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Posts published in “Harris”

Democratic fatigue?

harris

There is evidence that Oregon voters are showing some fatigue over Democratic management of the State.

It appears M97 is going to be defeated. Perhaps handily.

A poll released October 17 conducted for OPB by DHM research shows 48% would vote no while, 43% would vote yes. with only 10% undecided. The cross tabs show that 38% are certain no votes and 30% are certain yes votes. This is consistent with the Survey USA poll released last week showing 44% opposed the measure while 28% supported it with 29% undecided.

The Governors race: The DHM poll showed Brown with a comfortable 46% to 33% lead, but the Survey USA poll showed a tight contest, with Brown leading just 46% to Pierce’s 42%. The DHM poll showed the same level of support for Governor Brown, though still under 50%. The Survey USA poll was conducted October 10-12 while the DHM poll was done October 6-13. That could mean that many undecideds are breaking towards Pierce. However, Brown can easily break the 50% mark by capturing only a few undecideds.

If the race continues to tighten, the wildcard here may be Independent Party candidate Cliff Thomson who is polling at about 4%. Thompson has an eclectic platform including support of a sales tax and reduction of real estate tax (to produce a reliable revenue stream) Support for the marijuana and hemp industry, and returning local control to various State functions. Of course, his voters may also be swayed by the name of the party, promising a break from the Democratic and Republican Party feuds.

With Oregon’s looming fiscal crisis, general voter unhappiness and the fact that Democrats have been in charge of Oregon’s State government for some time, could the 2016 results reflect some Democratic fatigue? There is some data to suggest that could be the case.

In the Secretary of State race, DHM poll shows that Republican Dennis Richardson with 34% and Democrat Brad Avakian with 29%. There are still a lot of undecided voters in that race and a lot of support for various third party and Independent Party candidates. It appears many Democrats and Democratic leaners simply don’t want to vote for Avakian. Avakian has been one of the more partisan candidates this election as well.
Both polls also show that the POTUS candidates are viewed more negatively than positively by Oregonians. Trump is viewed negatively by 66% and Clinton by 54%.
Finally, the DHM poll shows that 44% of Oregonians believe the State is headed in the wrong direction while only 40% believe it’s headed in the right direction.

Maybe the 8 year cycle will manifest itself down ballot

Historically, when a party has held the White House for 8 years, it has a down election cycle. But this is an unusual year in the POTUS race and while many voters were prepared to vote Republican for President this election, given our options, we are going to end up electing a Democrat again.

In State races, particularly in a State like Oregon where Democrats have controlled the State for years, voters may be showing their frustration with the status quo by with holding their votes from Democratic candidates. There is evidence of that in the number of voters opting for third party or alternate candidates not just in the Presidential election, but also in the races for Governor and Secretary of State. While there is no risk that the Governors race will be won by a third party candidate, The Republicans have a great shot at the Secretary of State race, and we should watch the State Houses of Representatives to see if in some of the swing seats the Democratic candidates don’t do as well as they historically have.

And, in races where an Independent Party candidate has a one on one race against either a Democrat or Republican, voter discontent at the status quo -regardless of party – may result in some surprises. In particular I’m watching these races that don’t appear to be on the radar of the main stream media:

House District 17: Incumbent Republican Sherry Sprenger against Sweet Home City Councilperson and Independent Party Jeffrey Goodwin.
House District 23. Independent Jim Thompson running against very conservative incumbent Republican Mike Nearman.
House District 35: Independent Party candidate Jessica Cousineau is running against Incumbent Democrat Margaret Doherty
State Treasurer: This is a three way race between Independent Chris Telfer, career politician Democrat Tobias Read and Republican Jeff Gudman.

With the overwhelming voter registration edge and munificence from the Public Employee Union treasure that the Democrats enjoy, it’s not likely that there will be too many upsets this election. But Trends are important. If the Democratic majority, or total vote, is chipped away this year when Oregon falls over the fiscal cliff in 2017, the Democratic brand will be battered in the next Legislative session. 2018 could be tough for many Democratic incumbents. That could open the door to some modern Republicans or well funded Independent candidates.

