Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Talking Shop

The Tiffin recount is finished and absolutely nothing changed. Royce Phillips held his 16 vote margin over Jenny Carhoff for the second city council seat. Not a vote for a candidate, not a write in, nuthin'.

Even though it was withing the margin where Carhoff did not have to put up a bond, 16 votes is a lot in a city the size of Tiffin. Frankly, people are too quick to cry "recount." I've seen half a dozen in 15 years and probably two of them should have happened: Iowa City in 1999 (two vote margin) and University Heights in 2011 (one vote). The modern optical scan readers used here and across the state are remarkably accurate. Raise the question of post-election audits if you wish; that's a separate question from recounts.

Carhoff's motivations were probably sincere. But I've seen recounts used for the wrong reasons, too. The North Liberty recount of 2005 was pretty obviously a way to delay an outcome rather than reverse an outcome. And the conservation bond recount of 2008, a county-wide recount that shifted just six votes out of 73,000 when the Yes winning margin was over 500, was just a political statement by the losing side.

I think the legislature should look at the recount cost issue, specifically the bonds and the margins. They should also look at ways to combine more elections. There's no common sense reason why the February 5 Iowa City school funding vote, which covers more than 80% of the county's voters, shouldn't be combined with, say, a possible supervisor special election. But with divided government any sort of tweaks to election law are stalled because of photo ID.

Another pet peeve: people who resign immediately after getting re-elected. State rep Brian Quirk's out of nowhere resignation means 1) another special election and 2) the last of the 2009-10 class of conservaDems called "the six pack" is gone. Four lost in 2010 and one retired rather than face a likely defeat. But quirk won in `10 and was strong enough that he only drew an independent opponent this month. The weird part: the vagueness of the "future plans".

While the recount went on, other post-election work kept going. The election day registrations, though not all the cleanup work, are processed and Johnson County registration is at a record high 95,195. about 1000 higher than after the 2008 election.

All parties gained raw numbers, but Democrats dropped a full percentage point while Republicans dropped just 0.2%. The bulk of that went to No Party, though the third parties gained slightly (together they're less than half a percent). 

Sure, that Dem drop doesn't look good. Not to whistle by a graveyard or even the Lensing funeral home, but look back over the year. Republicans are back where they were right after the caucuses while Dems are down two-tenths of a point from then. Democrats regained a lot with the June primary, which was the first competitive intra-party  contest here since the January 2008 caucuses. They gained more with the big field program; their percentage didn't start dropping again until in person early voting started in late September.

The vast increase in independent registrations, typical in a presidential cycle, explains most of the shift. The majority of election day registrations are young people, who 1) are the most likely to register as independents and 2) lean Democratic in voting behavior. So while they're not checking the D box on the voter reg form, they're marking the ovals by Obama and Loebsack.

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