The story on early voting

From its institution (against my better judgment) for the 2010 election, early voting has become more and more of a portion of total turnout here in Maryland.

In 2010, when it was first adopted, only 11.77% of those who actually voted used the option, with 13.07% of Democrats and 10.13% of Republicans partaking, That number increased to 15.75% of voters in 2012 (18.44% of Democrats, 11.98% Republicans), and – once early voting was expanded from six to eight days – to 17.66% of those who voted in 2014, with 19.86% of Democrats and 15.61% of Republicans using the option.

In the last go-round in 2016, however, early voting came into its own: a full 36.02% of Democrat turnout came during early voting, while 24.76% of Republicans who voted used the option. All told, an astounding 31.23% of those who voted did so early.

So it was no shock that Democrats “won” early voting once again: according to the Maryland Board of Elections, 16.72% of eligible voters came out for the eight days of early voting. (19.08% were Democrats, 15.44% were from the GOP.) While this is less than the 22.48% that came out in 2016, bear in mind turnout isn’t nearly as good in a midterm election. The all-important question, though, is what percentage of overall turnout is represented by early voting. In 2014 just under 50% of Republicans waited until Election Day to vote (49.6% to be exact) but only 37.5% of Democrats voted on Election Day.

If the 2014 numbers hold true, though, turnout for Democrats will be over 10% better than the last gubernatorial election, which was for an open seat, as former Governor Martin O’Malley was term-limited, but the GOP will counter much of that increase with a stratospheric 65% turnout of their own. The question, therefore, is whether those extra 10% of Democrats are going to be loyal to Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous or not – he basically needs them all to be to drive incumbent Larry Hogan’s numbers among Democrats down to the 20% or so he needs in order to defeat Hogan – despite polls that have had Jealous down double-digits all summer.

As evidence of just how early voting may affect the races, I put together a series of charts. The first one is a straight comparison of raw vote totals from the 2016 early voting and the 2018 version, divided by county and by party. It wasn’t worth comparing to 2014 because its totals were blown away just a few days into early voting and the 2016 election provides a better guide for both turnout and proportion of early voters.

D 2016 D 2018 R 2016 R 2018 Un 2016 Un 2018
Allegany 1435 1013 1815 1361 468 263
Anne Arundel 38527 35630 25550 22849 12314 10779
Baltimore City 59562 42176 3054 2055 4983 3129
Baltimore 83525 66160 28522 24597 14654 11071
Calvert 5457 3950 5147 3660 1861 1216
Caroline 1434 1142 1796 1637 465 339
Carroll 6374 5715 10313 8947 2866 2267
Cecil 4058 2996 5062 3738 1707 1105
Charles 17749 11849 5261 3284 2882 1701
Dorchester 1922 1529 1424 1243 355 248
Frederick 14338 11688 10550 8328 5446 3818
Garrett 812 710 2310 1903 309 216
Harford 18221 14926 19496 15994 6647 5025
Howard 35295 28421 12996 10450 10863 8261
Kent 1806 1612 1101 987 461 380
Montgomery 111432 81388 21972 14518 27588 17418
Prince George’s 138257 90120 7974 4933 12681 7551
Queen Anne’s 3648 3103 5546 4710 1517 1188
Saint Mary’s 5120 3907 5829 4388 2065 1406
Somerset 1262 1001 1006 999 253 195
Talbot 3848 3623 4096 3790 1284 1118
Washington 4726 3457 5366 4108 1704 1182
Wicomico 5433 4794 4264 4001 1544 1182
Worcester 2950 2652 3376 3205 1017 870
26.37% 19.48% 19.11% 15.44% 15.76% 10.63%
0.7387 0.808 0.6745

The number at the bottom is a comparison of percentages of voters – Democrats were 26.13% off their 2016 totals, while Republicans were only 19.2% off and all the others were 32.55% off. In no instance did the 2018 total surpass a 2016 total, as can be expected – however, Somerset County Republicans finished just 7 voters short of matching 2016 turnout. That’s most likely good news for incumbent Delegate Charles Otto.

So then I broke it down by county. Rather than do all the counties, I’m just doing top and bottom 6 in terms of how they matched up 2018 vs. 2016. The higher the number (the proportion of turnout in 2018 vs. that of 2016), the more excited the electorate is.

Top 6 Democrat counties Top 6 Republican counties
Talbot 0.9415 Somerset 0.993
Anne Arundel 0.9248 Worcester 0.9493
Worcester 0.899 Wicomico 0.9383
Carroll 0.8966 Talbot 0.9253
Kent 0.8926 Caroline 0.9115
Wicomico 0.8824 Anne Arundel 0.8943
Bottom 6 Democrat counties Bottom 6 Republican counties
Prince George’s 0.6518 Prince George’s 0.6186
Charles 0.6676 Charles 0.6242
Allegany 0.7059 Montgomery 0.6608
Baltimore City 0.7081 Baltimore City 0.6729
Calvert 0.7238 Calvert 0.7111
Montgomery 0.7304 Cecil 0.7384
Statewide average 0.7387 Statewide average 0.808

As you can see, there are some counties where turnout looks to be really, really good and others where it may be so-so – in particular, the Capital Region seems to be taking a beating while the Eastern Shore looked like they were ready from the word go. It’s telling to me, though, that traditionally Republican counties are leading the way for the Democrats while their strongholds lag behind – perhaps it’s the way for the minority to express a message?

