Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekly 08-B wrapup, March 23-29

Here's an 08-B vote wrapup for the week ending March 29 that includes all of the presbytery votes that I know about, March 23-29.


Yes votes: 11
No votes: 2
No-to-yes flips: 2 out of a target 2
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 8 out of 8
Previous "no action" presbyteries converted to "yes": 1

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 10
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality 2

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 0
Annoyances: 1 (Geneva)

Bruce's rating for the week: "Close to perfect"

All of those past weeks of anti-LGBT presbyteries voting early and pro-LGBT presbyteries voting late are finally starting to equalize themselves, since of course eventually every presbytery needs to vote. The result is that this week we saw a large number of "likely yes" presbyteries vote, with all presbyteries that voted for equality in 2001-2 again voting for equality in 2009. The "anti-08B vote skew", i.e. the deceptively high presbytery vote count margin against 08-B, has dropped from 15 down to 6. So there's still a skew, it's just not as high right now.

This week was about as close as you can get to perfect execution for the More Light / equality movement. The two presbyteries that had a shot at flipping "no" to "yes" did in fact flip, the 8 presbyteries that we needed to hold at "yes" did hold, there were no yes-to-no flips, and the wildcard of Western New York presbytery, which took "no action" in 2001-2, came in at a "yes" vote. About the only thing I can flag this week as an issue of concern was some backsliding in Geneva presbytery -- see the numbers below.

I should probably again go through my "hope versus realism" discussion, since in this past week I again saw a post on a public More Light list from somebody who appeared to believe that 08-B is likely to pass. Naturally anything is possible until somebody gets 87 votes, however as I did last week, let's take a look at the updated numbers:

-- Those who oppose 08-B need 6 more presbytery "no" votes to defeat it.

-- There are 7 presbyteries still to vote in what I call the "likely no" category, which means that they voted with less than 40% support for equality in 2001-2. Most of these are rock-solid high-guarantee "no" votes, barring the sudden Rapture of all the "no" voters up into the sky where they're unlikely to be able to make the presbytery meeting... however since we don't have the Rapture in reformed theology, I'm pretty much going to count that scenario out.

-- There are 2 additional previous "voice vote no" presbyteries which haven't voted yet and are similarly very likely to vote "no" this year: Noroeste and Soroeste.

So you can do the math and pretty much determine the likely yes-to-no outcome for 08-B at this point. However as I did last week, I'd really like to stress that what matters is the PROGRESS TOWARDS THE GOAL -- it's important to make as much progress as possible this year, which means that every presbytery matters regardless of whether "yes" or "no" happens to have amassed 87 presbytery votes at the time. The More Light movement remains on target to meet the suggested goals that I proposed a week ago: at least 30 presbyteries flipped no-to-yes; total "no" votes kept under 100; zero yes-to-no flips; a 3:1 ratio of pro-equality vote shifts compared to anti-equality vote shifts; and a human vote count as close to 50-50 as possible.

Next I'll rapidly go through the individual vote numbers, categorized in the usual way as annoying, neutral, slightly positive, and successes.


2001-2 01-A: 65 yes, 35 no --> 65.0% YES
2009 08-B: 44 yes, 29 no --> 60.3% YES (-4.7%)

Geneva gets my one "annoying" label of the week due to the nearly 5% anti-equality shift from this "safe YES" presbytery. That steep drop from 65 "yes" voters in 2001-2 to 44 "yes" voters in 2009 doesn't look good. My hope is that this was simply due to turnout or get-out-the-vote issues this year. We need to take this example as an important warning to not get complacent in any presbytery. Your presbytery might traditionally vote pro-equality, but if you don't show up to vote, you could end up with a very nasty surprise.


2001-2 01-A: Voice vote "no"
2009 08-B: 21 yes, 92 no --> 18.6% YES

Beaver-Butler joins the ranks of those previous voice-vote-no presbyteries which this year counted the vote, and puts an initial stake in the ground at nearly 20% pro-equality support. Special thanks to the 21 equality supporters in Beaver-Butler, and here's to increasing your numbers over time!

2001-2 01-A: 59 yes, 42 no --> 58.4% YES
2009 08-B: 54 yes, 42 no --> 56.3% YES (-2.2%)

Boston gets a "neutral" ranking from me due to the perhaps statistically insignificant downward slide in equality support. Again this isn't a trend that we want to see continue anywhere, where the "yes" votes lose 5 votes while the "no" vote count stays constant.


2001-2 01-A: 22 yes, 93 no --> 19% YES
2009 08-B: 30 yes, 89 no --> 25% YES (+6%)

Charleston-Atlantic, one of our "extremely likely no" presbyteries, as expected does come in with a "no" vote, but shifts 6% pro-equality, with supporters increasing their vote turnout by about 40% while the "no" voters lost votes compared to 2001-2.


I wasn't entirely sure where to put all the presbyteries that previously voted "yes" and held that vote as a "yes" on 08-B -- do we call those "slightly positive" or a complete "success"? However since so many of the percentage vote shifts are comparably high (7% or above pro-equality shift), I've listed them here. First, however, are our one "no action to YES" shift and our two no-to-yes flips.

