May 23, 2005
Most Felons Are Democrats

And since Democrats can be sensitive on this point, I will add immediately that the reverse is not true.  Most Democrats are not felons.

That most felons are Democrats is not a secret — but it does seem to be a secret from the Seattle Times, which yesterday put out this extensively researched article, but never mentions that fact.  (Party leaders know that most felons are Democrats, as one can see by noting that the Democrats generally support extending voting rights to felons and that the Republicans generally oppose that extension.)

How do we know that most felons are Democrats?  Two ways, broadly speaking.  First, felons belong to groups that are more likely to be Democrats.  Those who are bothered by this line of argument should know that it is the same line of argument often used by Paul Berendt, the state Democratic chairman.  More than once, I have heard him argue that since felons are more likely to be men (true) and men are more likely to vote for Republicans than women (also true), then more felons must have voted for Republican Dino Rossi than for Democrat Christine Gregoire.   His analysis is not wrong; if all we knew about felons is that they were mostly men, I would agree that it would be likely that more of them voted for Rossi than for Gregoire.

But it is incomplete, because we know many other things about felons.  Let me add in more of what we know and you will see that these other factors outweigh Berendt's single factor.   First, felons are more likely to be single.  Singles are more likely to be Democrats than married people.  Second, felons are poorer than the average person.  Poorer people are more likely to be Democrats.  Third, felons are more likely to be black or Hispanic.   Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be Democrats, much more likely in the case of blacks.   Fourth, felons are more likely to come from urban areas.  Those from urban areas are more likely to be Democrats.  You can now see why anyone familiar with American voting patterns would expect most felons to be Democrats.  (Does Berendt know this?  I am not sure and would not want to guess without more knowledge of the man.)

Second, although secret ballots prevent us from looking at felons' votes, we do have the next best thing, their party registrations in the state of Florida, something I discussed at length in this post.  Briefly, a newspaper that endorsed Al Gore in 2000, the Palm Beach Post, found about 5,600 felons who had voted illegally in the 2000 election and found that 68 percent of them were registered Democrats.  (The Miami Herald, which also endorsed Gore, did a similar investigation and came up with similar results.)  That 68 percent is about what most students of American voting patterns would expect, given what else we know about felons.

Can we extend this directly to Washington state?  Not quite, as I explained in my January post, because the two states have such different rules for restoring voting rights to felons.  And it is also true that Washington does not have as large a population of pro-Democratic minorities as Florida does.  So, if we had registration data by party in Washington state, I would expect we would find that our felons are not 68 percent Democrats, but somewhere between 50 and 60 percent Democrats.  That would still be enough to have tipped the election to Gregoire easily.

And we should not forget another point that I have mentioned before &mdash although the Seattle Times does not mention it.  When these searches for felons on the voting lists are made, they certainly miss many felons.  Relying, as they do, on name matches, they will miss any felon who changes his name.  And in Washington (and probably Florida), they will miss those who committed their crimes in another state.  (Washington forbids them from voting if they could not vote in the state where they committed their crimes.)  More than 5,600 felons voted illegally in Florida in 2000; more than 1,000 felons voted illegally in Washington in 2004.   Almost certainly many more, in both elections.

Knowing that most felons are Democrats, can we conclude that Rossi won the election?  Not quite, because of all the other uncertainties in the election.  But we can say this: If we eliminated the felon votes, and made no other changes, that would give Rossi the win.

(Does this analysis mean that I disagree with the decision of the Rossi legal team to use proportional analysis, which attempts to estimate how the felons voted only from their precincts?   Not necessarily, because I do not know what kinds of analyses courts have allowed in the past.   If precedents allow proportional analysis, but not the kind of demographic analysis that I sketched above, then they made the right decision.  But if we were interested in the best estimate possible, then we would use the other data, as well as their precincts.

And perhaps some other factors that I have not mentioned.  For example, it seems entirely plausible to me that felons are less likely to attend a church regularly, and that was one of the strongest predictors of the vote in last fall's election.

Stefan Sharkansky has his own criticisms of the Seattle Times piece, which you can see here and here.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics)

Posted by Jim Miller at May 23, 2005 07:02 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Yep, and if you don't attend church regularly you are about 66% likely to vote democrat. That's a fact.