But in those same Democratic strongholds Republicans aren’t coming out, either. Could they be believing the re-election of Hogan is a fait accompli  and don’t see the purpose of voting in down-ticket races, or are they simply being traditional Republicans who wait until Election Day?

You may notice some counties have more on the Democrat side and others are looking good for the GOP. I tabulated these differences as well as the decline when it came to independents and unaffiliated voters, which have the steepest dropoff from 2016. The color on the right-hand chart is that of the party which led the county in percentage, as shown in the left-hand chart. So on blue counties it’s the difference between Republicans and the “others” and on red ones it’s Democrats vs. the unaffiliated and minor parties voters.

Intensity difference (R vs. D) Intensity difference (lower of D/R vs. Ind)
Somerset 0.1998 Anne Arundel 0.019
Caroline 0.1151 Somerset 0.0224
Dorchester 0.0774 Prince George’s 0.0231
Baltimore 0.0703 Montgomery 0.0294
Wicomico 0.0559 Charles 0.034
Worcester 0.0503 Baltimore 0.0366
Allegany 0.044 Washington 0.0378
Washington 0.0341 Worcester 0.0435
Kent 0.0039 Howard 0.0436
Harford 0.0012 Baltimore City 0.045
Cecil 0.0002 Talbot 0.0546
Howard -0.0011 Calvert 0.0577
Queen Anne’s -0.0013 Harford 0.0632
Saint Mary’s -0.0103 Statewide average 0.0658
Calvert -0.0127 Queen Anne’s 0.0662
Talbot -0.0162 Caroline 0.0674
Frederick -0.0258 Kent 0.0683
Carroll -0.0291 Saint Mary’s 0.0719
Anne Arundel -0.0305 Carroll 0.0765
Prince George’s -0.0332 Frederick 0.0883
Baltimore City -0.0352 Cecil 0.0897
Charles -0.0434 Dorchester 0.0969
Garrett -0.0506 Wicomico 0.1169
Montgomery -0.0696 Garrett 0.1248
Allegany 0.144

Independent and unaffiliated voters were mixed in turnout: those representing “other” parties (holdovers from the previously-recognized Reform and Constitution parties, for example) led with 12.25% of 32,885 voters, but only 9.06% of the 9,164 Greens and 7.73% of the 21,713 Libertarians made it out. There were 10.66% of the 708,012 voters who list as unaffiliated at early voting, and they make up the bulk of the statistics.

I know it’s a lot of charts, but we can read a couple things into these, anyway.

For one thing, it does not appear that the feared malaise from constant chatter about a “blue wave” worked to dissuade overall GOP turnout. Granted, the Democrats might come fairly close on numbers, but the GOP should maintain its turnout lead they’ve had almost every election in the last 12 years, the lone exception being the Obama wave of 2008. This should enable Larry Hogan to stay in office, but it makes me question whether he will have coattails enough to get Craig Wolf – the GOP candidate for Attorney General – and the five new GOP State Senators he’s seeking into office. (High GOP intensity, though, is a good sign for the District 38 race – especially when two of the three GOP Delegates or primary winners for the post are unchallenged, save for a “sore loser” write-in effort in District 38C by perennial candidate Ed Tinus, a primary loser on the GOP side despite running for other offices as a Democrat.)

The other key point is that Republican voters outside the scope of the state’s two largest media markets (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.) seem to see this election as once again “the most important of their lives” and they are coming out accordingly. They are also reacting to downballot races – note the top three GOP counties (and two of the Democrats’ top six) are embroiled in perhaps the most heated State Senate race in Maryland, as I have frequently documented. On the other hand, lower turnout and enthusiasm in Democrat areas has to be worrisome to the state party, which has essentially abandoned its nominee Ben Jealous and appears to be concentrating on maintaining its hold on a State Senate majority that can override Larry Hogan’s vetoes. Their advantage in their regard is that none of their targeted State Senators are in traditional Democratic areas – in fact, ten of their number received free rides this year so they need only win half of the others plus one to maintain their vetoproof hold. Republicans also have a couple vulnerable seats they have to work hard to keep thanks to unaffiliated challengers and primary upsets.

But the real fun begins Tuesday. Those who voted early may be pleased to know that the forecast is for rain for most of the state, with the potential for severe weather. (Locally we are looking at just warm but cloudy.) Regardless, grab your umbrella and head out to the polls if you haven’t already.

Thoughts at large

I guess you can call this a stream of consciousness post. I actually have three to four things I want to write on and a couple things I need to write about, but the mind is a little fuzzy this evening – a stroll at 3rd Friday and dinner with the family will do that. So I’m just going to begin typing and see where it takes me. (Actually I do a lot of writing like that anyway, but in this case I will admit to it.) The things I need to write about can wait until morning.

One reason I like 3rd Friday as an event is that chances are good I’ll see several people I know there. Most of them I know through my political life, so the topic tends to be on issues or candidates. So it was I had a nice discussion about the Senate race on the other side of the fence and a long conversation about why I’m dead-set against Donald Trump. Since I don’t want to get bogged down in minutia, suffice to say that I find Trump is neither conservative nor trustworthy.