Western New York
2001-2 01-A: "No action" --> implicit "no" vote
2009 08-B: 66 yes, 48 no --> 57.9% YES

Western New York to me was a wildcard -- I had no idea how it might vote this year due to the "no action" vote in 2001-2. It turns out that historically, this presbytery is fairly pro-equality, however it's great to see that come out in a solid "yes" vote at 58% pro-equality support this year.

2001-2 01-A: 176 yes, 221 no --> 44% YES
2009 08-B: 152 yes, 139 no --> 52% YES (+8%)

Philadelphia was a "target to flip" presbytery, and I was concerned about how it would play out since it can be difficult to shift from the low-40% range up to a "yes" vote, but More Light supporters there won the day, coming in a with a full 8% pro-LGBT shift and flipping this presbytery from "no" to "yes". Very nicely done.

2001-2 01-A: 109 yes, 154 no --> 41.4% YES
2009 08-B: 203 yes, 182 no --> 52.7% YES (+11.3%)

Grace Presbytery shows us how it's done, coming out of "long shot to flip" territory at a previous 41% level of pro-equality support to jump up by 11% and flip from "no" to "yes". Take a look at the total "yes" vote counts -- it went from 109 votes in 2001-2 to 203 votes this year. It takes a lot of groundwork to do that kind of vote doubling at vote counts of over 100. Very nice job in Grace presbytery this year.

The next 6 presbyteries were all "HOLD" presbyteries, meaning that they had previously voted "yes" on equality and the hope would be that they'd again vote "yes". With the exception of Elizabeth, all of them were also what I'd consider "safe YES" presbyteries, since their previous level of equality support was 60% or above. (However see my previous warnings about complacency.)

What's striking about all 6 of these presbyteries is the strong pro-equality shift, in most cases significantly above my rule of thumb of "1% per year". Here we see pro-LGBT vote shifts ranging from 7.6% in Western Reserve on up to a huge 18% pro-LGBT shift in Genesee Valley, although that appears to be primarily because the "no" vote completely collapsed. Many thanks to everybody in these presbyteries who worked to pass 08-B this year -- I'm sure that the national MLP board and staff feel good knowing that to a large extent, presbyteries considered to be "safe YES" usually do stay that way, so that MLP is able to put more resources into helping to move hearts, minds, and votes in swing and "seeking a miracle" presbyteries.

Western Reserve
2001-2 01-A: 131 yes, 73 no --> 64.2% YES
2009 08-B: 107 yes, 42 no --> 71.8% YES (+7.6%)

New York City
2001-2 01-A: 61 yes, 31 no --> 66% YES
2009 08-B: 76 yes, 25 no --> 75% YES (+9%)

2001-2 01-A: 80 yes, 68 no --> 54% YES
2009 08-B: 91 yes, 53 no --> 63% YES (+9%)

Susquehanna Valley
2001-2 01-A: 43 yes, 27 no --> 61.4% YES
2009 08-B: 59 yes, 23 no --> 72.0% YES (+10.6%)

2001-2 01-A: 115 yes, 69 no --> 62.5% YES
2009 08-B: 114 yes, 40 no --> 74% YES (+11.5%)

Genesee Valley
2001-2 01-A: 98 yes, 62 no --> 61.3% YES
2009 08-B: 93 yes, 24 no --> 79.5% YES (+18.2%)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekly vote wrapup - March 16-22

Here's an 08-B vote wrapup for the week ending March 15 that includes all of the presbytery votes that I know about, March 16-22.


Yes votes: 5
No votes: 5
No-to-yes flips: 3 out of a target 3 (plus Mackinac as a 4th bonus flip)
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 1

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 8
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality 2

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 1 (Mackinac)
Annoyances: 2 (Grand Canyon, Northumberland)

Bruce's rating for the week: "Better than expectations"

We saw 10 new presbytery votes come in over the past week. Perhaps the best way to encapsulate this week is to point out that in 2001-2, these presbyteries voted 9-1 against equality, but this year they split 5 yes, 5 no. This week we saw 3 "target yes flips" all successfully shift to "yes" votes, plus Mackinac came in as a long shot and shifted strongly pro-LGBT to similarly flip to "yes".

We continue to see a trend of anti-LGBT presbyteries voting earlier than average, and pro-LGBT presbyteries voting later than average, which skews the total presbytery vote count by 15 votes towards the "no" side as of today. So for example, right now 90% of the "likely no" presbyteries have already voted, even though overall presbytery voting is only 75% complete.

I'm occasionally asked about the hope-vs-realism tradeoff re whether 08-B can pass this year. The reality, of course, is that it's always been a steep cliff to climb from day one: pro-equality Presbyterians need to flip 41 presbyteries from "no" to "yes" to pass 08-B. Given that a large number of presbyteries began at the rather tepid equality support level of 35% or less, flipping 41 presbyteries is extremely difficult. So to give the dose of reality for this week, let's point out the relevant numbers:

-- Those who oppose 08-B need 8 more presbytery "no" votes to defeat it.

-- There are 8 presbyteries still to vote in what I call the "likely no" category, which means that they voted with less than 40% support for equality in 2001-2.

-- There are 3 additional previous "voice vote no" presbyteries which haven't voted yet and are similarly very likely to vote "no" this year: Noroeste, Soroeste, and Beaver-Butler

-- Swing presbyteries have been flipping "no" to "yes" at about a 60% overall rate, not 100%. (This past week was somewhat unusual).

