March 14, 2007
ROTFLMAO at how incorrectly the politicians and media are reading the Viaduct vote

Several commentators have looked at the inconclusive results from yesterday's vote and prematurely ejaculated with the baseless conclusion that NO-NO won. See Clowncilman Peter Steinbrueck, or Westneat:

The choices were A or B. You picked "neither."
or Times editoral board:
"Double no" means, of course, voters didn't like either choice.
Not right. I'll try to simplify my unnecessarily complicated post from last night.

There were 3 real choices: YES elevated/NO tunnel; YES tunnel/NO elevated; NO-NO. The 55% who voted NO on the elevated included the 30% who voted YES on the tunnel. So it was basically:
Elevated 45%
Tunnel 30%
NO-NO 25%
(It's slightly more complicated because some voted YES on both and some cast blank ballots). We can't know for sure, but unless you're convinced that the actual votes for the odd theoretical possibilities won a high percentage, the elevated won a plurality, and the NO-NO trailed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at March 14, 2007 09:46 AM | Email This
1. I didn't get to see the ballot, but wasn't the questions asking about:

1. REPLACE the overhead
2. BUILD tunnel

? Was there a question about REFITTING the overhead?


Posted by: Greg on March 14, 2007 09:55 AM
2. If all 3 items appeared on a single slate of options, you could draw the conclusion that the elevated option led. However, there were two ballots, not one, and trying to discern voter intent in that configuration is probably as accurate as discerning voter intent in the King County vote counting operation.

The best we can say is that the tunnel option is not just dead, its really dead. The elevated option has greater interest, but not yet by a majority of voters. Is there a 3rd, 4th and 5th option too? Maybe.

Posted by: Ed on March 14, 2007 10:02 AM
3. Stefan, with all respect, your interpretation of the vote is wrong because your premise is wrong.

You say that there were "three real choices," and thus limit your interpretation to which of those three choices is favored by the voters. But in reality, it could be that voters don't support any of those three choices.

[By way of example, let's say there are four candidates running for an office - Smith, Jones, Williams, and Miller. Miller is the most popular candidate in fact, but a straw poll leaves Miller off, and Smith finishes 1st, Jones finishes 2nd, and Williams 3rd. An analyst declares that "there were only three real choices on the ballot, so obviously the voters..."]

I believe that that the majority of Seattle voters are opposed to replacing the viaduct. They are opposed to replacing it with a tunnel, and they are opposed to replacing it with a new viaduct. Right or wrong, yesterday the Seattle voters did not "advise" that the viaduct be replaced. Right or wrong, yesterday the Seattle voters did not "advise" in favor of the disruption and billions in spending that would result from tearing down the viaduct.

Posted by: Steve Beren on March 14, 2007 10:10 AM
4. Steve Beren:
You say that there were "three real choices," and thus limit your interpretation to which of those three choices is favored by the voters. But in reality, it could be that voters don't support any of those three choices.
Um, okay, Steve, but one of my 3 choices was "no on both". If you believe that voters rejected the tunnel and rejected the elevated and rejected rejecting both, what options do you think they favored that I left out?

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on March 14, 2007 10:21 AM
5. This is similar to when the PI does a poll and breaks out the "NO" option in their choices to two different options, one being just "NO", and other "NO, but X". When you add up the two "No" options, you still get 55% opposed.

We really don't know what those 30% tunnel and 25% NO-NO voters would vote for given another option (assuming the tunnel is dead), but we know it's not another viaduct.

Posted by: Palouse on March 14, 2007 10:29 AM
6. The anti-human, anti-car, surface street contingent is the most prevalent and powerful mindset in Seattle. That's really what's behind all of this interpretation, and probably the poor structuring of the ballot in the first place.