There was also a bit of controversy locally about The Donald insofar as our Central Committee goes. As a body we are supposed to stay neutral, but a report on the opening of the local Trump headquarters seemed to lead some to believe our Central Committee was down with Trump, and I can guarantee you we’re not all on the Trump train. Supposedly it’s all been straightened out, but I would be willing to bet that out of nine members we have at least seven or eight different combinations of who we favor for President, U. S. Senate, and Congress.

Yet we all seem to get along – in the three terms since I was elected we only turned over members midstream three times: Bob Laun was a midterm appointee for another gentleman who moved away, we appointed two members when authorized to expand from seven members to nine about eight years back, and I was reappointed to fill a vacancy last October. Yes, that’s it in almost a decade – meanwhile, other county Central Committees seem to change on almost a weekly basis. I may not like who others support, and it may be good to remind folks that we are not a monolithic body in this primary for any candidate.

But there is something I noticed about early voting. Granted, one day is a small sample size but for all the excitement they tell me this presidential primary beings, turnout on day 1 wasn’t a whole lot better than it was in 2012, the last Presidential cycle. On day one four years ago (which was a Saturday) there was 13,512 voters, or 0.43%. The Thursday of early voting, which was the final day, had 16,408 (the highest total), for 0.52%. Overall just 2.4% of voters came out early over six days in 2012.

Yesterday, we had 36,657 voters, which is 1.07%. As a total, yes that is quite a bit larger, but I would have expected twice that given the excitement we were told was in the air. There were 326 Wicomico voters, or one about every two minutes the polls were open. I still haven’t figured out why we do this exercise, particularly now that they are letting new same-day registrants vote. (Three took advantage in Wicomico County – all Democrats.) We will have a room in the Civic Center, pay several people hundreds of dollars to sit around, and marvel that maybe 1,500 people came over the eight days. Seems a waste of time and money for something an absentee ballot can achieve.

Well, I think I got enough off my mind. I still have a couple toss-up races to decide on for endorsement so look for one Sunday.

Early voting is not the magic bullet

November 7, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Early voting is not the magic bullet 

Do you remember when we debated early voting and how it was going to increase turnout?

This election cycle gave us the first opportunity to compare two cycles and see what the trends have become. I’m sure supporters of early voting were hoping to see the slow slide in turnout come to an end this cycle, but it appears the problem wasn’t solved by adding several days of balloting.

Here was the turnout, by county, in 2010. I decided to go highest to lowest.

  1. Queen Anne’s – 67.43%
  2. Kent – 66.79%
  3. Talbot – 65.20%
  4. Harford – 63.82%
  5. Anne Arundel – 61.71%
  6. Worcester – 61.10%
  7. Carroll – 60.99%
  8. Howard – 60.88%
  9. Dorchester – 60.71%
  10. Somerset – 59.34%
  11. Baltimore Co. – 58.92%
  12. Calvert – 57.37%
  13. Caroline – 56.35%
  14. Frederick – 55.34%
  15. Wicomico – 55.34%
  16. St. Mary’s – 54.05%
  17. Garrett – 53.49%
  18. Allegany – 52.99%
  19. Charles – 52.57%
  20. Montgomery – 51.38%
  21. Cecil – 50.76%
  22. Washington – 49.20%
  23. Prince George’s – 45.17%
  24. Baltimore City – 45.02%

Statewide average was 54.02%.

I’m assuming that this year’s count has returned absentees included; if not it may bump up an extra percent. But 2014 turnout is abysmal.

  1. Kent – 58.91% (off 7.88%)
  2. Queen Anne’s – 57.01% (off 10.42%)
  3. Talbot – 56.70% (off 8.50%)
  4. Carroll – 55.44% (off 5.55%)
  5. Harford – 53.93% (off 9.89%)
  6. Calvert – 53.07% (off 4.30%)
  7. Howard – 52.16% (off 8.72%)
  8. Frederick – 51.36% (off 3.98%)
  9. Worcester – 51.13% (off 9.97%)
  10. Dorchester – 49.16% (off 11.55%)
  11. Anne Arundel – 49.15% (off 12.56%)
  12. Somerset – 49.02% (off 10.32%)
  13. Baltimore Co. – 48.87% (off 10.05%)
  14. St. Mary’s – 48.76% (off 5.29%)
  15. Caroline – 48.57% (off 7.78%)
  16. Allegany – 46.95% (off 6.04%)
  17. Garrett – 46.25% (off 7.24%)
  18. Charles – 45.66% (off 6.91%)
  19. Wicomico – 43.76% (off 11.58%)
  20. Cecil – 42.19% (off 8.57%)
  21. Washington – 41.64% (off 7.56%)
  22. Montgomery – 38.92% (off 12.46%)
  23. Prince George’s – 38.03% (off 7.14%)
  24. Baltimore City – 35.57% (off 9.45%)

So the best performer “only” dropped 3.98% thanks to a hot County Executive race while the worst fell 12.46%. Overall, the statewide turnout was an abysmal 44.72%.

And when Anthony Brown could only win four counties, including the three worst performers for overall turnout (plus Charles County, which wasn’t a hotbed either), you knew his campaign was in trouble. The far left is already blaming him for running a bad campaign, but Larry Hogan found a better message and I’ll bet when the party breakdown comes out the GOP turnout numbers will only be off 5 points or less from 2010. Part of that, as it turns out, was their utilization of early voting – but the top counties for early voting were generally the top ones for overall turnout anyway.

