Just Vote Yes, Willya?

Safe Roads YES! is already running media ads . . . why aren’t their opponents?

So, about three weeks ago, Safe Roads YES! launched their radio and television ad campaign, designed to convince us that jacking up our per-person state tax-and-fee burden by roughly $248.12 – permanently (not including inflation adjustments to the wholesale fuel tax) – is a good idea. To do so, they’re using the standard tactics of bogus statistics and emotional appeals, praying that the typical low-information voter isn’t going to do even the basic homework into the legislative piece of sausage that the GoverNerd and his hodge-podge of allies are doing their damnedest to slide by us roughly six weeks from now.

And you’d think that at least one of the organizations or individuals lined up to oppose the Michigan Sales Tax Increase for Transportation Amendment would have already snagged media buys for at least one well-produced television commercial. I’ll freely admit that I don’t spend much time in front of the boob tube these days, but I can’t seem to get through even one prime-time television show (regardless of channel) without seeing at least one Pro-1 30-second spot. The reason that bugs me (both the pro-1 ad campaign and the absence of an anti-1 ad campaign) has less to do with polling, and more to do with my understanding of voter behavior.



You may recall that, about five or six weekends prior to last November’s general election, there was a significant uptick in the number of radio and television ads regarding allegedly “safe” republican congressional and legislative seats. (And by “significant uptick” I’m talking about going from nothing to damn-near-every-commercial-break, in the space of a single weekend.) Some of that was to be expected, but not to that degree, not even close. The reason for that mini-phenomenon had a great deal to do with three things: (a) the fact that the Snyder-Calley vs. Schauer-Brown and Schuette vs. Totten statewide races were polling too close for comfort; (b) the likelihood that Land vs. Peters was dragging down the rest of the ticket like a lead weight; and/or (c) the reality that the typical voter – statistically, 68.26% of the registered voter population – has a working memory of roughly three weeks.

That last point cannot be stressed enough. In our contemporary “bread and circuses” information-age society, roughly two out of every three voters couldn’t tell you much of anything about something that happened more than three weeks ago. Worse, those same voters typically have such a short attention span (eight minutes is the average length of time between television commercial breaks), that at least three full days of repeat messaging is required before a point sinks in. There is a reason that these voters require between five and eight reminders, over the course of a 12-to-15 week campaign, just to get it into their heads to show up on a specific Tuesday (which is the same reason that a Precinct Delegate who can deliver his neighborhood’s Election Day turnout is worth his weight in gold).

Forty-five days prior to an election (just over six weeks) is roughly when the absentee ballots start going out to voters. And sure enough, this past weekend, pro-1 AV-chase mailers from Safe Roads YES! were delivered to the mailboxes of every Michigan registered voter whose turnout history flags them as “routine” absentee voters (regardless of whether or not they’re “permanent” absentee voters). It’s a smart move, given that D-minus-45 days is when the ballots go from the 83 county clerks to their respective municipal clerks. Considering that, (a) outside of the highly-publicized biennial general elections, only about 15.86% of voters are even paying attention most of the time, and that (b) historically, non-November elections typically don’t crack double digits for turnout percentages, and that (c) normally, about 34% to 37% of the ballots cast in those elections are by absentee voters, the absentee ballot strategy morphed from “smart” to “frickin’ brilliant.”

See, the “routine” absentee voters (roughly 18% of the approximately 5.5 million “current and active” registered voters in this state) usually aren’t social media types. To get to them, one has to use the radio, the television, the telephone, the mailbox, and/or the front porch. These voters, who will collectively account for slightly over one-third of the total votes cast six Tuesdays from now, have been hearing one recurring message over broadcast media for the past three weeks: that even this piece of sausage is better than doing nothing. Those who are prone to prompt diligence with regard to filling out and returning both their auto-mailed ballot application and their actual ballot will read the ballot language, which is surprisingly neutral, and will probably vote based on what they’ve been hearing for the past three weeks (except for those one-in-three who’ll actually do some basic homework on the proposal).

