More election stuff

A few things I want to note but don't have time to write a full blog post about...

Blogger Xan Gregg created some interesting charts showing the results in Chapel Hill.

Chuck Morton wrote a really thoughtful essay on his web site about his experience running for mayor of Carrboro. Not only do I hope he stays involved with Carrboro politics, I hope he starts a blog so we can continue to enjoy his thoughts and opinions.

I noticed that the returns came in incredibly quickly from the Board of Elections on Tuesday night. While there were some glitches with machines over-counting, they were are all resolved quite easily. The Carrboro Commons (student publication) has this story about the technology and people behind the election returns.



Chuck's essay is lovely. He writes poetry and music on the side. This experience seems not to have changed Chuck's generally sunny outlook on life, the universe, and everything else.

The Carrboro Commons piece on Election Night at the BOE reminds me once again how well those people serve the candidates and the electorate year 'round. It was amazing to see the tabulations updated every few minutes. One can't help wondering, "How do they do that???"

Now here's a thought: Damon Seils's maps have enormous value and I hope they can be archived as reference tools for future candidates and campaign managers.

Ruby, thanks for the link to Chuck's website. What a gracious post he shared.

Check out my Barefoot Bohemian Poet Blog at

I will be posting various opinions as they occur to me.

Thank you all for the kind words in recent days. It means a lot that such a distinguished group of people are actually interested in what I might have to say. I look forward to your insightful comments.

Chuck Morton

Today's CH News story makes it sound as though Cam Hill isn't interested in seeking a recount, and just wants to move on ... but "others" have pressed him to seek a recount anyway.

Who are these "others?"

And if his heart isn't in a recount, why is he seeking one?

This excerpt from the same article I just linked to is remarkable too:

The candidate Hill lost to appears to some to be a Republican, but Czajkowski identifies himself as a moderate Democrat.

Local activist Tom Jensen, who helped with Hill's campaign and works for the Sierra Club (which endorsed all the incumbents), said Czajkowski attracted citizens who don't normally vote in Chapel Hill.

"If Czajkowski does win, I think the key factor for him will have been [mayoral challenger] Kevin Wolff's strong push to get Republican votes out the last week before the election," Jensen wrote in the online chat room "Although [he is] not a Republican, I think most would agree that the themes Matt emphasized probably would have made him more palatable to Republican voters than the rest of the candidates."

Jensen pointed out that Czajkowski finished first among all candidates in the same three voting precincts where Wolff garnered at least 40 percent of the vote.

But those precincts average about 23 percent Republican -- about the same as the rest of Chapel Hill. And Czajkowski voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.

"I always vote for Democratic presidents," Czajkowski said.

Did you notice that "appears to some" language? This is exactly the technique of insinuation that Fox News has down to a science. Matt Czajkowski tells the reporter that he's a moderate Democrat and that he voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. But "some say" he's a Republican, and Tom Jensen says his support came from Republicans (even though the percentage of Republicans in the precincts he won is the same as in other precincts).


Here's my read on the reaction to Czajkowski's apparent victory: nobody really knows what to say, and nobody wants to conclude that it means anything. ("There's no crisis," as Cam Hill is quoted as saying.) I suspect that the party line on him would have been that he was a wealthy candidate who bought the election with his own money ... but then Jim Ward took the most votes after spending nothing. Ward's success, which, as the Chapel Hill News can't help but note, shows that "around here money isn't the measure by which candidates succeed," ruins the preferred theory for diminishing Czajkowski's accomplishment.

I guess that depicting a moderate Democrat as a Republican is the remaining strategy.

I especially love the bit about going to the Bahamas.

Question for someone in the know: A recount in this case is up to the BOE, carried out as a favor to the petitioner. Whose decision is it? Does it depend on their mood, or what?

I was recently talking to someone about civility and this campaign season, and he asked whether, in my opinion, innuendo counts to the same extent as name calling and lies. It does, and I am disappointed to see the CHN repeating speculation that has no basis in fact. Good people have differing opinions. Vive la difference! and the use of honest campaigning to make those differences known and understood by the electorate.