The importance of Oregon’s SOS

harris

Since Oregon became a State three Secretaries of State have ascended to Governor when the sitting Governor resigned (1877, 1909 and 2015).

We may be looking at another ascension of the Secretary of State to Governor if Hillary Clinton is elected President.

There’s been speculation in Salem that a President Clinton could tap Governor Kate Brown for a position in her administration. Brown seems a natural fit. She was an early supporter of Hillary. While most Democratic voters were favoring Sanders she came out as a Clinton super delegate.

Like Hillary Clinton, she is wonkish and policy driven. And like Bill Clinton she is one of the most affable and likable pols you will meet. You’ll find few Republicans who actually dislike the Governor. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton will appreciate this balance.

Her trajectory and ambition are similar to Hillary’s. From a USA today profile published the week after she became Governor, former Oregonian cartoonist and grade school classmate Jack Ohman described Brown:

She made friends easily, was an athlete in high school, made good grades and ran for student council, he (Ohman) said.

They met in seventh-grade math class, back when she sported a 'Nixon Now' button ….Brown was a smart, middle-class kid from a small town outside Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Not exactly an ambitious middle class Illinois Goldwater girl, but close. She is an ideal candidate for a high ranking Clinton administration official.

The latest iCitizen poll showed Democrat Brad Avakian with 29%, Republican Dennis Richardson with 26% and 36% undecided. Should Richardson win, Brown may have to decide between a job in Washington DC with the administration of the first woman President, or staying in Oregon to assure Democratic dominance.

The Secretary of State candidates recognize this. They are already running as if they may be governor. A quote from Avakian as reported by the Bend Bulletin: “When folks evaluate who should be their next secretary of state, you should think in terms of that in case it were to happen,” Avakian said of the prospect. “Where do the candidates stand on other positions that you would like to see or not like to see as governor?”

Her decision on whether to accept a DC position could be influenced by the fate of Measure 97, the large tax increase on the November ballot.

Should M97 pass, then Legislative Democrats are going to be calling most of the financial shots in any event regardless of who the Governor is. Brown may feel Oregon Democratic priorities are safe.

However, should M97 fail, then a Republican Governor Richardson would veto any revenue increase or tax reforms that don’t include Republican priorities on issues such as PERS reforms.

Supporters of M97 need to prepare for potential downsides and mitigation should the measure lose. As of today, Avakian has $478,000 in his campaign chest while Richardson has $602,000. A pretty even money race.

What this means is that an ambitious and talented Governor Browns and the powerful backers of M97 (Public employee unions) have an intense interest in the outcome of the Secretary of State race.

While Richardson may have a money edge in his official campaign account, should the Secretary of State race remain tight and the Governors race against Dr. Pierce to remain safely Browns (she currently leads by 12 percentage points), voters can expect to be inundated with negative “independent expenditure” negative ads aimed at Richardson.

Because is the Secretary of State race isn’t just about Richardson v. Avakian. There’s much more at stake for our Governor and the public employee unions who fund the Democratic Party.

Oregon’s new party numbers

harris

August in a presidential year is conventions, parties coming together, voter registration drives and building interest in national elections. So its no surprise that membership in the Democratic and Republican Parties increased in August.

PARTY New: Motor Voter New: Non MV TOTAL
Democratic 1,278 1,829 3,107
Republican 969 1,577 2,546
Independent Party 228 2,033 2,261

What is a real shock here is the continued growth of the Independent Party of Oregon. That's a big number for the IPO, and in raw numbers compares very well with the Democratic and Republican Party gains.

Where is all this IPO growth coming from? While the IPO continues to get about 9% of new motor voters who select a political party, it leads both the Democratic and Republican Parties in adding new party members who weren’t registered through motor voter. These include some new voters but probably more party switchers. This table shows the breakdown of new major party membership as a percentage and by source.

