Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oh Look! Circles on Maps (And Other Shiny Objects)

Watauga Board of Elections honcho Bill Aceto had a map of Watauga County with yellow circles on it at the March 5 meeting of the board, which passed 2-1 the Republican plan for Early Voting in the May 6 primary, a plan based on those circles.

The five equally sized circles, radiating out from Aceto's five proposed Early Voting sites, were meant to prove that Aceto had considered "geography" in his proposal.

But Mr. Aceto's yellow circles are the illusion of geographical consideration, since they do not show roads, which voters actually travel on to vote, nor do they show population density ("demography"). The circle emanating from the Watauga County Admin Bldg in downtown Boone encompasses roughly 60% or more of Watauga County voters. How many voters are inside the circle centered on the Deep Gap Fire Department? Since that Deep Gap circle also takes in a nice chunk of Wilkes County, are we counting those voters too? (The Blowing Rock circle includes an even larger piece of Caldwell County.)

Simply drawing a 5-mile radius around a location and expecting every voter in that circle to use that location is laughable at best. It ignores completely the fact that voters use roads to access sites, and those voters will cast their ballots at the most convenient location. The evidence of that is clear in the 2012 and 2008 one-stop statistics. Some 30-40% of voters who lived within a mile of a one-stop location in Cove Creek and Foscoe chose instead to drive PAST those locations and cast their ballots in the Town of Boone, many of them in the Appalachian State University Student Union. (This fact is made abundantly clear in Kathleen Campbell's alternative Early Voting plan filed with the StateBoard of Elections.)

In this mountainous county, Mr. Aceto's yellow circles also disregard that all areas within one of his radiuses do not enjoy "inter-connectivity." The shortest distances between points in Watauga County are rarely feasible for travel. You have to follow existing roads, and Mr. Aceto's maps show no existing roads. His circles are meaningless fantasies.

Aceto is required by statute to consider geography. He's also required to consider demography, where people actually live. His map does no such thing. His map wants to assume that every radius contains the same density of population, which is preposterous.

And what about the significant slices of Watauga County that aren't within the radius of any of Mr. Aceto's circles? How are we to regard their role in the scheme of magic circles?

A man can stick a compass on a map and draw circles all day. It's not going to conceal the real purpose of why he stuck his compass where he did … to make it more difficult for one class of voters to get to the polls and to advantage his own party in upcoming elections.

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