The "others" that I referred to were my campaign advisors and some fellow council members. I have never held out much hope in a recount and have tried to look forward. Given the BOE's fluctuations Tuesday not it would be imprudent not to seek a recount. An awful lot of work went into this campaign and writng a letter asking for a recount is pretty easy
When I said "there's no crisis" I was referring to the slightly unsettled state of the town council in not knowing who the 4th place finisher is.
My children and I have been planning a trip to the Abacos over Thanksgiving since before the election. I can't imagine why that would offend you so I assume it doesn't.
If the margin of victory is 1% or less then a recount is automatic. 1% in this case is 58 votes. Before the Durham provisional votes came in the margin was 58. I requested the recount at that point as a formality. Then the Durham provisional votes came in and the margin went to 60. The BOE meets Tuesday AM to decide. It is up to them.

That article really seemed to be "stirring the pot" to borrow the phrase. It also quoted liberally from OP's comments, allowed Matt C to call us names, but didn't actually talk to me or anyone who could counter his claims. In my opinion, that kind of writing adds little more to the conversation than outrageous flyers and such.

Cam is right that the sky is certainly not falling. There have been people I didn't agree with on the Council before, and there will be again in the future. (In fact, there already are in some ways.) Hopefully we can limit our debate to the issues and not get into smearing people (or web sites) as a diversion.

I can't believe Matt C would object to being labeled as conservative. It's all relative, but we're not talking about presidential politics here. That's not especially germane to local issues.

Ruby, he labels himself a "moderate Democrat," according to the article. Most moderate Democrats I know would object to a label of "conservative." I don't know if Matt C reads this blog, but if he does, I'd be interested to know what he thinks.

Cam, I apologize for my comment and I wish you and your family a marvelous and well deserved vacation. I also hope the BOE will honor your request for a recount.


"There is an inexorable shift underway because we're not growing a lot more activists here ..."

Ut oh, time to start an activist breeding campaign.

Gawsh, people around here talk about the need for more diversity, but get rattled when it actually happens. Are the children goose stepping in the cul-de-sacs of Cedar Falls yet?

And Frank, I bet some of those in the cul-de-sacs even knew it was Veterans Day today.

As I said, I have no problem with people disagreeing, in fact I think we could use a little more of it around here sometimes. I just think it should be done without intentionally insulting others, when possible. I think folks will find that it's more effective that way as well.

Veterans Day 11/11 got shifted to the closest Monday, 11/12. Precious few national holidays are sacrosanct anymore. Election Day will always fall on the first Tuesday in November and my birthday will always fall on November the 12th which starts about half an hour from now.

Catherine, By law November 11th always is Veterans Day. When it falls on Saturday the Feds make the day off on Friday and on Monday when it falls on Sunday.

See my blog for a little bit of the history, including the 60s decision to "fix" the date to a Monday holiday, and the later change back to it always being on November 11th.


Back when we had paper ballots and they were counted by hand which was not that long ago folks, a recount in a race that was close could change the out come. The only thing up for questioning is the provisional ballots unless there was a machine problem in a precincts which is generally solved on election night.

I had 4 provisional ballots in Coker Hills Precinct where I am the chief judge and I suspect all of those were counted after the BOE staff completed there research. Of the 300 plus who voted in Coker Hills(almost 25%) less than 10 had the INDY or some other publication to assist them in voting which tells me the voters were informed about the candidates.

I remember a county school board race where the winner won by 7 votes and a recount was done and the vote changed by 1 vote for the challenger. If a recount is done the results of last week will likely (99.999%) not change.

What's a provisional ballot?

G.S. 163‑166.11
Any individual who is a registered voter in a county but whose name does not appear on the official list of registered voters at the voting place at which that voter appears be allowed to cast a provisional official ballot.

