Archives for November 2009
Vote-by-mail advocates have long argued that the system increases voter participation, particularly in traditionally low-turnout off-year elections, and this recent general election certainly doesn’t provide any evidence to the contrary. Indeed, when compared to other cities, Seattle’s off-year turnout is simply off the charts.
HA comment thread regular N in Seattle, who also writes at Daily Kos and his own Peace Tree Farm, has painstakingly constructed a spreadsheet looking at the 43 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 that held mayoral contests in November, 2009, and ranked by turnout, Washington state’s Seattle, Everett, Vancouver and Tacoma not only occupy the top four spots, but once you get past fifth place Stamford, CT’s 41.9%, the rest of the nation doesn’t even come close.
The table above displays the top ten cities by mayoral race turnout in November, 2009; you can view the complete table here.
As can be seen, Seattle’s 57.6% voter turnout is simply off the charts, while even Tacoma, Washington’s poorest performing major city (and the only one without all mail-in elections) ranks far above all but Stamford. The average turnout across the 43 cities was only 23.8%, while the lowest was recorded in Durham, NC, where only 8.1% of registered voters cast ballots in a mayoral race that tossed out an incumbent.
To put this in perspective, Seattle’s population of just under 600,000 ranks 25th in the nation, yet only one city cast more ballots for mayor this November: New York, with a population of over 8.3 million. Houston TX, by comparison, with a population of over 2.3 million and a 19.1% turnout, cast only 179,000 ballots… about 37,000 less than much smaller Seattle. The level of voter participation isn’t even close.
And one can’t simply write off Seattle’s 2009 turnout as an anomaly due to contentious mayoral, county executive and ballot measure contests. In 2005, when Mayor Nickels was barely challenged by Al Runte, Seattle voters turned out at a similarly impressive 55.47% rate. And at 47.46%, even Seattle’s off-off-year 2007 turnout, with no mayoral or executive race on the ballot, would have topped the 2009 list.
In fact, at 38.6%, Seattle turned out a higher percentage of registered voters in this year’s August primary than all but one non-Washington city on the list could muster in the November general. That’s pretty damn impressive.
What explains the relatively high voter turnout in Washington state, and Seattle in particular? It would be a reach, given the data presented, to give all the credit to our vote-by-mail system, but it would be silly to ignore it as a major factor. Since 2001, as the percentage of Seattle voters casting ballots by mail has gone up, so has the turnout in comparable off-year elections. Vote-by-mail advocates promised higher turnout, and so far, that’s what we have seen.
But the turnout disparity is simply too great to attribute to vote-by-mail alone, as clearly there is something different about the political culture here that prompts greater voter participation, particularly in off-year elections. Perhaps the steady stream of ballot measures, as much as I hate them, keeps voters more engaged? And despite the lamentations of editorialists, perhaps too the interjection of partisan politics into allegedly nonpartisan races helps generate a greater level of voter interest? Or perhaps the near absence of public corruption in recent decades has failed to encourage the same level of cynicism and apathy that plagues other big cities?
Regardless, we’re clearly doing something right here compared to the rest of the nation, and that’s something of which all Washingtonians can be proud… at least, those of us who truly believe in democracy.
According to Publicola, Gov. Chris Gregoire told a Seattle audience last night that she would not accept an all-cuts budget in 2010… a 180-degree turnaround from her position heading into the difficult 2009 legislative session. What’s changed her mind?
Well, obviously, the $2.6 billion projected revenue shortfall is nearly impossible to fill in one year with less than $10 billion of discretionary spending on the chopping block, so as I wrote yesterday, some mix of cuts and revenue increases is the obvious and responsible approach to the crisis. But in another sense, nothing’s changed.
The economy was nearly as bad this time last year, and getting worse, and nearly everybody who studied the numbers understood that additional cuts would likely be needed in 2010 as revenues continued to fall. Had the governor and legislature taken a more balanced approach at that time, both the cuts and the tax increases, spread out over a full two years, could have been less severe and less disruptive.
I’m loathe to kick a gift horse in the mouth now that the governor is finally on board, but there was a failure of leadership last year — particularly from Speaker Frank Chopp and the governor — to do the right thing regardless of how unpopular it might have been with the editorial boards… and regardless of what campaign promises might have been made before anybody realized how deep the coming recession would be. Here’s hoping the Democratic leadership is willing to make up for last year’s lapse, not merely by considering some targeted tax hikes, but by allowing proponents to conduct a real debate about the merits of a high-earners income tax.
It’s not surprising, but the overwrought nature of this editorial in The Columbian is easily ascertained by reading the first sentence.