So based on those numbers, you should pretty much be able to draw your own conclusion. There's certainly a statistical possibility of anything happening, and we've definitely had some cases where wild miraculous things have happened, however the reality is that, as we might say, "the odds aren't in our favor".

However, the other part of that reality is that it's crucial to scale as far up the cliff as we can, simply to demonstrate clearly that this is a marathon we know we're going to complete. So far, in terms of distance gained in the struggle, it's been almost total victory for equality and a complete rout for the other side. 23 presbyteries flipped pro-equality so far and ZERO flipped the other direction -- it's amazing. Those aren't numbers you want to see if you support the status quo.

So here are some targets and goals to watch for, when the dust settles:

-- I want to see us flip at least 30 presbyteries total from "no" to "yes". We're at 23 today, we can get 7 more. This is very doable.

-- Stretch goal: I want to see us flip at least 34 presbyteries. If we can do this and hold all previous "yes" votes, that should put us at 80 total presbytery "yes" votes, pushing us out of the 70's and into the 80's on the pro-equality vote count.

-- I want to see the "no" vote count held under 100, so that the vote totals don't have that lopsided "over 100 versus some number less than 100" look to them. This should be a very achievable goal -- the anti-equality movement is going to run out of "easy no" votes long before they reach 100.

-- I want to see ZERO presbyteries flip from "yes" to "no". We had one very close call this week, but so far we've managed to keep a perfect record here. This is something of a stretch goal, since you never know what can happen during a presbytery vote.

-- I want to see the ratio of "presbyteries shifting pro-equality" to "presbyteries shifting anti-equality" to continue to hold at over 3 to 1. This is very doable.

-- I want to see the total individual vote count (the human votes) for 08-B as close to 50% as possible. This is the concept of the human "popular vote" as compared to the "electoral vote" of the presbyteries. Right now this "popular vote" percentage is at 47%, but it would be great to see it shift a point or two closer to 50%. We might even be able to break above 50% in the popular vote, thus "winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote", although that's a fairly tough stretch goal at this point.

With that rather wordy set of suggested objectives out of the way, let's head into the presbytery-by-presbytery vote breakdown, categorized in the usual way as annoying, neutral, slightly positive, and successes.


Grand Canyon
2001-2 01-A: 122 yes, 96 no --> 56% YES
2009 08-B: 98 yes, 93 no --> 51% YES (-5%)

Grand Canyon was the nailbiter of the week, a previous "yes" presbytery that shifted 5% ANTI-equality and almost flipped from yes to no. This vote should demonstrate that we can't take anything for granted. This presbytery will need some extra love and attention over the next while so that support for equality there continues to grow... and that the supporters attend the presbytery meeting to vote, please.

2001-2 01-A: 28 yes, 51 no --> 35.4% YES
2009 08-B: 20 yes, 58 no --> 25.6% YES (-9.8%)

Northumberland wasn't likely to shift from "no" to "yes", and it didn't, but it makes the "annoying" category this week due to its nearly 10% anti-equality vote shift. Given the small turnout numbers, percentage swings like this can be common. However in general, most of the presbyteries that started at 30%-or-higher levels of support have increased their support for equality, so it's annoying to see the shift down to under 30% this year.


2001-2 01-A: 109 yes, 188 no --> 36.7% YES
2009 08-B: 91 yes, 155 no --> 37.0% YES (+0.3%)

Seattle presbytery has a history of heavy anti-LGBT mobilization for vote turnout at presbytery meetings, and they did the usual this year, holding Seattle to a statistically insignificant 0.3% pro-equality increase. The anti-equality forces there have also learned to use the "stifle the Spirit" tactic that I wrote about a few weeks ago as a way of suppressing potential "yes" swing votes. A note from an attendee present at the Seattle presbytery meeting mentions that:

"Someone in authority insisted last night that none of the stoles
that women so diligently knitted could be passed out to supporting
members at Presbytery."

Perhaps the appropriate response to the coward in Seattle presbytery who gave that order is "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." I double-dog dare Seattle presbytery to invite me the next time you're holding a vote on an LGBT-equality overture. I'll be happy to drive up with a car full of rainbow stoles and hand them out until you throw me out. I'm sure that will make you look SO much better to the broader Seattle and University of Washington communities. Did we mention that the University of Washington prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the city of Seattle requires its contractors to provide equal benefits for both spouses and domestic partners? It might be nice if local churches could lead the way on human equality instead of telling supporters to Shut Up.


Here we have our usual lineup of presbyteries that didn't vote "yes", but did shift significantly pro-equality. All of these are good news.

2001-2 01-A: Voice vote "no"
2009 08-B: 29 yes, 41 no --> 41% YES

Technically it's not possible to tell which direction this vote is shifting, but realistically when a "voice vote no" presbytery suddenly comes in at 41% YES support, that's huge. It's really nice to see this initial stake put in the ground at 41% rather than something like, say, 25% pro-equality support.

2001-2 01-A: 32 yes, 110 no --> 22.5% YES
2009 08-B: 44 yes, 98 no --> 31% YES (+8.5%)

2001-2 01-A: 33 yes, 85 no --> 28% YES
2009 08-B: 46 yes, 75 no --> 38% YES (+10%)

Both Olympia and Redstone come in with strong shifts from the 20's into the 30's with their pro-equality support. A few more iterations and they'll be voting yes. :-) The Spirit won't give you up, friends.


