$29 Of Your Money Per Vote: Are Voter Owned Elections Dead, Now?


How much money did Cornett spend on banner ads on the NYT website?
Matt, unless I'm reading OreStar wrong, Mandate Media took $16,452.72 of Cornett's public money. If VOE is just going to be a welfare program for ineffective political hacks, it's hard to see how it stands a chance in November. Kudos to the BO boys for fucking that one up.
Didn't he help start Chisolm's bread and butter, Blue Oregon? And the dude wouldn't even in-kind some services? Harsh.
Steve: Agreed.

@Graham: What Steve said. It was done through Kari at Mandate Media.
Multnomah County Elections are reporting a 33.63% turn-out as of 4am. Jesse is reported to have 8.02% with 7,806 votes and is now ahead of Soto. Just some facts.
I'm not sure the NYT ads were ineffective, in my case. Seeing those ads really helped convince me that Cornett was a viable candidate in a really hard to win race*, and it's part of the reason my wife and I voted for him (protesting the PPB was the other big part). I don't think anyone would doubt that building a reputation as a credible candidate with liberal voters was a good strategy, though with the obvious benefit of hindsight, there had to be better ways to spend the money, and Cornett clearly didn't do enough to get his message effectively to voters.

* I tend to not even cast a vote in uncontested elections, or obvious laughers.
@Bombero: You're right. Stats have shifted slightly since I pulled these last night. Thanks for the update.

@CC: The other thing is that far from "building a reputation," a loss this big may very well have ended Cornett's political career forever. Honestly, if I got a whipping like that, I'd say to myself, "it's time to try something else."
I feel bad for Jesse, because he seems like a decent guy, and certainly knows his way around the issues. That said, I was puzzled by his campaign. I'm a die-hard Democratic voter, right in his demographic wheelhouse, and I got *one* campaign flyer. Just one. Nobody ever came by my door. Absolutely no GOTV. I feel like a line-item breakdown of his spending on that $150,000 would be a true indictment of Kari Chisholm, for starters, and of his entire strategy. I think VOE has got to go. The only people who will win with it are people--like Sten and Fritz--who would win anyway. It's a sham.
I was on the fence about voter-owned elections, but Cornett's loss has made clear that it's a complete waste of money. I was shocked and disappointed by a lot of the results last night, but at least Bob Stacey got a plurality. That was a pleasant surprise, although I don't know what the over-under is of Stacey beating Hughes in a runoff.

But still, how the fuck did Cornett lose so bad?
$150,000 is a lot of money. If there was evidence it works, then it would probably be worth it. But why should we continue shoveling taxpayer money, in $150,000 increments, into elections if it has demonstrated little to no impact.

Bottom line is that name recognition is good for an automatic 35% to 40% of the vote in Portland. (Unless your name recognition comes with a really bad reputation, that is. *cough* Adams *cough*) Voters just don't follow local politics all the closely.
If so much of Jesse's money went into web-based advertising, it may have just come down to demographics in combination with a low voter turnout. Young voters, who are most likely to spend time online, are least likely to vote, historically.

I voted for Jesse, and as disappointed as I am by the numbers, I still support voter owned elections. AND I'm a young voter. Who looks at the internet. A lot.
Here are updated numbers for cost per vote:

Mary CPV = $1.97
Dan CPV = $2.79
Jesse CPV = $19.77

I posted on BoJack for the exact same topic... but what the fuck do I know?

Voter apathy is apparent in this race, which VOE really can not solve. Of the 33% of Portlanders that turned in their ballot, 11% did not even vote in the PDX city council race #3.

The informational cost average voters are willing to spend for each race is too high. One telling thing is the number of votes the Rudy got. Was it because he ran a strong campaign or was it because his name was first on the ballot that was not Saltzman?

The at-large city wide commission system is the best incumbency\wealthy politician protection tool.

As I reflect on all I have learned this past year about Portland's politics I keep arriving at the same conclusion, we are only progressive in name. We have a very pro-incumbency system in place, not to mention, the wrath one gets for having the audacity to challenge it.

Here are my thoughts for possible solutions:

- Ballots need to be printed with the office that represent a voter the most, first. For example, state rep, state senate and city races need to be at the top of the ballot with the federal races at the end.