But back to the main subject. It’s now been demonstrated through three election cycles that all early voting is doing is spreading out fewer and fewer voters over more days. And while we haven’t seen the fraud I thought would happen so far, all bets are off once same-day registration becomes possible next time. Even so, I don’t think early voting is helping turnout, so if turnout in 2016 turns out lower once again it may be time to scrap the idea in time for 2018. Just don’t fund early voting for that election and pass the legislation necessary to place a repeal of Article I, Section 3(b) on the 2018 ballot.

Ironically, my fiance and I voted early this year. I didn’t like to have to do it, but I found it was easier than getting an absentee ballot. But as we walked right in and noticed there were a half-dozen people and ten or so voting machines sitting idle, I wondered what this convenience was costing me as a taxpayer. There were 4,945 early voters in my county at a polling place which was open for a total of 80 extra hours – by my public school math, that’s a little over 1 voter per minute. Is that really worth the cost? (Even worse, Somerset County had just 1,263 early voters so they only had perhaps 15 per hour.)

Perhaps what’s really needed are better candidates, but there’s not always much we can do about that.

Catching my breath

After a tremendously busy last few days, I’m finally able to catch my breath a little bit and take stock of where we are.

At the top of my site since last Thursday is the reporting on early voting trends. To me, this is key because it’s not something Republicans have adapted to despite the pleas from the state party – until this year. As a whole in the state, Republicans and Democrats are utilizing early voting at the same rate which indicates turnout may be a tick or two better than expected for the GOP. And remember, polling is released based on a turnout model that they attempt to predict will hold true for the election, but there are so many variables. At this stage weather doesn’t appear as it will be a factor, though.

I just finished downloading the last of the pre-election financial reports for most of those on the ballot locally in contested races. There may be a minor scandal here because I noticed District 37B candidate Rod Benjamin didn’t have a report on file yet – he’s submitted affidavits of limited contributions and expenditures through his campaign, but still has to file timely or face a $20 daily fine that comes out of his own pocket. In the last few days before the election I’ll distill the numbers and see if any new trends develop.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the irregularities in voting machines in some areas; a phenomenon addressed by the state Board of Elections. But how about irregularities in support? Some local Republicans are outraged about two photos which have appeared on Facebook.

The photos were reportedly taken at a recent fundraiser for current Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, who is a Democrat. In the top photo second from left is outgoing County Council member Stevie Prettyman. In the bottom photo is, left to right, County Council members Matt Holloway and John Hall along with Pollitt and Salisbury City Council president Jake Day. All three Council members pictured are Republicans, a trio which generally votes opposite Republican County Executive candidate Bob Culver (who is one of two to consistently oppose Pollitt.) While Prettyman is leaving, Holloway is in a good position to be re-elected since only one Democrat filed for two at-large posts, and Hall is unopposed for a District 4 Council seat.

My take on this: of course I’m disappointed with these Republicans attending a fundraiser for a Democrat, but the time to address this will be 2018 primary. Just file it in the memory bank.

And then we have this which just came to my attention from the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance.

Contrast that, if you will, to opponent Mike McDermott’s support for pro-life causes such as the recent Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center dinner.

Jim Mathias has spent thousands of dollars – much of it money from PACs and out-of-district – trying to convince District 38 voters he’s “always working for you.” But the question is whether simply voting for or against a particular issue is “working.” As a member of the majority party, he’s in the position where his negative vote can be made with little consequence except to placate the people back home. He doesn’t stick his neck out and publicly testify at a pro-Second Amendment rally or participate in a pro-life march, despite the fact his district would welcome that with open arms. We’re just supposed to count the effort and not the results.

But there are more important items to deal with – I’m watching Game 7 of the World Series.

An early voting update

If you subscribe to the theory that the most motivated voters will be there with bells on when early voting starts, it appears that statewide Republicans are slightly more enthused than Democrats.

Final update, Friday 10/31: While Democrats pulled away ever-so-slightly to finish with a higher percentage of early voters statewide than Republicans (9.29% – 9.17%) there are two conclusions which can be drawn.

One is that early voting seems to have gained acceptance among Republicans, as the total nearly matched the 2012 Presidential election number of 9.31% of the electorate.

The second is that Eastern Shore voters are by far the most receptive to the concept. While the major parties picked up just under 10% of voters statewide, about 1 in 5 Talbot County Republicans and Democrats used the process. As for the four lower Shore counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 9.64%, Democrats 7.68%
  • Somerset: Republicans 11.69%, Democrats 9.27%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 10.50%, Democrats 8.92%
  • Worcester: Republicans 11.49%, Democrats 9.57%

If four more Kent County Republicans had voted early, the entire Eastern Shore would have had a Republican advantage in early voting. As it stood for yesterday’s final day of early voting, the Democrats held sway by a 827-795 tally. Republicans, despite a significant registration disadvantage, had more voters for five of the eight days locally and ended up with 5,056 voters to 5,024 for the Democrats.