These are all fun, it's the four no-to-yes flips this week.

West Jersey
2001-2 01-A: 80 yes, 83 no --> 49.1% YES
2009 08-B: 88 yes, 80 no --> 52.4% YES (+3.3%)

West Jersey was in the category of "should be easy flip", and thankfully it did start out in the easy category, since a 3% pro-equality support shift isn't very much in the scheme of things. Thankfully, 3% was enough. Now let's see if we can push that up to the high 50's.

West Virginia
2001-2 01-A: 92 yes, 114 no --> 44.7% YES
2009 08-B: 93 yes, 56 no --> 62.4% YES (+17.8%)

West Virginia was another "target to flip" presbytery, and here we got a strong pro-equality shift, mostly due to a 50% collapse in the anti-equality vote turnout compared to 2001-2 (114 votes dropped down to 56 votes). It would be great to also see the pro-equality vote count climb a bit more than 1 vote. However in general, presbytery turnouts are declining along with the decline in size of the PCUSA, so even holding steady at a previous vote count is a success.

2001-2 01-A: 34 yes, 40 no --> 46% YES
2009 08-B: 42 yes, 8 no --> 84% YES (+38%)

Newark was something of a stunner, not in the sense that it flipped "no" to "yes", but in the sense that it shifted so heavily. I had to ask for confirmation when that 42-8 vote count was emailed to me. Newark now holds the high-water mark for "largest pro-equality percentage vote shift" within presbyteries that took an official counted vote on 08-B. With that "no" vote count shifting from 40 down to 8 voters, it looks like the anti-equality voters pretty much stayed home.

2001-2 01-A: 25 yes, 39 no --> 39% YES
2009 08-B: 44 yes, 32 no --> 58% YES (+19%)

We round out the wrapup here with our "amazingly positive surprise" for the week, with Mackinac coming from a 39% level of previous pro-equality support to shift nearly 20% into a strong "yes" vote, and a significant increase in the total number of "yes" voters as well. Great job to everybody in Mackinac presbytery working for equality.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekly 08-B voting wrapup

Here's an 08-B vote wrapup for the week ending March 15 that includes all of the presbytery votes that I know about, March 8-15.

There seems to be a general correlation between the total "no" vote count and the anxiety level of the More Light community, however my thought would be that people should in general take this round of voting like any other: as an opportunity to win hearts and minds for equality. This isn't the first such opportunity to have a conversation, and it won't be the last. If 08-B doesn't pass this time around, it will pass eventually. And if 08-B does pass this time around, the Presbyterian equality movement isn't going anywhere -- there will be more conversations to have over more years, about marriage equality, about adding non-discrimination language to the Book of Order, about diversity/inclusion/empowerment, and so on.


Yes votes: 7
No votes: 8
No-to-yes flips: 1 out of a target 1
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 5

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 11
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality 3 (of which 2 are statistical noise)

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 1 (Transylvania)
Annoyances: 2 (Nevada, Pittsburgh)

This was a good week -- we held all presbyteries that previously voted pro-equality, we flipped one presbytery (Eastminster) that was a likely flip, plus an additional presbytery (Transylvania) flipped that I wouldn't have expected. We also shifted from unanimous-no to not-unanimous-no in Hanmi, a transition that we should call out and celebrate.

As I mentioned in a previous post (March 14), the current presbytery vote counts are heavily skewed towards "no" due to early voting by anti-LGBT presbyteries and late voting by pro-LGBT presbyteries. We might start to see this skew diminish a bit over the next few weeks, simply because we're starting to run out of "likely no" presbyteries. However there are still over a dozen of them, so we should expect to see plenty of additional "no" votes over time.

Now here are the presbytery vote counts and percentages, for those who like to dive into the numbers. I've got these categorized as annoyances, neutral, slightly positive, and successes, since those categories have been working OK for me so far.


2001-2 01-A: 137 yes, 277 no --> 33.1% YES
2009 08-B: 105 yes, 206 no --> 33.8% YES (+0.7%)

I wouldn't have expected Pittsburgh to vote in favor of 08-B, and they didn't, so they're only in the "annoyance" category because of the statistically insignificant pro-equality shift. We've seen many other presbyteries in the 30% pro-equality support range shift quite a lot towards equality, so in my ideal world I would have liked to have seen a 7 or 8% pro-LGBT shift.

2001-2 01-A: 20 yes, 41 no --> 32.8% YES
2009 08-B: 13 yes, 59 no --> 18.1% YES (-14.7%)

Nevada was the only presbytery in this week's wrapup to have a significant anti-equality shift. Given the low total vote count, it's easy to have this sort of large percentage shift, however we really should have been able to manage at least something in the high 30% range for 08-B support. However the presbytery isn't one that I would have expected to vote "yes", so there's not an expected presbytery "yes" vote here that was lost.


Here in the "neutral" category are two safe-yes presbyteries that had statistically insignificant anti-equality shifts, plus San Juan which again chose to take a voice "no" vote, as they did in 2001-2. It's not possible to determine which way San Juan presbytery is trending if they keep taking voice votes.

