Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2012): US House

Continuing with Cheshire's election history since 1979, I offer the history of our Congressional elections. For all of this time, we've been a part of the US House's 5th Congressional district or CT-5.

You'll notice that for the CT-5 I've included both non-major parties and "blank" votes.  And I feel it's worth noting that a good amount of non-major party votes include cross-endorsements for major party candidates, such as 900 votes for Chris Murphy in 2008 on the Working Families party line.

And as we write the history books on Cheshire politics, as I've mentioned before, in 2005 Chris Murphy went to Rahm Emanuel and asked for money to run against then-incumbent Congressman Nancy Johnson. When Rahm asked for evidence that the CT-5 was winnable, Murphy pointed to electoral trends in Cheshire, such as party affiliation.

Murphy got the money and it appears to me that recent history has proved Chris Murphy's assertions to be true.

For the source data on this graph, click here.

Tim White

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A day in the life: The doors of Cap Haitien

Haiti's main city is Port-au-Prince. PAP is the capitol and the heart of Haiti. It can seem like an entirely different world from the rest of Haiti. Sometimes PAP is even called the "Republic of Port-au-Prince." :)

There are other cities in Haiti though. The second biggest city in Haiti is Cap Haitien. I had the chance to visit in August 2011. Although my main draw to Cap Haitien was the awe-inspiring Citadelle, what I found was... in its own way... enchanting. I give you...

The doors of Cap Haitien!

I love the colors...

especially the pastels...

Look... Donald and Mickey are everywhere!

This is a lottery stall of sorts. It's one of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of such gambling halls across Haiti.

And again... those beautiful Caribbean pastels.

Tim White

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cheshire election history (1974 - 2011): Party affiliation

I'm guessing that this trend line is imperfect. The dip in unaffiliated voters around 1987 is probably too big. But as I've said, while this data is a fair representation of the election trends over the past few decades, it's also imperfect. Anyway, the large margin of registered Rs over registered Ds is correct for thirty years ago. And that voter registration margin did shrink until around 2006 when the Dems pulled even with the GOP in registration and soon pulled ahead.

I looked at graphing the four Council districts, as well as the seven precincts, but have decided against publishing them. They just don't make much sense because the year-on-year data is inconsistent. And that became evident in several ways, including the decennial redistricting.

So you should be able to see my source data (by year, by precinct) by clicking here, but I'm not convinced that you'll see anything particularly interesting in the trends. Also, the date of measurement was inconsistent from year to year.  The date of measurement for most years happened in January, but that's not the case for every year.

One note of interest for me is a story I heard back in early 2006. As then-state Senator Chris Murphy was looking build his campaign warchest, he went to Rahm Emanuel and asked for funding. When The Godfather asked for evidence that then-Congressman Nancy Johnson was beatable and the CT-5 was winnable, Murphy used Cheshire as the prime example of how the CT-5 was trending Democratic. Based on this trend, it appears Chris Murphy was correct.

Also, the election records for party affiliation happen to date back to 1974, not 1979.  So we have a bit more data for this trend.  And going back to 1974 was of interest to me.  It was the most recent year in which I found a precinct in which the plurality of voters was affiliated with a major party.  In the 6th District in 1974, there were 279 Rs, 276 Us and 123 Ds.  Since then, I believe unaffiliated voters have represented either a plurality or majority of the voters in every precinct.

Tim White

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): CEO totals

Since the President and Governor are only elected quadrenially, I'm posting their Cheshire election trends together. Although I graphed them separately, I found them to have a very interesting relationship.

Can you guess what that relationship is?

Anyway, here are the election results for POTUS. As you can see, for the past few Presidential elections, both the D and the R have received votes in the range of 7000 to 8000:

With regard to the "other" votes, the lion's share of those Presidential votes belonged to John Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, and Pat Buchanan in 2000.

And here are the election results for Governor. What I find fascinating is that for the past few elections, the GOP candidate for Governor has received about 7000 to 8000 votes. Yet the Democratic candidate for Governor has received 3000 to 5000 votes:

Similar to the elections for POTUS, most of the "other" votes in the Gubernatorial elections went to a small number of candidates. And both of the two major Gubernatorial vote recipients belonged to A Connecticut Party, represented by Lowell Weicker in 1990 and Eunice Groark in 1994.