My understanding (don't quote me) is that a provisional ballot may be cast by a registered voter who went to the wrong precinct or whose voter status isn't crystal clear. Provisional ballots, once so designated, are just as real as absentee ballots. They count. As Patrick says, you can usually count them on the fingers of one hand.

I witnessed a manual recount a few years ago (Allen Spalt short 27 votes) and the net gain was a disappointing one or two votes. Sixty is way too many to get wrong on the first pass.

"Election Day will always fall on the first Tuesday in November "

actually, it's the Tuesday after the first Monday, so if the first Monday is November 7 the election occurs November 8, which is the second Tuesday. Just a little quibble.

As to provisional ballots, they can fall in lots of categories: late processed registrations (a chronic problem when voters register with the DMV right at the deadline), voters who vote in the wrong precinct, voters assigned to the wrong precinct (can happen when a registration address is coded incorrectly), a voter who registered on or after 1/1/2006 and did not present some ID or Driver's license number when registering and still did NOT present it when voting (those voters have another seven days after the election to get their ID in), and there are several other categories of provisionals.

Ruby, Chuck, Terri, et al.

Democracy requires attack ads, insults, innuendo, etc. The goal is to emotionally engage a constituency, not to score points in a graduate seminar. I would think people on the left, as much as people on the right would recognize this, since its the pompous center (NPR, the New York Times, etc) that tends to most insufferably whine about the lack of 'civil discourse' (i.e. the 'problem' that people with different views from their own have muscled the way into the debate). But this does not seem to be the case. Everyone seems to be shocked, shocked, that people not only disagree with them, but strongly disagree with them, and are as suspicious of their enlightened motives as they are of others. Although the right can be as big crybabies as anyone else, they at least seem to understand the need to play hardball when they set out to win elections. Unfortunately, many on the left do not.

Although Matt Czajkowski is obviously on the more conservative side of local politics, it is understandable that he does not associate himself with the national Republican party, since that party is entirely in the hands of war-mongers, religious fanatics, and corporate frauds. Whereas nationally the political spectrum is basically the center vs. the far right, locally it is more the progressive left vs. the center (nationally, the center is mostly in the Democratic Party). He is claiming that his victory indicates that the center is stronger than many progressives (epitomized, fairly enough, by Orangepolitics, although I think his term 'activists' for progressives is confusing) realize. If you believe differently, maybe write a letter to the CHN? Or better yet, organize a campaign to throw him out next election cycle.

I'm proud to say I've known Chuck Morton going on 10 years now. He's a big guy with a big heart and he literally stands head and shoulders above many of the citizens in Carrboro in his care for the town and surrounding areas. In an era of all talk and no action, Chuck takes the time to put his money where his mouth is on issues, instead of complaining on the sidelines as many are wont to do.
I truely hope he uses his experience in this election as a catalyst for future office. As a resident of Carrboro for much longer than many reading this post, he's experienced a Carrboro that has transformed itself from a small mill town, to a bohemian enclave. I'm glad to see Chuck has earned the respect from many in this forum and I hope you all will continue to listen to his ideas and observations on civic and environmental improvement.

Steve, I think this statement is extreme: "Democracy requires attack ads, insults, innuendo, etc. The goal is to emotionally engage a constituency, not to score points in a graduate seminar."

People may in fact use those tactics but they are not "required" in any way shape or form. They've been used as far back as Jefferson v. Adams but that doesn't mean they are succesful or necessary or even right or wrong. They are just available.

And the goal is not to "emotionally engage a constituency". The goal is to convince people that your concepts and policies are the correct direction to take and that they are better than your opponents. If your goal is just emotional engagement then it is inherently vapid.

Democracy may allow the freedom to run attack ads, insults, etc. It certainly does not require it.

For my part, I am having to fight rather hard against my own impulse to *disengage* from politics, precisely because of the stridency and contentiousness.

Attack ads, insults, innuendo, etc., all raise serious questions about the values, goals, and temperament of candidates who use them. It's a cynical moment indeed when we applaud those who play dirty as if that were the primary indicator of competence.

