It's not unusual that voters sometimes go to the polls and don't know fully what they're voting on. A letter to the editor in this morning's Star Tribune reveals that there's still some confusion over the sales tax increase for cultural and outdoors programs in Minnesota.
"With solid passage of the 'MPR Tax,' one wonders if there will be fewer pledge drives in the future," Jay Kurtz of Rochester wrote.
MPR is not a recipient of the tax proceeds from the sales tax increase that is intended to fund outdoors and cultural programs.
The arts/outdoors amendment got very little debate, of course, because it was overshadowed by the races for president, Senate, and Congress. Local humorist James Lileks suggests we should decide what arts is before deciding who gets the cash, joking (I think) that one receipient might be "a performance artist who stands in the park swinging his arms for 168 hours to raise awareness about International Awareness Raising Day."
In any case, as Marianne Combs and Euan Kerr pointed out last week, it will be months before the organizations see a dime.
The general consensus is that about half of the money set aside for the arts will go to the Minnesota State Arts Board. The arts board funnels money to regional arts councils across the state, who then fund arts organizations in their region. The other half is expected to go to arts education as well as the preservation of historic and cultural sites, but nothing has been determined. This past year both Theatre de la Jeune Lune and the Minnesota Center for Photography closed, citing financial troubles. (Sen. Dick Cohen) Cohen said he hopes the money will offer stability to cherished Minnesota arts organizations that might otherwise be forced to shut their doors.
Today, Gov. Pawlenty will travel the state, announcing a jobs and economic development initiative for the 2009 Legislature. With the state running a huge budget deficit, it may add more pressure to the session, when legislators check under every couch cushion for loose change. The sales tax increase is meant to supplement state budget support for the outdoors and the arts. However, the temptation may be great for lawmakers to say to both constituencies, "you've got yours."(3 Comments)
Deloitte's 23rd annual holiday survey of the Twin Cities holiday shopping season is out today. Fifty-two percent of consumers surveyed say they're pessimistic about the economy. That's a big headline, of course, but if Forty-eight percent are not, that may be a bigger one.
But most people are not worried about their jobs, according to the survey. Eighteen percent are concerned about a job loss, but that's only up 2 percent from a year ago. Nonetheless, 60 percent of Twin Cities consumers expect to reduce spending for the holidays.
Twelve percent are still paying off last year's holiday spending debt, but most of those surveyed say they'll spend the same amount on gifts this year (average $461) as last year. The average person buys 22 gifts.
Here's the national survey.
In September, the National Retail Federation predicted a meager 2.2-percent increase in holiday spending, but that was before the bottom fell out of the economy in October.
The Franken campaign today sent the Norm Coleman campaign a proposed order to go out from the Secretary of State, which would, apparently, secure all the ballots and other election material in advance of the recount of their U.S. Senate race. The canvassing boards are certifying the initial results of the election today. Franken picked up a few more votes so far today. At last check (and you can check the latest on the front page of the MPR Web site), Coleman leads by
204 206 205 206 votes.
Here's the proposal.
STIPULATION BETWEEN THE CAMPAIGNS FOR UNITED STATES SENATE FOR THE PROTECTION, PRESERVATION, AND SECURITY OF BALLOTS AND OTHER ELECTION DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Al Franken for Senate Campaign and Norm Coleman for Senate '08 Campaign, by and through their undersigned counsel, hereby stipulate and agree as follows:
1. They will immediately present to the Minnesota Secretary of State ("the Secretary") a proposed Order in the form attached hereto as Exhibit A and use their best efforts to obtain the Secretary's consent to the issuance of such Order.
2. If, however, the Secretary is unwilling to issue an Order in the form attached as Exhibit A, they will work cooperatively with each other and the Secretary to obtain his consent to the issuance of an Order that will provide for the maximum protection, preservation, and security that the Secretary deems appropriate.