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Update, Thursday 10/30: The race is almost tied between Democrats and Republicans (by percentage) statewide, as the two sides are 0.02% apart (7.35 to 7.33). Democrats maintain that slight edge statewide, but the GOP is still ahead locally by wide margins:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 7.52%, Democrats 6.12%
  • Somerset: Republicans 9.58%, Democrats 7.86%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 8.90%, Democrats 7.43%
  • Worcester: Republicans 10.01%, Democrats 8.18%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 678-671 count.

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Update, Wednesday 10/29: Democrats extended their lead on a statewide basis 6.04% – 5.97%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 6.12%, Democrats 5.11%
  • Somerset: Republicans 8.26%, Democrats 6.63%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 7.55%, Democrats 6.15%
  • Worcester: Republicans 8.35%, Democrats 7.04%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 671-621 count. And there are some incredible totals among some counties: both parties in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties are already over 10% turnout, but Talbot County Republicans have already eclipsed the 15 percent mark with the Democrats not far behind at 12.46 percent. Obviously that part of the Eastern Shore has embraced early voting, while the western end of the state seems to lag with Allegany and Washington counties well below average.

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Update, Tuesday 10/28: Democrats still lead by a slim margin on a statewide basis 4.80% – 4.76%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 4.91%, Democrats 4.24%
  • Somerset: Republicans 6.45%, Democrats 5.57%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 6.10%, Democrats 5.00%
  • Worcester: Republicans 6.96%, Democrats 5.86%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Wicomico joined Worcester as the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans added a county as well and now lead by percentage in 15 of the state’s 23 counties. Republicans on the Lower Shore regained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 624-606 count.

I was doing some research on 2010 election turnout and it looks like turnout is tracking about the same as it did back then, at least locally.

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Update, Monday 10/27: At the halfway point of the eight days (through Sunday), Democrats finally edged ahead on a statewide basis 3.58% – 3.56%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.72%, Democrats 3.31%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.92%, Democrats 4.59%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.73%, Democrats 3.91%
  • Worcester: Republicans 5.68%, Democrats 4.68%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester remains the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans lead by percentage in 14 of the state’s 23 counties and the Eastern Shore sha 8 of these 14. But local Democrats won this day at the polls by a 332-304 count.

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Update, Sunday 10/26: On a slow Saturday for voting overall, Democrats came back to close the statewide gap; it’s now 3.11% – 3.08%. New totals for local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.43%, Democrats 2.96%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.21%, Democrats 3.90%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.03%, Democrats 3.35%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.94%, Democrats 3.91%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester has the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. But for the second straight day, local Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by a 342-331 count.

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Update, Saturday 10/25: The GOP extended its lead in the state to 2.56% – 2.47% partly on the strength of solid gains on the lower Shore. All four of these counties added to Republican gains, with the raw number of Republicans actually exceeding Democrats on Friday by a 750-697 count. New totals:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.11%, Democrats 2.57%
  • Somerset: Republicans 3.66%, Democrats 3.32%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 3.15%, Democrats 2.69%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.17%, Democrats 3.30%

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1.34% of GOP voters statewide made it to early voting compared to 1.31% of Democrats, but this marks the first time Republican turnout as a percentage outstripped Democrat turnout on the first day of balloting in a general election. In the Presidential election of 2012, 2.56% of Democrats came out compared to 1.68% of Republicans, and that advantage grew greater with each passing day. Meanwhile, 2010 saw Democrats edge Republicans on the first day by 1.04% to 1% on their way to an overall advantage of just under 1 percent. So a Republican advantage at this juncture could spell good news for their candidates.

However, on the Lower Shore Republicans have a distinct advantage in turnout percentage and nearly eclipsed the Democrats – who hold a registration advantage in all four counties – in terms of raw numbers. Democrats held a slight 939-892 advantage in first-day turnout. (For the four counties overall, Democrats lead in registration 56,462 to 46,862.)

  • Dorchester: Republicans 1.66%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Somerset: Republicans 2.37%, Democrats 2.17%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 1.54%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Worcester: Republicans 2.39%, Democrats 1.86%

The turnout is brisk in legislative District 38C, where 2.02% of voters turned out on the first day and made it the fourth-best rate in the state. In Wicomico County, District 38B leads the way with 1.62% while, ironically, District 38C performs the worst at 0.82% – perhaps due to distance from the county’s lone early voting polling place in Salisbury. Reportedly, candidates from both parties are hitting this Wicomico County location hard and the Republicans are set up there with a table.

But on a state and local basis, this has to be encouraging to Republicans who didn’t adopt early voting originally but have been encouraged by party brass to take advantage of it to make sure their votes were cast in this important election. If Republicans can hang with Democrats in terms of percentage of early voters, it may be their Election Day turnout will push them to a better overall showing than expected, making the turnout models pollsters use overly optimistic toward Democrats.

Time to do the deed

October 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Time to do the deed 

Today is the day that tiny percentage of Maryland registered voters who actually do this begin going to the polls for early voting. I know some of my party cohorts will be out at the Civic Center campaigning for the Republican ticket, and needless to say it’s a straight R year for me.

But there are races I’m much more passionate about than others, so let’s go through the list and I’ll tell you what I think. That IS why you come here, isn’t it? If my number 16 race doesn’t come out I won’t be all that upset, but if the top half-dozen or so go the wrong way I’ll be pissed. These are the 16 items on my specimen ballot – I live in House District 38B and Wicomico County Council District 3, which is one of only two of the five districts to have a contested race.