Perhaps 'requires' is the wrong word. But I would much rather elections where people feel free to use whatever tactics they think work over ones where they did not.

There is a myth that attack ads lead to disengagement. Yet the last presidential election was at least as nasty as usual, but had substantially higher turnout.

David--I don't think emotionally engaging your coalition is inherently vapid. It is what successful politicians--whether we are talking about Hugo Chavez or Ronald Reagan--do. This is why there is usually a separation between the roles of policy wonk and politician, although some people (such as Bill Clinton) may be skilled at both.

I think the substantive danger I was trying to address is the tendency to focus on the rhetorical weaknesses of those we disagree with (they are uncivil, using attack ads, emotional appeals, etc), rather than trying to understand what constituencies they are tapping into and what dissatisfactions they may be experiencing. It is ultimately a superficial and inward turning way to understand politics.

Last year's turnout could easily have been *despite* the nastiness -- inspired by genuine concern about the issues -- rather than because of it.

Steve, I agree with your last paragraph very much about trying to focus on substance instead of rhetorical weakness. Of course that is easier than done which is why uncivil discourse, attack ads, emotional appeals, etc. can be so effective in obfuscating actual substantive issues.

Don't disagree with the idea that concentrating on rhetoric is a "superficial and inward turning way to understand politics," but if you're expecting a change, the question becomes, who goes first?

One effect of the shouting-match theory of campaigning is that -- having had the same impulse to disengage I was talking about and, like me, resisting for fear the scoundrels will prevail -- constituents allow themselves to let their political eyes glaze over and accept one rant as the deciding issue. Pro or con the war, pro or con abortion, and at the end of the day, nothing is simpler than "us" vs. "them."

My comment above about "genuine concern about the issues" may look, on the face of it, naive and credulous; but what I had in mind was this tendency to choose a narrowly defined criterion on which candidates are easily categorized (in 2006 very likely Iraq) and then vote because "we" urgently need not to let "them" win.

If the tone set by expensive, negative, ad hominem campaigning heightens the sense of urgency, it's following terribly inverted model of democracy in which we vote primarily against people instead of for ideas. And we end up with office-holders expert in manipulation of people's worst fears rather than those most competent to do the job.

FYI: The BOE has decided that there won't be a recount.


Very well said, Priscilla. One political truth: anger doesn't necessarily translate into action.

I still want to know who at the BOE makes arbitrary recount calls (versus the obligatory kind) and by what criteria. Statistical probability?

Eesentially, the decision on having a recount if the results are outside the 1% threshhold requires some evidence that there were irregularities. Absent, that, denial of a recount is not arbitrary. Granting a recount would be arbitrary.

The BOE makes the call on the recount which is made up of 2 democrats and one republican. The makeup of the BOE is due to the sitting Gov. party affirmation. Same goes for the State BOE which if I recall correctly makes the appointment for each County BOE.

Since my wife and I both did write-ins for Chapel Hill Mayor (knowing Foy would be shoo in), and yet only one showed up in the official Eastside precinct results, one of our ballots was NOT counted. The machine burped when my wife tried to insert her ballot, but then it did finally take it. Wonder how often this kind of thing happens. Needless to say, we're not too happy about one of us being denied a vote.

Hamilton - how did you track your votes?

I heard from a friend at the memorial service today that he and his wife also wrote Joe in for Mayor. They live the in the Durham part of Chapel Hill so apparently their write-in's were not tallied online. (

Precinct 27 in Durham includes the CH Town/Durham County voters. It is shown as "Durham" on the Orange BOE website. It shows 4 write in votes for Mayor but doesn't list who they were for.
Linda C.

Linda, maybe because it is all the way at the bottom, some may have concluded that apparently those write-in's were not tallied online.

OH - there is also a full "write-in" listing posted on the BoE site.

Fred Black has an interesting review the super-incumbency in Chapel Hill and their impact on this last election (a reality altogether ignored on OP when challenging Katrina and Sharon's shared campaign).

Thanks to Fred for raising his concerns about the methods used by a single, powerful group to marginalize political opponents.

