Superior Court cliff-hanger

Well, it looks like it will be at least a few days before we have resolution on the second judicial seat in Superior Court district 15B. As we reported Tuesday night, Allan Baddour finished just 70 votes ahead of Adam Stein (who was less than 600 votes ahead of Chuck Anderson) in an extremely competitive race among very well-qualified candidates.

But the second incumbent, Judge Allen Baddour, finished only 70 votes ahead of challenger Adam Stein, a well-known Chapel Hill lawyer.

That's a lead of one-tenth of 1 percentage point.

The election was so close that even the fourth candidate, District Court Judge Charles Anderson, still finished within 1 percentage point of Baddour.
- N&O: Judge results have to wait

Given Baddour's 0.090% lead, unless the provisional ballots strongly support just one the two, there will likely be a recount. The Herald (and others) report that there are 610 provisional ballots in Orange County and 190 in Chatham County. Personally I think this will probably favor Adam as he had the advantage among Orange voters while Allan led in Chatham. But we will have to see...

I know we're all tired of biting our nails over this one, but we'll have to hang on. The good part of this is that we have a problem envied by other communities: too many good candidates! I am personally pulling for Adam, partially because if he wins we get to keep Anderson on the District Court and we will surely see Baddour back on the bench before too long. To me, a win-win would be for the community to eventually enjoy the judicial service of all four of these guys.

Hang in there, folks!

Issues: 

Total votes: 146

Comments

Duncan,
The BOE can always use poll workers. I started back in 1988 and have been doing it off and on during that time. No I didn't work when I was running for office. I have been in different precincts other than my own for several elections. So come on the water is warm and not too deep.

Thanks Duncan. I've heard that O.C. will declare the official count today and try to do the recount by Tuesday. Not sure about Chatham.

If I've learned anything about this process of counting provisional ballots, either through the machine or by hand, and the accuracy of various "sources," it's this: better to wait until the official canvass (which is today.) I've got in my hot little hands what I think are the final, final, final, numbers, but I'm a little embarassed by my constant updating of numbers, and so I will refrain.

Will: to answer your question about a recount, the answer is that I don't know. I do know that the recount can't start until after the official canvass. So, sometime soon? In the near future? At a time to be determined? Someday? At a time uncertain, but certainly iminent? Something like that.

(Six votes.)

I'm thinking about volunteering with the BOE next time, now that I've gone and got geeky with the vote counts. Might as well put my new so-called knowledge to more constructive use.

Duncan, I know that Stein has requested a recount. Do you know when that kicks off?

OK, here's what I think the final results will be. They're different from what I posted last night, because it turns out that the state BOE had more accurate numbers from Election Day than Chatham did. (Chatham had the numbers, they just weren't updating it on the web. Cry cry cry, Duncan.)

These are totals, all votes counted. (But not officially canvassed yet). And I'm just including the Stein/Baddour totals:

Orange County:

Stein: 12,853
Baddour: 10,695

Chatham County:

Stein: 4,313
Baddour: 6,528

Totals:

Stein: 17,166
Baddour: 17,223

That leaves Baddour up by 57 votes. That's a pickup of eight for Stein. (The Chatham County numbers were off by five on Election Day; the State BOE had Baddour's margin as 65 on Election Day, not 70. This has been since confirmed by Chatham.)

These numbers come directly from the BOEs themselves, and not their websites.

I am married to an assistant public defender (who is my opposite in every way, especially in restraint, kindness, charity, tenacity, and beauty) who has been in the criminal defense business, off and on, since 1993. Many, if not most, of our friends are lawyers practicing in the courts of 15-B. Conversation around the house, and among our friends, is constantly about the courts -- who did what that day, what happened at calendar call, the scuttlebutt from the clerk's office. Conversation at the dinner table is an episode of "Law and Order" every night, except with more humor and absurdity. I also covered courts occasionally here and in Mobile, Alabama. Put that all together, and you can understand why it's hard for me to imagine that anyone doesn't know the various courts, court officers, their roles, and the issues facing the future of the courts.

