Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | November 4, 2014

Weird Amendment Procedures Lead to Weird Strategic Voting

The Tennessean reports on a recent more-or-less anonymous web campaign urging voters who support Tennessee’s Amendment 1 to leave the governor’s election portion of the ballot blank (emphasis added):

A recently launched website at features a YouTube video in which a woman explains why sitting out of the governor’s race during this year’s election — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is widely seen as a shoo-in against Democrat Charlie Brown — might be good for supporters of Amendment 1, which would change the Tennessee constitution to grant state lawmakers power to set new restrictions on abortion.

“Double your vote on Amendment 1,” the narrator tells voters.

That logic, though not mathematically a “double vote,” hinges on a provision in the state constitution that outlines the threshold an amendment must get for it to succeed — a majority of the votes cast in the gubernatorial election regardless of the number of votes cast on the amendment.

That means that if 1.5 million people vote in the abortion referendum and 1.4 million vote for governor, 700,001 votes will get the job done for the amendment, even if the total is less than half on that issue — as long as there are more “yes” votes than “no” votes. But if 1.4 million vote for governor and just 1.3 million people vote on the abortion referendum, anti-abortion forces will still need 700,001 votes.

The paper says that groups like the Family Action Council of Tennessee and Tennessee Right to Life, which support Amendment 1, are (technically) not advocating this strategy. The story quotes Tennessee Right to Life President Brian Harris: “‘I would like to just underscore that while that strategy is technically correct, it’s not something that we’re advocating from the campaign,’ Harris said.”

Update (Tues., Nov. 4, 2014, 11:45 AM): this story indicates that the Tennessean got it wrong I misread the Tennessean story:

This is what amendments must have to pass in this election:

1) The amendment must receive more “yes” votes than “no” votes overall.

2) The amendment must also receive the majority of votes cast in the gubernatorial (governor) election.

Second Update (11:55 AM): OK, this makes it a little clearer: “To succeed, a constitutional amendment requires a majority vote that also exceeds 50% plus one of the number participating in the governor’s vote.”

Third Update (Wed., Nov. 5, 2014, 4:25 PM): the amendment passed. For analysis, see also here, here, and here.


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