- I think that the citizens would be best served if we had 6 districts and an at-large mayor. Trying to get the attention of ~53K voters is manageable for community leaders that are well established in their neighborhood. Unless you abuse VOE like Amanda and use it to build your name recognition city wide.

- As for reducing the informational cost, this can only be solved with an well educated electorate. We are kinda screwed here since most voters get civic education from campaigns.

- Lastly, a more equitable voting system like Instant Runoff Voting should be explored for Portland.

I don't mind the $150K. He qualified for it and I still think it's a good idea. The problem lies with Cornett's strategy. I was a Saltzman supporter but Cornett made me nervous. Cornett just flopped strategy wise. He didn't get his message out at all. He simply pandered for votes and I think people saw that. Volm just went straight at the right wingers and asked for their votes. Both strategies aren't going to win a lot of votes.

@Blabby...dude...you can't just keep saying everyone who doesn't agree with you simply doesn't follow politics/is apathetic etc. It's tired. 2 failed recalls and the Volm flop tells me there aren't that many people that agree with you/Bojack (cause you're pretty much the same person) despite what you may think.
It's quite a leap to say voter owned elections are dead because Jesse Cornett lost his city council race. I gave him $5 because I believe in VOE, not because I wanted him to win. I think he ran a shamful campaign against a good city council member, and I think that turned a lot of people off. I wish he would have ran against Mike Shauffler instead, people could have gotten behind that because Shauffler doesn't even seem like a democrat. Matt Davis, you fucked this one up big time.

I wasn't talking about those who disagree with me. i was talking about those who barely follow what's happening/ don't even bother to vote. I don't consider you guys apathetic, even though you disagree with me.

On Adams, just wait and see. At this point, I think there is a very real possibility that he won't even bother to run for re-election. You need to follow other media. The Mercury is great, but I wouldn't say it reflects mainstream voters. The Oregonian comes much closer. The reaction in other places to Adams polic bureau move was far from positive.
I don't think that Cornett's campaign came down to VOE. I think the more pertinent issue is related to your question of whether you guys were right to endorse him. I think the answer to that is "No," and I say that as an admirer of your journalism, and political coverage in particular.

I think your mistake, or miscalculation, in endorsing Cornett was that you chose him because you liked what he said about various things (police, funding pet projects) rather than what he would actually do, or be effective doing, about those things.

Cornett's position on the police was that Adams should take the bureau back. That doesn't really represent leadership or even bold thinking, as pretty much any Merc commenter also has expressed that sentiment once or more. Cornett wasn't wrong on the issue, he was just immaterial to the outcome.

On the question of pet projects, Cornett was again good on the issue, but he also did not strike me as an effective advocate. Currently, there are two council votes, Adams and Leonard, that I would argue are both prone to supporting pet projects. They only need to sway one other commissioner to vote their way to get their pet project through. Saltzman, when he voted to support soccer, introduced some measure of tax-payer protection as a condition for his support. Fish also voted for soccer, so Cornett instead of Saltzman would not have changed the outcome, other than removing the provisions that Saltzman pushed through.

Saltzman is not the perfect commissioner, but he is a very effective role player. He is not given to flights of fancy, and he is often cautious at the expense of his own image. You wouldn't want the entire council to be made up of like minded persons, but between his experience, clout and temperament, he represents an important balancing force on the council. I think most voters realize this, even if only vaguely, and that's why he won. Cornett and everyone else were scrapping it out for a weak second place.
"Voter apathy is apparent in this race, which VOE really can not solve. Of the 33% of Portlanders that turned in their ballot, 11% did not even vote in the PDX city council race #3."

The turnout of 33% was in Multno County, not Portland. So everybody in Gresham and points east didn't even have it on their ballots. Perhaps that's why 11% (is that 11 % of the 33%, meaning 3% overall?) don't show a vote?

And blaming VOE for what the candidate did with the money seems like sour grapes at best.
@ Jason Wurster: Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to fix voter apathy/create a reality where Sam Adams was recalled and Mary Volm won the election. I think you should start circulating petitions right away to start a citizen's effort to get those changes on the ballot. Most Portlanders agree, right? How hard can it be?
I'm not going to do the post-mortem here on the blog - that's between Jesse and I. I will note, however, that Matt is correct that Jesse spent roughly $10k on online ads. For those of you who are math wizards, you'll note that that leaves $140k for other stuff. (Including roughly $6k for website, email broadcasting, and internet strategy consulting.)