Posted by: Michele on May 23, 2005 07:10 PM
2. And since Democrats can be sensitive on this point, I will add immediately that the reverse is not true. Most Democrats are not felons.

Not sure if I agree with the final analysis Jim.

However, you have laid out an interesting argument which appears to be cogent and pleasant to read. It is one of the best posts I have read on SP aside from one or two from Matt.

Whether it is clear and convincing is another matter.

Posted by: Erik on May 23, 2005 07:22 PM
3. Wow, a blessing from Erik. You can die a happy man, now.

Posted by: Danny on May 23, 2005 07:46 PM
4. I wonder if anyone has done a study of felon voting in Oregon. It is demographically similar to Washington and has party registration.

Posted by: b2 on May 23, 2005 07:59 PM
5. 100% of Neo-Nazis vote Republican.

Posted by: GET OVER IT! on May 23, 2005 08:28 PM
6. Get Over It!,

Ummm... yeah... nice eighth grade attitude. Did you come with that clever, witty, insightful, and utterly original statement before or after your bong hit?

Posted by: Mike H on May 23, 2005 08:37 PM
7. Michele
I do not attend church and i haven't voted for a democrat since 1970 except in a primary i voted for sims hoping he would be the one to face rossi.

Posted by: lori on May 23, 2005 08:49 PM
8. And since Democrats can be sensitive on this point, I will add immediately that the reverse is not true. Most Democrats are not felons.

Mmmmm...nah. Most democrats just haven't been convicted yet.

Posted by: steve_dog on May 23, 2005 08:57 PM
9. lori: I did say about 66% likely to vote democrat if you don't go to church. Not 100%. that means you're in the 33%.

Posted by: Michele on May 23, 2005 09:01 PM
10. Most felons rationalize their actions based on a warped sense of entitlement or some hangup about personal injustice. QED, they are likely to be democrats.

Posted by: Carl on May 23, 2005 09:30 PM
11. Jim posts: That most felons are Democrats is not a secret but it does seem to be a secret from the Seattle Times, which yesterday put out this extensively researched article, but never mentions that fact.

Oh really? Did you see this in today's Seattle Times article?

The Times attempted to reach 134 of the people on the Republican list to ask which gubernatorial candidate they voted for. More than half could not be contacted. Of the 53 reached, 49 were felon voters; the others had voted legally. Among the 49, 25 voted for Gregoire, 18 for Rossi and one for Libertarian candidate Ruth Bennett. Two did not cast votes in the governor's race, and the three others either wouldn't say whom they voted for or couldn't remember.

This is the first poll that I've seen of WA felons from any media outlet (blogs included), political party, pollster, or anyone else. It even came out the way you want. Instead of commending the Times for its objectivity, you slam them. Your paranoia is showing.

Most posters here have till now argued that there's no good way of knowing how the felons voted, and the best measure is proportional analysis by precinct. I recall Republicans pooh-poohing efforts to survey felons or to do proportional analysis by more complex criteria (sex, age, race, religion, income, etc.).

Are you changing your position on that now?

I think that if the goal were to get the most accurate guesstimate, a combination of polling felons and proportional analysis by many criteria should be used. However, that requires basing a court decision on unofficial poll data rather than official, albeit less relevant, data by precinct. I suspect the court will be very hesitant to venture into that territory.

Posted by: Bruce on May 23, 2005 09:49 PM
12. In the Times Sunday story - they had a piece about a female felon who made the same claim as a felon in my family made....
She stated something to the effect that the organization that registered her to vote in a shopping mall - assured her that she would have have her voting rights restored...All she had to do is sign up! That is exactly what happened to my family member in Eastern Washington! He was approached in a shopping mall by a Moveon.org
voter registration guy. He explined to the man that he was a felon and the guy told him not to worry - that it's been over 7 years since his conviction and the law stated he could now vote!

You have to ask yourself...Why would so many felons suddenly feel compelled to register to vote?? Some of these felons have had convictions dating back to the 80's! Many had not voted for years - but for some *unknown* reason - they all decided that 2004 was the year to register and vote again!

