Thursday, November 10, 2016

Narrowly Winning The Popular Vote

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote Tuesday by a razor thin margin

If narrowly winning the popular vote was the end-all-be-all we would have a different President elect today, but according to the system we've used since our inception -- the electoral college -- she got clobbered.

Just as the Amherst ballot question that same day for the new $67 Mega School passed by the same razor thin margin as Secretary Clinton did nationwide, but if Town Meeting perfectly mirrors that vote on Monday night it will be considered a blow out failure because 66.67% support is required.

This morning despite the best efforts of Chair Alisa Brewer the Select Board decided not to overly play politics with the issue by simply putting out a statement saying the ballot question -- which was originally reported by a mainstream newspaper to have failed -- has passed by a comfortable enough margin (122 votes or less than 1%) to consider it passed.

The Chair also threatened to all but castigate anyone who would dare request a recount as being politically motivated to sabotage the process.  Ouch.

In order for the bulldozers to break ground the Mass School Building Authority requires a majority vote at the ballot box AND a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting.  Should the motion fail to garner two thirds support on Monday night the Select Board could call another Town Meeting before February 2nd to get the required approval.

Twenty years ago Town Meeting overwhelmingly supported the $22 million debt exclusion Override for the High School renovation/expansion but it failed at the ballot box the first time.  Town official brought it back within the 120 day deadline and it passed the second time (but still not even close to the wide margin shown by "Representative" Town Meeting).

In fact only once before out of all the Overrides over the past 25 years did the Select Board put the question to the voters first before having Town Meeting take it up.  In that case it passed because the pressure was put on Town Meeting to "support the will of the voters".

In this case, however, considering the high number of student voters who turned out -- which is typical for a Presidential election -- and how razor thin the margin of victory for the Override ballot question, Town Meeting will be under no such pressure.

The Select Board previously voted 100% unanimously to support the Mega School


Anonymous said...

It's time for the Select Board to come out into the open on their political manuevering. From not putting the Charter Commissioner vote on the March town election ballot, but scheduling a separate expensive election for the commission vote. A separte election pressed down the number of voters since many did not know it was taking place, cost tens of thousands of dollars and wasted time in the town clerk's office. All to give the Anti-Town Meeting/Charter folks more time to collect signatures last fall.

Then the excuse to put the $67 million override vote before Town Meeting voted (which is tradition) was to save money by not holding a separate election!

Wasn't it really to put pressure on Town Meeting and pick up student votes in favor of a 'new school"?

And why be against a recount? The Select Board should want an accurate vote.

Time to stop playing politics. The Select Board is out of touch with Amherst people. They voted 100% for an override which barely got over 50%.

Time to get out of town hall and start talking to real people.

Anonymous said...

It's people like those in Amherst that cost Hillary the election....

Dr. Ed said...

Trump said he will cut all Federal funds to Sanctuary Cities, which Amherst is.

I believe this includes the MSBA money, which is Federal routed through DESE.

I can't see Amherst stop being a Sanctuary City -- so the MegaSkool might wind up costing a whole lot more.

BTW, I thought a recount was automatic if something was less than 1%.

Larry Kelley said...

For statewide issues I believe it is if less than .5%.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Ed's dire forecasts never come true? At one point he had Geryk and the entire school committee headed for indictment! Poor ed....

Anonymous said...

Ed, you don't live in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

The popular vote and $4.95 gets you a cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the precinct map that shows which precincts voted yes on 5 and which voted no. Lo and behold the UMass precinct voted no! Sorry of shoots down your theory Larry that the students helped get the question passed.

Anonymous said...

Sticky fingers are oft prone to delusion allusions of agrandeur !!!!!!!$?

Larry Kelley said...

Students are spread out over all the precincts.

kevin said...

Ahem, out of 7,200 total "students" (all ages), 5,500 live on campus and are age 25 and under. No matter how you split the hair, the voters have spoken.

Larry Kelley said...

By a split hair margin.

For Town Meeting you need a full head of hair circa 1970s.

Anonymous said...

7 of 10 precincts approved....Is that greater than 2/3rds?

Not sure comparison to electoral college makes sense. Now, if only 1 of 10 approved by a large margin, I would agree, but it appears our 'electoral' (precincts) agree with popular vote.

Please help me out if that logic is flawed.

Anonymous said...

Larry, a serious question for you: How is your coverage of this issue "journalism"? I only ask because you have repeatedly referred to yourself as a journalist, and I think you should therefore hold yourself to a certain standard.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, "ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough." Additionally, "an ethical journalist acts with integrity."