PARTY MV share % Non MV share % Total Share %
Democratic 51.6 33.6 39.2
Republican 39.2 29 32.2
Independent Party 9.2 37.4 28.6

Motor Voters as a group are likely younger voters. If we were to adjust these percentages using just Motor Voter registrants and assumed that NAV’s typically make up 24% of the electorate, the breakdown for new major party members among MVs is:

Democratic: 39%
Republican: 30%
IPO: 7%
NAV: 24%

This isn’t a big difference from the current total registration percentages, though the IPO is doing 2% better.

It’s the non Motor Voters that are the more interesting story. Some of these new members are new voters, but most must be voters switching parties or NAV’s starting to join parties. As the primaries are long over, these new members are not joining any party in order to vote in a Presidential primary. They are joining, or switching, for other reasons.

Where are all these new IPO non MV members coming from? One clue is to compare the shares the parties are earning from Motor Voters and non Motor Voters.

Democratic share drops from 51% of MVs to only 33.6% of non MVs. Drop of 18%
Republicans share drops from 39.2% of MVs to 29% of non MVs. Drop of 10%
IPO share increases from 9.2% of MVs to 37.4% of non MVs. Increase of 28%

When Oregon voters who are being registered through Motor Voter select a party, after normalizing for an historical 24% NAV rate, they are opting to join the major parties in about the following percentages: Democrat 39%, Republican 30%. IPO 7%

In August the new voters who are not registered through Motor Voter, and party switchers, and NAVs who decided to join a major political party are opting for IPO 37.4% of the time, Democratic 33.6% and Republican 29% of the time.

This is a big surge in the IPO membership. It could be the result of this Presidential election, where fairly or not, the Democratic and Republican candidates are two of the least liked nominees in history.

These numbers are a big turnaround for the IPO. Whether its an outlier, or a trend remains to be seen.

What kind of Oregon government?

harris

A panelist for DHM research shared some polling results with me that DHM shares with it’s panelists.

The takeaway is this. A strong plurality of Oregonians say that Oregon needs to go in a more conservative direction. Not conservative mind you just a more conservative direction. This in spite of a 38% to 29% Democratic voter registration edge in Oregon.

Trouble for Governor Brown?

Governor Brown is known to be one of the more liberal members in Democratic leadership. so this could signal trouble. If you assume that those that believe Oregon should head in a more conservative direction are voting or leaning Dr. Bud Pierce for Governor, then Pierce only needs to win one third of the “neither” crowd to win the Governor race.

However that’s easier said than done.

It’s probable that many “neither” voters are Democrats or Democratic leaners happy with the status quo but who don’t want a further leftward drift. So how can Dr. Pierce attract these voters who prefer liberal leaning policies?

He can argue that a more fiscally conservative Pierce administration would act as a “centrist” financial check on a Democratic Party that already holds power in both houses, while voting for Governor Brown would take Oregon even further left by allowing the Democrats to continue their practice of totally ignoring the Republicans and rural Oregon.

In the 1990’s Governor Kitzhaber was faced with a Republican Legislature and he earned the nickname of Dr. No for his frequent use of the veto. A Pierce governorship could be the second coming of Dr. No. using his veto, or threat of veto, to force bi-partisan legislation.

Many Oregonians, and voters nationwide, believe the Democrats and Republicans don’t talk and compromise enough. The “Neither” crowd may appreciate a more fiscally conservative Governor who will force Democrats to build legislative coalitions in order to make their bills veto proof. As long as he can convince the moderately liberal voters that he will not reverse the entire progressive agenda.

Chinese money?

harris

Today The Intercept posted a story about how with the help of the top GOP lawyer on campaign finance, a Chinese Millionaire and his wife used a company called American Pacific International Capital (APIC) to funnel $1.3 million to Jeb Bushes Super PAC. Buried deep in the story however is an Oregon connection.

APIC, which was initially incorporated in Oregon, made contributions between 2010 and 2014 to state and local Oregon politicians, mostly Democrats, totaling about $25,000. The earlier donations include $9,500 given to John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who was elected governor of Oregon in 2010 and 2014 and resigned last year in an unrelated ethics scandal.

The Intercept included a copy of the memo from the GOP Lawyer, Charlie Spies laying out how to launder the foreign money in a way that arguably complies with US law. It appears from the article, that APIC was set up specifically to allow foreigner nationals and their corporations to make unlimited contributions to US politicians using The Citizens United ruling, as well as Mr. Spies legal artifice.

