Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Strange Case of San Diego’s: Lazy Independents, Self Destructive Minutemen, and Closet Libertarian, Voters

In a previous post (see: “Something Smells Fishy in San Diego”, June 10 post on www.baiman.blogspot.com ), I noted that the official returns for the Run-Off Election and Primary for the 50th Congressional District in San Diego conducted on June 6 – the Busby / Bilbray race, are very odd.

This was an election held on the same day, in the same polling places, in which voters could vote in a particular party Primary (Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Peace and Freedom) and vote for a candidate for the upcoming November 2006 general election for the seat, and also vote for the Special Run-Off election to fill that seat until November. I’ve been told that under California law, Voters can “Decline to State” a party preference and get a Democratic, Republican, American Independent Party, or Non-Partisan (with no Primary Candidates) ballot, but are required to register for other parties (Libertarian or Green for example) if they want to vote in one of these Primaries. Candidates for the Run-Off election had already nominated in a previous April 11th Special election.

According to the official returns ( All figures are from the San Diego Registrar of Voters website: http://www.sdvote.org/election/primary.xml as of from June 13, 2006 16:54:56 100% of precincts reporting) about 35% of the difference between total Primary and Run-Off votes (7,587 out of 21,698) went to Libertarian (1,858) and Independent (5,729) candidates. In the Primary the same Libertarian candidate received 579 votes (a Peace and Freedom candidate who was not in the Run-Off received 75). Total vote in the Primary was 131,072, which was 21,698 fewer votes (14% less) than the Run-Off total vote count of 152,770.

I find the following hard to understand:

a) Exceedingly Lazy Independents? As California has an “open Primary” system for the Republican and Democratic Primary, why would so many voters not bother to vote in Democratic or Republican Primary but vote for the Democrat Busby (12,684) or Republican Bilbray (1,427) in the Run-Off when all they had to do was request a Democratic or Republican ballot to vote in the Primary for the same candidates. They could continue to “Decline to State” and not be registered for either party thus maintaining their status as “Independents”. Since they were already at the polling place anyway, all that was required was to fill out another circle, or one more punch! Moreover, these folks obviously had a preference as they voted for Busby or Bilbray for the Run-Off. Why would 14,111 voters actively request to restrict themselves to one vote for their Candidate when they could vote twice for that candidate (in two separate elections) with virtually the same effort?

(Author's note: since writing this, I've been informed by several people that poll workers in California, in violation of the law, often do not inform voters of the "decline to state" Primary voting option and that many (or most?) Independents don't request Primary ballots. This could, at least partially, explain the discrepancy in total vote count between the Run-Off and the Primary.)

b) Self Destructive Minutemen? According to a June 7, 2006 article in the San Diego Union Tribune (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/politics/20060607-0052-7n7duke.html ) Republican candidate Bilbray said that:

“His long focus on Immigration would pay off in the race against Busby…”.

The article goes on to state that the U.S. Senate Bill on immigration that includes a path to citizenship along with stronger enforcement, supported by Busby, which is also supported by John McCain:

“…led to an awkward situation for Bilbray, who has said the bill would lead to “amnesty.” McCain and others dispute that characterization and McCain canceled a scheduled appearance at a Bilbray fundraiser last week, though he said he continued to support the Republican candidate.

Bilbray supports the harder-line House immigration bill, focused exclusively on enforcement, and has said he favors building a fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico

How much more hard-line on immigration can you get?

See also a May 30th New York Times article on this at: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/05/31/news/top_stories/18_30_275_30_06.txt

Why would any anti-immigration voter want to potentially cause this guy to lose to Busby in an exceedingly tight race of such prominent national significance in order to cast a pretty meaningless (given that Bilbray already supported their issue) protest vote for an “even more anti-immigrant” candidate like Griffith? I can understand that there might be a small number of really irrational and virulently anti-immigrant voters, but 5,804 in one Congressional District seems extraordinarily high!

(Auther's note: Here again, I've heard from friends in San Diego (and subsequently have done more research confirming this) that Griffith had "gays, guns, and abortion" appeal as a staunch Mormon Conservative. He got the endorsement of the "American Independent Party" (AIP) as well as the "Minutemen". Though he only got about 1,100 votes in the April Special Primary election and reportedly only spent about $2,000 of his own money on the June 6 Run-Off election, he may have picked up votes from conservative Republicans who supported Roach, a mulimillionaire who barely lost to Bilbray in the April Primary. This all adds up to possibly a larger than normal third party vote for Griffith (see: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060529/news_1m29jenkins.html).