There are a lot of Utopian Seattle Moonbats who have been to San Francisco and seen the Embarcadero. Probably on a visit to walk in a gay parade, or a naked protest or some other such nonsense. These Moonbats come back feeling that a nice surface boulevard in Seattle is akin to what they saw in San Francisco. But they are not engineers, and they are not even residents of the Bay Area, and they don't understand that San Francisco is at the end of a Peninsula, and the Embarcadero freeway was never really completed to become a major North South corridor, unlike the Alasakan Way viaduct which actually is a major North South corridor.

In my opinion, the Moonbat contingent, along with the obvious inability to make money out of thin air, and along with Nickels eventual realization, that a surface street will still win a lot of the high value waterfront real estate battles that he had hope for, will all merge together. And that merge will create a dead end for would be North South drivers.

And this is exactly what the anti-man, anti-car moonbats want.

Prepare for more gridlock. The nihilist anti-man, anti-car moonbats hope to choke the roads so badly, that your car is no longer operable.

Posted by: Jeff B. on March 14, 2007 10:41 AM
7. No/No = don't build a new freakin mega freeway in my face.

Posted by: Peoples Asphalt Coalition on March 14, 2007 10:46 AM
8. What? "anti-human, anti-car Utopian Seattle Moonbats?" What people who vote no/no want is for the DOT and Governor to get off their concrete mixer gazing contact high asses and solve REAL flow problems. Not just install a big pipe for 12 blocks and pat themselves on the back while they burn money.

Posted by: Peoples Asphalt Coalition on March 14, 2007 10:51 AM
9. I think it can be reasonably concluded that if the City Council had done what they were asked, but were unwilling, to do, which is to allow taxpayers to vote on either a tunnel OR a replacement viaduct, the replacement viaduct would have won resoundingly. No doubt.

Even if the obstreperous council had produced a ballot with three clear choices (tunnel, replacement viaduct, and "surface option"), Stefan's logic correctly indicates that the "surface option" would have come in last (the anti-viaduct folks would have split between tunnel and surface), and the replacement viaduct would have won.

It is clear that many no-no votes were cast by supporters of retrofitting the existing viaduct (people whom I assume would vote for a replacement viaduct over a tunnel if that was their only choice to make), so that there is no conclusion that can be drawn from the "No" votes. Only the Yes votes have meaning, and a replacement viaduct won. Any other conclusion is just political spin.

Posted by: srogers on March 14, 2007 10:55 AM
10. Stefan I believe the options left out, to include being left off the ballot, are the retrofit and the surface street option. I have to agree with many that the ballot should have listed all options to get a clearer picture of what the voters really wanted. Then again this is King County, so does it really matter what the voter wanted or what Nickels and Company want.

Posted by: TrueSoldier on March 14, 2007 11:02 AM
11. Truesolider,

My thoughts exactly. How many of the no votes do you think were votes for the retrofit repair at a huge savings to everyone? Or for a surface street option?

Seems they needed one question with 5 options; the 4 proposals and the none of the above. But of course, making the question and options clear would have eliminated the politicians ability to spin a victory out of the results regardless of getting the most votes or not.

Posted by: MJC on March 14, 2007 11:07 AM
12. Looks more like the choices were cleverly crafted and positioned to cause further ambiguity ..... thus necessitating the gifted and highly enlightened elected officials make the choice, pass more emergency taxes, etc. Same old crap.

Why don't they just get some big pipes, put them up on supports and have an elevated tunnel? How about we put Seattle on Ebay and get rid the problem for good?

Posted by: pbs7mm on March 14, 2007 11:15 AM
13. "How about we put Seattle on Ebay and get rid the problem for good?"

Olympia would only tax us to pay to have someone haul it away.

Posted by: MJC on March 14, 2007 11:19 AM
14. i wanted steamed rice, not fried. relevance?

wasted effort all around. nothing will change. only more consulting $$ blown. & more search for consensus. and yes, 11 is right on the money.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on March 14, 2007 11:21 AM
15. Seattle and the state should just do something and stop crabbing about it. The rest of us in Washington don't care.

