WA-Sen: Can Murray’s Math Teach Democrats A Lesson?

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

We now know the outcome, more or less, of the Washington State US Senate race-and it looks like it’s going to be Patty Murray, D-(Actual No-Kidding Progressive), over Dino Rossi, R-(Guy Who Will Be Running Again For Something As Soon As He Can).

Murray managed to win in a State that is far more “purple” than you might think, in a vote-by-mail election that guarantees at least a few days of uncertainty.

You have to do some unusual math to figure out how these elections will go, and we’re going to walk through how this race got called by NBC just a couple hours ago.

So here’s what we do know: if you want to win an election in Washington, you basically have to carry some combination of King (Seattle, and Washington’s most populous, and liberal, county), Pierce (Tacoma, and Seattle’s southern suburbs, with a significant military population), Snohomish (Everett, and Seattle’s northern suburbs, also with a Navy population), Clark (Vancouver, and the northern suburbs of Portland, Oregon), Kitsap (home to a Naval Shipyard, an aircraft carrier homeport, and nuclear missile submarines), Whatcom (Bellingham, a college town and almost a suburb of Vancouver, British  Columbia), and Spokane (the largest in very super conservative Eastern Washington) Counties.

You also need to know that Washington is a virtually 100% vote-by-mail state, and that votes in the mail with an Election Day postmark, no matter when they arrive, are valid votes.

There was an amazing amount of anti-Murray advertising, most of it in the form of secret money coming from either the US Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove’s various groups; the basic themes of the ads suggested Murray caused all the unemployment and debt ever experienced in American history and couldn’t wait to make things worse.

Pro-Murray ads centered on her…well, her Progressive record-and her ability to bring jobs to the State…and that message was being transmitted in a State with high unemployment.

And as we’ll see, all of this created exceptionally high voter turnouts, particularly for midterm elections.

Now let’s do some electoral math:

We can look at the Secretary of State’s handy website and see just what’s arrived so far; it typically updates each day from here on out at 4:30 PM Pacific time, but there may be additional updates each day.

As of 7:30PM, November 4th, which is the most current update I have available, Murray is up by 45,000 and change with roughly 1.85 million votes counted so far.

But what we really need to know is: how many votes are there still to be counted?

The site has a county-by-county page that reports about 617,000 ballots are “on hand to be processed”…but that won’t include those that are still in the mail. We’ll talk more about them later.

Right now the largest concentrations of “on hand” ballots are, predictably in King (270,000), Pierce (30,000), Kitsap (29,000), Snohomish (88,000), and Spokane (65,000) Counties.

Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce Counties are running about 50-50 so far, and that means nothing is likely to happen in those counties that will change the outcome in any significant way, so we will put them aside for this analysis.

King County is running almost 65-35% Murray, and Spokane County is running 56-44% Rossi, so that’s where we turn for the rest of our analysis.

Now what we need to know is how many votes have yet to arrive in the mail, and the way we do that is to look at potential levels of voter turnout.


It works like this: King County has almost 1.1 million registered voters, 500,000 have already been counted, and 270,000 are waiting to be counted-and that’s 70% turnout, if no other votes arrive.

It’s pretty rare to see 70% + turnouts in midterms, but we’re already there, so let’s assume turnouts of 75% and 80%. At 75% that means 55,000 more votes are coming, at 80% 110,000. Add all the uncounted votes up, assume the current 65-35 distribution of votes holds up, and that suggests her margin, at those turnout levels, would grow by some number between 211,250-247,000 votes. If no more votes arrive, her margin should grow by 189,000 votes.

Spokane County has 260,000 registered voters, with about 120,000 ballots counted and 65,000 more sitting in trays not yet counted. That’s a 70.5% turnout, again, a remarkable result for a midterm, and, as we mentioned, they are voting for Rossi, 56-44%. Let’s again model for 75% and 80%; we would expect 15,000 or 23,000 more in the mail from those outcomes.