But then, I had to ask around on election day to figure out who I should consider casting a vote for in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court races, so I suppose I ought to understand.

I don't think anyone thought the superior court race would be the kind of race that would move people to the polls, except for diehard supporters and attorneys. So when most voters arrived to vote, the chances were that they had come out of civic duty or (in this case) identification with the nationwide movement to throw the rascals out, and to be a part of an election they realized would be historic. There were a lot of undecided voters as of August among likely general election voters, and I believe that many of them remained undecided until the very end. I believe that many of the votes Baddour made up between the primary and the general came in the last week, if not the last day.

I think most people realize that the job of a judge is specialized, complex, and demanding in ways they don't know about. They're naturally reluctant to form strong opinions about such things. They look for guidance from friends who are experts. If they have no friends who are experts, and in the media they're told that all the candidates are fine and worthy, they see no reason why they shouldn't make their decisions for peculiar and personal reasons. I think all the candidates had to figure out how to navigate this weird dynamic which disallowed discussion of relevant topics, and depended on other intangibles to sway voters. For instance, pressing the flesh. If you're a great meeter-and-greeter, does that make you a better judge? Not necessarily (although personal skills are a plus), but it makes you a better candidate _for_ judge. I suppose the same thing applies to other elective office, but I'm biased toward thinking that there's greater opportunity for absurdity when politics meets judicial races.

The problem is not entirely the media's fault. By law, these candidates can't discuss many of the issues that are of real interest to people, issues they may actually have some knowledge about, because to do so would be to undermine the independence of, and confidence in the judiciary. Thus, what got reported in the papers was horserace stuff -- who had raised what money from whom. Not enlightening, really.

I also think that there's a problem among attorneys, with no good solution: how can they talk publicly about their experiences, good and bad, with the candidates when it's very possible they might piss off the person who wins, and who will be hearing their cases. We would like to hope that there would be no retribution, and in fact I think there wouldn't be. But it's human nature to play it safe, and so attorneys don't report out a lot of what happens in the courtrooms, or their opinions about what happens. This is unfortunate, because they represent a large body of experts whose information would be of interest and use to the electorate.

I am personally in favor of the system by which judges are appointed, and periodically have to stand for confidence votes. As it is now, once you sit in your seat for any lengthy period of time, unless this election has changed things forever, you're likely to never face a serious challenge again for many of the reasons I've just outlined: people know little about what judges do, and are loathe to form opinions about them absent any compelling information. I'd like to see more review than that.

I don't think I've answered your question, Will, just let loose with a few opinions I've been storing up.

"Does no-one at all vote in judicial races?" Great question Ruby.

From my vantage as a volunteer and a person generally interested in greater participation, it was difficult to build interest and excitement around any of the judge races. I felt one of the more effective means of motivating voters was providing a brief schematic of what the various levels of court cover - case-wise and geographically (something I needed to come up to speed on).

I wonder if the media could've been more effective in providing a brief civics lesson.

I'm curious what experience other folks had who were hip deep in the process. Tom and Duncan?

Some percentage were invalidated (or, technically, recommended for invalidation), and some people don't vote in races for whatever reason. I think Mark C. talked about that.

Baddour netted an additional 12 votes from hand-counted ballots not included in that total of 23, so he picks up 35 on Adam Stein in Chatham. Here are the numbers in Orange County, as I understand them. I'm not sure if there are any additional handcounts out there, but I'm told there aren't. (And remember, all of these numbers have to be officially canvassed):

Stein: 185
Baddour: 142
Fox: 235
Anderson: 117

That nets Adam Stein 43 votes against Baddour in Orange.

43 - 35 = 8 votes Adam Stein makes up on Baddour after counting provisional ballots in both counties.

That would make Baddour's margin of victory 62, and not 70.

Someone predicted an 8-vote pickup, right?

I thought there were over 800 ballots to count. Does no-one at all vote in judicial races?

Allen Baddour added 23 votes to his margin over Adam based on the Chatham provisionals.

They are counting the Orange ones as we speak.

Patrick, we all owe a lot of thanks to you and the many, many folks who help make election day happen. And it feels good to hear a sense of duty about the matter. Thanks also for shedding some light on what provisional ballots are.