Griffith also probably picked up AIP votes (who appear to be socially conservative Libertarians - see their web site) which would make sense, as they endorsed him and did not run a Candidate in the Run-Off. )

c) Closet Libertarians? A similar question, why would so many Libertarians vote in the Run-Off (2,437) and not bother to vote in the Primary (where only 579 voted) when they're already at the election site to do so? It seems to me that one would, if anything, expect the opposite - why risk being a "spoiler" (if one has any preference among the major candidates) when you can register a no-risk protest vote in the Primary and you're already there to do it? At the very least, it seems to me, these numbers of votes should be roughly equivalent, as surely a Libertarian who would risk tipping such closely fought race to one or another of the major party candidates doesn’t care which of the major candidates wins! These would therefore be the strongest Libertarians who would also want to make a statement for their party in the Primary. The “Closet Libertarian” argument that massive numbers of Libertarians might “Decline to State” in the Primary but vote Libertarian in the Run-Off doesn’t fit my own personal experience with Libertarians at all. The Libertarians that I know are not at all shy about their views and want to publicize them wherever and whenever possible. There may be some who are worried about confidentiality and thus may decline to register as a Libertarian but it seems odd that more than 76% (1,858 out of 2,437) of the Libertarians in San Diego would be these kind of “closet Libertarians”! This argument might be muted by a counter scenario of a Libertarian “Declining to State” so that they could vote in the Democratic or Republican primary rather than the Libertarian Primary for the one Libertarian candidate. But again, it is hard to imagine a large number of Libertarians who would be this concerned about the Democratic or Republican primary, and then go and cast a potential “spoiler vote” for the Libertarian candidate in such a tight Run-Off election.

(Author's note: I've been contacted by Libertarians who strongly object to my analysis. They claim that historically Libertarians and third parties have always received many more votes in General elections than in Primaries and that these are mostly "none of the above" (NOTA) votes. I have no question that this has been true for many (mostly uncontested) general elections for Congress in the 50th that did not also include Primary elections. Only highly committed Libertarians would bother showing up to vote for the single Libertarian candidate in a Primary. The difference here of course that you don't have to make a special trip to vote in the Primary, and if you're voting for King in the Run-Off, why not vote for him again in the Primary? On the other hand, if these are NOTA voters who are "Libertarian Independents" - weak Libertarians who just don't bother, or don't care to, vote in a Libertarian Primary, this could make sense.)

My views are colored by the fact that in Ohio and elsewhere one of the scams was to reorder the counting so that votes were shifted to third parties. This makes vote fraud harder to detect as total counts remain the same. In this case this might have included shifting Busby votes from the primary to the Run-Off so that the “surge” in third party vote in the Run-Off would not look too outlandish. Maybe Griffith was even in on the deal – this would certainly be rational for a “minuteman” candidate given Bilbray’s positions. Who knows? Anything is possible these days. (I’m just speculating here, I have no evidence for any of these hypotheses.)

In fact, based on numbers alone, the third party and Independent vote share in 2006 Run-Off of 5.39% is roughly equivalent to the third party vote for the 50th CD General Election in 2004 of 5.0%. The difference is that in 2004 there was no real chance of a Busby victory and no national spotlight. Cunningham won by 58.5% to Busby’s 36.5%. Moreover, a good share of the third Party vote was for a left leaning party that did not run in the 2006 Run-Off (Green 2.2%), probably because they did not want to be “spoilers” in such an important election. This begs the question of where did the 5,804 militant - to the point of being willing to "shoot them selves in their own foot" - Griffith voters come from?

I thank blogger Michael Daniels and fellow election analyst Richard Hayes Phillips for continuing to push me to recognize the importance of the “Lazy Independents” issue. I also thank an anonymous blogger for making me rethink the case of the "closet Libertarians".

These kinds of results don’t pass the “smell test” for me. They may be accurate and there may be an explanation for them (I’m not a expert on San Diego politics), but given all the other problems of illegal procedure and inexplicably varying absentee/provisional ballot numbers (see www.bradblog.com ), I strongly urge a recount of this election!

(Author's note: I have to admit that given the explanations that I have received since posting this, there are plausible explanations for the San Diego official overall Run-Off election results.)


Blogger Ron said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


From the San Diego website:

What would the standard deviations look like if you compared the total Libertarian vote for:

Assembly races (combined total)
Congressional races (combined total)
Congressional races (without CA-50)

M.A. Daniels

2:09 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Sorry anonymous!

I had "second thoughts on that one!"

8:53 PM  
Blogger Ron said...


The problem is that in 2006 these are all Primary vote counts so they're not comparable at all.

In the situation in the 50th, I just don't get why most Libertarians wouldn't want to vote in both elections!

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would a Libertarian vote in an uncontested primary race?

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would 12,825 voters actively request to restrict themselves to one vote for their Candidate when they could vote twice for that candidate (in two separate elections) with virtually the same effort?