The tax-increase snake is not exactly back on the state’s budget table, but it has slithered under the door and is coiling its way up a table leg.
It goes on in that serpentine fashion for quite a while. It’s essentially an argument for making Washington another failed West Coast state, ala California and Oregon.
Digby at Hullabaloo comments on the fun they’re having in California, with protestors trapping some board of regents members in a building after they voted for a huge fee increase. One possible future, heh?
Of course, the editorial doesn’t mention that the newspaper industry just this year received a huge tax break.
The new law gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in the state’s main business tax. The discounted rate mirrors breaks given in years past to the Boeing Co. and the timber industry.
So the Legislature sure is on a roll mollifying Boeing and the wealthy publishers! Nothing like caving in and getting fucked anyway, it’s the Democratic Party Way.
As Digby points out, cutting government spending during a recession just makes things worse, but reflexive right-wing ideology is so ingrained in our culture after three decades of conservative stink tank bullshit that changing things seems like a hell of a mountain to climb.
Neoliberalism may be dead as a viable economic system, but its diseased zombie corpse haunts the offices of newspapers and the minds (such as they are) of those who get paid to attack the government, always and forever. You can almost envision them zombie-walking around the mall, zombie-spittle dripping from their rotted lips, droning “no unions–no taxes.” (Sorry, I tried to work a snake into the last sentence, but zombies will have to do.)
These people are nihilists of the most extreme order, and if they get their way they’ll drag all of us down with them.
Maybe it’s time we stop listening to lectures from people who fail at their businesses? The rest of us don’t want to live in a failed state, and we want basic services like schools, emergency services, parks and libraries. Our kids are going to need fantastic skills to rebuild this country, if we can ever wrest control of it from the greedy morons who nearly brought the whole thing down only a year ago.
We’re not out of the woods yet, either. If Washington adds itself to the ranks of the “Hoover” states, about the only silver lining will be that the last of the newspapers will surely go out of business.
With only a smattering of ballots left to count statewide, it is interesting to note that Seattle voters have thus far turned out a 57.56% rate, four and a half points higher than the county as a whole, and nearly seven points higher than the state average.
To put that in perspective, overwhelmingly liberal-Democratic Seattle is home to less than 10.5% of the state’s registered voters, yet accounted for nearly 12% of the 2009 general election vote. Had there been a close statewide contest, this turnout advantage certainly would have shaped the outcome.
I know we’re told that it’s the tea-partying Republicans who are supposed to be energized right now, but it didn’t turn out that way here in Washington state.
Here are some recent news items:
– Remember the big push a few years back after the Terri Schiavo mess to encourage people to have a living will for such situations? If you were one of the people who did that, make sure you avoid Catholic health care institutions as they’ve been ordered by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops to ignore people’s wishes and keep patients alive regardless of the circumstance.
– Laura Onstot in the Seattle Weekly points out that if the marijuana decriminalization bill passes in the state legislature, it would somewhat undermine incoming City Attorney Pete Holmes’ decision to no longer prosecute people for marijuana possession in Seattle. I’m not so convinced that it will make much of a difference. The police have generally abided by I-75, which made marijuana possession the lowest priority for law enforcement, and with a mayor and city attorney about to take office who seem to understand this better than their predecessors, I’m not terribly worried about people all over Seattle getting slapped with $100 fines. Then again, I could be underestimating the amount of enforcement that will still be done in Seattle’s minority communities.
– The first marijuana cafe in modern United States history has opened in Portland. It’s only for Oregon NORML members who have state-issued medical marijuana cards. When the state-wide smoking ban passed here in Washington a few years back, this was an aspect of the law that was unclear to me. If such a club opened in Seattle, would the law apply to marijuana smoke or just tobacco smoke? Would vaporized marijuana be considered smoke? I imagine that these questions will be settled in the most irrational way possible as we get closer and closer to simply allowing all adults to use marijuana legally.
– The Maryland Sheriff who was behind the horrifying mistaken raid of Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo is running for County Executive of Prince George’s County. Sheriff Michael Jackson still contends that his officers did nothing wrong when they invaded Calvo’s home, shot his two dogs, and held his family members captive for several hours, despite having absolutely zero evidence that they were involved in drug dealing. Now the county is trying to block the discovery process in Calvo’s lawsuit until after the election. Jackson is running as a Democrat against several other Democrats in a crowded primary and is actually being audacious enough to claim that he’s the law-and-order candidate.
– Finally, Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award today – for the second year in a row – as further evidence that pot smoking will derail your career.