Northern New England
2001-2 01-A: 75 yes, 40 no --> 65.2% YES
2009 08-B: 56 yes, 30 no --> 65.1% YES (-0.1%)

New Brunswick
2001-2 01-A: 113 yes, 50 no --> 69.3% YES
2009 08-B: 95 yes, 44 no --> 68.3% YES (-1%)

San Juan
2001-2 01-A: voice - no
2009 08-B: voice - no


Here in the "slightly positive" section we have a mixture of presbyteries that voted "no" but had pro-equality voting trends, and of presbyteries that held at "yes".

2001-2 01-A: 0 yes, 70 no --> 0% YES
2009 08-B: 1 yes, 30 no --> 3.2% YES (+3.2%)

Congratulations to Hanmi for shifting out of the "unanimous no" category, and special thanks to the single unknown voter who made this possible. Perhaps this is the beginning of a longer-term pro-equality trend in Hanmi presbytery. The moment that a deliberative body shifts from "all of the same mind" to "some people have a different opinion", it opens up new opportunities for conversations.

San Gabriel
2001-2 01-A: 97 yes, 181 no --> 35% YES
2009 08-B: 79 yes, 136 no --> 37% YES (+2%)

Perhaps I should list San Gabriel under the "annoyances" section since it's still a rather small percentage pro-equality shift, but I figure I'll run with it and call it a "slight positive".

2001-2 01-A: 38 yes, 63 no --> 37.6% YES
2009 08-B: 39 yes, 48 no --> 44.8% YES (+7.2%)

Providence now moves out of "likely no" into the "target to flip" category.

Twin Cities
2001-2 01-A: 197 yes, 112 no --> 64% YES
2009 08-B: 138 yes, 54 no --> 72% YES (+8%)

Lake Michigan
2001-2 01-A: 92 yes, 59 no --> 61% YES
2009 08-B: 94 yes, 42 no --> 69% YES (+8%)

Both Twin Cities and Lake Michigan hold at safe-for-equality status and increase their yes votes by 8%. Nicely done.

Muskingum Valley
2001-2 01-A: 51 yes, 117 no --> 30.4% YES
2009 08-B: 44 yes, 70 no --> 38.6% YES (+8.2%)

Muskingum Valley shows us how presbyteries in the low-30% support range can shift more than 1% (Pittsburgh) or 2% (San Gabriel).

2001-2 01-A: 179 yes, 112 no --> 61.5% YES
2009 08-B: 150 yes, 48 no --> 75.8% YES (+14.2%)

Cascades joins the ranks of numerous pro-equality presbyteries in demonstrating that you can keep moving up in support, sometimes significantly.


2001-2 01-A: 18 yes, 94 no --> 16% YES
2009 08-B: 42 yes, 53 no --> 44% YES (+28%)

Riverside is another example of how strong anti-equality presbyteries can make big pro-equality shifts partly because there's a long distance to go. 28% is a huge shift and, amazingly, moves Riverside from "extremely LGBT-hostile" into "target to flip". The anti-gay contingent of the PCUSA can't be very happy about this particular vote.

2001-2 01-A: 54 yes, 65 no --> 45.4% YES
2009 08-B: 60 yes, 39 no --> 60.6% YES (+15.2%)

Eastminster was a candidate to flip from "no" to "yes" this year, and it did, strongly so with a 15% shift. This is excellent news.

2001-2 01-A: 50 yes, 80 no --> 37.6% YES
2009 08-B: 83 yes, 61 no --> 57.6% YES (+20%)

And rounding out the week in review we have our "amazingly positive surprise" for the week in Transylvania, starting from a high-30% level of pro-equality support and shifting a full 20% to become an unexpected no-to-yes flip. The Transylvania vote totals of 2009 are almost the reverse of the vote count for 2001-2. Many thanks to all of the LGBT equality supporters and voters in Transylvania -- this was a particularly nice piece of news to hear during the past week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Total 08-B vote count is heavily skewed by late and early presbytery voting

I've been taking a look at the voting patterns on 08-B so far, and a few days ago noticed that it appeared that there were a large number of "safe for equality" presbyteries that hadn't voted on 08-B yet. A quick analysis confirmed that this was true, but I didn't fully run the numbers.

So today I finally got around to adding a separate analysis section to the bottom of the tracking spreadsheet linked from this blog. It's down there in the section that says "Late voting competitive disadvantage / early voting competitive advantage analysis".

The results are striking. They show a consistent pattern of likely anti-LGBT presbyteries voting early, and pro-LGBT presbyteries voting late. These vote scheduling disparities heavily skew the current presbytery vote count (which, as I've suggested earlier, isn't the critical number to watch -- what I care about are the voting percentage TRENDS) towards "no".

Here's a summary, and the full set of numbers are in the spreadsheet.

-- So far, 2/3 (67%) of all presbyteries have voted.
-- BUT, out of 36 "likely yes" presbyteries, only 53% have voted.
-- This causes a 5-vote "yes" disadvantage compared to what we'd see if these presbyteries were scheduling their votes at an average rate, i.e. if 67% had already voted.

But wait, there's more...

-- Also, out of 77 "likely no" presbyteries, 82% (!) have already voted.
-- This causes an 11-vote "no" advantage compared to what we'd see if
these presbyteries were scheduling their votes at an average rate of 67%.

In other words:
-- Anti-LGBT presbyteries are voting early.
-- Pro-LGBT presbyteries are voting late.
-- The result (as of right now) is a 16-vote skew towards "no".
-- This is why the current presbytery vote totals look so lopsided.

