Archive for October, 2010

Reports from Florida

I’m currently in Orlando, one of the largest cities in Florida. A number of very interesting contests are taking place in this area.

In the Senate, Republican candidate Marco Rubio looks set to gain the seat. Rubio is currently leading in the polls over independent (and former Republican) Governor Charlie Crist and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek.

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio

Meek’s numbers have declined from the low 20s to the mid teens. Some polls have had Meek as low as 15. With Meek and Crist’s combined numbers, there would certainly be a chance for Crist to overcome Rubio’s lead. Indeed, stories have emerged that former President Clinton asked Rubio to withdraw in order to give Crist a chance to win.

While that makes sense in the context of a Senate race, it misses the bigger picture. The Democrats are pitted in a fierce contest for Governor and for many other races, including Congressional races and seats in the state legislature. In addition, many Democrats have already cast early ballots, and therefore it isn’t possible for many of those voters to switch. It’s also worth remembering that, despite Crist’s occasional refusal to promote Republican partisan interests, he still served as a Republican governor who moved strongly to the right when he first was challenged by Rubio.

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California in negative spending blitz

As the campaign comes into its final week, the airwaves in California are jampacked with negative campaign ads. While I’ve been in San Francisco and Sacramento, I’ve spent my limited time in front of a television watching negative ads packing the advertising breaks on local television.

A break on the local NBC station in Sacramento an hour ago featured five election ads, including four negative ads. These included a positive ad for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, a negative ad by Brown on his opponent Meg Whitman, a negative ad against Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, an ad attacking the sitting San Francisco District Attorney, and an ad by the Democratic candidate for Insurance Commissioner attacking his opponent for taking money from the insurance industry.

Just yesterday, a forum with Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger was held at a womens’ forum hosted by Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria Shriver in Southern California. Brown and Whitman were asked whether they would commit to pulling their negative ads for the final week. Brown expressed interest, Whitman said no:

It’s actually quite hard to find a lot of the nastiest ads on the candidates’ Youtube pages, but here are a few that I’ve seen on my TV in the last few days.

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Preference experiments growing in the Bay Area

Today I visited the election administration in Alameda County, which covers areas on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, centred on the City of Oakland. One point of interest that I wasn’t aware of is that three of this county’s larger cities will be experimenting with using preference voting (what they have called “ranked choice” voting for city elections such as Mayor and City Council, using it for the first time at next week’s election.

The cities of Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro have all introduced preference voting recently, and it will be used for the first time in 2010.

Voters in the City and County of San Francisco have been using preference voting for local elections since a ballot initiative in 2002.

The system is similar to optional preference voting in Australia, except preferences are limited to three options, due to the system of scanning and counting ballots which is necessitated by the dozens of electoral contests to be counted at each election. The ballot design is also very different.

Attached below is a copy of the leaflet showing how US ballot papers are designed in order to conduct a preference ballot that can be read by a machine. Click to enlarge the image.

California in referenda battle over redistricting

I’m currently staying in San Francisco, visiting for the US midterm elections. California is a more interesting state than you would normally expect for such a Democratic state at this year’s midterm elections. You have a highly competitive gubernatorial race, a strong Republican challenge to a three-term senator, and a ground-breaking referendum on legalising the use of cannabis.

Yet there is another fascinating contest going on, where the majority Democratic establishment is pitted against a grassroots movement for electoral reform.

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Heading to the United States

Later today I will be heading to San Francisco for the final week of the US midterm elections. I plan to blog while I am over there, as well as writing a couple more pieces for Crikey on top of three already written.

I have been working hard this week to write as many seat profiles as possible for the Victorian state election. I have now produced profiles for 48 out of 88 Legislative Assembly districts and all eight Legislative Council regions.

I’ve finished profiles for all seats in the Northern, Western and Southern Metropolitan regions, as well as all seats with margins under 4%. I have another 11 maps ready to go so I may finish a few more off when I get the chance.

If you want to comment on a seat for which I haven’t written a profile, I suggest posting the comment on the Legislative Council profile for that region.

Victorian politics update

You may have noticed that there has not been any new posts on the blog for the last two weeks. I have taken a break from posting on the front page of the blog for the next two weeks. I am currently writing my guide to the Victorian state election.

If you visit the work-in-progress Victoria 2010 guide, you can read guides to 21 of Victoria’s 88 Legislative Assembly electorates. I have completed guides for all eleven seats in the Northern Metropolitan region, and ten of eleven in the Southern Metropolitan region, while I have another 23 booth maps ready to go.

In two weeks time I will be heading to the United States for the midterm elections, so I will be focusing on the Victorian election for now before returning to blogging while I am overseas.

In addition, I have prepared a Google Earth map showing the draft boundaries that have been proposed for Victorian federal electorates for the next election. The final boundaries will be released later this year, but you can download the draft boundaries from my maps page.