Now to recap:

Republican -- 7000 to 8000 votes
Democrat -- 7000 to 8000 votes

Republican -- 7000 to 8000 votes 
Democrat -- 3000 to 5000 votes

In other words, this suggests that low turnout elections favor Republicans... while high turnout elections favor Democrats. So in a way, this suggests that there was a logic to the 2012 Democratic argument that Republicans were trying to suppress the vote. And this just happens to be Cheshire. We haven't been central to any Presidential general election in decades. Yet the logic holds true.

WRT "blank votes" I did not include them here.  For the most part, there are generally very few blank votes for Governor or President.  And for my source data on the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections, click here.

Tim White

A day in the life: The kids at St. Pierre School

Here are some pix of the kids at a school that is sponsored by HHF.

Me with the kids:
Here's a result of the poverty. Injuries may not get treated:
Eating candy that I had bought for the kids:

And here are some of the kids playing just outside the school. I don't recall with certainty, but I'm guessing I probably took these pix on a Saturday or Sunday when I often went for a walk around town:

Tim White

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cheshire election history: ballot placement matters

One election issue I had pondered in the past:

Does ballot placement matter?

In particular, I wondered if it mattered for at-large Council candidates.  So I analyzed this question by summing the votes for each of the Council at-large candidates for each of the past 17 elections.  My sum totals for each column included Ds and Rs, but excluded other parties, that would probably appear in the 1st column.

The total votes for all 17 elections for each column, including the D and the R:

1 - 114,626
2 - 108,608
3 - 109,602
4 - 111,590
5 - 83,638

And for the 17 elections, both Ds & Rs ran at least four candidates each.  However, five of the elections did not have a fifth candidate in one or two parties.  Of those 34 slots, 27 slots were filled with at-large candidates.  Five times the Dems ran four AL candidates.  Two times the GOP ran four AL candidates.  I used these two values (34 & 27) to calculate the average number of votes per "candidate column."

To review my data, you can see my source data here.

The average number of votes for each at-large candidate in each column was:

1 - 3,371
2 - 3,194
3 - 3,224
4 - 3,282
5 - 3,098

Nowadays, the ballot placement occurs by a drawing in the Registrar's Office.  Back in the 1980s, the ballot placement was alphabetical.  If we assume that a random drawing and alphabetical placement are similar, then I would think that the votes received by each column would be close to similar.  But that's not the case.

My conclusion is that ballot placement matters.  If you get placed in the 1st column, you are almost certain to draw additional votes -- perhaps 100 to 300 votes -- that you would not have received if you appeared in a later column as an at-large Council candidate.

Tim White

Federal investigation of legislature demonstrates need for LCO 304 (subpoena power)

Daily Ructions is continuing their reporting on the federal investigation into corruption in the Legislature's administrative arm:

A federal investigation of corruption at the state legislature had bureaucrats scrambling last fall to obtain legal representation for the Legislative Commissioner’s Office (LCO) and, weeks later, the Executive Director of the Office of Legislative Management (OLM) after Attorney General George Jepsen “declined to represent” the legislative offices...

Documents obtained by Daily Ructions reveal that those bureaucrats have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep information from taxpayers about the actions they are taking to protect the interests of their agencies and themselves at significant public expense.

You can read the rest of Kevin Rennie's story here.

I'm glad Rennie is following this, but I'm also glad that Rep. Al Adinolfi and Sen. Joe Markley introduced this session's legislation -- LCO No. 304:


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That the general statutes be amended to authorize a state's attorney to issue a subpoena compelling a person to appear and testify or produce property necessary and relevant to an investigation into the possible commission of a crime.

Even if this legislation only applied to legislators, I'd be thrilled. Following the Donovan scandal, the legislature has demonstrated the need for someone to police them. Why leave the policing to only federal investigators? State investigators should also have the tools to go after corrupt politicians.

Tim White

Monday, January 21, 2013

Adinolfi and Markley introduce "subpoena power" legislation

As I mentioned last month, State Rep. Al Adinolfi and State Sen. Joe Markley have introduced legislation to restore subpoena power to Connecticut's State's Attorneys.

The crux of my concern is that Connecticut has a significant amount of corruption that gets investigated by federal authorities, rather than state authorities. (Think: Rowland, Newton, Giordano, Deluca, Ganim, etc.) And the reason it's typically the feds is that state investigators lack certain authorities, such as subpoena power, that are generally granted to federal investigators.

This lack of investigative ability first came to my attention in 2007 when I read this NYTimes editorial. And nothing has changed since then, as indicated in this December 28, 2012 Courant editorial:

We support any new effort to grant investigative subpoena power to state prosecutors.