3. By entering into this stipulation, neither campaign waives any remedy that it may have relating to the protection, preservation, and security of any items described in Exhibit A, whether or not the Secretary issues any Order regarding the protection, preservation, and security of any ballot or other election-related item referenced in Exhibit A.
Dated: November ___, 2008 Al Franken for Senate
Dated: November ___, 2008 Norm Coleman for Senate '08
To: All County Auditors, City Clerks, and Election Judges as defined in Minn. Stat. Chapter 201.
From: Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State
Date: November __, 2008
Re: ORDER -- Preservation of Records for Recount and Potential Election Contest
1. In light of the current margin of the vote totals in the race for United States Senator between Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken, Minnesota election laws require an automatic recount overseen by this Office. Therefore, pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 204B.27 and 204C.28, this Office orders and instructs that you and those persons acting under your jurisdiction and authority locate, protect, and preserve each of the following categories of documents, books, records, notes, memoranda, correspondence, and other tangible items relating to the election conducted for the office of United States Senator, whether those items and materials exist in hard copy or electronic format, until further notice or instruction from this Office:
A. The ballots cast and counted;
B. The ballots cast, but not counted, including any ballots deemed defective or invalid for any reason;
C. Blank ballots and any other excess ballots;
D. Voter challenges at the polls by an election judge or person designated by any political party to challenge any voter;
E. Election judge certifications of vote totals;
F. Election judge certifications reflecting the reasons why any vote was not counted;
G. Precinct vote total summary statements submitted to the county auditor;
H. Envelopes containing counted, defective, blank, or spoiled ballots;
I. The list of all polling place voters;
J. Completed voter registration cards;
K. County canvassing board recount activities, including its determinations, reports, and certificates; and
L. State canvassing board recount activities, including its determinations, reports, and certifications.
M. Any questions or concerns raised during the election vote counting process and/or mandatory recount vote counting process with respect to the acceptance, rejection, or counting of any ballot.
N. Any advice received from any office, person, or entity regarding any question or concern raised in connection with the election vote counting and/or mandatory recount voting process with respect to the acceptance, rejection, and/or counting of any ballot.
2. To absolute compliance with this Order, you are directed to provide immediately a copy of it to all persons acting under your jurisdiction and authority who are currently responsible or may become responsible in the future for preserving and/or protecting any of the items identified in subparagraphs A through N above.
3. Upon your receipt of this Order, you are directed to commence an immediate search of all offices and premises under your jurisdiction and authority, including your computer network systems, to ensure that all documents, materials, and items described above are preserved and protected.
4. Upon completion of that search, you are further directed to provide this Office with a written report (with copies to the attorneys for the Coleman and Franken campaigns) setting forth the locations and offices that have been searched, the steps that you have taken to date and will in the future take to secure, preserve, and protect all items, documents, and materials identified above until further communication from this Office or the Court.
5. Except when needed for official purposes, the ballots shall at all times remain under lock and key. Only election staff may enter the ballot storage room and no less than two staff shall enter the room at any time. A log, including the time, date and purpose, shall be kept of all election staff entering the ballot storage room. Without limiting the foregoing, no campaign "visual guards" pursuant to Minn. Stat. Section 209.05 may enter the ballot storage room.
6. A copy of this Order will also be posted on this Office's website.
Dated November __, 2008 ______________________________
Secretary of State
A national law firm is providing a benefit unique to a generation. A support line for members of the "sandwich generation," the baby-boomers who are trying to raise their own kids, while also taking care of their parents, according to the Boston Globe. Goodwin Proctor is setting up a hotline specifically for care-givers in its employ:
Staffed by registered nurses and geriatric social workers, it will help employees navigate the complex maze of medical and social services for the elderly and disabled, including housing, transportation, insurance, nutrition, and nursing care.
It will also offer assessments and referrals, and will field questions such as how to persuade aging parents to move into assisted living or give up their driver's licenses.
In turn, the firm hopes the service will improve productivity and reduce turnover, since the time demands and emotional toll of caregiving can have a deleterious effect on workplace performance.