It's the reverse. In California, a DTS voter has to actively request a partisan ballot, otherwise he or she is given a nonpartisan ballot. Most DTS voters do not know this, which is why few DTS voters do it.

In fact, pollworkers are specifically instructed not to tell DTS voters this. The CA Secretary of State circulated a memo to all registrars in the State with that directive. I am not sure if that is the SoS's interpretation of state law, or if it is spelled out in state law that a voter must make the active request.

Another concern is that it could be construed as electioneering to tell DTS voters that they can vote in the primaries of other parties.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since they were already at the polling place anyway, all that was required was to fill out another circle, or one more punch!

You are wrong. They have to know, in advance of going into the polls, that they have they option of selecting a partisan ballot. The information on this is not very visible in the polling place. It's like the pollworkers say, "would you like to vote in the Democratic, Republican, American Independent, or no Primary?"

A DTS voter signs in and they are given a nonpartisan ballot, unless the DTS voter interjects and requests a ballot from one of those three parties.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A similar question, why would so many Libertarians vote in the Run-Off (2,201) and not bother to vote in the Primary (where only 536 voted) when they're already at the election site to do so?

Because their Primary was uncontested.

Do your research.

There were 582 registered Peace & Freedom voters in the election, and only 75 votes cast in their Primary (which they had no choice but to vote in). Is it because only 13% of P/F'ers voted? I doubt it. P/F'ers are politically active. It's because their Primary was uncontested.

Same goes for Libertarians, only in their case they voted in their uncontested Primary in higher numbers than the P/F'ers did. 579 out of 2232 registered Libertarians voted in their uncontested Primary. I can easily see that accounting for 1600 or more of the 2400 ballots cast for the Libertarian in the runoff, given that Libertarians are extraordinarily politically active and so very likely to turn out. And if not, there are probably a hell of a lot of DTS voters that don't care either way between D & R and so wanted to cast a protest vote.

This is my last post. Thanks.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Ron said...


Thanks again for all of your posts!

If poll workers don't tell folks that they can vote in a Dem or Rep primary as a "Decline to State" voter this may explain the 14,111 "excess" vote for Busby or Bilbray in the Run-Off that did not show up in the primaries. What's striking to me is that my understanding is that this system has been in place in California for a while - so most people should know about this option regardless of what poll workers tell them - especially if they've been voting "Independent". Basically, I have no way of know whether the "poll workers don't tell them" is an adequate explanation or not, and I don't know if anyone does - so I'm leaving as a question.

Regarding the Libertarians - again, maybe they simply don't vote in the Lib primary because its uncontested but using the same logic, why do they bother to vote in the Run-Off when they know there is no chance that a Lib will get elected? The whole point of voting Libertarian is make a protest statement regardless of immediate outcome. If one can do this twice with no extra effort - why not? Also, as I said its hard for me to understand why they would bother voting in a Dem or Rep primary when they are so indifferent as to whether a Dem or Rep wins that they're willing to risk a "spoiler" vote in the Run-Off?

The same goes for the Peace and Freedom registration versus primary vote. Not voting in a P&F primary because its uncontested doesn't seem like the kind of calculation a P&F voter would be following!

And we're still left with the question of the "Griffith upsurge"
of over 5,800 voters? Why and where did these people come from? Are there really that many irrational "minutemen" in San Diego?

There are just too many funny voting patterns going on here in my view.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

Also anonymous,

I don't think registrations are that useful for this kind of analysis and particulary for this unique election. P&F didn't have a "protest" vote option in the Run-Off, possibly by design. In any case registrations are notoriously inaccurate and so its hard to draw any conclusions based on numbers of "registrants", especially for a small third party. I did some analysis of Dem and Rep registration and turn-out (see spreadsheet linked to previous post) but didn't end up using any of it.

Best, Ron

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Released Jan. 27, 2007, in an online article with datasets:

OHIO 2004: 6.15% Kerry-Bush vote-switch found in probability study

Defining the vote outcome probabilities of wrong-precinct voting has revealed, in a sample of 166,953 votes (1 of every 34 Ohio votes), the Kerry-Bush margin changes 6.15% when the population is sorted by probable outcomes of wrong-precinct voting.

The Kerry to Bush 6.15% vote-switch differential is seen when the large sample is sorted by probability a Kerry wrong-precinct vote counts for Bush. When the same large voter sample is sorted by the probability Kerry votes count for third-party candidates, Kerry votes are instead equal in both subsets.

Read the revised article with graphs of new findings:

The 2004 Ohio Presidential Election: Cuyahoga County Analysis
How Kerry Votes Were Switched to Bush Votes


PowerPoint: http://jqjacobs.net/politics/vote_switching.ppt

10:54 AM  

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