And just like that, roughly a week from now, sealed ballots will start showing up at municipal clerks’ offices, silently tipping two-to-one in favor of permanently taking it in the wallet . . . before the polls ever open.

Denno Research ran a poll on Proposal 15-1 back in early February, the results of which were reported in the Detroit News, which is the basis for the graphic at the beginning of this article. Back on January 24th thru 27th, EPIC-MRA ran a poll, the results of which were reported on January 29th by the MLive Media Group, showing that among voters who are “very certain” to cast a ballot in May’s vox populi, “a detailed explanation of the proposal” flips the survey outcome from “support” leading-but-too-close-to-call, to “oppose” likely-and-outside-margin-of-error. Another survey report is due out at the end of this week, and I’m curious as to what it’ll say. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the GoverNerd and his hodge-podge of allies are absolutely relying on a majority of the one-in-six voters who’ll actually show up on May 5th (or who’ll have already “shown up” via their mailbox) not actually knowing what this proposal will actually do, which is why Safe Roads YES! launched their advertising campaign three weeks ago . . . to persuade the masses to approve of their own demise before they figure out what’s actually going on.

As the EPIC-MRA January survey showed, all that it’d take to swing the pendulum solidly into the “NO on 1” column is for one well-produced television commercial to air at least once an hour, on every broadcast station statewide, for the next six weeks. Couple that with one AV-chase mailer now, and one more mailer four weeks from now (to every voter whose history indicates there’s at least a 50/50 chance that they’ll actually show up), and this proposal is probably toast. The problem is that, between Keith Allard, Tom McMillin, John Yob, Scott Hagerstrom, and Paul Mitchell (who said on the record that that his group will use TV, cable, radio, and print advertising to try to defeat the tax increase, and that opposition campaigns will match the proponents dollar for dollar in campaign spending), we’ve heard pretty much squat outside of the echo chambers of tea party pep rallies. Unless that preaching to the choir is motivating them to engage their neighborhoods (which the tea parties were really good at a mere five years ago), I’m not sure how it’s doing much good.

For my part, I’m doing exactly what I spoke of in a sixty-second public comment Monday evening. I’m running for a certain city commission seat in Kentwood, and I’m already actively circulating my nominating petition (by means of canvassing random neighborhoods in the city). As I do so, I’m also circulating a printed copy of the actual ballot language of Proposal 15-1, prominently placed on my clipboard. Every voter I engage (roughly every fourth door on which I knock), whether they sign onto my nominating petition or not, I show them the actual ballot language, inform them that this is what they’re being asked to vote for or against on May 5th, and ask them if they support or oppose this proposal. The typical response has thus far been, “nope,” or words to that effect. To which I then reply, “Then remember to show up on May 5th and vote that way.”

Local resistance always works, so let’s put on some good walking shoes and start wearing out the pavement.

You Betcha! (10)Nuh Uh.(0)

  5 comments for “Just Vote Yes, Willya?

  1. Corinthian Scales
    March 24, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    "roughly $201.82 – permanently"

    WRONG. It, the $2,000,000,000 tax hike, ratchets up every year in perpetuity as would be Constitutionally mandated.

    Yes, the real exit question.

    Schuette vs. Totten? Who are we sh!tting here? Let's talk Team R shyster class™ all on board with this crap, huh? Yep, now 56 days and counting. Huh-who-what-me? My, my, how Bolgergate and Team R prosecutors pulling the plug on State Troopers are so soon forgotten. All Bee-esS artists and a useless SoS who turned a blind-eye on campaign finance violations and now wouldn't say sh!t if she has a mouthful.

    Wish I had more time for this as of now so, just gnaw on the above.

    Cheers!