I also looked at every county with more than 5000 votes left to be counted. Those that are on the east side of the State are consistently 65-35% Rossi, Western Washington counties are running more or less 50-50, but they are mostly going to Murray.

And guess what? If I’m any good at arithmetic, Spokane County doesn’t have enough votes to get Rossi over the top, even if you get 80% turnout and 100% of all currently uncounted votes go for Rossi…and I think that means we can call this one for Murray by about 210,000 at 75% turnout in those two counties, minus any other results in the State, which are not going to be enough to swing the tide.

As I’m finishing this up, NBC is also calling for Murray.

So there you go…a good Progressive wins, with extraordinary turnouts in a year when other candidates had lots of their base stay home, and despite a massive “secret money” campaign for Rossi, courtesy of Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce.

And just to make it even sweeter: she ran her campaign fully embracing her record, and standing up for her tough votes. She didn’t pander conservative, and her progressive voter base stood up and got her over the top.

That’s a message the Evan Bayhs of the world did not learn-and it’s a message Members of Congress…and a certain President…ought to learn, and fast, if they want to win in 2012.

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  1. …win elections,and this is how it gets done.

    • melvin on November 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    To put it in terms that even Chuck Todd might understand: you have a pile of ballots sitting there to be counted. There aren’t going to be many more. (Remember, they are mailed to the County Auditor’s office, so it’s over pretty quickly – they aren’t flying all around the state.) As the pile shrinks, and the margin grows, it is pretty obvious. Once the margin hit 25-30K, that means for Rossi to win, not only would the trend in that pile have to drastically reverse – and why would it – but he would also have to miraculously come up with another 25-30K off the top.

    While Murray is progressive in many ways, esp enivronemental protection, she is a diehard defender of Defense pork projects.


    Not that it will do much good. He’s the Harold Stassen of Washington.

    • melvin on November 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    voter turnout (and note uncounted votes are not yet counted as turnout either – there is no other way to explain King Co numbers). The best possible argument for voting by mail, although there are many others.

    There seems to be considerable criticism about the fact that it takes a few days. Who the hell cares? The new congress isn’t seated tomorrow. As the Republican SoS who very honorably counted the votes and certified one of Rossi’s previous defeats pointed out, it doesn’t matter if we get the results to NBC on their schedule, what matters is that we get it right.

  2. This looks like a pretty good description of the state.

    Once the extreme right wing Seattle Times throws in the towel (I know, they endorsed Murray, probably reluctantly), it’s akin to Faux Noose’s administering last rites to a failed candidate.  Their far more progressive rival, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, fell on hard times, and no longer appears on print form, but can still be read online.  

    A friend years ago lived in the same vicinity as Dino Rossi and reported that he was not well liked in the neighborhood. Her daughter has just landed a job working in Patty Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., but still…

    This may be splitting hairs, but for those who might be interested in more specifics…

    King County is heavily Democratic, however, there are distinct red and blue sections of the county.  The area between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington must be incredibly blue, because the area east of Lake Washington is mostly bright red. In Orwellian fashion, this map graphically displays red and blue districts in Washington state, however, remember, this time blue is for Republican, red for Democrat, and yellow for mixed.  These areas include:

    1-Redmond, home of Microsoft, whose high-profile executives (who might now be retired?), Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen (who received a huge gift from the taxpayers to build Quest Field for his Seattle Seahawks team) along with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon contributed “generously” to the defeat of Initiative 1098. This initiative would have generated $2 billion in new tax revenue, and would have only applied to individuals making more than $200,000/year and couples making more than $250,000/year.  It would have also resulted in a 20% property tax reduction for all.

    Remarkably, Bill Gates’ dad was one of the most visible proponents of this tax, although his son seemed to be curiously silent on the matter. The initiative was defeated 2 to 1. This again demonstrated the power of advertising, as huge numbers of citizens making far less than the threshold amount refused to accept reduced property tax, not wanting to dent the bottom lines of those privileged millionaires residing in gated communities.  

