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Mendocino County Today: June 15, 2012

TOP TWO in California Primaries, June 2012: By the Numbers; High Rates of Invalid Ballots; Perverse Outcomes; Major Parties Dominate. Washington, DC, 6/13/2012 — On June 5, California held its first “top two” primary in races for Congress and state legislature. All candidates competed against one another. Voters cast one vote, and the top two finishers advanced. FairVote today released an analysis of the primaries based on a series of disturbing numbers. Some editorial writers have been quick to praise the new system. But our findings help point to the need for improvements like those proposed by FairVote in 2010. At a minimum, we believe that: 1) parties' association rights should be better protected; 2) more than two candidates should advance to the general election ballot to avoid unrepresentative outcomes; 3) write-in candidates should be allowed in the general election; and 4) ranked choice voting should be used in the general election to uphold majority rule while preserving voter choice. Here are FairVote's numbers and analysis. You can read this report online here. 
200 of 212 party-endorsed candidates won: Major party organizations dominated outcomes

. The major parties endorsed 212 candidates in Top Two primary races for Congress and the legislature. 200 of those candidates advanced to November and are favored in the great majority of races. Every incumbent seeking re-election advanced, and only four did not finish in first place. Of non-incumbent endorsed candidates, 101 of 113 won.

1.35% of ballots spoiled in Senate race: Many San Francisco voters were confused. 

The Top Two is supposed to be simple. Voters vote for one candidate, and the top two finishers win. But voters in San Francisco (and likely elsewhere) had trouble with the system. In the US Senate race, 1.35% of ballots cast in San Francisco were invalidated due to “overvotes” for more than one candidate, including 1.67% of vote-by-mail ballots. Overvote rates were over 6% in 18 precincts.

 San Francisco voters had trouble in races with fewer candidates as well: 0.84% of ballots were invalided in Nancy Pelosi’s CD [Congressional District]-12 race with six candidates, and 0.57% of ballots in Jackie Speier’s CD-14 races with three candidates. (In contrast, in 2011’s mayoral election with ranked choice voting and 16 candidates, only 0.42% of voters cast overvotes.)

 69% of voters lost out in US House race: In CD-8, winners combined for 30.8% of vote

In an open seat race for Congress (CD-8), nearly seven in ten voters cast votes for losing candidates. In the much higher turnout election in the fall, voters will choose between two candidates who received a combined total of 25,000 votes (30.8% of the total).

29.7% of CD-31 is white: But low Latino turnout and split votes advance only white Republicans

. District 31 is a Democratic-leaning congressional district. Barack Obama ran more than 4% above his national average in the district in 2008, meaning that a Democrat would be favored in an open seat race by more than 8%. The overall district population is less than 30% white and close to a majority Latino.

 But the general election contest will be between two white Republicans: incumbent Gary Miller, who won 26.8%, and Republican Bob Dutton, who won 25%. Latino Democrat Pete Aguilar finished with 22.6%, but was knocked out because of relatively low Democratic turnout and the fact that the three remaining candidates also ran as Democrats. If any had not run, Aguilar likely would have finished second and been the favorite in November.

10 state senate candidates lost: In 20 state senate primaries, few candidates ran for office

. The state senate elections were particularly uneventful. Despite redistricting and four-year terms that mean these races will not be contested again until 2016, most races had only one or two qualified candidates. Only ten candidates were defeated.

40 of 63 races with 4 candidates may have had “wrong” wins: Did split votes spoil outcomes? 

Out of 63 races with at least four candidates, the margin of victory between the second and third place candidates was less than the total votes cast for candidates trailing in fourth and below. In other words, the two winners in these 40 races would have been different if backers of candidates outside the top three had instead voted for the third-place candidate. These races may have had “spoiler” candidates. 

11.5% turnout of non-major party voters: Independent voters did not respond to Top Two

. Voter turnout overall was among the lowest ever in a statewide primary election in California. In Los Angeles County (as of June 11), only 11.5% of voters registered as independents or with a minor party cast ballots. That turnout contrasted with 28.2% of Republicans and 21.0% of Democrats. But most Californians will not have a chance to consider non-major party candidates in any election other than the race for president (which did not rely on Top Two).

 — Rob Richie, FairVote Executive Director at 


TYPE CASTING: (Press Release from Jim Mastin): “Hello All, Plane Crash! — the play. There is a delightful reading of a local play at the Ukiah Players Theater Wednesday (6/13) evening. Plane Crash is a comedy and was written and directed by Andrea Onstad of Willits. It is the second production in this season's Readers Theater series. This may be the first and last time you'll see me act (key word!) as a stoned Mendocino grower who's lusting to turn cannibal. This performance will be a staged reading and the cost is a mere $5. Showtime is 7pm. I've attached the flyer and program and hope you're able to attend. — Jim Mastin

JIM MASTIN ACTING? As a “stoned Mendo grower lusting to turn cannibal”? Hide the children!

POT SEASON IS HERE! Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies pulled up 600 devil weed plants Tuesday in the Mid Mountain area of Potter Valley. No arrests were made as the raid team hit “several locations,” as the press release from the Sheriff's Department put it. The big state and federally-backed eradication raids will begin at the end of July, according to the Department.

A CONTAINER that washed up on a Mendocino County beach last week has not been identified as debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported. According to the MCSO, on June 6 the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services received a report that a five-gallon container had washed ashore. The container had a small amount of an unknown liquid inside, and appeared to be a generic type of flammable liquids container “similar to gas or fuel cans sold in the United States.” The container had both Japanese and Chinese writing imprinted on it, but no “owner applied markings” that could have been used to determine its origin. The container was given to the Redwood Empire Hazardous Incident Team (REHIT) for identification and disposal, and testing revealed the substance inside was “not radioactive, nor flammable or combustible.” Tests for any known hazardous substances did not come back positive and the substance was disposed of. The MCSO reports that “it is not possible to determine if the container was debris from the tsunami in Japan,” and that marine debris in the Pacific Ocean is “a continuous problem.” Anyone who finds debris along the coast can e-mail the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at, or the county Office of Emergency Services (OES) at

One Comment

  1. Jim Mastin June 15, 2012

    It is now safe for the children to come out of hiding.
    Jim Mastin

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