    You Betcha! (5)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • Kevin Rex Heine
      March 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Regarding the "roughly $201.82" permanent tax increase, I'll cede that you have a fair point. I just got off the phone with Randy Thompson over at the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, and the actual number is much higher. I've updated the annual figure to reflect information that I didn't have before, and added parenthetically that the number doesn't include the inflation "adjustments" to the wholesale fuel tax.

      Couldn't much care less about the rest of your comment, as it's not particularly germane to the topic at hand. (I used the 2014 polling as part of an illustration, not as a talking point.) Yes, Michigan routinely gets a failing grade on the topic of political corruption. Yes, we're going to have to figure out how to do something about that. Another topic for another day.

      For now, we get the hell out from behind our keyboards and out onto our streets, and engage our neighbors to show up six weeks from now and reject this thing . . . or else.

      You Betcha! (2)Nuh Uh.(0)
      • Corinthian Scales
        March 25, 2015 at 12:33 am

        Or else what? I deep-six the Mitten? Big deal. There's always greener pastures. As for your comment... couldn't care much less about it as it doesn't address the core problem with your Party, which is germane to what I wrote. But, keep ducking the fact, sunshine.

        Always another day, right?

        You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
  2. Tom Backers
    March 25, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Came up with some 'handout' fodder for events and Tax Day protests...

    7 Reasons to Vote “NO” on the May 5 Tax Hike Proposal

    1. We can't afford even higher taxes. Michigan residents already pay among the highest gas taxes in
    the country, and most of that money isn't even spent on roads. We pay a 4.25% state income tax where
    other states have no income tax. The ballot proposal would raise the Michigan sales tax to 7%, which
    would make it the 2nd highest state sales tax in the nation.

    The proposal would raise taxes about $200 per year for every man, woman,
    and child in Michigan. $800 for a family of four.

    2. It doesn't solve the budget problem. Lawmakers increased Michigan's state budget by $4.7 billion
    in just the last four years. The sales tax hike is only projected to take in $2 billion. Raising the sales
    tax only pays for part of the growth of government! The problem is too much new spending, not too
    little taxes. If voters approve these tax increases, soon enough we'll be asked for even more.

    3. We can fix our roads and fund our schools without raising taxes. The state House passed a plan
    last December that would have increased public school funding $2.5 billion over the next eight years
    and added about $1 billion in road funding each year – with no net tax increase.

    4. Half of the new tax money isn't even for roads. The proposal's backers insist Michigan's roads
    need to be fixed, but only half of the new tax money would be spent on roads. The rest goes to various
    special interests that benefit from the new tax money. (Source: michigantaxpayers.com/newtaxes.php)

    5. Raising prices makes Michigan less competitive. Raising the sales tax effectively makes all
    goods more expensive: we all inevitably have less money to spend and save. Essentially, it increases
    the cost of living in Michigan – people need to earn more to live here – and this affects costs at all
    stages of production, distribution, sales, and service. Higher taxes hurt us all.

    6. The proposal misleads voters and does a lot more than tax and spend. The proposal passes ten
    laws and a constitutional amendment, with language totaling over 46,000 words: a novel's worth of
    legalese. These laws include tax credits for low-income wage earners, affirmative action rules in
    certain state transportation contracting, funding for reading programs, $102 million in new federal
    income tax liabilities for vehicle registration, and much, much more not reported on the ballot to voters.

    7. Make Lansing do its job. It's wrong for lawmakers to punt to voters a 46 thousand-word
    legislative package, kicking off a massive political battle and costing us a $10 million election, because
    lawmakers couldn't agree on a solution to fund roads. Road funding should be a normal, ordinary,
    completely standard aspect of budget negotiations.

    Vote “NO” to tax hikes on May 5

    because Michigan is TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY

    Paid for by Concerned Taxpayers of Michigan, PO Box 211, Milan MI 48160. Permission to reproduce
    and distribute granted. To view sources and how you can help, visit www.MichiganTaxpayers.

    You Betcha! (6)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • Jason
      March 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Good work Tom!

      You Betcha! (0)Nuh Uh.(0)

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