Of course, the goal of this marathon (not a sprint, it's a marathon) is to shift hearts and minds over time, and the best indicator that we have of that are the percentage vote trends over time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weekly 08-B vote wrapup (March 1-7)

OK, here we go with another weekly 08-B vote wrapup. The presbytery individual voting breakdowns and percentage shifts are later below.


Yes votes: 3 (was 1 in 2001-2)
No votes: 9 (was 11 in 2001-2)
Ties: 2 (ties count as "no" and are included in the 9 above.)
No-to-yes flips: 1 out of a target 3
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 1 out of 1

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 10
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality: 1

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 1
Annoyances: 2 (North Central Iowa, Mission)
Bruce's ranking of the week: "Mostly as predicted, with increasing tie votes"

This week's votes on 08-B came in mostly as an educated guess would predict, however there were a few interesting wrinkles along the way. The presbytery vote lineup for the past week consisted of 6 expected solid "no" votes, 2 more likely "no" votes, 3 candidates for no-to-yes vote flips, and 1 expected "yes" vote. As it turned out, 2 of the 3 candidate no-to-yes presbyteries (Mission and North Central Iowa Presbyteries) did NOT flip, but we picked up an unexpected no-to-yes flip from Whitewater Valley.

My definition of an ideal week would have been 4 yes votes, however that was definitely a stretch goal, since it required flipping two presbyteries with previous 41% pro-equality voting records (North Central Iowa and Mission). A complete blowout miracle week would have been 6 yes votes, which would have required two long-shot presbyteries to also flip pro-equality. Overall, 3 presbytery "yes" votes for the week isn't too bad, and it's 2 more than 2001-2, so as always the overall trend is in favor of equality.

This past week we've also seen The Return Of The Tie Vote, now with twice as many tie votes as before. Previously we had a tie vote from Cincinnati presbytery, and this week we saw both Central Nebraska and Mission presbyteries reach that "just one vote short" threshold of a tie, which unfortunately counts as a "no" for the presbytery. However I'm happy to claim at least 1.5 moral victory "yes" votes from the 3 ties that have happened so far. As with Cincinnati, the lesson here really is that every last vote can matter -- so if you're a voter who is thinking about skipping your presbytery meeting on the voting day for 08-B, please don't.

One important trend this week is that presbyteries shifting pro-equality in their vote percentages totally overwhelmed presbyteries shifting anti-equality. Only North Central Iowa shifted anti-LGBT in its vote this week, and the overall ratio of pro-LGBT-vote-shift to anti-LGBT-vote-shift presbyteries is now well above 3 to 1. To me, these voting percentage shifts are more important to track than the total presbytery vote count, since the shifts tell us where the PCUSA is headed ideologically. It's extremely clear at this point that we have a very strong pro-equality voting trend within the denomination. Regardless of how the final presbytery vote tally comes out on 08-B, it's now obvious that G6.0106b is going to be out of the denomination's constitution within the next few years.

So with that overview out of the way, let's go to the vote-by-vote breakdowns and comments.


North Central Iowa
2001-2 01-A: 46 yes, 65 no --> 41.4% YES
2009 08-B: 31 yes, 60 no --> 34.1% YES (-7.4%)

North Central Iowa ends up on my "most annoying" list this week since it was a target presbytery to flip from no to yes, however instead we ended up with about a 7% ANTI-equality shift. This sort of anti-LGBT trend is highly unusual for a presbytery in the 40% pro-equality support range, so possibly this may have simply been a get-out-the-vote issue for yes-on-08B supporters.

2001-2 01-A: 164 yes, 235 no --> 41.1% YES
2009 08-B: 181 yes, 181 no --> 50.0% YES (+8.9%)

Mission was another target "no-to-yes flip" presbytery, and isn't as annoying as North Central Iowa since it did shift significantly pro-equality. However a tie vote is almost always annoying, so I'll list it here. You could also make a credible argument that Mission should go into the "slightly positive" list below.


Eastern Korean
2001-2 01-A: 0 yes, 48 no --> 0% YES
2009 08-B: 0 yes, 55 no --> 0% YES

I'm not sure what to say about Eastern Korean other than that with those voting patterns, they're certainly consistent. You do have to figure that since God has created roughly 3% of the population as gay, many of the voters in this presbytery are voting against equality for their own children, quite possibly without even knowing it. It's kind of sad to think about it that way. It will be a day to celebrate when we see the first non-unanimous vote from this presbytery.


It may seem strange that here I have a long string of "no" presbytery votes all listed in the "slightly positive" category, however they're all pro-equality voting shifts, some of them fairly significant. Central Nebraska even came up out of the high-30% pro-equality support level and almost became a surprise no-to-yes flip, however the vote ended up as a tie.

I have these listed in order of increasing percentage vote shift.

2001-2 01-A: 22 yes, 74 no --> 22.9% YES
2009 08-B: 24 yes, 68 no --> 26.1% YES (+3.2%)

2001-2 01-A: 42 yes, 114 no --> 26.9% YES
2009 08-B: 48 yes, 106 no --> 31.2% YES (+4.2%)

Coastal Carolina
2001-2 01-A: 95 yes, 286 no --> 25% YES
2009 08-B: 110 yes, 205 no --> 35% YES (+10%)

Central Nebraska
2001-2 01-A: 24 yes, 39 no --> 38.1% YES
2009 08-B: 21 yes, 21 no --> 50.0% YES (+11.9%)

This vote shift from Central Nebraska obviously shifts it into the category of "strong target no-to-yes shift" if there needs to be a next time.