I think there was an orchestrated effort by the Dems via Moveon.org to get out the *felon* vote!
I wonder if they used this ploy on non-citizens as well?
The Democrats - using moveon.org - shopped for voter registrations...EVEN ILLEGAL ONES!

Posted by: Deborah on May 23, 2005 09:56 PM
13. Berendt keeps saying that felons would not vote for Gregoire because she was the Attorney General.

He fails to mention the fact that the Democrats in this state will not pass a law that has any teeth and have gutted the ones that did. It is the reason we are one of the highest states in the country for vehicle theft.

Three strikes, hard time for armed crime, sex crimes and other laws with teeth had to be passed by Infinitive. That is why felons vote for democrats.

They will not vote for people who will put them in jail. That is why our founding fathers took the vote away from felons in the first place. It is only because of bleeding heart Democrats that we let them vote now.

Rupert P

Posted by: Rupert P on May 23, 2005 10:06 PM
14. And moveon.org figured no one would check all these votes to see if they're legal.

Posted by: Shannon K on May 23, 2005 10:10 PM
15. A corollary is that most high school dropouts are Democrat. At least that's a theory I have. And another theory I have is that most people over the age of 25 and subsisting under the poverty level are Democrats. So, Democrats like to smugly adopt a superior attitude and hold themselves out as learned intellectuals, and they like to characterize conservatives as redneck toothless goobers (Al Gore's "extra-chromosone rightwing" -- remember that?), but we know them by who it is that they attract: felons, high school dropouts, and the dirt poor. Reconcile all that.

Posted by: jaybird on May 23, 2005 11:09 PM
16. Rupert: funny thing is, I have to wonder how many felons even KNOW who the AG was! Most criminals are not thinking about nerdy political stuff like that.

And it sounds like these felons KNOW they're not supposed to be voting (the guy cited here and one felon I know sure knew they weren't supposed to!), until democrat groups come and confuse them (deception as M.O.--no surprise there!)

But one thing I can assure democrats: that the Dem party tries hard to get voting rights for felons sure as honk isn't because they think it will help Republicans!

Posted by: Michele on May 23, 2005 11:52 PM
17. I am dying to know how y'all think the formidable Democratic party machine is able to target felons for voter registration. Where do felons who are interested in voting hang out? How does the party recognize one? What a brilliant strategy!

And Michele, when you say that most felons don't care about nerdy political stuff like who the AG is, you are begging to be asked why that felon, now released, would care so much about voting as to deliberately commit the crime of illegally voting. Wouldn't these hideous monsters rather devote their time and energy to more lucrative crimes?

Do you really believe this stuff?

Posted by: Bruce on May 24, 2005 12:27 AM
18. Deborah writes: Why would so many felons suddenly feel compelled to register to vote?? Some of these felons have had convictions dating back to the 80's! Many had not voted for years - but for some *unknown* reason - they all decided that 2004 was the year to register and vote again!

Do you have a whit of evidence that more felons (proportionate to other new voters) registered before this election than any other election?

If you do, that would suggest organized fraud and this would be an excellent time to share it with the world. Such evidence seems to have escaped the media (oh, I forgot, they're all biased against you, even the ones who endorsed Rossi), not to mention the Republican party.

If you don't, your post is meaningless.

Posted by: Bruce on May 24, 2005 12:33 AM
19. Get Over It
And by this you mean the Nazi (Brown Shirt) party. 1930 Germany's version of socialism. Their version of our Democrat party. You should check your facts first before posting and you shouldn't debate those who know your lying.

Posted by: Mark Beyer on May 24, 2005 01:28 AM
20. Bruce
Reasonable assumption ties in with the felons stories. If someone has a voting drive they would ask certain questions, one of which would be to ask if you are a felon. Upon answering yes you fall within a minority, one of several they look for to get a registration from. In this case it is a Democrat support group seeking liberal or Democrat votes through known democrat and liberal social demographics. Yep, I'm inclined to believe the stories. Again, like I have posted before, check with the store for who was registered to have a booth/representative in front of the store. It would make it easy to determine which groupd was seeking to registering voters there. So far I don't see any holes in the story and fact checking like this would help expose more of the story as fact or fiction.