I would argue that your accounts have been neither fair, accurate, or thorough, and that you have not acted with integrity in this case.

Let's begin with your contention that "The No folks showed far more enthusiasm, did better research, raised more money and simply outmaneuverd the phoned in old style campaign of the Yes folks." What empirical evidence can you offer to support those contentions? This isn't to say that you're wrong, but rather that there's no substantiation of that statement.

Then, let's assess your contentions that: (1) "And even if it narrowly passes today it still needs that hard to achieve two thirds vote of Town Meeting, and some members will argue the only reason it won today was because of the student voter turnout, which could easily be 30% or more of today's total." And (2) "Since newbie college student voters probably accounted for 30% of the total (14,695 voters or 66.27% overall turnout) many middle of the road Town Meeting members will be perfectly comfortable questioning their wisdom on this issue ...." What is your basis for the 30% figure? What is your basis for the assumption that they voted overwhelmingly in support of the measure? As the commenters previously noted (and you can look this up on the town website), seven of the ten precincts voted in favor of the measure. Moreover, the cumulative total of the precincts closest to campus (where one would expect to find the majority of the student population) favored the 'No' side, which would challenge your assumption. This is important, relevant information. Do you intend to correct the record? Or contextualize this information in a subsequent post?

Finally, you suggest that Town Meeting should ignore the results of the election and vote down the measure. (Or, more accurately, vote in a pattern consistent with the results, which would result in failure.) Yet this position is inconsistent with your many critiques of Town Meeting in the past, and the high threshold that deters progress. Why is this a unique case? (And why, then, should we consider the Charter failures in 2003 and 2005 to be near-misses when this is a "blow out failure" when it comes to representing the will of the residents?) Additionally, should you, as a journalist, be making such an evaluation? (I point to your suggestion that Town Meeting should reject the override because of the election results.)

To be clear, Larry, this is not a post about whether it is wise to support the school project. It is a question about whether you are acting as a journalist and doing journalism. So, I ask again: How is your coverage of this issue "journalism"?

I hope you will take the time to reflect on this questions and provide a thoughtful response. You are a valuable actor in our community, and I hope you take your charge seriously.

Dr. Ed said...

Why is it that Ed's dire forecasts never come true? At one point he had Geryk and the entire school committee headed for indictment!

With Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General, that still well could happen.

Ed, you don't live in Amherst.

Nor does/will Rudy Giuliani....

Dr. Ed said...

Just saw the precinct map that shows which precincts voted yes on 5 and which voted no. Lo and behold the UMass precinct voted no!

I'm not surprised.

Ahem, out of 7,200 total "students" (all ages), 5,500 live on campus and are age 25 and under.

And as 5,500 is a statistically valid sample of 7,200 (and then some), you presume the rest voted the same way.

But this shows why the Electoral College is necessary, and remember that it is a compromise from how the Constitution is ratified (2/3 majority of states, regardless of population). In 1787, the 11 small states feared that MA & VA would run things and hence everything was a compromise between democracy and state's rights.

Imagine if the ARSD Superintendent was instead elected (as Mayors are) -- the three small towns would object to a collective 4-town vote because their votes would be meaningless, while Amherst would object to their votes being diluted if it were considered equal to the other towns. It'd be the same issue with proportional representation on the board, only worse.

OK, now imagine if DC was considered a State and whoever won 26 States became President. Obama would neither have won in 2008 nor in 2012, I'm not so sure that Clinton would have either. On the other hand, if the election was a simple national majority, most of the country would be disenfranchised.

Look at New England -- the four states collectively have 26 electoral votes, of which Ma has 13, and 4/5 pf MA lives inside I-495. While both states extend to the Canadian Border, the majority of both NH & ME lives within 110 miles of Boston.

Hence were these 26 votes determined by one collective 4-state vote, only MetroBoston would matter. Conversely, the only reason why both campaigns cared about Rural Maine, with Donald speaking in Augusta & Bangor, Chelsea in Orono, was because Maine assigns the Congressional District's Electoral Vote to whomever wins the District.

Imagine if the MA General Court was elected on an at-large basis and what that would do to Amherst. That's why it isn't -- and why we don't elect a President by a simple national majority.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, are those numbers just the registered students? With a difference of 100 votes to support, you bet, I'm voting no at TM. And yes those students live all over (not just in the UMass district) off-campus and a large number at Amherst College and Hampshire (where they probably all voted yes).

