Handicapping Question 1

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

I rarely vote at midterm elections, and off-year elections like this one — I barely pay attention, much less vote.

This year is no different.  There's no local race or bond issue that I particularly care about.  A former colleague, Dawn Morgan, is running for re-election as mayor of Kernersville, but I can't vote there.  And she's running unopposed.  So, congratulations Dawn.

The only thing I'm taking an interest in this off-year election — as are many — is Question No. 1 in Maine.  I have relatives in Maine, although I would probably still be interested anyway.  Question No. 1 in Maine is a "people's veto" of the Maine legislature's act to recognize gay marriage.  A "yes" victory on Question 1 means the legislature is overturned, and gay marriage will not be recognized.  A "no" victory on Question 1 means the law remains inplace and gay marriage is recognized.

It carries some national significance, for obvious reasons.  Opponents of gay marriage typically complain that such a "change in the definition of 'marriage'" should not be done by courts and so-called "activist" judges (even though, constitutionally, failure to recognize gay marriage really is unconstitutional).  Those opponents have argued that the people of the states should decide.

Well, Maine will decide tomorrow.  And how does it look?

Election statistician Nate Silver does the math based on the sparse number of pre-election polls.  He notes that all the polls conducted are dependent on what the pollster assumes about turnout.  Nate believes that the No-on-1 people are more motivated, and concludes:

The Odds: A statistical analysis I conducted last month, which was based on the results from previous gay marriage referenda in other states, gave the Yes on 1 side just an 11 percent chance of prevailing, although the fraction rises to 32 percent after an ad-hoc adjustment for the fact that this is an off-year election. In spite of the PPP poll, I'm not especially persuaded to deviate substantially from those numbers: the polling average still favors the 'No' side, albeit narrowly; the 'No' side seems to have run the superior campaign, and the cellphone issue may be worth a point or two. The tight polling, certainly, should keep everybody on their toes, and gay marriage could quite easily be overturned. But I'd still put the Yes on 1 side as about a 5-to-2 underdog.

That's hopeful. 

[I'll also be watching the NY-23 race as well — notable because the teabaggers have ousted the moderate Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, in favor of the far more conservative candidate third-party candidate, Dough Hoffman.  Scozzafava withdrew from the race last week and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.  This is the first national election putting the whole "tea party" movement to its first actual political test, and their candidate (Hoffman) is in a statistical dead heat with Owens.]