Why do federal prosecutors crack most high-profile white-collar-crime cases in Connecticut — such as the Rowland scandal and the ongoing investigation into Chris Donovan's congressional campaign committee? Because they can compel testimony.

Give state prosecutors the tools to do the job.

And if you want to track the progress of this bill, click here.

Tim White

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy 7th birthday to TWL!

Happy birthday TWL! You were born seven years ago today.

Town of Cheshire advocates gun control

Earlier this week, a state wide organization named the CT Conference of Municipalities (CCM) voted to endorse their view of gun legislation.  You can see the 13 measures by clicking here.

Cheshire is a member of CCM. And IIRC, the town pays around $10,000 to $20,000 annually to be a member of CCM.  So you may wonder if CCM is worth the cost to the taxpayers?

Well, there certainly is some value IMO.  For example, when I was on the Council I used them several times for aggregation of data on municipalities for comparison purposes. One instance that comes to mind relates to my investigation of the use of Defined Benefits vs. Defined Contributions Pension Plans by municipalities.

Anyway, the MRJ is reporting that there was overwhelming support for CCMs proposed legislation. Among those in favor of the bill was the Cheshire representative to CCM, Town Manager Michael Milone.

As the MRJ reports:

Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone was among the CCM members who voted in favor of the gun control measures. “I think that they were very reasonable,” he said.

My question for the Council:

Did you publicly, or privately, either individually or collectively, direct the TM to advocate for this?

I'm pretty sure that the Council has not deliberated gun control.  It's really a state issue.  Hence, CCM is advocating for state legislation.

However, if five (or more) Council members individually contacted the TM, then I can understand why the TM voted as he did.  But if that's the case, I feel those Council members should share those views with the public.  And if there were not at least five Council members who encouraged the TM in this manner, then there's an entirely different issue that should be addressed.

Tim White

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cheshire election history: Vote total averages among boards

I wasn't sure what I wanted to represent with the BOE and PZC. It's not uncommon for either party to run only two -- or even just one -- candidate for either of these two boards. Complicating the review of PZC election results is the fact that much of the history does not indicate if PZC candidates were for six, four or two year terms.

If it's an election for a partial term, it's usually a one-on-one race. Such races have different results from at-large races. As such, I concluded that I wasn't going to be able to find any useful trends in the BOE and PZC election results. Nonetheless, I did wonder about one thing...

For which board are people most likely to cast ballots? Do some people vote for Council at-large, then "blank" PZC at-large?

The following graph is an indication of the average amount of votes cast for each board (Council, BOE & PZC), regardless of party:Based on this graph, it appears that the board with the most stability in votes is the Council. Often receiving more votes than the Council, but in a relatively volatile fashion, is the BOE. And generally voters cast the fewest ballots for PZC. The one major exception to PZC happened in 2011. That's probably a result of the GOP running only one six year candidate: Woody Dawson.

For reference, I've added the results for 1979 to 2011 here. You should see spreadsheet tabs near the bottom of the screen. As well, when you look at the PZC tab, you should look at Column C. This was my best guess as to the office for which each candidate was running. Sometimes the office was noted in the Election Records. But at other times, no indication was given about the particular seat. For example, 1999 saw nine Republicans running for various PZC seats. Three of those seats were PZC alternates, but the records I reviewed gave no clear indication about the other six candidates and whether they were running for six, four or two year terms.

Hope you find the BOE and PZC election results interesting!

Tim White

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): Council at large

And here are the trendlines for Council at-large results. The first trend line is the average number of votes received by the at-large candidates for each party:

The second trend line is the average number of votes received by the at-large candidates for each party as a per cent of all voters: I'm running similar trends for BOE & PZC.

With regard to analyzing "blank" votes, I spent an hour or so trying to figure out a logical approach. But the nature of at-large races made it difficult for me to create a visual or graphic with any sort of relevance. I'm sure there's something that could be created, but I don't have the time to get my hands around it. So I'm simply offering these graphs, along with my source data. If you click thru to this google doc, you'll now find results for:

1) Council districts by precinct
2) Council at large by precinct
3) Council at large totals by candidate by ballot order

The most surprising thing to me was the result of the 1979 election. Dem candidates received the highest and 3rd highest vote totals. GOP candidates took 2nd, 4th and 5th place. So the election was, IMO, much closer than the 6-3 Republican victory might indicate.

Interesting to me are the 1979 Republican vote totals. In 5th place, Lagervall received 3051 votes, while Ferraro received 3049 votes. If my data are correct, Al Ferraro lost his 1979 election by only two votes. He then ran -- and won handily -- in the 4th District in 1981.