Posted by: Libertarian on March 14, 2007 11:22 AM
16. Stefan,

"Several commentators have looked at the inconclusive results from yesterday's vote and prematurely ejaculated with the baseless conclusion that NO-NO won"

It is , of course, your blog Stefan and you are free to do with it what you wish. But that sentence sounds like the sort of gutter talk a lesser intellect such as Goldstein would use. Perhaps you were reaching out to the liberal readers of the blog to give them a metaphor they could understand as copulation seems to be the only prism through which liberals are able to view the world.

I am certain your world view suffers no such constraint. Can you please continue to make this apparent through your writings?



Posted by: pbj on March 14, 2007 11:29 AM
17. Stefan is right to question the interpretation of the mainstream press on this. But this discussion (and a future column) should include ways to change the voting method itself to avoid interpretation issues. The "winner take all" election of 'elevated vs tunnel vs surface' would not have produce any more accurate a reading of the true will of the people. (see "Bush vs Gore vs Nader"). The clear solution is some sort of ranked or ordered vote. In Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) voters true preferences are made apparent. Championed by ex-Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic. But there are problems with IRV too (see
I believe there's an even better method than IRV - a ranked method - which I am currently refining and expect to demonstrate to friends and collegues soon. Email me if you'd like to keep posted.

Posted by: Scott Kennedy on March 14, 2007 11:29 AM
18. PBJ: Look up the definition of ejaculate in the dictionary
2: to utter suddenly and vehemently
It's a homonym dude.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on March 14, 2007 11:35 AM
19. I still think there should be a 'none of the above' line on all elections not just this one.

Posted by: ronk on March 14, 2007 11:36 AM
20. Why does it matter how people voted on it? It's going to fall down on it's own before anyone agrees on how to replace it.

Posted by: Cato on March 14, 2007 11:41 AM
21. There is a partial solution at least to the voting math ambiguity.

The ballots are still sitting in boxes.

Re-run them and tabulate according to the full set of choices and associate the choice sets with each voter's vote on each measure.

Might cost less than a million dollars.

Posted by: Bart Cannon on March 14, 2007 11:42 AM
22. Does anyone know if there is a link to the breakdown of the votes? (yes/yes, yes/no, no/yes, no/no)

The county has this:

But without knowing the breakdown, we all know that the results of the vote is a bit variable.

Does the city have access to the breakdown?

Posted by: reason_plz on March 14, 2007 11:43 AM
23. Stefan at #44:

See TrueSoldier at #10, with whom I agree. The other options were the retrofit and the so-called surface transit option.

One of the advantages the retrofit would have had in a four-way choice was that the other three options (tunnel, new viaduct, surface transit) all lead to incredible cost overruns, bureaucracy, very increased taxes, disruption, and harm to the business climate - all while not helping the transportation problem.

From the perspective of fiscal responsibility, limited government bureaucracy, and focusing government on solving actual problems, the retrofit is the most reasonable solution, by far.

I may be wrong or right in my support of the retrofit. But we can all agree that the way the ballot proposal was structured, framed, and presented blocked and harmed discussion of this fiscally conservative alternative.

Force people to choose among three ultra-costly and counter-productive choices (new viaduct, tunnel, "surface transit"), and of course one will come out ahead. All while the spin-masters try to rule out consideration of the fiscally conservative approach.

Posted by: Steve Beren on March 14, 2007 11:44 AM
24. Steve, yes, I prefer the fiscally conservative retrofit too and I've stated that position on the blog on many occasions.

And you're right, the ballot was poorly designed. It should have included other options and should have precluded ambiguous options such as YES on both or NO on both.

But you were wrong to conclude earlier that "The voters said "no" twice yesterday". There's nothing in the results to support that.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on March 14, 2007 11:54 AM
25. There is one way to resolve which option was most preferable to Seattle voters.

Someone could actually inspect the ballots, and see which way the YES-YES, YES-NO, NO-YES, and NO-NO votes are going.

Technically, there are nine options, since there are undervotes/overvotes for each choice -- about 5% undervote on the tunnel and 3% undervote on the viaduct.

