Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Slating Fight Imminent in Dem At-Large Race
When the voters in the Democratic Primary or the November General Election get a chance to select candidates for the four At-Large City-County Council seats, they will do so without regard to seat or slot. After all, that is what "At-Large" is supposed to mean...no district or seat. That, however, is not the case in the race for the Marion County Democratic Party's slating endorsement in the At-Large race.
In a letter sent last week to potential slating voters, candidates, and elected officials, Party Chair Ed Treacy said that the Marion County Democratic Central Committee gave him the permission to create slating filing rules based on slots to combat the phenomenon of "bullet voting" which Treacy said has "hurt good candidates' chances."
What is bullet voting? I'm glad you asked (because I wasn't quite sure either). Bullet voting is where one candidate in a multi-choice race encourages his or her supporters to only vote for him or her and no other choices. If that happens, then it could have the effect of pushing one candidate ahead of others because the other candidates are not getting those votes.
Let's look at an example. Voters at this convention will get a possibility of four votes for Councillor At-Large. There are currently five names in the race, and more may join. Rather than putting names to this, we will number our candidates for this simulation as candidates 1-5. If candidate 1's supporters are encouraged to only vote for candidate 1, they are not voting for candidates 2-5. If that person has 200 supporters, then 200 people ONLY voted for candidate 1.
Enter candidate 2 with his 340 supporters. For the sake of argument, let's say Candidate 2's voters voted for candidate 2 and they all also, suspending reality, voted for candidate 1. Candidate 1 now has 540 votes whereas candidate 2 has just 340. That's bullet voting in a nutshell.
In the slotting method, four slots have been created, and the candidates sign up, first come first serve as they wish. The voters are now voting based on who is in the slot over who is in the entire race. Now, candidates 1-5 have to choose one of four slots. So, candidates 1-4 file first in slots A-D. Candidate 5 (and each additional candidate) has a choice. Who do I try to beat? My supporters can only vote for me, but, instead of affecting the entire ticket, it only effects my race in my slot.
Let's leave hypothetical land behind and go back to reality in the Marion County race.
Joanne Sanders, Zach Adamson, and Annette Johnson have filed and are, so far, unopposed. John Barth and Pat Andrews have filed in the same slot. From here on out, it definitely gets very interesting as more candidates potentially file and make strategic moves.
The reaction of the rank-and-file Democrat has been mixed. I have spoken to a few other potential voters and some of them agree with this method and others are calling shenanigans. Some believe the entire system was designed to protect or defeat a candidate, and others are just looking forward to watching the gamesmanship develop down the stretch.
When I first heard about the decision to organize the At-Large Council slating in slots, I was against the idea, but I am starting to warm up to it. The potential for wild cards and late filing surprises is intriguing. I will be interested to see how it all plays out. While I wish that slating were simply the top four vote getters win, I can see the concern of the MCDP is also possibly warranted.
Things are sure to happen at a rapid pace from here on out. Slating is scheduled for Saturday, February 12. Look for more fireworks ahead!