I was the Chief Judge in Coker Hills and we had 8 provisional ballots. Four or five had a good chance of being counted. At least three will likely never be opened because these folks were registered in another county or state. Most provisional voters want to know there chances of their vote counting. I know the BOE got tried of me calling trying to fine out if a voter was registered and in what precinct, but I felt that was my job. Then if they were registered they had an option of going to that precinct or voting provisional. Then there were those who were not registered in Orange County and they had the option of a provisional ballot. In any event each provisional voter received instruction to check if their vote will be counted.

Obviously this is a purely academic matter because the two BOE's will give us an actual count next week, but . . .

Stein does indeed carry a heavy burden to catch up here. I read in the N&O that about 80% of provisional ballots in Orange COunty were validated last time. If that holds for both counties this time (big assumption) then the 800 provisional ballots will turn into 640 valid ballots. By my reckoning only about 80% of all voters weighed in on the judicial races (based on a comparison of vote totals in the congressional race vs. the court of appeals races), so we might guess that of the 640 valid ballots there will be only 512 or so in which people voted on the superior court race.

For Stein to gain 70 votes on Baddour, the two of them would have to split those 512 voters very unevenly because, as AIP says above, many of the 512 voters will not have voted for either of them.

Looking at Stein's single best precinct, Town Hall, a total of 451 voters filled out ballots and Stein gained on Baddour by 149 votes. If Stein and Baddour split the provisional ballots the same way and only 512 ballots are valid and vote in this race, then Stein would win, but that would be following the pattern of Stein's best precinct. Baddour's best precinct was Pittsboro and it went far, far more dramatically the other way.

The pattern of split of the provisional ballots would have to match up to the pattern of split of voters in any of Stein's best 12 precincts. A split similar to any of the other 56 precincts (both counties) would leave this as a win for Baddour. So, it's possible for Stein to win, but unlikely.

Good luck to both of these gentlemen, and may the candidate with the most votes win.

Xan rocks. I very much enjoy your blog.

Just arrived in Asheville and delighted to see your analysis Xan.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

AIP's original analysis is close, but the percents need to be calculated from the total voters instead of from the total number of votes. Orange had 33624 total voters; I don't see a published figure for Chatham, so I'll use 17102 which is the number of votes cast in the Comissioner race. Using those totals and the 610 and 195 figures on provisional voter counts, below are the percents and provisional estimates:

Candidate Or% Ch% Or-Prov Ch-Prov Total-Projected

Baddour 31.4% 37.8% 191 74 17285

Stein 37.4% 25.0% 230 49 17229

(Prayer offered to formatting gods.)

So Stein picks up 14 votes, assuming provisional ballots follow county averages.

(Using these percents, it doesn't matter how votes are cast within a single ballot. For instance, 25% of Chatham voters cast a vote for Stein, so we expect 25% of the Chatham provisional voters to cast a vote for Stein, whether they also vote for Baddour or not.)

Why is anyone named An Interested Party allowed to post? First names only are bad enough but this is beyond the pale. Have the courage to show your name or dont post!

David, I suspect that "An Interested Party" is an OP-familiar who, for whatever reason, is hiding his/her identity for these posts.

As for the first name only: guilty as charged. But Ruby (and some others here) know who I am. And I happen to work in a profession where job candidates are googled, and while I am not ashamed of my opinions, I'd rather have them not considered while I'm applying for a job. So that's my excuse anyway.

OK, I really have to go work after this:

The aggregate numbers -- 610 in OC and 195 in Chatham -- won't all affect the gap between 2nd and 3rd place. First, some percentage of provisional ballots will be thrown out for various registration problems. Then, there will be some ballots that don't contain any vote for superior court. And finally, every single-shot vote for Fox and every single-shot vote for Anderson won't change the gap between 2nd and 3rd place.

Anderson could make up the gap and jump to second if a little less than 90% of the provisional ballots are single-shot Anderson ballots, or Anderson-Fox ballots. That's not likely, but the possibility is out there.