Probably a good random sample from the returned ballots would be sufficient for this, keeping in mind that mail ballots get sorted by legislative district in the counting process, and also are grouped based on the dates received in the mail.

So maybe take the first 10 ballots from 100 randomly selected ballot batches?

Stefan, are you up for this? The actual ballots should be considered public records. At least they were in Florida, when news agencies got the November 2000 ballots under public records law to recount to see who really "won".

Posted by: Richard Pope on March 14, 2007 12:07 PM
"We need to take a moment, take a deep breath and think about this," said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, the state House transportation chairwoman.

Dadgummit or dagnabit or something to that effect. I thought this was an "EMERGENCY" a few years ago.

It is a STATE highway. It has a wonderful advantage of transversing Seattle with limited interruptions (crosswalks, stoplights, train traffic, or ferry traffic). The tunnel option was too expensive and even Seattlites won't pay for it. The Surface option only introduces more interruptions in the traffic flow, creating, rather than relieving gridlock.

Posted by: SouthernRoots on March 14, 2007 12:16 PM
27. What evidence is there that people who voted NO-NO want a retrofit over a surface/transit option? None that I know of. Given the two choices on that ballot, alot of retrofit supporters may have voted for the elevated replacement, as that would have been their preferred option over nothing or the tunnel.

If we assume the tunnel is dead (because it is), what if that ballot had the two options, Elevated Rebuild or Surface/Transit? If 55% of voters (30% tunnel, plus 25% NO-NO) did not want another elevated structure before, how would they vote here? I do not think it's automatic by any means that an elevated rebuild would win that vote.

Tunnel voters definitely don't want another viaduct, so you can assume that 30% automatically votes for Surface/Transit. So the question is, how many of the 25% NO-NO voters would migrate to the Elevated Rebuild option? I do not believe it would be enough to give the rebuild a majority over surface/transit.

Posted by: Palouse on March 14, 2007 01:00 PM
28. 70,744 votes counted sofar for building something

118,383 votes counted sofar for not building something

What does it really mean.... how can one interpret the true will and mind of the people through such primitive and vague proceedings? We must divine that there were 189,127 votes counted that really implies they all were in support of ... uh... well, a Royal Flush can be formed 4 ways.

Posted by: Peoples Asphalt Coalition on March 14, 2007 01:13 PM
29. Wow, could your math and logic be more wrong? I enjoyed listening to you on KUOW this morning :)

Posted by: Andrew Hitchcock on March 14, 2007 01:16 PM
30. They could have asked the voters if they would prefer replacing the viaduct with a tunnel at the expense of non-King County property owners and likely that would have passed overwhelmingly.

They could have asked the voters if they would prefer replacing the viaduct with a tunnel at the cost to only the smokers in the state, and that as well would have passed overwhelmingly.

They even could have asked the voters if they would prefer replacing the viaduct with a tunnel at the cost to only those people who voted Republican in the last presidently primary, and lo and behold, it may very well have passed overwhelmingly.

Who is going to pay for the damn thing anyhow? It is those people or their representatives that should determine what is going to be built or retrofit or what have you. I wouldn't trust Stalin County voters to vote on anything, they've proven in the past that as a group they are selfish and stupid at best and only as individuals they might rate a little higher.

Posted by: Doug on March 14, 2007 01:17 PM
31. Wow, could your math and logic be more wrong? I enjoyed listening to you on KUOW this morning :)

Posted by: Andrew Hitchcock on March 14, 2007 01:17 PM
32. Hey out of towners:

Quit trying to shove a freeway down my throat.

Im sure Stefan and the rest of you fine folks will come up with new attempts to discredit Seattle voting, while simultaneously trying to shove your own right wing agenda.

Take a car ride in the other direction, we don't want a new elevated, and we sure as hell don't want you out of town Republican bloggers lying about our vote intent.