In other words, Jesse spent roughly 7% of his budget on online ads. That's less than the 10% that many winning campaigns have spent in recent months across the country.

The idea that online ads can - all by themselves - carry a candidate to victory is absurd. And it is NOT what the Cornett campaign was attempting to do.

When campaigns lose, it's easy to think that they did everything wrong. When campaigns win, it's easy to think that they did everything right. Neither is true.
In 2008 I spent $369.90 and got 1,111 votes, plus one in Washington county. All I did was dress nicely and show up at all candidates' events. Plus really get on Sam's--brother Sam's-- nerves.

Something stinks in this whole business with Cornett. First, how did he manage to get 1,000 $5 VOE contributions in only 4 weeks, when it took Amanda, who has a much broader community network than Jesse, 4 months? Second, JC had run a nearly successful campaign for state office, so he hardly is a tyro at politics. Third, 3/5 of ballots mailed were not voted; the elephant in the room of "Vote by Mail" is nearly total lack of ballot security; use your imagination!
I can always rely on luckymike and torridjoe to keep it civil.

@torridjoe: I get it, I did something that you did not like hence I will forever be flogged by you, classy -

Anyhow, voter turn out for Mult Co is all that I have access to at them moment for yesterdays election. Still, you can extrapolate the voter turn out of 33.63% from the county to the city.

There are abut 316,773 active registered Portland voters. When you apply the above 33.63% turn out you get 106,531 cast ballots by Portland voters. You then take the 97,346 who voted in the city and get a voter dropoff of 9185 (11.6%) voters.

@luckymike: I get it, you think recall bad, but let's stay on point here -

This is a state issue and the best way to do this is to run for State Rep or Senator. However, the real issue in changing the ballot ordering of offices would be in the legislature. If anyone would try to do this their bill never see the light of day.

As for "everyone else were scrapping it out for a weak second place"... Saltzman avoided a run-off by a whopping - 5,195 votes.

If any on was scraping by it was Saltzman not to go to a run-off, because he knew that all the people who did not vote for him in the primary, would vote for who ever was in a run off against him.

Two factors are being overlooked here:
First, Mercury readers don't vote.
Second, Jesse Cornett was real bad on the campaign trail.
He looked like hell. He rambled on with no point. The WW interview went poorly. His cable appearance went so bad Mary Volm put it on U-tube and linked it off of her web-site. Cornett sunk his own boat. I did give him five bucks when he asked me because I believe in VOE and I wanted to see what he could do with it. In the end though, there is no amount of money that can fix a bad candidate.
I don't think JC's poor showing is another nail in the coffin of VOE, but it does show that VOE isn't going to redress the gross imbalances in our electoral system that favor incumbents. I think we've moved beyond the point where non-partisan local elections should be decided in the primaries. Either have a field, like we did for Saltzman's seat, and let the top two vote-getters duke it out in the November elections regardless of whether anyone gets over 50% of the vote, or wait until November for the whole shebang.

A big part of the problem is that so many voters are no longer registered with either of the two major parties that the primaries seem meaningless. People can't vote in the state races, so they don't bother to vote at all. We end up with a situation where less than 35% of the populace elects a city council person, who himself only gets 55% of that less-than-35%, probably on name-recognition alone. Even with the most brilliant campaign strategy possible, $150,000 is not enough for any given local candidate to overcome the apathy many non-affiliated voters feel toward the primaries.

The other solution would be to do away with party-controlled elections altogether and make all local and state elections non-partisan, but the Democrat and Republican power-brokers in this state would never allow that to happen.
"Cornett snuck next door last night to the Lucky Lab brewery at five minutes to eight o'clock to check the early returns on his MacBook."

Is it common to put brand names in articles now?
It's incredibly presumptuous for you to assume that just because Cornett got thrashed, we didn't vote. I voted, and not for Cornett.

I think what really speaks volumes is how you thought your endorsement would make any difference.

Also, total voter turnout in Multnomah County was 33.63%.