And why did APIC first set up as an Oregon Corporation? Possibly because Oregon has no limits on campaign contributions.

In 2010 through 2012, APIC gave $22,500 to Oregon politicians and causes, including contributions in 2010 of $1,000 to Ted Wheeler and $1,000 to Washington County State Representative Tobias Read. Mr Read is now running as the Democratic nominee for Oregon State Treasurer.

An Oregon poll to watch

harris

(Information about icitizen From their website):

“The icitizen Oregon Poll provides a non-partisan, representative read of public opinion on pressing legislative and social issues in Oregon. This installment of the Oregon Poll examines November general election matchups, key ballot measures, as well as attitudes towards the state, the economy, and personal finances.”

Presidential Race: Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump: It’s 46% Clinton, 32% Trump, and 22% undecided. Clinton has held her base, and is outperforming voter registration by 3%. Independents are split.

Governors Race: While statewide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 11%, Governor Kate Brown leads Dr. Bud Pierce by just seven points. It’s 42% Brown, 35% Pierce, and 23% undecided. However, if you take leaners into account, Brown leads 47% to 37% with 17% undecided. Dr. Pierce beats Brown among independent voters by 10 points but that won’t be enough. If Dr. Pierce is to win he’ll need to change some Brown leaners around because it’s highly unlikely he can win 85% of the undecideds. Brown is weak but at this point Pierce is either going to have to hope for some scandal, or come up with a better reason for his candidacy.

Oregon Secretary of State: Democrat Brad Avakian leads Republican Dennis Richardson in the race for Secretary of State 36% to 32%, with 32% undecided. Avakian is under performing and Richardson is over performing in relation to voter registrations. A full 15% of Democrats, 15% of Republicans and 46% of Independents/Others are undecided. However if the leaners all vote as they lean, and the Republican and Democratic undecideds all vote their party, Richardson would have to win 85% of the independent undecided voters to win.

State Treasurer: This is the big surprise in that it’s anybody’s race. In a three-way race it’s Democrat Tobias Read with 26%, Republican Jeff Gudman at 19% and Independent Party candidate Chris Telfer at 14% with 43% undecided. Adding in leaners and it’s Read with 31%, Gudman with 23% and Telfer with 17% with 29% undecided. Gudman seems very week based on the fact that a full 31% of Republicans are undecided. Assuming those undecided Republicans are considering Telfer, not Read, Telfer could be poised to vault over Gudman and challenge Read if she can establish herself as the Democratic Alternative.

Initiative Position 28 (IP28) which would impose a 2.5% business gross receipts revenues on Oregon sales in excess of $25 million, shows 65% in favor, 19% opposed, and 16% unsure. When voters were provided with messaging in support and against the measure, support went down to 55%. So that should be considered the initial voter support level. Common wisdom is that a tax measure needs 56-57% support initially to have a chance. IP 28 has a chance. If its as close as it appears it could be, this race will suck up a substantial portion of available Democratic donor dollars. Meaning if any of the State wide races becomes more competitive, the Democrat may not be able to count on a late influx of Public employee union funds.

The Race to Watch: State Treasurer. It appears to be the most unpredictable, the highest number of undecideds. There are three viable candidates, and Republican voters could shift support to Independent Telfer unless Gudman gets some traction. Because of the largely non partisan duties of Sate Treasurer, many moderate Democrats may be willing to support a qualified Independent candidate. And, if the anti establishment anger of the electorate continues, it could be a race that voters choose to vent their frustration.

Oregon voter status quo?

harris

“Phase one” of Motor Voter, which registered just the people who had new DMV contact starting January 1, 2016, showed that of those who chose to join a party a majority opted for the Democratic Party. It was thought by some that Motor Voter would be a boon to the Democrats and the data foretold a coming Democratic super majority.

Then “phase two” of motor voter started. In phase two, the Secretary of State went back to 2014 DMV contacts and registered those people as well. Phase two statistics came out this week and they showed that the Republican Party outpaced the Democrats in new motor voter membership.

