Saturday, May 31, 2008

Serving Yourself, Not Truth Or Your Candidate

So Greg doesn't understand how conventions operate, apparently doesn't like the result (I, too, cast my ballot for Bob Marshall, but Jim Gilmore is certainly an acceptable candidate, perhaps superior), and he decides that it's sinister.

At least, that's what one discovers on a series of posts on his tackily-named website.

Greg started with a complaint about the way seating was arranged:
Of note, the Prince William Delegation was provided with only three rows of seating in the back of the floor, which is about the same amount of seating reserved for Colonial Heights. I wonder if Prince William had not been the source of today’s challengers whether adequate seating would have been provided.
Now, I agree with the lack of planning that left a delegation with more than four hundred elected delegates with about fifty seats. That's incompetence, particularly when you do nothing to solve the problem and leave those delegates to fend for themselves, or split the delegation when enough people complain. And I actually tried to do something about it.

But then Greg suggested something untoward in the seating arrangements:
I thought it was rather bizarre to arbitrarily assign counties that are split between CD’s into one of them. I live in the 10th District, but my vote was tallied in the 11th. Were this not a party convention, I’d think I’d have a Fourteenth Amendment case, but the party can do what it wants under the law.
I jumped in again, providing a detailed explanation that nothing was unusual about this practice:

It’s not “arbitrary,” Greg. It’s the difference between knowing how things operate at a State Convention and under the Party Plan, and how you think they might operate.

Voting strength is calculated by unit (i.e., counties and cities) as a function of the total Republican voting strength in the preceding presidential and gubernatorial elections, and therefore varies from unit to unit (and Convention to Convention). Delegates serve a representative function, as representatives of Republican voters in their units. You’ll remember that you were elected as a delegate to the State Convention from Prince William County, NOT at the Tenth District Convention. Congressional District don’t send delegates to the State Convention; individual units do.

Moreover, each unit must vote all of its votes (the “whole-vote” rule). Therefore, each individual’s vote within the unit is calculated as a function of those who show up. For instance, if a county has 100 delegate votes, and ten people from the unit show up (it doesn’t matter how many are elected to go), each person’s vote is worth 10 delegate votes. On the other hand, if 50 people from the unit attend, each person’s vote is worth only 2 delegate votes (it can be subdivided to a maximum of 1/5 of a vote per person). Thus, while about PWC had 408 delegate votes (if memory serves), approximately 300 people showing up and voting on a ballot means that each person’s was worth about 1.33 delegate votes . Now, a county like Caroline County (I think it’s in western Virginia) [I may be wrong about the name of the county; I'm working from memory] had about 50-60 delegate votes, but I was told that only two people from that unit attended; hence, each person’s vote was worth about 25-30 delegate votes.

Additionally, the value of each person’s vote can change from ballot to ballot. For instance, if fewer people voted on the second ballot (for RPV Chairman) — and I suppose that fewer did, as you and perhaps others left — then the value of each individual’s vote in the unit increased. I don’t know what the difference in the number of delegates voting was, but interestingly, Jeff won one more delegate vote than Bob did in Prince William County (11th District Chairman Becky Stoeckel showed me her tally sheet, but I was only interesting in the delegate votes (the only number that matters in the tally), not the raw number voting).

Someone speculated to me that Hager’s fear of Bob’s strength may have been the reason why two separate ballots were conducted, rather than one, as efficiency would suggestion. The theory apparently was that he hoped that those primarily interesting in Marshall’s candidacy, and presumed to be Frederick supporters, as well, would leave after the ballot for the Republican nomination for Senate. Don’t know if it’s true, but it seems plausible.

In short, that one or those two people from Caroline County had enormous power to alter the outcome, because of weighted voting and the “whole-vote” rule. I’m told that both people voted for Gilmore; a shift of even one would have made the margin razor-thin, and may well have altered the outcome. Bob may well be kicking himself over that one, if he didn’t campaign there.

Now, as for where units are seated on the floor, it’s fairly arbitrary, but doesn’t alter the outcome. Past practice — followed today — is to seat units among two or more Congressional Districts (like Fairfax and PWC) with the Congressional District in which a majority of the unit lies, and have the District Chairmen (who almost always attend, unlike some unit Chairmen) report the weighted votes. In the case of both PWC and Fairfax, that is the Eleventh Congressional District. That is why we were seated with the Eleventh District.