Anonymous said...

I've heard that a lot of states don't bother to count military votes if the total number of sealed military votes is less than the victors plurality -- i.e. if thetre aren't enough to change anything.

Hence maybe no Hillary majority.

Larry Kelley said...

Anon 12:03 AM

25 years ago when I was a paid professional columnist for the Amherst Bulletin (back when they had dozens of employees) I could rely on reporters, editors, photographers to cover a story and then use that as a basis for my scintillating columns. Because columnists are supposed to express opinion.

Now because the media -- especially print -- has been devastated by the digital age I have to do my own reporting, editing and photography.

People criticize my style but they never accuse me of "printing" false facts.

If you don't like my style then don't read me.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:03 here.

Thank you for your response, Larry. I do not take issue with you having and expressing an opinion. We have again seen the problems associated with false equivalence this election and the notion that journalists do (and should) provide the "view from nowhere." However, good advocacy journalism (and I hope you will accept this characterization and not argue that you are a "neutral" reporter just "putting out facts") is rooted in a commitment to truth.

Truth is a tricky thing, and rational people can interpret it differently. But someone committed to truth should maintain intellectual honesty, which means acknowledging counterfactual information in your advocacy and correcting the record when an error is made.

I'm not posting this to bash you. I believe you are an honorable man who cares deeply about the community. I also respect the challenges you face as a one-man reporting team, and don't expect you to get things right all the time. But it is precisely because news media in the Valley are struggling so much that you are an important actor in our community and why we need you to step up even more to combat misinformation and make sure people are adequately informed -- even when what may be empirically observed runs counter to your own opinion. Please take that as a compliment. I want to read because there are several posts where you do good work. But please also take it as a challenge to be more responsible as a journalist-advocate (and please note the order of the roles) and more committed to honoring intellectual honesty and the truth.

Larry Kelley said...

If more reporters on the national beat acted and reported like me we would have a different President elect today (Bernie Sanders).

Anonymous said...

Well thank goodness more reporters are not like you....but that gives too much credit. The liberals and big gov types drank their own cool aid and forgot that people do not want their lives run by government, I mean people outside of mass don't want their lives run by government. Mass is disconnected from the rest of the country and Amherst is disconnected from Mass. Local opinions are from lala Sanders could be president. Spend some time in real America and you would know that Bernie doea not represent us or what we believe. We do not need to repeat the cold war with us playing the commies.

Anonymous said...

Voting is an artificial process, it simply has rules. Winning the popular vote for pres is meaningless because that is not how you win the election. 51% does not have authority unless everyone gives it authority, it does not make one right or have morals even if you win.

Just remember all the power and rule breaking that was tolerated with Obama, he facilitated the mandated purchasing of things in the private sector and we let him get away with that power is Trumps and America has said it has had it with the liberal agenda and the pc bullshit. I hope Ed is right amd Amherst is taken off federal welfare. We can pay our own way, parents can step up and pay their own way, America can came back from this government run mess, typified by local government here. The Amherst perspective utterly lost this election. Lay off of Ed, he is likely more vested in Amherst than most residents, who are on welfare and want things from everyone and thus this morally gives everyone a say.

Anonymous said...

Precinct 4 has the largest student population and voted YES!

Walter Graff said...

More people voted for all other candidates other than Clinton, so she really did not win a majority of votes, nor support.

Walter Graff said...

"I've heard that a lot of states don't bother to count military votes if the total number of sealed military votes is less than the victors plurality..."

It's a myth spreading around the internet. All votes are counted. Here is the problem thousands and thousands of absentee votes are disqualified in each state because they are not postmarked in time, not signed, or because other info is left off. Since historically 65-35 percentage of absentee votes are Republican-Democrat, more than few hundred thousand absentee votes were disqualified. The military is also traditionally 80% Republican and most elections upwards of 20,000 military ballots are disqualified due to lack of postmark. Clinton's reported "majority" was more than likely not what they say. Then again, if this was a Democracy, NY and California alone would carry each election by votes. That's why we are a Democratic Republic and have an Electoral College.

Walter Graff said...

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, "ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough." Additionally, "an ethical journalist acts with integrity."


If that is the case, then 99% of all journalists, publications, and media outlets in this country have failed the test and should burn their press cards based on the blatant bias in this last election.

Larry is a damn good journalist who lifts stones and finds things no one likes to find. That is when the messenger starts getting shot.

Anonymous said...

Hillary Clinton....Not My President.
Not Anyone's President!