Of course, only 18,230 of the 206,554 new motor voters (or 8.8%) joined a party anyway, but assuming those that didn’t join a party are either not going to vote, or are fairly represented politically with those that did affiliate with a political party, will motor voter make fundamental changes in Oregon’s political landscape? The answer is no. At least not as between the Democratic and Republican balance (or imbalance) of power.

There is evidence that more voters are opting for the Independent Party or minor political parties. But it’s not a groundswell yet. And there’s no way of knowing if there is an actual groundswell of voters who are going to opt out of party membership, or if the number of non affiliated voters is simply a function of motor voter having separated the act of registration from the act of selecting a political party.

The raw data doesn’t tell us a lot about trends, since it only includes voters who registered with a party under motor voter. And because of the way motor voter works, many more voters remain NAV. Clearly using the pre motor voter and post motor voter NAV numbers is very misleading.

So, In order to normalize the percentages, I went back to pre motor voter registration records and found that the “average” percentage of voters under our old system who chose to remain NAV was 23.4%. Therefore I included an additional 23.4% as NAV’s to accurately reflect that historical average. And here is what we find.

If there is a trend, it’s that the Democratic party is still slightly weakened, and the Independent Party is growing in strength. As a percentage motor voter shows a 30% growth in affiliation for the Independent Party (from 4.9% to 6.4%). However, that rate of growth isn’t reflected in the statewide statistics, since so many motor voters are being registered NAV it will dilute all parties market shares. And the Democratic weakness in new motor voters is likely being offset by the influx of voters who wanted to participate in the historic May Democratic Primary and the November general elections.

Here are the main impacts motor voter will have on voting

More people will be able to vote. We’ll see how many of the phase two motor voters will actually vote in November, but few would argue that having more people vote is a bad thing.
Membership in political parties will plummet over time. Because motor voter divorces the act of registration from the act of selecting party membership, after this historic election, it seems pretty clear that all political parties will shrink in size.
The Independent Party is likely to revert to minor party status after 2020 and some minor parties may be dissolved by State action. Minor and major party status is based in whole or in part on what percentage of total voters a political party represents. With motor voter causing 90% of voters to register as NAV, largely due to separating registration from party selection, we’re going to see total voters spike, and party membership plummet. With 200,000 new motor voters, the IPO would have had to gain 10,000 new members to retain it’s 5% share and major party status. Over the past two months, the IPO has gained less than 1,000 new members. Even though as you can see in the tables above, it’s actually growing at a faster rate as a share of total party voters than the Democratic and Republican Parties.
But here’s the biggest problem. Motor voter will cause a crisis in Oregon Democracy.

Many voters already feel that the political elite don’t listen to them. Now with motor voter reducing the Democratic and Republican membership to their more vocal and active partisans, Oregon’s closed primary system, and safe Democratic and Republican districts, we’re going to have fewer and fewer voters actually deciding our legislative races. And those that remain in the major parties and vote in the partisan primaries are going to more and more consist of the Party’s financial base and the most politically orthodox.

While such a system works in favor of insiders, the financial base, and those already elected to office, it doesn’t lead to faith in our election system.

Sneak peek

harris

Starting July 4th, 2016 (Ironically Independence Day) the Independent Party of Oregon will begin it’s own online presidential preference poll. In addition, the Party is including it’s annual member survey in conjunction with the Presidential poll.

There are three things to note about this poll/survey.

The Presidential poll will include Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. In addition, it will allow voters to chose “None of the above”
The Presidential poll will be done by approval voting, allowing a voter to select all candidates they may be satisfied with. This will allow a voter for example, to vote for Stein, Sanders and Clinton, so that the can select their real favorite without worrying about Trump benefiting from them voting for a minor party candidate.
The vote and even the survey is open to non affiliated voters as well as Independent Party members. This is a true i/Independent preference poll
For the first time, the IPO will be surveying members on social issues.

HERE’S A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE IPO VOTERS PAMPHLET AND THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.

The Pamphlet also has instructions on how both party members and non affiliated voters can participate in the election/survey.

