Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Went Digging for the Truth and I Struck a Nerve

This morning's edition of the Indy Star contains the following "rebuttal" to my op-ed piece of Dec 5, which was posted to this blog as well.

Setting some facts straight about parties and voting

I take issue with Ed Angleton's Dec. 5 My View on two counts; his claim that the lesser-qualified candidate was elected Marion County surveyor in November and that straight-ticket voting hurts third-party candidates.
Angleton describes Surveyor -elect Debra Jenkins as an "executive assistant" in the office of the Marion County recorder when in fact she is that office's chief deputy and previously served as office manager.
Jenkins campaigned strenuously for an office that few pay attention to. She communicated a well-thought-out plan for bringing smarter, cheaper government to Marion County at public events throughout the county. In the end, though, she was elected because there are more Democrats in Marion County than Republicans. Of those who did not vote a straight ticket in November, Jenkins still won handily with 56 percent of the vote.
The election figures from Marion County show that, in down ticket races such as coroner and surveyor, Democrats vote for Democrats and Republicans vote for Republicans whether they vote a straight ticket or not. It is unrealistic to imagine that voters are going to spend time researching these races when there are many more important races to consider.
The figures can also be used to make an argument that straight-party voting actually helps third-party candidates. Third-party presidential candidate Bob Barr received a higher percent of his vote total in Marion County from straight-ticket voting than did either John McCain or Barack Obama. Taking away the option of straight-ticket voting would only inconvenience voters and would make no real difference.
Angleton's real beef seems to be with party affiliation rather than straight-ticket voting, and it seems to have a faint odor of sour grapes about it.
Martin Mahern

Let us examine the facts you’re setting “straight”.

1. According to the County Employee database Ms. Jenkins title is “Executive Assistant”.

2. A careful reading of the duties of the County Surveyor would seem to indicate that someone with a background in engineering would be more qualified.

3. The statement that down ticket races are not important enough for voters to research is more than a little condescending. Let’s take the Coroner’s office. When candidates are elected solely on the basis of party affiliation we end up with unqualified office holders, scandal and costly legal judgments. There are NO unimportant races.

4. Perhaps, I was amiss in using results of the Surveyor’s and Coroner’s races as my examples. An examination of the Attorney General’s (AG) race shows the effect much more clearly. In Marion County the Democrat (D) received 160318 votes. The Republican (R) received 152917. Of the 369009 total votes cast for AG, the D got 59%, with 41% for the R. There were 134575 straight ticket votes for the D party, 78480 for the R party. If we subtract the straight ticket votes from the candidate’s totals, we have 81517 for the D and 74437 for the R, or 51% to 49%. The percentage HAS changed indicating a discernable effect due to straight ticket voting.

5. If we look at the Governor’s race we can dispel some of the author’s other arguments. 377648 votes were cast for Gov in Marion County. Conducting a similar analysis as was done for AG, we see that with straight ticket voting the D received 42%, the R 56% and the Libertarian (L) 2%. Subtracting the straight ticket votes the percentages become D 16%, R 81% and L 3%. Did straight ticket voting have a significant impact on the two major parties? Yes. On the third party? No. Using the Bob Barr example is also somewhat disingenuous as Mr. Barr never campaigned in Marion Co., whereas the other two Presidential candidates did.

If straight ticket voting is so important to preserve, why have 34 states done away with it?

As for "the faint odor of sour grapes" remark, there's nothing like a good old fashioned ad hominem attack to finish off what should have been a reasoned and fact based rebuttal.
Ed Angleton

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