South Dakota
2001-2 01-A: 22 yes, 66 no --> 25% YES
2009 08-B: 32 yes, 48 no --> 40% YES (+15%)

Similar to the voting in Central Nebraska, this large pro-equality swing of 15% from South Dakota shifts it from what we'd call "Seeking A Miracle" status to "long-shot target to flip pro-equality" if there needs to be a next time.


2001-2 01-A: 150 yes, 139 no --> 51.9% YES
2009 08-B: 127 yes, 90 no --> 58.5% YES (+6.6%)

Heartland was a "hold" presbytery, which means that it had previously voted pro-equality and we wanted to keep it that way. That was successful, and with a solid 6.6% pro-LGBT shift.

John Calvin
2001-2 01-A: 16 yes, 76 no --> 17.4% YES
2009 08-B: 33 yes, 55 no --> 37.5% YES (+20.1%)

Here's another presbytery "no" vote, however look at that pro-equality shift of over 20%. Supporters doubled the number of "yes" voters, while the "no" side lost 21 votes. That's a very positive shift towards equality.

Whitewater Valley
2001-2 01-A: 95 yes, 150 no --> 38.8% YES
2009 08-B: 108 yes, 106 no --> 50.5% YES (+11.7%)

Whitewater Valley was a "very long shot to flip" presbytery, and in fact did flip this year from "no" to "yes". This was our "amazingly positive surprise" Presbytery for the week. Many thanks to everybody working in this presbytery for equality.

2001-2 01-A: 29 yes, 37 no --> 44% YES
2009 08-B: 25 yes, 23 no --> 52% YES (+8%)

Yellowstone was another target presbytery to flip from "no" to "yes", and here it was successful. As with Whitewater Valley, a change of a single "yes" vote to "no" would have made this into a tie this year, which would have counted as a "no". (Did I mention yet that every vote counts?)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekly 08-B vote wrapup: the anti-equality deck-stacking begins

This wrapup has a combination of statistics, comments, and advisories.

As I noted a few weeks back, there are a significant number of presbyteries with strong anti-equality voting records. The 13 presbytery votes over the past week included 10 of these "likely no" presbyteries, so the vote totals this week are very lopsided towards "no" votes.

The big news this week is that the 15 no-to-yes presbytery vote flips of the previous several weeks have both frightened and motivated the anti-LGBT forces within the denomination. We're now starting to see an increase in anti-08B activity at the presbytery level, including the use of antidemocratic tactics such as suppressing presbytery meeting discussion of 08-B. The largest disappointment this week was in Indian Nations, a target no-to-yes swing presbytery, where the anti-08B side successfully used debate-suppression and was able to nudge the "yes" vote just under 50%. Had 08-B been given a fair and open discussion from Presbytery floor, as is generally required by Presbyterian polity, Indian Nations very likely would have voted "yes" on 08-B.

I should be clear about the impact of what we've learned from the past week. If you're in a presbytery which has a good chance of a vote flip this year, YOUR PRESBYTERY IS A TARGET FOR VOTING PROCESS ABUSE during your presbytery meeting. You should do what you can both before and during your presbytery meeting to ensure that 08-B is given a fair, deliberative discussion and a fair vote. If you feel that the process isn't fair, at the very least please make some noise about it, under the "sunlight is the best disinfectant" principle.

Here are some popular tactics that can be used by anti-equality groups to game the voting system so that pro-equality overtures have a reduced probability of success at the presbytery level:

- "Stifle the Spirit" tactic: Don't allow discussion of the equality overture, just go directly to a vote. Variation: schedule only a token time interval for discussion.

- "Public intimidation" tactic: Don't use secret ballots -- make people stand up in the middle of presbytery meeting to have their vote counted. Works particularly well in presbyteries with a strong majority on either side.

- "Endurance test" tactic: Schedule the vote on the overture at the end of a 7-hour meeting so that younger voters with kids at home have to leave before the vote.

- "Consent calendar" tactic: Put a "no" vote on the overture onto the consent calendar to try to sneak it through. Even if pro-equality supporters catch this trick, they then have to go through procedural hoops on the floor of presbytery to get the item removed from the consent calendar.

This is just my off-the-cuff list -- I'm confident that there are other tactics that can be, and have been, used to create an unfair context for voting.


With those preliminaries and warnings out of the way, let's go into the summary and the vote-by-vote comments.


Yes votes: 2
No votes: 11
No-to-yes flips: 0 out of a target 1
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 2 out of 2
Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 8
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality: 2
Nasty surprises: 1 (Indian Nations)
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 0
Annoyances: 1 (Missouri Union)
Bruce's ranking of the week: "stormy with anti-gay pushback"

Roughly in order of neutral, then annoying, then good news, here are the recent votes that I'm aware of:


2001-2 01-A: Voice vote "no"
2009 08-B: 24 yes, 79 no --> 23% YES

2001-2 01-A: Voice vote "no"
2009 08-B: 4 yes, 101 no --> 4% YES

New Harmony
2001-2 01-A: Voice vote "no"
2009 08-B: 20 yes, 99 no --> 16.8% YES

All three of these presbyteries took voice "no" votes on 01-A back in 2001-2, so there are no voting percentages from those years to compare for a vote shift. These three "no" votes suggest that the initial trend -- in which half of the previous voice-vote-no presbyteries flipped to "yes" -- was probably an outlier. The most likely pattern for the remaining prior-voice-vote-no presbyteries is that we'll see most or all of them come in with "no" votes.