  1. Carl Anderton, Jr. for Delegate, District 38B. I am really tired of my poor representation in Annapolis from Norm Conway. He votes for every bloated budget, (almost) every conformity with Obamacare, every accommodation to Big Labor, and a number of other dreadful things as well: in 2011 he voted for the Congressional redistricting that made our state a laughingstock but in committee he helped kill provisions to allow referendums on tax increases and proof of lawful presence before collecting benefits. In 2012 he voted to saddle new homeowners with the added expense of sprinklers, but he saddled the rest of us with the rain tax, tier maps, and the key to getting around our county’s revenue cap by mandating maintenance of effort spending. Granted, once in awhile he votes the right way but why lose on three or four issues to gain one? Republicans and pro-Wicomico Democrats: don’t fall for the hype of potentially losing a committee chair – even though Norm is a fairly nice guy, if he were all that powerful we would be the richest county in the state and we are far from that. It’s definitely time for some new blood to get us back to work. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  2. Mike McDermott for Senate, District 38. Really, this should be 1-a but my function won’t let me do that. Jim Mathias may vote a little better than Norm Conway, but I would rather have someone who’s a thorn in the side of the current Annapolis majority – who went out of their way to lump him into a district with another sitting Delegate – than a backbencher. What better way to thumb your nose at those who believe the Eastern Shore is the state’s “shithouse” (in more ways than one) than to foil their political intentions? If I can pick up 60 points on the monoblogue Accountability Project by changing my representation, you know the answer is yes. This is another race where conservatives need to come home and not cross the aisle, because Jim’s few blind squirrel votes aren’t worth the overall pain. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  3. Bob Culver for County Executive.  Our county has stumbled and staggered through this so-called recovery with the incumbent Rick Pollitt, a self-described bureaucrat, in charge. Don’t forget that Rick whined about the revenue cap for the first three years in office and promised a zero-based budget I haven’t seen yet. After eight years, it’s time for a change in tactics and Bob can be a fresh set of eyes to address our declining number of employed. I know Bob may rub some the wrong way but I’m willing to overlook that because, to me, re-electing Rick Pollitt is the definition of insanity for Wicomico County. Chances of success: I would say about 40-50 percent.
  4. M.J. Caldwell for Circuit Court Judge. To me, this is a perplexing case. Here you have an experienced attorney who knows his way around a courtroom taking on a person whose claim to fame is his last name – if it were Swartz, he’d still be at his old firm. But because people still know the Sarbanes name in this area, the newly-appointed “incumbent” got the gig. I was extremely disappointed and somewhat disgusted to see that Caldwell only won the Republican primary with 57 percent of the vote – people, do your homework! Caldwell would be a good judge. Chances of success: about 1 in 3 unless Republicans shape up.
  5. William Campbell for Comptroller. You’ll notice Peter Franchot has played up his fiscal watchdog tendencies in this campaign, but I think that if Larry Hogan becomes governor we need Bill to keep him grounded and make the Board of Public Works work in a conservative direction for the first time in…well, ever. Unfortunately, Bill has little money to get his message out and Franchot’s too scared to debate him. One problem with Larry Hogan taking public financing is that the Maryland GOP is spending maximum time and effort fundraising for Larry instead of helping these downballot races. Chances of success: alas, probably less than 1 percent.
  6. Larry Hogan for Governor. All politics is local, so I think the state race can take care of itself. But I hope that Hogan has enough coattails to bring in a dozen Delegates and half-dozen new Senators, including the two mentioned above. While I hated his primary campaign, I have to admit Hogan’s done a good job in the general election round. But will it be enough? Polls suggest it might. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  7. Larry Dodd for District 3 Council. The thing that bothers me about his opponent is that, for all his “aw, shucks” demeanor, he’s been exposed to a large number of anti-property rights zealots. He worked for Joan Carter Conway, the Senate’s EHEA Chair, and not only does she have a lifetime mAP rating of 4 (yes, that’s really bad) but she has passed a lot of bad legislation through her committee over the last several years – something Josh fails to mention. But I will give Josh Hastings his due: he’s campaigning hard, knocked on my door and has worked harder for the seat than Dodd has. It would be a shame to succeed a good, conservative Councilwoman in Gail Bartkovich with a liberal who may have grown up on a farm but has spent his politically formative years more readily influenced by Baltimore City and Annapolis. Chances of success: about 35 to 40 percent.
  8. John Cannon for at-large County Council. While his voting record has often been a disappointment, he was one of the two who got through the primary. I have more hope for him becoming a conservative stalwart, though, than I do for his fellow Republican. Chances of success: around 60 percent.
  9. Voting against Question 1. I’ve stated my reasons for opposition before, but most of the money is backing it and referendum items rarely fail. Chances of success: less than 10 percent.
  10. Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. We are really in trouble, folks. We could have had one of our good county state’s attorneys (or my personal favorite, Jim Rutledge) step up but instead we got Pritzker, who I have never met. When I see prominent conservative-leaning bloggers backing the Libertarian in the race, it can’t be much of a campaign. That’s a shame, because there’s more to the campaign than legalizing pot. And losing this seat means the gun-grabbing Brian Frosh will be our Attorney General. Chances of success: even less than Campbell’s sub-1 percent shot.
  11. Matt Holloway for at-large County Council. There are many holes in his voting record as well, but winning the primary makes him the odds-on favorite to not be third on November 4. So I guess I’ll have to wonder how often he’ll cave for another four years. Chances of success: over 80 percent.
  12. Andy Harris for Congress. No muss, no fuss. Have you heard a word about Bill Tilghman? The one thing you can say about Bill is that at least we haven’t caught him voting twice. This race is perhaps the closest thing to an automatic win for our side – when even the Daily Times has to endorse you, it’s a good sign. Chances of success: over 95 percent.
  13. Voting against Andrea Leahy as a Special Appeals Judge. Similar to the election involving Jimmy Sarbanes, Judge Leahy is up for election because she was appointed by Martin O’Malley in March. I looked at her profile and wasn’t impressed, but it’s rare a judge is tossed out. I would love to see who Larry Hogan would appoint, but if Leahy lost Martin O’Malley would rush another appointee through – and he or she would sit until 2016. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  14. Voting against Kevin Arthur as a Special Appeals Judge. His profile is better than Leahy’s but, still, he is an O’Malley appointee. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  15. Grover Cantwell for Orphan’s Court Judge. I have never met the guy, yet he wants my vote. This is a part of the ballot where those who get listed first (the Democrats) have the advantage because they’ve all been on the ballot before. Chances of success: perhaps 1 in 3.
  16. Voting for Question 2. I can get behind this proposal, which allows charter counties like Wicomico the option to have special elections to fill County Council seats. Having gone through the process of filling such a vacancy, I think it should be opened up despite the risk of losing a GOP seat to a Democrat. Chances of success: over 90 percent.