I'm not sure I understand the "methods" that were used to "marginalize" opponents. This group of incumbents did happen to be running in the same election, with shared viewpoints and voting records. That doesn't happen all the time, but I don't think we need to alert Oliver Stone. Information on Chapel Hill issues was available & there were lots of forums. If there was chicanery designed to confuse the electorate, I missed it. I'm not sure of the problem being discussed, so I'm missing the prescription as well.

I agree Mark. Here's what I said in Fred's blog:

Fred asked the question "Does it mean anything that a candidate can win the fourth seat with under 3,000 votes?" Yes, I think it shows that Cam didn't campaign very hard and that many of Matt's voters didn't cast 4 ballots (as was noted above).

I totally understand the unease about the apparent incumbent slate in Chapel Hill this year, and I also would have liked to see a bit more individual campaigning. At the same time, I don't think there's necessarily a conspiracy just because each incumbent also supported the re-election of the others.

For example, I personally supported the 4 Council candidates, but not the Mayor, and I think that most voters chose their own combinations of challengers and incumbents (Cam's loss is proof of this). It's just that more of their ballots included Sally, Bill, and Jim.

The methods I didn't appreciate include:

--the robo call advocating for the slate;
--the "joint" advertisement that gave the visual appearance of advocating for a slate;
--a postcard distributed at the polling places debunking the "lies" told by challengers;
--letters to the editor from sitting members of the council/BOA advocating for candidates;
--letters to the editor from members of the CH council in favor of Carrboro candidates.

While it may not be Oliver Stone material, you combine these tactics with the media/organizational endorsements that lacked any explanation, and our election was reduced to a popularity contest. Is it any wonder that so many people don't vote? The results were a foregone conclusion, with only 1 surprise.

The forums should have offered a counterbalance to the endorsements and all the inner circle advocacy. But 2 minutes per question with every candidate answering every question, doesn't allow any nuance to develop around issues. For example, commercial development in north arrboro was raised repeatedly, and Joal Broun kept saying that the BOCC wouldn't approve commercial zoning in that area. We never got to learn what role the BOCC plays in Carrboro zoning or why Carrboro didn't immediately put a moratorium in place and rezone following the annexation. And questions submitted from the audience with that level of specificity were not selected. And the media never picked up on any inconsistencies or omissions and provided explanation.

I realize that Ruby and many of the other people who post here are quite happy with the results of the election. And several of the candidates I supported were elected so I'm not unhappy with the results.

It's the hegemony of the incumbents that I find troubling--even though I like some of those individuals. If citizens feel like the outcomes of an election are foregone conclusions, they won't--they don't--participate in the electoral process.

Is it possible that the results of the election actually reflect the opinions of the majority of the voters in each town?

I think maybe so.

Mark C,

I would expect you to draw no other conclusion.

I agree with everything that Fred wrote. There are many issues with such a large bloc, which even extends across town lines since Foy wrote an endorsement letter and signed it as "Mayor of Chapel Hill".

With such a large bloc, the issues can be painted in public fora in a more controlled manner, challengers can be marginalized, and loyalists can be called upon to attack the challengers on blogs and behind the scenes.

It will be interesting to see what political favors arise in future appointments. Will the Carrboro trend continue, perhaps in Chapel Hill next time?

It will also be interesting to see what the incumbents adopt from the challengers' platforms as well as what items were closely held until the election was over. I think we are already seeing some of it.


The results reflect the opinions of the majority that voted. What I am afraid of is that the rest of community did not care enough to form an opinion.

Didn't Sharon Cook and Katrina Ryan (and to a lesser extent Brian Voyce) run as a slate? In Chapel Hill we had 5 candidates (if you include Kevin Foy) who all were in support of and helping each other, but they didn't have one campaign or even one strategy. I don't support all 5 of them, so I didn't especially agree with all of their choices, but they all ran as individuals on their own records.

Is it OK for Sharon and Katrina because they are challengers, but not for incumbents?



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