About 20 million people are in the "sandwich generation." Joan Brunwasser, who heads a national group for election reform, described the challenges last week when her mother got sick near Election Day:
My mother was most considerate about when she get sick. Timing really is everything. Had she been ill on Monday night, I would have been hard pressed to be downtown with her and at my polling place by 5:00 the next morning. (I was a volunteer poll watcher on November 4th.) Likewise, if she had gotten sick on Election Day itself, I would have been physically incapable of responding that evening. After that long, long day, I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck. At least I was able to rack up one good night's sleep before the flu struck. Way to go, Mom!
Companies have good reason to consider adding the benefit. Members of the "sandwich generation" are more likely to get sick themselves, or lead an unhealthy life, according to a study this month from Indiana University.
Compared with people caring for a single generation, people in the sandwich generation were less likely to check food labels, wear seat belts or choose foods based on health values. They also smoke more.
Are you a member of the sandwich generation? Tell me about your life. You can either post in the comments below, or write to me using this form and we can talk about it.(1 Comments)
Seriously. It'll stop your workday dead in its tracks. A live feed of Shiba Inu puppies.
PuppyCam is way better than Light Bulb Cam.(9 Comments)
NPR's All Things Considered tonight will air a tribute to Miriam Makeba. the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist who died this morning after a performance in Italy. She was 76.
Let's not wait for it.
True to her nature, she was at a concert against organized crime in Italy when she had a heart attack.
Says the Guardian:
As the first black South African to win international stardom, Makeba performed alongside the likes of Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie in the US. Fusing township melodies with jazz ballads, she sang for world leaders from President John F Kennedy to Nelson Mandela, who led the tributes today, describing Makeba as "South Africa's first lady of song".
Here's a performance with Paul Simon:
Her music was banned in South Africa and she was forced into exile for three decades until Nelson Mandela, now 91, asked her to come home.
Her career was starting to take off in America until she married Stokeley Carmichael of the Black Panthers. "She was in immediate trouble with the FBI and all her American concerts and recording contracts were cancelled," according to the Times Online.
Like South Africa, the FBI realized the power of music. They couldn't stop it.
Gov. Pawlenty today proposed an economic incentive plan for "green businesses" in Minnesota, but he invoked a component of the plan that may make the DFL see red in the coming session: JOBZ, Pawlenty's program that aimed to bring some business to the most distressed areas of the state.
Part of the governor's program would provide tax breaks -- $3.65 million worth immediately and another $82 million after his term is up in 2011.
Qualifying renewable-energy projects would receive an array of tax breaks in a green version of the Job Opportunity Building Zones program. JOBZ is designed to spur job growth in economically distressed regions of Minnesota. Green JOBZ would be open to qualifying renewable energy businesses anywhere in the state for up to 12 years, costing the state $3.65 million in the 2010-11 budget years and another $6.6 million in 2012-13.
But JOBZ has some problems, according to a report earlier this year from the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
Here were the major points:
The Department of Employment and Economic Development last month moved to change the program in response to the criticism. But from the sound of things today, some DFLers aren't enthusiastic about funneling tax credits via the program. "I think there are better ways to spend $4 million," said Rep. Tim Mahoney, chair of the Biosciences and Emerging Technology Committee in the House..
Update 2:46 p.m. The Green Jobs Task Force co-chair, Rep. Jeremy Kalin, a DFLer, sounded an upbeat note:
On a snowy and blustery Friday afternoon, more than 4 dozen Minnesotans attended the Attracting Green Jobs sub-committee meeting in Morris. On a cold Monday morning, nearly 100 people attended another sub-committee meeting at the Minneapolis Urban League. Minnesotans are engaged and looking for leadership, and they expect the legislature and the Governor to work together to turn our economy around as fast as possible.
Over the last week I've been checking in with a few county election officials in advance of the recount next week in the race for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota. Today, I talked to Dennis Freed of Chisago County's auditor for the past 32 years who reports he's never seen anything like what's happened since Tuesday's near-deadlocked vote.