So this is how I think my local election will go. As for some other contested county races I’m supporting, in order of likelihood of success:

  • Addie Eckardt for Senate, District 37. The hard part for her was winning the primary. Sure, there may be some diehard Colburn supporters out there but their other choice is a guy he beat by 20 points last time around. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Mary Beth Carozza for Delegate, District 38C. Having an opponent who wears a “Ban Assault Weapons” t-shirt to an Andy Harris townhall event provides an immediate advantage in this area. But Mary Beth has been working since the summer of 2013 on this race, and that hard work is on the verge of paying off. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Marc Kilmer for District 2 Council. When your opponent threatens to go to court for winning, you know you’re in good shape. But Marc has taken nothing for granted, works hard, and has a fairly solid Republican district. Chances of success: at least 80 percent.
  • Christopher Adams for Delegate, District 37B. He wasn’t the top vote-getter in any county, but he’s run a solid campaign and the dynamics of the race give him a better path to victory than fellow Republican contender Johnny Mautz. Chances of success: a solid 75 percent.
  • Johnny Mautz for Delegate, District 37B. By far the top primary vote-getter, the one drawback is that he has to finish ahead of Keasha Haythe because both hail from Talbot County and there’s a limit of one per county. If he were second to her in the overall voting, he would lose and the third-place finisher moves up. With that in mind, I give him just ever-so-slightly less favorable odds. Chances of success: a solid 74.9 percent.

My advice to every contender in the last two weeks: run like you are five points behind. See you at the polls!

A radical proposal (or two)

I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.

Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.

Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?

The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.

So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?

What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.

Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.

If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.

No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.

But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.

The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.

Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.

And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.

Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.

One last weekend…

November 2, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Ohio politics, Politics · Comments Off on One last weekend… 

…and everyone wants help! Many of those appeals come from giving the national campaigns a hand in Ohio and Virginia.

(Update: read to the end for vital new information.)

For example, the Maryland GOP (on behalf of Mitt Romney) is going to those battleground states. But they’re also backing events in Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Cecil, and Queen Anne’s counties as well. Most will be Saturday, although the Harford event runs through Monday and the Queen Anne’s sign waving is later this afternoon.

And for those on the Shore who may want to help in Virginia, my friend Melody Scalley is organizing her own Saturday’s worth of activities in several Tidewater-area locations: Norfolk, Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake. It looks like they’ll be canvassing in 2-3 hour shifts during the day Saturday and one shift in Norfolk on Sunday afternoon. As before, you can contact her at (703) 258-4200 to help out.

Since the extended early voting comes to an end today, volunteers can shift from the polling places out to the neighborhoods.

There’s also been an important change in absentee balloting. An Executive Order signed by Governor O’Malley states:

Registered voters who are out of their county of residence due to Hurricane Sandy are authorized to apply for an absentee ballot up to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 5, 2012. The State Board of Elections is authorized to electronically deliver absentee ballots to such voters. Completed ballots must be mailed on or before Election Day and received by the local board of elections no later than November 16, 2012.

So those displaced by Sandy will be treated similarly to military voters.

While I’m thinking about voting, here’s more to ponder:

It appears that about 1 in 10 voters overall will opt to vote early, despite the loss of two days earlier this week. Through Wednesday a little over 225,000 voters had already voted early. Compare that to just 11,793 total absentee ballots requested throughout the state.

It’s interesting to note as well that as of Wednesday 41% of Democratic absentee ballots had come back, compared with 34% of Republicans and 31% of unaffiliated. Democrats also have the upper hand insofar as early voting goes, as 7.4% of them statewide have made their choices compared to 4.9% of Republicans and 3 to 4 percent of unaffiliated and minor party members.