Posted by: Mark Beyer on May 24, 2005 01:36 AM
21. Bruce - I did, of course see that paragraph. But I am not sure that the reporters at the Times thought about it. They say that rmeoving all the felon votes would make little difference in the outcome, but their own tiny sample suggests the opposite.

And you should also know that I have not even mentioned proportional analysis here (or on my own site) until this post. As I said, I think it is not the best way to estimate how felons voted -- but it may be required by legal precedents.

jaybird - You are right that people with lower levels of education are more likely to be Democrats. But it is also true that the Democrats get more support from voters with postgraduate degrees. (Republicans do best with those in between.) Political scientists sometimes describe this relationship between support for the Democrats and education as a "J" curve because that is what it looks like when you graph support for the Democrats against education.

Finally could a few MoveOn activists registered felons deliberately, as some commenters have said? That's not implausible, but I haven't said anything about it because I don't know anything about the incident.

Posted by: Jim Miller on May 24, 2005 05:37 AM
22. I was in downtown Seattle last summer and watched the MoveOn.org folks register drunks and mentally deranged people. I also heard one person say he was already registered in another state and the LEFTIST told him it didn't matter. Amazing!
If I knew then what I know now, I would have got that person's name....or all the Hobo's names and tracked them to see if they actually became registered and voted.

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on May 24, 2005 05:51 AM
23. "I was in downtown Seattle last summer and watched the MoveOn.org folks register ... mentally deranged people."

How can you tell which was which?

Posted by: Dogbert on May 24, 2005 09:08 AM
24. Bruce,

Nice try defending the indefensible.

Talk about a meaningless post!

Posted by: Amused by liberal jackasses on May 24, 2005 09:12 AM
25. Mark Beyer writes: If someone has a voting drive they would ask certain questions, one of which would be to ask if you are a felon.

Really? Have you ever been asked that question? Have you ever heard of anyone being asked that question? I've been approached by campaign workers over the years and I've never been asked that. It would seem very odd to be asked that.

Typically they just want to know if you're already registered and which party you lean towards. Registering people inclined to vote for your side is arguably sleazy but is a standard strategy in US politics.

And as for "deranged" people, targeting them seems like a waste of time since they are relatively unlikely to vote.

Posted by: Bruce on May 24, 2005 09:44 AM
26. Most felons are uneducated white males in this state.That fits the Rep. voter profile.

Posted by: headless lucy on May 24, 2005 09:49 AM
27. Bruce, Am I allowed to simply WONDER if most felons are even paying attention to who the AG is? Is that okay with you? I didn't know we had to clear it with the Bruce police to wonder something outloud. If I'm busy living my criminal life, maybe it's NOT so, but it could be that I may have other things on my mind.

And frankly, when I was a political know-nothing back when, there were still times when I voted and I couldn't have told you who the AG was to save my life. And I had no personal felonious activity to be distracted by. Can you accept that that could be so?

Posted by: Michele on May 24, 2005 01:14 PM
28. Berendt's conclusion reminds me of my Freshman "Intro to Logic" class, where we'd analyze True/True/False statements, like the following:

All Cats are animals
All Dogs are animals
Therefore, all cats are dogs

Funny what a little spin-doctoring can do...

Posted by: Brent on May 24, 2005 01:15 PM
29. And Bruce, for your 411, I have seen more than one CSPAN segment showing radical leftist groups wringing their hands that felons aren't allowed to vote. It would be the key item on their agenda as to how they could change that. Believe me, it wasn't because they wanted President George W. Bush to win a second term!

I think it's hard for some Dems to come to grips with the obsession their party has on getting felons to vote to enlarge their party base. But sorry, that's reality. If it bothers you, maybe you're in the wrong party.

Posted by: Michele on May 24, 2005 01:17 PM
30. But it is also true that the Democrats get more support from voters with postgraduate degrees. (Republicans do best with those in between.)

As I see it, broadly speaking, there are three groups of people:

-1- Those who want others to take care of them.

-2- Those who want to take care of themselves.

-3- Those who want to take care of (and control) others.

Group #2 is the Republicans. Groups #1 and #3 are the Democrats.

Posted by: supercat on May 24, 2005 05:08 PM
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