Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ballots, Ballots Everywhere

MCEA is the acknowledged master of precinct day ballot handouts with its famous Apple Ballot, but now several other groups are getting into the act today. Will it mean anything?

We have heard that six groups will be distributing ballots listing their endorsed candidates today: Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, SEIU Local 500, Casa in Action, the Volunteer Fire Fighters, the Sierra Club and Progressive Neighbors.

Here’s a copy of the Volunteers’ ballot.

Here’s the District 15 version of SEIU’s Purple Ballot.

Here’s the Sierra Club poll piece.

Here’s a copy of Casa in Action’s ballot.

And here’s Progressive Neighbors’ ballot.

Just because these organizations intend to distribute ballots does not mean they will actually do so. Montgomery County is a huge jurisdiction with 246 voting precincts. A group that wishes to cover them all would ideally field three shifts of two volunteers each, or 1,476 total distributors. Not even MCEA, which maxes out at somewhere around 500-600 distributors, can get anywhere close to that number. Alternatively, a group could simply leave its ballots on the precinct tables, but that almost guarantees they will not be read.

Some of the above groups may be able to deploy several dozen volunteers if they work really hard. Others may only be able to send a couple dozen, and yet others are probably just blowing smoke. But some of these “little Apples” will get passed out. The big question is where. More than one ballot group will be targeting the District 14 Senate race in an effort to get rid of incumbent Rona Kramer. (The Volunteers are the only organization listed here who endorsed her.) But that district may not have many members of these groups. This sort of unpredictability makes it hard to believe that any ballot other than the Apple will have a big impact on any state legislative race.

But there is one contest in which geography is irrelevant: Council At-Large. Every ballot handed out in every precinct has the potential for affecting that race. Here are the at-large candidates who are listed on each of the ballots.

Apple Ballot
Marc Elrich
George Leventhal
Hans Riemer
Becky Wagner

Other Ballots
Marc Elrich: Police, SEIU, Sierra Club, Casa, Neighbors (5)
Hans Riemer: Police, SEIU, Sierra Club, Volunteers, Casa (5)
Nancy Floreen: Police, SEIU, Casa (3)
George Leventhal: Police, SEIU, Casa (3)
Duchy Trachtenberg: Sierra Club, Neighbors (2)

So if these ballots have any impact at all on the at-large primary, it is likely to benefit Elrich and Riemer (who is the only at-large candidate listed on the Volunteers’ ballot) and damage Trachtenberg. We may not be talking about a lot of affected votes, but there does not have to be very many. On primary election night in 1998, Steve Silverman led Pat Baptiste for the fourth at-large seat by just 640 votes. In 2002, challenger George Leventhal defeated incumbent Blair Ewing for the fourth at-large seat by 1,140 votes. With Riemer looking strong, Floreen holding steady, Trachtenberg having problems and Becky Wagner going negative, anything can happen in this election. And any factor that swings a few hundred votes here or there could make the difference.