Anyway, I hope you find this interesting!  I'll continue adding the source data to the same google doc for easier reference.  And if anyone is a wiki user, feel free to link it to the Cheshire wiki page... or maybe I'll get around to it at some point.

Tim White

A day in the life: My deserted Caribbean beach

I just realized that I posted my old Haiti blogs in the wrong order. Oh well. :)

Now I offer you some pix of our approach to this island that was just a short way offshore of Haiti. And this is the same beach where we met our local fisherman.

The water was simply gorgeous:
Some of the views here were striking:
And the unusual flowers were beautiful:

And our fisherman and his son approached shore:

Tim White

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): District 4

If Cheshire's 1st District and 2nd District are the most GOP-leaning districts in town and the 3rd District is the swing district, then the 4th District is the Democratic-leaning district.

Of the 17 local elections I reviewed, the district election results are as follows:

1st - 5 Rs with 15 wins, 1 D with 2 wins
2nd - 5 Rs with 12 wins, 2 Ds with 5 wins
3rd - 3 Rs with 7 wins, 4 Ds with 10 wins
4th - 3 Rs with 6 wins, 4 Ds with 11 wins

I know these elections are a relatively small part of all of our elections. But this same trend goes far beyond Council District elections. I believe it's a good indicator of how the districts tend to vote in other elections, such as Council at-large, as well as state and federal elections.

And here's the trend line of election results for the 4th District, including "blank" votes:In this period, there have been three elections in which the winner failed to break the 50% margin. But it's highly unlikely that in either the 1983 or 2001 races, that if the blank votes had been cast for a candidate, then the race would have broken differently.

On the other hand, many of you will remember the 2011 race. After an initial tie at 797 votes each, a recount was performed and two "voice" votes were discovered. So the election was decided by a two vote margin, but there were 74 blank votes. This was the closest Council District election from 1979 to 2011... though I think one Council at-large seat was also decided by two votes in the early 1980s.

And the actual results for the past 17 elections in the 4th District are: For a complete -- and largely accurate, though unaudited -- history of Council District election results from 1979 to 2011, click here.

Tim White

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A day in the life: Conch anyone?

I just noticed that I have some unpublished blog posts from Haiti. These are some pix I took when I visited the Karst Country town of Pestel and got a boat to head about a mile offshore to a largely deserted island: Cayemite.

The local fisherman was selling his very fresh catch. Some of it, such as conch and fish, I had tried in the past. But other stuff, such as sea cucumbers, just wasn't very appealing to me....

He showed us how to open a conch:

Then he showed us the conch:Until then, I had never seen a live conch... just cubed or deep fried. And that claw they have... wow. They're pretty tough little critters.

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): District 3

Over the past 17 elections, Cheshire's 1st District has elected six different representatives. Five were Republicans spanning 15 elections and one was a Democrat winning two elections.

Over the same period, Cheshire's 2nd District has elected seven different representatives. Again, five were Republicans. But the 2nd has elected two Democrats. The GOP won twelve elections, while the Dems won four times.

Whether you're looking at election results or party affiliation, the 1st and 2nd are generally the most Republican-leaning districts in town.

Now comes the 3rd District. Keeping in line with the 1st and 2nd Districts, the 3rd has elected seven representatives over the period. But the third is different. With 4 Dem and 3 R Council members, ten elections going to the GOP and seven going to the Democrats, the 3rd is Cheshire's swing district.

When Election Night arrives, the 3rd District Council at-large results are where I look. It's the "bellweather" for the town.

Hopefully I can show you party affiliation for the 3rd District soon... though I was having problems graphing it tonight. Regardless, here's the trend line for the 3rd District's Council elections. As I mentioned in the previous posts, it's the 2003 race that I find interesting... a close race that makes clear the importance of Get Out The Vote efforts.

Tim White

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): District 2

Following my previous post on the 1st District's election results from the past few decades, I now offer you the trend and results for the 2nd District:
Unlike the 1st District, the 2nd District has not had any elections in which the winner has received less than 50% of the total potential votes. Though 1997 did see it's own unusual situation.

In 1997, 18% of the voters chose to cast no ballot, despite the fact that there was both a Democrat and a Republican on the ballot. Among the other three districts -- for the 30+ years covered -- no race exceeded an 11% blank rate, except in uncontested races.*
Finally, I've prettied up the data I pulled from the Election Records. You can find all of the Council District election results I used by clicking here.