Tax payer funded elections aren't about getting the most votes for your money. They are about equal access to democracy. If that was accomplished here, then it was a success. Calculating a 'cost per vote' is beside the point at best and disingenuous and misleading at worst.
How do you figure? Cost per vote is absolutely what it's about. Or maybe the hokey-pokey... I'm not sure.
Althouh the Merc has been known to endorse quality candidates from time to time its not surprising that they got duped into endorsing Cornett this time around. It was the perfect storm where the Merc seemed eager to brownnose Cornett because he said all the right 'wonky' things for the aspiring junior league politico without offering much in the way of substance.
The Baron brings up a good point, except that all of the candidates running against Saltzman used the same three talking points: no taxpayer money for soccer stadiums; the police bureau is out of control; and sewer money shouldn't be diverted for bike lanes.

The real condemnation of VOE is that the amount of money a candidate has has NO CORRELATION AT ALL to how they finished in the polls. If Volm could kick the shit out of Cornett with roughly $146k fewer dollars, then it's safe to say access to a huge pot of money is not that important to being a viable candidate in an election. If money doesn't make a difference--and it didn't seem to here--then why the fuck should we keep giving taxpayer dollars to candidates?

And what kind of dickless, incompetent jerkoff does a city commissioner have to be not to get reelected? I mean, come on! Seriously. Come on!!!
what needs to be done is not dump VOE, which works in other places in the country, but make other changes: district voting for City Council, Instant-runoff voting & other ways to encourage participation, from candidates & voters. had Jason Renaud gotten merely 60 more signatures, we would have 2 with VOE, and a much better chance to stop Saltzman. private money didn't do any good either: Volm also got whipped good. if winning elections is all that matters, then you really don't have much of a concern for the long-term health of the democracy.

fix the right problem, not the one Matt is currently waving in your face.

(btw Matt, looked like you enjoyed eating Jesse's food.)
Overall, I think that VOE is doing what it intended to do:

1) It is bringing in new candidates into the field

2) It is creating viable campaigns that are not beholden to interest groups or individuals (at least not financially) and

3) it is limiting overall campaign spending and hopefully by extension the overall influence of private money.

To the last point, Mr. Saltzman limited his spending to match the VOE candidate. Mayor Adams made a similar pledge when running against Dozono, who was a VOE candidate initially.

Overall the presence of a VOE system is the clearest indication of the community's desire to limit the influence of money in campaigns.

Mr. Davis states "My one thought is that if VOE made Saltzman nervous, that's a good thing." I agree.

The second Mr. Cornett qualified as a VOE candidate his campaign gained legitimacy. It ensured that he and his message was given access to the media, was part of candidate forums, and so on. Whether or not Mr. Cornett was the best spokesperson for the message he carried, whether or not the Cornett for Portland campaign made significant strategic errors doesn't change the fact that it was VOE that truly opened the doors for his candidacy.

The presence of a viable candidate during an election cycle will influence choices made by an incumbent. With all due respect to Ms. Volm, the fact that Mr. Saltzman needed to repeatedly defend his record, his actions, and the like during the campaign would not have happened without the presence of a VOE candidate.

Mr. Cornett was not able to effectively convince people to vote for him but I am certain that the visibility of his general message resulted in many people casting a vote against Mr. Saltzman - or perhaps not voting at all, which is still a choice.

Should there be changes to the VOE system to make it healthier? Sure.

But I don't think more money for candidates is the answer. There is no right answer to "how much money is needed to win?"

Should we make other changes to help encourage voter participation in local elections? Maybe.

But I don't support the district idea that is being floated unless the council becomes solely a legislative entity. I don't want a district commissioner in charge of a portfolio of city wide bureaus. That seems like a fast ticket to influence peddling hell to me.
A Dan Saltzman who raises $150,000 in private money is a different commissioner than a Dan Saltzman who raises a half-million. And at least in Portland, there would have been a price to pay for doing the latter against a VOE candidate.

The point of VOE is not to make it easy to unseat incumbents. It's to help give Portlanders meaningful choices between candidates who don't owe their campaigns to a few wealthy donors. We had that this time, and Jesse just wasn't the strongest candidate in this race.
Sooner or later TA you will have to bury the hatchet you have with Volm.

After you wean yourself off of the Cornett Kool-Aid...

I absolutely agree that Portland needs to -

1) adopt IRV and hold all city elections in November.

This allows for candidates to have shorter election periods in the summer where nice weather turns out more volunteers. Also, November elections have a higher voter turn out because people are voting for President or Governor.

2) district Portland into 6 wards with an at-large mayor election.

The reason for 6 districts is that we get away from the "power of 3 votes" and increase minority representation on council.

Until we do that Portland is only "progressive" in name.