The alternative is to have each unit report their votes individually, which would make the process even more unwieldy and lengthy than it already is.

Now, though, Greg is making wild, baseless accusations:
Apparently as a matter of convenience, while balloting today was by locality, votes were tabulated by Congressional District, which I understand is a somewhat unusual practice.
Really, how is that unusual? Greg doesn't explain. It's quite usual in Virginia. It's been done that way at every State Convention I've attended since 1992, inclusive.

He then asserts that "the distortions this would inevitably cause had an impact on the outcome of the close election for the nomination for the United States Senate." However, there is no "distortion," as I outlined in my comment (which Greg alludes to, but does not credit to me), and he offers no evidence of one.

Of course, the problem is that Greg doesn't understand how the process works. Instead, he asserts that "what happened is that delegates registered and voted by locality, and that total was aggregated into Congressional Districts which were then weighted."

No, Greg, the weighting is a simple formula applying the percentage of ballots cast for each candidate within the unit to the total delegate votes for each unit. Congressional district chairman receive both raw vote totals and the weighted totals, and double check the math.

Greg then offers this helpful suggestion:
So I’d think that if it’s useful to report results and weight votes by Congressional District, it would make sense to have delegates actually register and vote within the Congressional District in which they reside. Apples to apples, so to speak.
Think some more, Greg. Under your proposal, a unit like Prince William or Fairfax --- units split among three districts each --- would have to have their delegates caucus and vote separately in each district. Votes would then have to be tallied and weighted separately in each district. In short, without any demonstration of "distortions," you would create a situation providing more opportunities for errors.

Doesn't sound like a very good idea to me.

Now Greg tries to sound authoritative, but fails miserably. "I am lead to understand that this is pretty rare; so rare its never been done before." Really? By whom? It's certainly usual in Virginia.

Then Greg says "At the last convention, delegates registered, voted, and were tabulated by locality." What "convention" was that? A congressional district convention, with far fewer units? Greg doesn't say.

But it's then that the really wild theories start: "with anything political I have to imagine someone had a vested interest in this procedure and stood to benefit by this." Who? It's a method of calculation. There are no "political implications of that change, and no one pushes for the unusual without trying to obtain an advantage from it." And it's not unusual. Greg staunchly maintains otherwise, but offers nothing more than his ruminations to support the notion that Virginia's standard procedure is "unusual."

He is correct about one thing: "neither Jim Gilmore, nor Bob Marshall’s campaign had anything to do with this." Of course not. As I explained in detail, it's standard practice at State Conventions.

Another wild theory is the claim that "This could also simply be an effort by some committee to obtain an efficiency without realizing that shifting votes around like this could help or hurt someone," but he never bothers to demonstrate how anyone is "help[ed] or hurt." Indeed, as far as I can tell, it is only Greg who is claiming that "something unusual happened, and that the difference is made was somewhere between terribly insignificant and absolutely conclusive." Glib. Well-written. And utterly unsustained by any proof.

Nevertheless, I would have no problem with one of Greg's suggestions, and one which will no doubt occupy the new tenure of Chairman Jeff Frederick:
If we had the results for the Senate nomination vote by locality, ... and tabulate them by locality comparing that outcome to the official results, we’d be able to figure out pretty quickly whether there was an appreciable difference in the outcome.

I have little doubt that Jim Gilmore would like such assurances. But Greg is so full of himself that he seems to operate under the presumption that his wild fantasies are reality, and that well-established and validated practice should yield to his "insights" into propriety.

One nearly needs to read the irresponsible comments of those he is apparently listening to in order to understand the folly of that course. My suspicion is that his complaints and refusal to listen to reason and facts is rooted more in his resentment that he is not among "a few insiders" who have been managing with integrity the process for decades or more than in any legitimate concern over the integrity of the process.

1 comment:

Timothy Watson said...

"Now, a county like Caroline County (I think it’s in western Virginia) [I may be wrong about the name of the county; I'm working from memory] had about 50-60 delegate votes, but I was told that only two people from that unit attended; hence, each person’s vote was worth about 25-30 delegate votes."

Caroline County is in Northern central Virginia. It's Southeast of Fredericksburg and north of Richmond, Virginia.

I personally heard that Caroline County managed to field four delegates but the person I talked to wasn't a 100% sure.