Scientifically worthless but encouraging turnout data

Lots of voters at my student/yuppie polling place this morning.

When I go to my polling station on San Vicente Avenue in Brentwood (a largely yuppie-and-student area) I usually feel that I should whisper my name to the person checking voters in, so as not to disturb the reverent silence. This morning, there was a crowd, and the officials told me they were way ahead of any normal pace.

If this is just a Prop. 19 effect, maybe the measure has a chance after all. If it’s more general – if Democrats nationally have decided to wake up and smell the tea – then maybe I’m reporting some good news.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

10 thoughts on “Scientifically worthless but encouraging turnout data”

  1. Same experience at my polling place at Lake Merritt in Oakland. There weren't enough booths for everyone, and people were using tables, wall space, and any hard surface they could find to mark their votes. The poll workers said today had been a record turnout for them so far (and it was only 8:30am).

  2. We'll see. Toronto just last week had near-record turnout in its municipal election – certainly way more than a municipal election had drawn in a couple of decades – but mainly to express its anger at the system. The city elected a very angry but otherwise completely unimpressive candidate who channeled suburban outrage at an alleged 'gravy train' and recently imposed taxes (like vehicle registration fees) in a city that has a very hard time balancing a budget.

    So: big turnout in CA may mean that Prop 19 is a draw, but it might mean that there is a lot of anger impelling people to hit the politicians they're mad at. Whether they're mad at the right ones, of course, depends on your point of view.

    I guess the optimistic liberal hopes that the larger turnout means that Democrats are coming out to combat the threat of Republican anger, but it ain't necessarily so. Anyway, we'll know (something) in a few hours.

  3. I am in Brookline, MA, which is a suburb of Boston. It's heavily Jewish, Russian and very liberal. I voted around 10:00am. There were about 15 booths, all but one of which was occupied. I would have expected it to be much less crowded at that time. The local US Congress rep, Barney Frank, has been in the news recently for having an unexpectedly strong opponent. The only people who campaign against him usually are people who can't string together a sentence, or people campaigning in an Uncle Sam suit. The R this year is unexpectedly clean and articulate. Barney is still expected to win by double digits, but he's actually campaigning. I suspect most people in town are turning out to support him.

  4. Reading Mark between the lines:

    Don't Republicans purposely put hot cultural initiatives on the ballot to draw in their voters?

    So are you slyly suggesting here that Democrats put pot initiatives on to lure in hipsters?

    Very shrewd Mark.

    But if we go down that chimney might we get dirty?

  5. Santa Clara CA 9:15 AM

    Very quiet. No line, and when I left only two of the six voting booths in use.

    I would guess the voters I saw went 75 % R to 25 % D — mostly male retirees.

  6. Most polling places reporting low turnout. Prop 19 will thankfully fail by 5-6 points tonight. Dems need to realize that this is not a winner for them in the short or long run.

  7. I dropped off my ballot at 1:00. The polling place looked quiet. Then again, of the 1350-odd voters in my precinct, all but 265-odd vote by mail.

  8. Waiting for the returns is much more scientific than random observations of polling places. And no matter how Dems try to spin it, this is an old fashion ass kicking. Read Dorothy Rabinowitz column in today's WSJ (Why Obama is no Roosevelt) if you want to understand why it's happening.

    Looks like R's gain in the House will be at the high end of predicted range (around 60 seats). Will fall short in the Senate but still gain about 7 seats, give or take. Given incumbents defending in 2012, majority is all but assured then, unless the world undergoes another reversal. Also gaining governorships, statehouses.

  9. I'm tentatively happy with the results. The House was a clear takeover, and in the Senate, they've got enough conservative votes to sustain a filibuster, without a theoretical 'majority' that only exists so long as they keep the RINOs happy. Republicans really function better as an opposition party in the Senate.

    And Feingold is gone, anyone who values freedom of speech has got to love that! A pity McCain is still in there, though…

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