Freed is spending the day putting together the plan for the recount, which starts a week from Wednesday. Chisago County has 29,410 ballots to go through and he figures two teams of two people can finish their part in two or three days.
The ballots? They're in his office, next to him. "We're in the process of putting in electronic locks and we'll have a camera that will record things 24/7," Freed said.
Like his counterparts in other counties, Freed has a visitor -- a representative from the Norm Coleman campaign shows up each day to keep an eye on the ballots. Most of the time the observer sits in the lobby but "it depends on how pushy they are," he said.
Neither the Coleman nor Franken camps made any gains when Chisago County helds its canvassing session last Thursday. "We found one judge who was running unopposed who picked up three more votes, but that's about it," according to Freed.
This Wednesday, Chisago County will examine the ballots in two precincts as part of the Post Election Review in Minnesota, in which
two several precincts in each county are selected.
In the meantime, the auditor's office has other things it normally turns to at this time of the year -- assessments and Truth in Taxation statements etc. "How is that getting done?" I asked. "It's not," Freed replied. "We don't have the luxuries of metro-area counties."
There are plenty of polls and political tealeaves along with people who don't know how to read them. Nate Silver, who started fivethirtyeight.com, isn't one of them, as the New York Times properly pointed out in a lengthy article today.
In March, he introduced FiveThirtyEight.com, and it quickly became a go-to site for readers whose interest in raw numbers had grown after the close (and miscalled) elections in 2000 and 2004. As his reputation grew online -- there's a Facebook group called "There's a 97.3 Percent Chance That Nate Silver Is Totally My Boyfriend" -- the mainstream media he disparaged for sloppy reporting came calling.
Political predictions are "big this year because of Nate Silver," said Sam Wang, who runs the rival site Princeton Election Consortium. "He loves discussing the details of the data, and his commentary is quite good. He's made this hobby mainstream."
In other words, he gets it right. So a lot of people listen up when he reports, as he did today that a recount of the U.S. Senate election in Minnesota likely will favor Al Franken.
Why? Silver's a stat geek so he'll explain it with terms like correctable error rate, binomial distribution, matrices, and average value.
But the bottom line? He calculates that Franken was the overwhelming choice of people most likely to make a mistake on the ballot, which would have prevented it from being counted by an optical scan machine.
Later on Monday, Silver added another log to the fire. I pointed out last week that there was a large difference between the number of people who voted for president, but not for Senate. Some sharp-eyed readers pointed out the percentage difference wasn't that far removed from previous elections, but how do we know voters in those previous elections intentionally left a race blank?
Silver's research suggests that up to a third of them did not mean to do so.
Let's assume that in most of these cases, the voter intentionally skipped the senate race, but that in one-third of cases he did not. This equals another 8,277 votes, or a total of 15,001 cases in which the voter intended to vote for the senate race, but his vote was not recorded.
In not all of these 15,001 cases, however, will the voter's intention be clear. Let's assume that one-quarter of these ballots will be unresolvable, even upon a hand recount. This means that 11,251 ballots will actually be reclassified during the recount, or about 0.4% of the total cast.
Bitwise notes, however, that Franken did in fact perform better -- really, quite a bit better -- in precincts with more undervotes. If undervotes follow the pattern of the recorded votes, then Franken would win 52.5% of recounted ballots (excluding any ballots cast for third parties). This is a significant finding, as these are the first numbers I have seen to break the undervote down to the precinct level.
Still not buying it? Silver got his start in the stat geek business by developing a formula that can project the ability of players and teams -- the PECOTA formula.
In February, he wrote this head-shaking headline for an article in Sports Illustrated about the worst team in baseball the previous season:
Thanks to improved pitching and (especially) defense, the Rays won't merely be better in '08, they'll be 22 wins better
Silver was wrong. They were 31 wins better.
Nate Silver has a lot riding on the upcoming recount. So does Minnesota.(2 Comments)