Monday, March 10, 2014

Can we calculate the true value of countywide slating? A request to FWIW readers for help

Here is the sample ballot I received in the mail from the 41st Ward Democratic Organization. FWIW readers will note the places in which the sample ballot departs from the county judicial slate. (Click on the image to enlarge or clarify it, if necessary.)

I am not the guardian of orthodoxy or the whip for any party. I express no opinion on whether the evident departures from the slate are good, bad or inconsequential.

The 41st Ward is not one of those lakefront wards where departures from the slate are expected, even assumed. In recent elections, it's been a middle-of-the-pack, middle of the numbers sort of ward. I think it might be reasonable to hypothesize that the 41st Ward should be expected to fall in line with the county slate, top to bottom.

But that's not what happened this time. Indeed, 41 departs from the judicial slate in two places, just as many departures as in the historically independent 49th Ward. (Note that 49 departs from the slate in two different places than does 41.)

Does that mean that 41 has now become as independent as 49 (and almost as independent as the 43rd Ward, where there were also three departures from the county slate and one no-endorsement)?

Well, that's one possible interpretation. Another is that the departures in 41 are merely a reflection of the personal preferences of the local leadership, something easily explained by past acquaintance and experience. Still another possible interpretation is that some candidates are somehow 'less slated' than others.

The important thing is that no conclusions can be drawn from so few data points. There are 50 ward and 30 township organizations beneath the umbrella of the Cook County Democratic Party. I don't need to consult my statistician son-in-law to know that three out of 80 is an insufficient sample upon which to base reliable conclusions. I suppose we'll get additional data about whether some candidates are 'less slated' than others when the votes are counted -- but, at that point, there will be alternate explanations available as well -- the supposed magic of certain surnames, the perceived advantage of one gender over another, the 'bump' provided by newspaper (or other) endorsements.

So, dear readers, I turn to you for help. In the modern high-tech argot, I believe this may be called 'crowdsourcing.' Check your mail at home. Scan and send me any mailings you've received from your local ward or township organization; let's see who's on who's palmcards. We have eight days before the votes are counted.

Email me at Let me know, in the body of your email, whether you want, or would prefer not to receive, attribution.

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