    2-Bellevue, the largest city east of Lake Washington, the headquarters for nouveau riche snobbery in the state. Remarkably, John Kerry received 57% of the vote in Bellevue in 2004.  In 2008, Bellevue was ranked #1 on CNNMoney’s list of the best places to live and launch a business, and more recently, was ranked as the 4th best place to live in America.  Bellevue is home to Coinstar, drugstore.com, Eddie Bauer, Expedia, Infospace, Paccar, and T-Mobile.

    3-Kirkland, home of Costco Wholesale, perhaps the most formidable competitor to Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club chain. Despite actually compensating their employees fairly (or at least they did until recently), their prices are comparalbe to those of Sam’s Club.  They, like Target, were actually once associated with progressive causes, but greed may have overtaken them.

    A few years ago, they instituted a policy disallowing anyone to gather signatures for petitions on their property. This year was different, however. They decided that they could make a lot of money by taking the state government out of the liquor business, and selling hard liquor in their stores.  Costco positioned their own employees near the entrance to each store to gather signatures for that petition in a successful drive to place it on the ballot.

    Costco’s book section once carried books representing a variety of political views. More recently, books promoting progressive causes seem to have disappeared from their shelves.  Their online selection is but a sampling, featuring one book by centrist sellout Jon Stewart and another three by Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Sarah Palin. So much for being “fair and balanced.” Fortunately, this initiative was defeated, but never fear, it will be back, fueled by even more in and out-of-state money next time around.

    Despite voting for Patty Murray, the voters soundly rejected any and all efforts by the Democratic legislature to craft a few relatively innocuous fixes for the strapped state budget.  Perennnial gadfly Tim Eyman pushed another of his anti-government initiatives (i.e., I-1053, which succeeded this time, requiring a 2/3 vote of the legislature to enact any new taxes. So much for majority rule. Voters also soundly rejected the legislature’s extension of the sales tax for such vital necessities as candy, bottled water and carbonated beverages.  Out of state money proved a lucrative investment (price tag = $16 million) as voters chose to deep six the tax.  

    The extreme right wing Building Industry Association of Washington also received a windfall for their investment with the election of two of their hand-picked cronies on the Washington Supreme Court: Jim Johnson, who received enough votes in the primary to run unopposed and loose cannon Richard Sanders (although the gap has closed somewhat as more votes come in).  One can only hope that Sanders’ opponent, the much more reasoned choice, Charlie Wiggins, can somehow eke out a victory when all the votes are counted.

    There were a few bright spots, however, in addition to the re-election of Murray (who is mostly progressive, but along with Maria Cantwell, supported a reduction of estate tax, if sufficient offsets could be found).  As alluded to earlier, both liquor privatization measures were defeated, and a brazen attempt by the insurance industry to turn the worker’s compensation system over to the private sector fell short.  This writer asked many of his friends in the Evergreen State if they’d prefer to do battle with the current system, which is located in state, and is somewhat under the thumb of the legislature and the governor, or if they’d prefer to deal with a profit-driven out-of-state corporation that might be located in some top security compound on the East Coast (completed with its shark-filled moat).  The response was unanimous from those so informally polled.

    Washington State is an almost 100% vote by mail state, however, Pierce County remains the lone holdout, although increasing numbers of its citizens are opting for the vote-by-mail option. It seems to be the only means by which an informed vote can be made.  Yes, the top of the ticket choices are usually easy, but their are less well publicized initiatives, referenda and obscure local issues that require some research before making a well-informed choice. This writer is pleased to also have access to the vote-by-mail option, which precludes the voter intimidation strategies that oftentimes occur in polling locations and other “accidents”, such as an insufficient number of voting machines.  Don’t expect to see this more cost effective option appear anytime soon in the Deep South.

    Gullible voters repeatedly fall for the mantra that tax cuts can be funded by cutting waste, which is a gross exaggeration, unless providing minimal or no sustenance to the poor, elderly, disabled and otherwise disadvantaged is included in the definition of “waste.”