What this could mean on election night is that ballot questions and Democratic officeseekers will probably grab an early lead because these votes are actually counted during the day and released right after the polls close. So issues like gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal aliens may have a seemingly insurmountable 60-40 lead early on, but as rural precincts tend to come in first those leads should evaporate – even as early voting covers about 10% of the electorate, in a Presidential year turnout in Maryland runs around 60 to 70 percent. In both instances, though, it may be a long night.

Update: There is another non-political – but certainly more important – volunteer effort going on tomorrow morning. This comes from my former local blogging cohort Julie Brewington, with emphasis mine:

Please come and help our Neighbors in Crisfield to Recover from Hurricane Sandy TOMORROW!

Please come dress in work attire, waterproof boots, and gloves. Bring a rake if you have one.

Saturday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. – Crisfield City Hall Parking lot, 319 W. Main St.

Even if you don’t have any equipment or special skills, we can use your help. To volunteer you should be physically fit and able to do manual labor. Water will be provided, but be prepared to work on sites that do not have basic sanitary services or utilities.

We will endeavor to select sites that are safe, but you must use your own common sense to protect yourself from dangers such as falling trees, submerged holes, and the general danger of being on a worksite with other untrained, unskilled volunteers. You assume all responsibility for your safety by volunteering and we will ask you to sign a release of liability of the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce, the City of Crisfield and the homeowner or property owner we are helping before assigning you to a work crew.

Equipment and skills we need

If you do have skills or equipment, we are in need of the following equipment along with persons who know how to use them:

Chainsaws
Large pickup trucks
Skillsaws
Power drills
Axes
Rakes
Plywood
Gloves
Gasoline for chainsaws

Supplies Needed (Drop Off At The Ambulance Squad Coming Into Town)

Bleach and cleaning supplies (mops, buckets, etc)
Household goods
Gently used clothing
Respirators
Portable Heaters
Blankets
Contractor clean up bags or large black trash bags
Bottled water
Rakes
Plywood
Gloves
Gasoline for chainsaws

Mold Removal is Needed. Please visit this site for Mold Removal Kits, with Household supplies and bring them if you can.

Saturday Volunteers are asked to print and bring signed release.

We will have blank release forms, but anyone wishing to volunteer tomorrow is asked to (sign a) volunteer release form to participate in our cleanup effort. We need to keep track of our volunteer ours for disaster relief purposes. Thank you!

Senate and early voting updates

In the last week of the campaign Richard Douglas is making a charge down the stretch to grab the GOP nod for U.S. Senate. Witness this commercial, which is actually a pretty well-done 30-second spot:

But I can’t help noticing parallels between the 2010 and 2012 GOP Senate races. The two things which got eventual 2010 nominee Eric Wargotz through the primary and into a general election shellacking by Barbara Mikulski were the tacit backing of the state party establishment (as opposed to Jim Rutledge, who was perceived as more of a TEA Party candidate) and a lot of the candidate’s money. Fast forward to 2012 and you find that, on the first point, Richard Douglas has retained the services of Lawrence Scott’s political consulting firm. Lawrence Scott is the son of former MDGOP Chair and National Committeewoman candidate Audrey Scott, who has also endorsed Douglas.

I don’t doubt that Scott Strategies has had its share of successes over the years, but FEC records show his firm has received over $27,000 from Douglas. By comparison, the campaign has raised just over $26,000 in individual contributions.

So where is the money for what the Douglas campaign describes as a “six figure advertising buy focused on statewide radio, direct mail and voter turnout phone calls as the April 3 primary nears” coming from? Richard has secured over $100,000 in candidate loans, meaning his campaign is (as of the March 14 filing date) nearly $111,000 in debt with just over $20,000 cash on hand.

This is similar to 2010, where Eric Wargotz had over $500,000 cash on hand before his September primary but was $575,000 in debt based on campaign loans (he ended up raising just over $250,000 from outside contributors for the 2010 campaign but spent $1.24 million overall.)

By comparison, Dan Bongino raised over $187,000 in individual contributions by March 14, and had only loaned $3,000 to his campaign. A significant portion of his expenditures went to several paid members of his campaign rather than to an outside consultant. But maybe he needed a better audio feed for this spot, because it doesn’t compare well with his radio ads.

Of course, financially neither holds a candle to the nearly $1.9 million Ben Cardin had on hand. Ben obviously didn’t sleep through the class on how to shake down unions, PACs, and other special interests for campaign cash.

I also wanted to add a few words about early voting in Maryland. So far, according to the latest figures which now include five days of the six-day process, not even 2% of voters have come out. Even if the final day is as busy as Saturday was, fewer than one out of 40 registered voters will partake in the process. So I must ask: why are we bothering?

The only counties which may have significant early turnout (that being on the order of seven to eight percent) are Talbot and Kent counties; on the other hand some of the largest counties will likely lag under 2%. (Wicomico is at 2.37% with 1,063 voting at the Civic Center so far.)

As far as party affiliation, the GOP is ahead in terms of percentage with 2.17% turnout compared to 1.97% for Democrats. That’s a little ironic given the fact the GOP didn’t care for early voting when it was presented to the General Assembly, but  both parties have encouraged its use since.

As for me, I’m going to the polls Tuesday like we should.

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