With regard to the data in that spreadsheet, you'll probably notice some inconsistencies. For example, some years show absentee ballots segregated from precinct numbers. That's how I found it in the records. I suspect it simply got counted by different people over the years and their method of counting would change. That is, some years would see the absentee ballots counted in Town Hall by candidate, but not by precinct. Yet other years show no absentee ballots, presumably recording those ballots in each precinct's total.  And for the two most recent elections, absentee ballots by candidate, by precinct are available. So I chose to record those numbers as such.

Hope you're finding this interesting.  I do!

Tim White

* Since 1979, there have been only two uncontested races in Council Districts. Both of them were in the 1st District. The first was in 2001 with Sheldon Dill and the second was in 2011 with David Schrumm.

Cheshire election history (1979 - 2011): District 1

As I mentioned in my last post, over the past couple months I've spent some time in the Cheshire Town Clerk's office aggregating election data. Now I offer the trend in election results by Council district, starting with the 1st district.

When you look at the graph, you may wonder why there are three trend lines. You'll probably recognize the blue Democratic line and the red GOP line, but the green line may be less apparent.

The green line represents "blank" votes. In other words, some people may have come out to vote, but not have cast a ballot in the 1st district election. I know people who have done this because they vote for a friend, but not anyone else.

My view is that these blank votes are relevant, particularly when an elected candidate wins with a plurality of the potential votes,* but not a majority of the potential votes. In the 1st district, pluralities won elections in 1987, 1989 and 1999.  One election in which this situation arose was in 1989 when David Schrumm (R) defeated Chris Robertson (D) by about 115 votes. Yet there were about 240 people who voted and cast no ballot in the 1st district race. Though the most pronounced election may be the 1999 race won by Sheldon Dill (R) by only 29 votes with 175 blank votes.**

As for the election results, you can see them here:

In retrospect I realize I could've formatted these results in a more user-friendly way. But that was after I had printed, scanned and uploaded the images... each somewhat time-consuming. Nonetheless, I'll put up a link to the raw data, including precinct vote totals, in the next few days. So if you want to get into the details a bit more you'll soon have that option.

Tim White

* Potential votes based on the actual number of people who vote.

** I'm unaware that this election's results were officially contested. But in the past I have heard rumblings that the vote count was done incorrectly with the vote totals -- of one of the old voting machines -- being transposed.

UPDATE: I reformatted the election results so that it's more user-friendly.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Cheshire's local election turnout history (1979 - 2011)

As many of you probably know, I returned to school last August. One of the classes I took this semester was Statistics. The climax of the class was a project of my choice.

So what would I choose for a statistical analysis?

Decisions, decisions... what topic would interest me? What data set could I find? But of course, this wasn't that difficult a choice:

Cheshire elections!

Getting the data was time-consuming... probably at least 20 to 25 hours in the Town Clerk's Office. But it was worth it to me. And I hope others use it too.

Although I've pulled together a bunch of data, I first offer you the turnout results for all local elections from 1979 to 2011. This was of particular interest to me because I know that the % of voter turnout has been decreasing in recent years. But I wanted a slightly better understanding of that falling number.

Here is the trend of % voter turnout for the period:
I was surprised by the huge increase in turnout from 1985 to 1989. Those were my Dodd and high school years (Class of 1990). And I really don't recall the likely reasons for that spike. I'll ask around, but do any of you happen to know?

The second trend I offer is not particularly surprising, but it is an important factor in the above trend's falling percentages. This chart shows the increase in registered voters over the period:
For me, the surprising part of this trend was that registered voters increased by 57% over the period. I simply had never really thought about our town's population increase since I was a kid.

The last trend is the one that surprised me. The total number of voters who participate in local elections has fluctuated relatively little over the past three decades.  The actual turnout in 1979 is really not that different from the 2011 turnout. And most years actually had a turnout between 6000 and 7000:

If you want to see the raw data by year and by district, click here. I'm not very adept with google docs, but you should be able to access the data spreadsheet. And if you want to manipulate the data, just copy and paste it into excel. Then you can generate your own charts, such as by district.

As for the data source, 1979 to 2009 was taken from the Election Records in the Town Clerk's Office. 2011 wasn't in the records yet though. So I got those numbers from the Registrar's Office. Also, I can't say this data is 100% perfect. But I made a good faith effort at confirming data accuracy and am confident that the trends are accurate.

Hope you find this interesting!

Tim White