The Shenango vote was originally reported elsewhere as 4 yes, 191 no, which is incorrect. My correspondence with the Stated Clerk got a corrected number of 4 yes, 101 no, and a process note that the vote was taken by asking people to stand up in the middle of presbytery meeting to have their "yes" or "no" vote counted. Presumably they did one set of people standing for "no" and then took a headcount, and then another set of people standing for "yes" and took a headcount. This is a nice example of the "public intimidation" voting tactic that I mention above. Not necessarily intentional on the part of the vote-takers, but probably effective at reducing the "yes" vote count regardless of intent.

I really want to call out here for thanksgiving the four people in Shenango who had the courage to stand up to be counted "yes" on 08-B this year. We don't know your names, we don't know who you are, but you're all heroes. It would have been so easy, in the midst of what was already known to be a lopsided presbytery no-on-08B vote, to simply stay seated, anonymous, and safe. If Peter can get away with it in Matthew 26:69-74, why not us, 2000 years later? But you didn't -- you ensured that it wasn't a 101-to-zero "no" vote, it was 101-4. The light shines in the darkness in Shenango! Four people potentially put their careers within Shenango Presbytery at risk by standing for equality this week. What will the rest of us do to stand for equality they way they did?


Indian Nations
2001-2 01-A: 52 yes, 52 no --> 50.0% YES
2009 08-B: 38 yes, 43 no --> 46.9% YES (-3.1%)

What should have been a no-to-yes flip this year turned into a 3% anti-equality shift due to the use of the "stifle the Spirit" tactic used during the presbytery meeting. Thanks for reminding us that you don't play fair, anti-08B people. Your use of this tactic suggests that you don't feel that your arguments can stand the sunlight of open discussion, as mandated by Presbyterian polity. If you think that the PCUSA should discriminate against gay people, at least have the guts to stand up in your presbytery meeting and say so. Cowards.

Missouri Union
2001-2 01-A: 34 yes, 46 no --> 42.5% YES
2009 08-B: 31 yes, 48 no --> 39.2% YES (-3.3%)

Bucking the trend of "if it's over 30% in the past, it will probably shift pro-LGBT" was Missouri Union, with a perhaps statistically insignificant 3% anti-equality shift. This presbytery was a long shot to flip from no to yes this year, but instead it's hovering around that 40% mark. It would have been nice to see a 5% to 7% pro-equality shift, so this one counts as "annoying".


Here we have a series of "no" votes, so you might be wondering why I list these in the "slightly positive" category. The reason, of course, is the voting percent shifts. In every case it was a pro-equality shift, even in some heavily anti-equality presbyteries that we might expect to trend anti-equality.

North Puget Sound
2001-2 01-A: 39 yes, 73 no --> 35% YES
2009 08-B: 42 yes, 69 no --> 38% YES (+3%)

Northeast Georgia
2001-2 01-A: 44 yes, 101 no --> 30.3% YES
2009 08-B: 49 yes, 89 no --> 35.5% YES (+5.2%)

2001-2 01-A: 12 yes, 40 no --> 23.1% YES
2009 08-B: 17 yes, 42 no --> 28.8% YES (+5.7%)

Tampa Bay
2001-2 01-A: 63 yes, 142 no --> 30.7% YES
2009 08-B: 71 yes, 105 no --> 40.3% YES (+9.6%)


Hudson River
2001-2 01-A: 103 yes, 28 no --> 79% YES
2009 08-B: 94 YES, 12 no --> 89% YES (+10%)

Another "safe yes vote" presbytery comes in with a 10% pro-equality shift, similar to what we've seen earlier in (for example) Chicago, Redwoods, and Sante Fe presbyteries. We haven't had any presbytery break the 90% support barrier yet, but Hudson River is certainly close.

2001-2 01-A: 68 yes, 35 no --> 66% YES
2009 08-B: 86 yes, 24 no --> 78% YES (+12%)

And still another >10% pro-equality shift from a "safe yes" presbytery. Nice job in Milwaukee bringing out the pro-equality vote.

Peace River
2001-2 01-A: 37 yes, 105 no --> 26.1% YES
2009 08-B: 63 yes, 82 no --> 43.4% YES (+17.4%)

The winner of the pro-equality shift award for the week is Peace river, which shifts from "strongly anti-equality" to "target swing presbytery if there needs to be a next time". There were both significant numerical increases in the yes vote, and decreases in the no vote -- the best scenario. And a 17% pro-equality shift is huge -- this is a good success story for the week.

South Alabama
2001-2 01-A: 18 yes, 49 no --> 26.9% YES
2009 08-B: 24 yes, 33 no --> 42.1% YES (+15.2%)

Nipping at the heels of Peace River for the pro-equality shift award this week is South Alabama. As with Peace River, here we see a presbytery with a voting history of mid-20% pro-equality suddenly jump into the low-40% range. +15% is an amazing jump in support, and as with Peace River moves this presbytery out of the category "strongly anti-equality" into the category of "target to flip pro-equality".