Rightly or wrongly, Democratic elected officials are often maligned by their opponents as tax and spend, well, Democrats. And with the latest state revenue forecast now confirming a $2.6 billion shortfall for 2009 alone, it’s time for state Dems to finally live up to that reputation.
70% of the state budget is protected through constitutional, federal, contractual and other mandates, which means the Legislature would need to slash 27% from the remaining $9.6 billion in unprotected spending in order to achieve an all-cuts budget. I suppose that could be done, but only at the expense of great human suffering.
No, it’s time for the Legislature to stand up to the editorialists and do the responsible thing: raise taxes to help make up part of this shortfall. That’s the sort of balanced approach most states take during severe revenue turndowns, as at least 30 other states have already done. And studies of the 2001 recession have found no evidence that the economies of states that raised taxes recovered any slower or faster than states that did not.
Yeah, I know, raising taxes is never a popular thing to do, and some Democrats in swing districts might even lose their seats over such support. But nobody ever said that responsible governance is supposed to be easy, or even personally rewarding. So deal with it.
According to a new poll, a majority of Republicans believe that ACORN stole the 2008 election, and that Barack Obama was not the legitimate winner.
The poll asked this question: “Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?” The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%.
Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% — an outright majority — saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.
Think about that. To believe that Obama was not the legitimate winner, you’d have to believe that ACORN somehow managed to stuff over 9.5 million ballots nationwide. Really… could Republicans be more deluded?
On the bright side, as long as Republicans truly believe that the only reason they lose elections is because Democrats steal them — rather than the fact that the majority of Americans reject the Republican position on a majority of issues — they’ll never recover from their current state of moral and electoral collapse.
While Susan Hutchison did her best to blame Dow Constantine for the woeful condition of the Howard Hanson Dam, residents and businesses in the Green River Valley may have deeper pockets to sue should the worst happen during the current flood season.
In a groundbreaking decision, a federal judge ruled late Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers’ mismanagement of maintenance at the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet was directly responsible for flood damage in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina.
The Army Corps of Engineers was also responsible for building and maintaining the Howard Hanson Dam, and presumably is responsible for letting it slide into its current state of neglect. And no doubt victims’ attorneys would look to the example in New Orleans should the dam’s failure result in significant flooding downstream.
At only 42.96%, eight points below the statewide average, Pierce County had the lowest voter turnout in the state in the 2009 general election. Pierce is also the only county in the state without all mail-in elections.
As of the close of business, Wednesday 11/4/2009, the day after the election, King County Elections had 572,611 total mail-in ballots on hand. As of the close of business yesterday, Tuesday 11/17/2009, two weeks after the election, KCE had counted 570,280 total mail-in ballots, with an estimated 1,400 ballots on hand and remaining to be tallied.
Of course, thousands of additional ballots have been received, processed and rejected, so these numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they sure don’t suggest that moving the ballot deadline would significantly speed up reporting of the final results.
Damn commie-pinko American public…
When it comes to paying for a health care overhaul, Americans see just one way to go: Tax the rich.
That finding from a new Associated Press poll will be welcome news for House Democrats, who proposed doing just that in their sweeping remake of the U.S. medical system, which passed earlier this month and would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
[…] The House bill would impose a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and households making more than $1 million.
The poll tested views on an even more punitive taxation scheme that was under consideration earlier, when the tax would have hit people making more than $250,000 a year. Even at that level the poll showed majority support, with 57 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed.
Why tax the rich? Perhaps because Americans understand that the rich are the ones who individually and collectively have benefited most from our government’s economic and tax policies over the past several decades, and perhaps most importantly… the rich are the ones who can best afford it.
Please join us tonight for some politics under the influence at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Festivities take place at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. beginning about 8:00 pm. Or show up early for some fine dining.
The pressing question for the evening: Will Dino Rossi unconceede the 2008 gubernatorial race now that a Moore Information survey has him leading the race?
Not in Seattle? There is a good chance you live near one of the 339 other chapters of Drinking Liberally.
Then again, Jon, sexist or not, she did pose for the photo. And even if it was originally intended to grace the cover of Runners World, she had to understand that the shot was more likely to inspire lewd MILF comments than the kinda gravitas we’ve come to expect from presidential aspirants.
I’m not defending Newsweek’s judgement. But I’m sure as hell not defending Sarah Palin’s either.
But what I find really inexcusable about the cover is the headline. I mean, honestly, how do you get from “Maria” to “Sarah” to make that pun work? Yeah, sure, both names end in the “ah” sound, but the accent in both is on the second to last syllable. Not only don’t the words rhyme, they don’t even share the same meter, making it impossible to sing the lyric as written.
That’s just plain lazy.