Oops, there's one more possibility for a two-vote ballot: a ballot with votes for Anderson and Fox. Those ballots wouldn't affect the postions of Baddour and Stein relative to each other, and so they can be disregarded.

It should be said this is just for the sake of prognostication. The two BOEs will research and count every valid ballot, of course.

Someone needs to ping Xan Gregg at http://forthgo.com/blog/

This is an interesting statistical question. Any statisticians out there?

I was thinking about this yesterday, and reasoned that ballots with more than one vote in the judge race can still be counted as single shot ballots, unless you think the fourth place finisher might make up that ground and jump to second. If you think the 1st and 4th-place finishers are out, then it's a two person race, and each ballot is relevant only so far as it tells you whether one of the two candidates gained a vote on the other of the two.

My reasoning: a ballot with two votes on it can either be a vote for 1) Stein _and_ Baddour, in which case that ballot doesn't change the relative positions of the two, or 2) Stein (or Baddour) and one of the others. A vote for either Fox or Anderson does not close or extend the gap between Stein and Baddour, and so can be treated as if it wasn't cast.

What is not a possibility (unless you're David Beck -- good on ya, mate! ; ) ) is that a ballot contains more than one vote for the same candidate. I think the 1.5 vote average assumption includes this possibility, the possibility that you could vote for the same candidate twice.

I understand where you're coming from, though, Tom: I thought the exact same thing yesterday, and crunched the same numbers you did, at first.

Very good points, Tom. I did miss that one little detail... 2 votes...!

But you're also right that the outcome still is unlikely to change. To finish your math, Baddour's increase in Chatham would be 25, and the net gain for Stein over both counties would be 12 or 13.

(Even if you assume 2 votes for every provisional ballot, the net change would be about 16 votes...)

This could certainly change, depending on the precincts in which the provisional votes were cast... but my guess is that more were cast by students and other people who have recently moved, and that if anything this group is more likely to have supported Baddour than Stein.

Finally, Tom, you are absolutely right on one MORE thing -- all of the candidates in this race were top notch.

An Interested Party's math does not reflect the fact that you get two votes for Superior Court.

I calculated Adam's likely pick up using the average number of votes each person cast (about 1.5) and the percentages countywide for Orange. That comes out to about 37 votes, which was not encouraging so I did not calculate Chatham.

That said, I think the provisionals will go for Adam at a higher percentage than the general vote did- it will just be a question of whether it's enough. I'm not holding my breathe but I'm not throwing in the towel either.

If it's Allen, he will certainly continue to be a great Judge. Saying we had no bad choices was not campaign rhetoric, it was the truth.

Are you factoring DavidB's 5 votes?

Here's the math, for what it's worth...

Baddour got 20.3% in Orange, Stein got 24.4%

If you apply those percentages to the 610 provisional ballots in Orange, Baddour picks up 124 votes and Stein picks up 149.

Thus, Stein makes up 25 votes against Baddour, in Orange.

Baddour got 24.9% in Chatham, Stein got 16.5%.

If you apply those percentages to to the 195 provisional ballots in Chatham, Baddour picks up 49 votes and Stein picks up 32.

Thus, Baddour increases his lead in Chatham by 17 votes.

The net over both counties is Stein making up 8 votes.

I don't really buy your math, AIP, but I guess we'll all have to wait and see.

I posted this on the election return thread, but will post it again here...

Assuming the following:

(1) all 805 of the provisional ballots are validated and counted (they won't ALL be)

(2) the 610 in Orange trend the exact same way as the rest of the votes from Orange (they won't -- but it it is likely to be close, according to many people who have seen more of these things than I have)

(3) the 195 in Chatham trend the exact same way as the rest of the votes from Chatham (ditto)

then…

Stein will pick up a net of 8 votes, against Baddour.

Tuesday is Nov. 14 so Chatham is only a few days behind. I voted for Adam five or six times, so I know some of those are his.... :)

I forgot to mention this important piece of information (via the N&O): "In Orange County, provisional ballots will be counted Tuesday, but in Chatham they'll be counted Nov. 17."

 

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