    On a nation-wide scale, there is perhaps one saving grace (perhaps there are others, but I can’t think of them right now).  The Republicans have taken over complete control of both houses and the governorship of several additional states, which allows them to redistrict with inpunity, however, they will also completely “own” the management of the state budgets for their respective jurisdictions. With their buddies now calling the shots in the House of Representatives, there will be no more help coming from Washington, D.C. to help keep the states afloat.

    Some of these states may well be facing bankruptcy, or have to enact extremely obvious, painful cuts adversely affecting a wide swath of the electorate. Those Republican legislatures and governors will have to either stand aside as their states to go down in flames, or alternatively, horror of horrors, RAISE TAXES.

    Although the outcomes of the gubernatorial election in Minnesota and Illinois will apparently not be decided for some time, almost every other state bordering on the Great Lakes has just fallen under complete Republican control, with the possible exceptions of Minnesota and Illinois.  Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania now join South Carolina as states in which the Republican domination is now complete.  

    Those in other parts of the world who don’t particularly care for the United States (suppose their might be a few?), must be watching the slow-motion train wreck occurring in this country with a sense of morbid fascination.  Maybe Usama is watching from his “undisclosed underground location” (perhaps next door to Dick Cheney?) as the two happily share popcorn and beer?

    If we were allowed an opportunity to reverse the direction of Peabody’s Way-Back machine (remember “Rocky & His Friends”?), and visit the future, would we dare to look?

  3. …but i’ve had a crushing schedule this past 10 days, so i’m just now getting back, and i apologize for that.

    here’s a few thoughts:

    –i am not in the least surprised that microsoft ran away from 1098: they don’t do well when they involve themselves in politics, income tax in washington is “instant political death” for those who support it (how’s ron sims doing these days?)–and considering the transitional state of the microsoft business model at the moment, i think they’re far more focused on getting you “on the cloud” (where you can get customers to rent software by the month, instead of buying it outright…), than they are in getting you on an income tax.

    –while the tiny cities around the fringe of bellevue do contain all that snobbery (and a fair amount of it is “olde riche”…think hunt’s point, yarrow point, clyde hill), bellevue itself is a city with a large population of poor folks, many of them asian or russian or hispanic or indian immigrants. (go visit the food court at crossroads mall for a couple hours and tell me how many languages you can hear being spoken.)

    –as to costco: this is not the first time costco has gone after the state of washington for “impeding their business model”, if you will. there were lawsuits and political fights before they could discount cigarettes, and there was a giant fight over the right of the company to sell discounted beer and wine, because, if you recall, the state wanted to control minimum prices for all these products.

    i personally would love to see costco in the liquor business; in fact, i voted for i-1100. i once purchased a quart of skyy vodka in a san diego costco for about $19, the same bottle in a washington state liquor store is about $35.

    check out this poster that costco had up: they point out that a 750 ml of cuervo gold is $20 in california costco stores…and the same bottle is $46.95 in a washington state liquor store.

    of course, if costco was in the liquor business that might require frank chopp to consider raising the sales tax to fund state operations instead of killing us with a thousand cuts and fees and bumps in the “nanny tax”…and we can’t have that, because that might make for difficult politics.

    –as you correctly note, reading the initiatives requires work, “cut the damn taxes” is a great bumper sticker slogan, and voters made some bad choices this time, including a couple that will needlessly cost us money.

    –i was thrilled that industrial insurance did survive intact; voters paid good attention there.

    –i’m going to be writing about this soon…but when you look at the results in the industrial midwest, and ask yourself why…have you noticed that not one single national commentator has considered to possibility that obama’s race might be a part of the deal?

    suddenly it’s all about policy…and i have to tell you, i do not believe that is 100% true, especially when you consider that extraordinary and overt racism is a little-known part of the very recent history over there. (as an example, consider the phenomenon of “sundown towns” or the question of how the city of anna, illinois, got its name.)

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