell won an absolute majority in a five* way primary. John Norris, Andy McGuire, and Ross Wilburn immediately congratulated and endorsed him. (* The endorsement of the guy I voted for is not welcome.) That's how it's supposed to work.

But Glasson never said the appropriate words, and demanded speaking time at the Iowa Democratic convention. That was the moment the endorsement should have happened - yet it didn't. I grumbled that day, then set it aside for a bit.

A couple weeks back I got word that Glasson was speaking at the Iowa CCI convention, being held today. At that point I thought: "one more chance." It would be an awkward stage, sure, as Vote For Fred was not a message the CCI audience would want to hear. That made it even more important to say.
"Aside from those two lines," wrote Pat Rynard, "Glasson’s address was pretty much no different than one of her campaign rally speeches." Later in the day, he added: "after November she plans on shifting to a focus on presidential candidates and pressing the 2020 hopefuls who come into the state on progressive policy ideas & messaging."

That plays into the theory floated by the Des Moines Register that the "campaign" was never really about electing Catherine R. Glasson as Governor of Iowa - but was it was an elaborate mailing list building operation to help SEIU be a player in the 2020 caucuses.

Later in the day keynoter Nina Turner, the high profile Sanders backer who has never won a contested election larger than a city council race, made this thinly veiled dig at Hubbell: “Folks are just flat out buying elections, even people who we like... We shouldn’t support candidates who can buy the election"

True, Hubbell had the most money. But Glasson had the second most money of the candidates who finished the race (virtually all from the coffers of SEIU). She could not match Fred dollar for dollar, but unlike Norris and Wilburn, she had enough money to be visible and to make her case. And she made it well and she did so at the appropriate time.

And the voters rejected it.

Much has been made of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her defeat of congressional incumbent Joe Crowley on a "socialist" message. But Iowa is not the Bronx. Just weeks before, Cathy Glasson ran a much better funded campaign on a very similar message - and lost 55-20%.

What do you do when you lose 55 to 20%? You congratulate and endorse the winner. Refusing to endorse is not only rude, it's an insult to the majority of the voters. Primary night? Strike one. State convention? Strike two. Today? You're out.

Cathy Glasson has instead thrown in with those who think an 85% good Democrat is worse than a 100% bad Republican. Fortunately, most Glasson supporters I know have moved on and are ready for Hubbell to defeat Kim Reynolds.

Glasson's lack of endorsement will not harm Hubbell. The only damage is to her own credibility.

So today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson. She had a big stage today. It was  her last best chance to be a team player, and she refused.

Today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson - because through her own actions, she has made herself irrelevant to the 2018 general election.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Absentee Advice

Friendly advice from an election staffer: If you think you want to be part of a first day march to the polls on the first day of votingOctober 8, do NOT fill out a vote by mail request. Voiding out a vote by mail request slows down the line.
Also have realistic expectations. Your mailed ballot will NOT be in your mailbox October 8. That's the first day they can be mailed OUT - and because of the Columbus Day federal holiday they won't actually go out till October 9. (Columbus Day is the only federal holiday our office is open and I don't know of any auditors who will be closed that day - so you WILL be able to vote in person.)
Don't panic on day three and get scared about your ballot being "lost," and don't expect to see a mailed ballot in your box till the end of that week at best.
And don't fill out an absentee request just to make the staffer or volunteer happy if you have no intention of actually voting it and are thinking "I'll just go to the polls." That also slows down the line.
Personally I think in person early voting is a safer option for people who can. Vote-doesn't-count kinds of mistakes are not common, but when they do happen they are almost always on mailed ballots.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Johnson County Primary: Party Change Numbers

Iowa Starting Line took a look at party registrations in the just finished primary election.

‏Here in Johnson County, the Democrats are up 2132 active registrations through the end of June. The peak was even higher but invariably we see some double switchers every primary.

By percentage, Dems jumped from 45.69% on May 4, the Friday before voting started, to a peak of 48.32% on June 14 when voter history was updated. That's just short of the all time Johnson County Democratic peak of 49.26% after the 2016 caucus and primary cycle. Double-switches and new registrations have dropped the Democrat's share to 48.15% as of Thursday June 18.

When there's not a caucus or primary going on, new registrations, especially from the Department of Transportation, tend to default to No Party. I cannot remember the last time I saw a registration come through from the DOT changing from No Party to a party, any party. DOT changes are ALWAYS the other way around - from parties to No Party.

Republican registration in Johnson slipped from 20.17% just before primary voting started to 19.79% after primary, and even with double switching has continued to drop slightly.  (Most primary double switchers in Johnson were No Party to Democrat to No Party, rather than R to D to R.)

Also, a pet peeve: The Secretary of State's stats including the statistical category "Other" - when there is only one thing in "Other," the Greens.

Here's a full look at party switching in the People's Republic:


Party Absentee Polls Total
Democrat stayed Democrat 4396 10425 14821
No Party to Democrat 351 1518 1869
Republican to Democrat 110 301 411
Green to Democrat 10 21 31
Libertarian to Democrat 2 26 28
Democratic total 4869 12291 17160
       
Republican stayed Republican 220 1032 1252
No Party to Republican 20 110 130
Democrat to Republican 8 41 49
Libertarian to Republican 1 5 6
Green to Republican 0 0 0
Republican total 249 1188 1437
       
Libertarian stayed Libertarian 5 25 30
No Party to Libertarian 1 29 30
Democrat to Libertarian 5 10 15
Republican to Libertarian 1 8 9
Green to Libertarian 1 0 1
Libertarian total 13 72 85