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.