S is for a story about the South in the ’60s -Booker Wright

What was the mystery surrounding Booker Wright’s courageous life and untimely death?

bookerwrightBack in 1966, NBC News aired an hour-long documentary called Mississippi: A Self Portrait, hosted by Frank McGee and filmed by Frank De Felitta the previous year, which you can see here or here, and a transcript here.

The documentary showed a relatively short piece about a black waiter named Booker Wright which you can watch here. After extolling the menu of the food at Lusco’s from memory, Wright noted:

Now that’s what my customers, I say my customers, be expecting of me. When I come in this is how they want me to be dressed. “Booker, tell my people what to do with that.” Some people are nice, some is not. Continue reading “S is for a story about the South in the ’60s -Booker Wright”

The Mississippi US Senate runoff: a poster child for Instant Runoff Voting

Even though New York does not have runoffs, it’s often been the case that a candidate has been elected with less than a majority of the vote.

LADYVOTING_000As you may know, there was a Republican primary for the US Senate seat between longtime incumbent Thad Cochran and Tea Party darling Chris McDaniel on June 3.

Chris McDaniel 155,040 49.5 %
Thad Cochran 153,654 49.0 INCUMBENT
Thomas Carey 4,789 1.5

The Democrats also had their primary for the seat. You probably didn’t know that because a Democrat is highly unlikely to win in the general election in November:
Travis Childers 62,545 74.2%
Bill Marcy 10,134 12.0
William Compton 8,261 9.8
Jonathan Rawl 3,399 4.0

Mississippi election law requires a candidate to win a majority of the vote to be nominated, and McDaniel barely missed the threshold. This meant a runoff election for June 24.

Runoff elections are particularly expensive because 37 of the 40 Senate run-off elections since 1980 have seen decreases in turnout from the initial primary, “reflecting the difficulty in getting voters to care about a primary election two times in a row.”

This, however, was a different beast. The race had “become a proving ground for some Tea Party groups… On top of that, add the deliberate effort by Cochran’s camp to turn out more black voters, mixing up the expected voter pool. That makes predicting turnout tough.” As it turns out, there was a much HIGHER turnout for the runoff.

Cochran * 191,508 50.9%
McDaniel 184,815 49.1

From the Ballotopedia: “Mississippi is one of 21 states with a mixed primary system. Voters do not have to register with a party, but they must intend to support the party nominations if they vote in the primary election.” One aspect is that voters in the Democratic primary on June 3 ought not to have been able to also vote in the Republican runoff on June 24. McDaniel supporters have suggested that’s exactly what happened.

All of this could have been avoided if Mississippi had instituted Instant Runoff Voting:

Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference (i.e. first, second, third, fourth and so on). Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidates. First choices are then tabulated. If more than two candidates receive votes, a series of runoffs are simulated, using voters’ preferences as indicated on their ballot.
The candidate who receives the fewest first choice rankings is eliminated. All ballots are then retabulated, with each ballot counting as one vote for each voter’s highest ranked candidate who has not been eliminated.

In the Mississippi GOP scenario, after the June 3 primary, Thomas Carey’s votes would have been distributed to Cochran and McDaniel, based on who was Carey voters’ second choice. The majority would have been reached. There would have been no need for the June 24 runoff, and no chance for the Democratic party supporters to vote in the Republican primary without foregoing their opportunity to vote in their OWN primary.

IRV is being used in a number of US jurisdictions, sometimes only for overseas ballots, but sometimes more extensively. Several locales internationally use it as well.

I’d love to see IRV implemented in New York State. Even though New York does not have runoffs, it’s often been the case that a candidate has been elected with less than a majority of the vote. The governor’s race this fall would be a real reflection of the Green Party support since people would not feel that their vote was being “thrown away” on a candidate who could not win. Of course, it can’t happen that soon, but it’s still worth considering.
***
Mark Mayfield, a leading tea party activist in Mississippi who was indicted in an alleged plot to break into a nursing home to film Sen. Thad Cochran’s ailing wife, has died. “Ridgeland, Miss. police say they are investigating the case as a suicide after Mayfield was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home.”

M is for M states

Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts.

In the United States, there are eight states that begin with the letter M, tied with the letter N. But N has the advantage of descriptive adjectives New (Hampshire, Jersey, Mexico, York) and North (Carolina and Dakota); only Nebraska and Nevada are one-word states.

In 1963, ZIP Codes were introduced, although many large cities were divided into zones 20 years earlier. At the same time, the Post Office introduced two-letter abbreviations for the states, to accommodate space for the ZIP Codes.

The ones for the letter M tell stories about the states:

MA – Massachusetts. The mother of the country. Where the Pilgrims landed – on Plymouth Rock, and where the American Revolution was fomented, at the Boston massacre, then the tea party, and finally with the battles of Lexington and Concord. The second and sixth Presidents, both named Adams, were born there.

MD – Maryland. Home of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, plus other facilities with doctors.

ME – Maine. Rugged individuals, who wear clothing from L.L. Bean of Freeport, founded 100 years ago by Leon Leonwood Bean. It was part of Massachusetts until it became a state as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when it was admitted as a free state, as Missouri joined as a slave state.

MI – Michigan. A state which suffered greatly during the recent recession (oh, mi), but which appears to be coming back strong, with improved auto sales leading the way (oh, mi!)

MN – Minnesota. M and N are adjacent letters, nearly twins in the cursive. Likewise, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are related, yet quite separate cities.

MO – Missouri. The big mo, or momentum towards the Pacific Ocean, Missouri was the starting point of the Pony Express and is considered the Gateway to the west; thus the arch. It’s also the home of the defending World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, who, after their 130th game of the 2011 season on August 24, were 10 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, with only 32 games remaining. They went 23-9 to finish 90-72, a game ahead of Atlanta’s 89-73, the largest comeback in history after 130 games.

MS – Mississippi. Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts, and there is a strong tradition of Mississippi writers, including John Grisham, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and many more.

MT – Montana. Of course, mt is the abbreviation for a mountain, and the Big Sky State is in the Rocky Mountains.

OBVIOUSLY, the Post Office was thinking about these things when they assigned the two-letter state designations almost a half-century ago.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10