NO MEANT NO, and that means you pro highway folks lost this round. Will you be back? I'm sure of it, after all God and the Constitution says you get to drive downtown without paying for it with your taxes doesn't it?

Posted by: DaveD on March 14, 2007 01:33 PM
33. DaveD, if you read my posts here, I have been saying that the vote was not a win for the rebuild (and I post here regularly).

But here's a question for you - C. Gregoire has pushed for that rebuild, and she might still win and "shove it down your throat". Does that mean you won't be voting for her next election?

Posted by: Palouse on March 14, 2007 01:38 PM
34. Stefan at #24 - Let's agree to disagree on the interpretation of the vote, especially since we both support the retrofit and since we both agree the ballot was poorly established.

Posted by: Steve Beren on March 14, 2007 02:04 PM
35. Good analysis, Stefan. Your numbers are as good as anyones.

But, I think consensus is that the tunnel is dead. Nothing more nor nothing less. Anything else is conjecture.

Except, the Olys have got to rethink their elevated viaduct option a little bit with the high NO vote.

They can and will spin it and will force the City to approve permits. Simple as simple can be.

Posted by: swatter on March 14, 2007 02:11 PM
36. Right daved..

DaveD did we Rep built I-5 into Seattle and then put a building over it so all you had was TWO lanes. 0-: (NOOOOO)
DaveD you want a foolish tunnel BUILD it yourself. Even though I'm sorry to say we can't have it that way because this whole state is going to pay for the next Seattle mess.

Posted by: Army Medic/Vet on March 14, 2007 02:16 PM
37. "Andrew Hitchcock":
Wow, could your math and logic be more wrong?
I'm always happy to be corrected if I'm wrong. Do tell us. How is my logic wrong?

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on March 14, 2007 03:13 PM
38. #32 Dave the DA- Hotel Motel Tax still being collected for the Kingdum statewide A-Hole and the Mariners Palace which was rejected by the voters. I will gladly spend my dinero elsewhere than King Dumb Co as I have since Queen Chris was selected.

Posted by: harpoontang on March 14, 2007 06:23 PM
39. Let the pols work up the cojones to put "None Of The Above" on the ballots, it would be most eye opening :-).

A million dollar pissing match between usless and the queen, cheap entertainment.


Posted by: fox3 on March 15, 2007 08:55 PM
40. Interesting blog. But I think the math is not tabulated correctly, because the tabulation assumptions may be incorrect.

First, you cannot assume that everyone voted on both issues. So, you need to first separate the ballots by those who only answered question 1, those who only answered question 2, and those that answered both. Only then, can you really find out the 'true' totals of the voters wishes.

Second, you cannot assume that everyone who voted 'yes' on viaduct also voted 'no' on tunnel, and vice versa. Because some could have said 'yes' to both. That is the way the ballot was written.

In fact, I suspect more people only voted on what they didn't want rather than what they did, since the 'did' options were limited to two incredibly shortsighted choices.

Only a cross-tabulation of the two questions will give us the correct answer, but King County Elections has denied my request for such data with the insane logic that two separate issues were being voted on. I see it as one issue--how to replace the viaduct, with two options--rebuild or tunnel. Or at least that is how it was 'sold' to voters.

I suspect if the voters were given a better written ballot the outcome would have been different. Such a ballot might look like this:

Question: How do you want to fix SR-99 through downtown Seattle?

Possible Answers, please check ONLY one:
a. tunnel along the waterfront (original proposal),
b. tunnel-lite (the last minute four lane option),
c. tunnel under 2nd ave (which is actually cheaper and keeps viaduct open during construction),
d. viaduct rebuild (widened for more traffic),
e. viaduct retrofit (fix what is there),
f. street-transit (what kind of transit??? not those dreadful still-stuck-in-the-same-traffic-as-cars buses),
g. wait til if falls down,
h. do nothing,
i. none of the above.

Then we would really know the 'true' intent of the voters.

Posted by: scooter on March 19, 2007 12:59 PM
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