Motor voter, reviewed

harris

The Bus Project, a Democratic oriented get out the vote organization, is extolling the virtues of Motor Voter based on the primary voting results. Their press releases have been picked up by national news organizations and the press is including this misleading graphic.

The graphic is false.

It purports to show the great success of Oregon Motor Voter program and claims that automatically-registered voters had good turnout numbers in the May 2016 Oregon primary election. But it is based on several fundamental errors. And it entirely omits the turnout result for 84% of all Automatic registrants–the non-affiliated voters, of whom only 6% turned out to vote in the primary election (compared with 23% of traditionally-registered non-affiliated voters).

The graph seems to say that a higher percentage of Automatic registrants turned out that Traditional registrants. But, in fact, the overall turnout of the Automatic registrants was 18.7%. The overall turnout of all registrants together was 53.7%. That means that the turnout of the Traditional registrants was in excess of 53.7%. So how could that graph be correct? It is not.

First, the graph for “Independent Voters” is wrong. The numbers graphed are only for members of the Independent Party of Oregon, not for non-affiliated voters — who comprise 84% of all Automatic registrants. So the graph entirely omits 84% of all of the Automatic registrants and bases its conclusions on a population of only 16% of the Automatic registrants–the most politically motivated ones (because they bothered to join a party). In fact those 84% of all Automatic registrants had turnout rates of under 10% for every age category other under 60 (and only 13% above that). All of their turnout rates were about 70% lower than those of Traditional non-affiliated registrants.

Second, and maybe more misleading, even the very limited data on the graph (omitting 84% of all Automatic registrants) is misleading. The “increases” on the graph are in fact very small populations, while the “decreases” are in fact very big populations.

The Republican columns, for example, count as “Automatic” only those few persons who returned the postcard to the Secretary of State, choosing to register Republican. That was only a grand total of 2,671 persons out of 51,558 automatic registrants. (For the Democrats, it was only 4,776.) Yes, those who affirmatively returned the postcard to join a party then usually voted in the primary. But in fact 42,571 of the 51,558 Automatic registrants did not join a party, and the vast majority of them (94%) did not turn out in the primary at all.

And, under the traditional system, those few Automatic registrants do voted in the primary most likely would have registered to vote during the DMV process anyway, when they could also have joined a party. Under the new system, they are not allowed to register and choose and party during the DMV process. The result is that 84% Automatic registrants are not joining parties at all.

The fact is, motor voter probably decreased voting in the partisan primaries.

Through April, about 56,000 people were registered through motor voter, but only about 9,000 took the time to select a party after receiving a postcard from the State informing them they were registered. It’s that decoupling of registration from party registration that is the big flaw in motor voter.

Under prior law (the Federal Motor Voter Act of 1994) DMV was required to ask everyone if they’d like to register to vote. The DMV client was then given a card and they’d fill it out and give it to DMV to send to the elections department. Statistically about 75% of those voters would select a party at that time as well. Lets say that if those 56,000 automatically registered voters had been asked at DMV if they wanted to register, that 25% said yes and filled out a registratin card, and that 75% selected a party designation. That would be 14,000 new voters and 10,500 would have selected a political party and had been eligible to vote in the partisan primary. Remember, under Motor voter, only about 9,000 selected a party.

And while it’s great that many more people will be eligible to vote in November, 90% of the races in Oregon are actually decided in the partisan primary. Democrats are the overwhelming favorites Statewide and in the tri-county deep blue districts. And Republicans are dominant in most rural parts of Oregon.

So, all these new automatically registered motor voters who didn’t have the chance to select a political party may be able to rejoice about voting in November, but for most Oregon races, their vote has little power. In fact, it’s meaningless.

While I believe the intent behind Motor Voter was good, decoupling the act of voter registration from the selection of a political party in a State like Oregon with closed primaries and gerrymandered safe districts could be one of the most undemocratic acts we’ve seen here.

Perhaps the Bus Project should take a closer look at the unintended consequences of Motor Voter and propose some fixes in redistricting, primary reform, or other democracy reforms that would empower the voters that they are so keen on registering.