char – inside

All the trans news that fits! (and some that never will)

The Numbers We Want and the Numbers We Have

Are you one of those people who think numbers are called numbers because they make your brain go numb?  As important as numbers are, too many of them is, well . . . numbing. And, when our brains go numb, we stop counting and adding and subtracting altogether and settle on a number that sounds like the one we want.

But numbers are important and if we don’t pay attention, bad things can happen.

For instance, My parents had seven children. We had a dog and our grandmother lived with us. Counting my parents, there were 11 of us. When we went on a vacation, there was a lot of counting going on every time we made a pit stop for gas, a bathroom, or a scenic view that only my father and mother ever seemed to actually appreciate. When we piled back into the car, we all had to count off and then one of us would yell “Eleven!” for the dog.

It was the same joke every time and all my father wanted to hear was the punch line, “Eleven!”

Once, before we pulled out of a gas station in northern Michigan, we counted – “One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! . . . Eleven!”

“Ha ha ha,” my father chuckled and as the gas station disappeared in a cloud of dust behind us, we all laughed at the thought that a dog could actually count, let alone say the number “Eleven!”

It was just too many numbers. Someone had jumped the gun and in their excitement, skipped the number “Ten!” altogether. Our brains had evidently gone numb, while number “Ten!”, my younger brother, was still in the bathroom back at the gas station.

Sometimes, numbers just don’t add up, no matter how badly we want them to. And, no matter how numb we are, the numbers are still there, and they don’t lie.

And that is the case here in Michigan where an organization called Fair Michigan has just begun to circulate a petition to place their equal rights proposal on the ballot. If approved, the measure would amend the Michigan Constitution by adding language that would require state legislators to enact new laws and amend current laws to prohibit gender, gender identity, sex and sexual orientation discrimination.

Fair Michigan claims it will get the 315,654 valid signatures by July 11 in order to qualify for the ballot, a process that is expected to start next month. They also say they will get the money (about $15 million to $20 million) they will need for the campaign leading up to election day on November 1.

But, even if they do get all that money, the numbers just don’t add up and there is a good chance that Fair Michigan only hears what they want to hear. Essentially, Fair Michigan’s position is that they will win because attorney Dana Nessel, their leader, said they will. It is a strange argument for a lawyer to make, even if it is being made in the court of opinion and not before a judge.

Predictably, Fair Michigan has its detractors, which is just about anyone with a calculator and something to lose in the debate. Basing their analysis on election year voting trends, the failed marriage ballot of 2004, and tons of other metrics, number crunchers like Amy Mello from Freedom For All Americans use sophisticated voter modeling to predict that the Fair Michigan ballot proposal will lose by about 730,000 votes in November. This means about 365,000 votes have to be moved from “No” to “Yes.” It takes about six conversations with a voter to change them from a “No” to a “Yes” vote, according to campaign veterans like Stephanie White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan. With a success rate of an overly generous 10 percent, that would mean conversations with 3.6 million voters.

That’s 22 million (22,000,000) conversations!

And we have about 295 days to do it. That’s about 75,000 conversations per day — if we start right now.

Are you numb yet? Well, take your foot off the gas pedal. We’re not ready to pull out of the station just yet. In fact, we’re just getting warmed up.

If each conversation takes 10 minutes, that’s 750,000 minutes of conversation every day. At a rate of 6 conversations per hour, if each campaign worker hired by Fair Michigan works 12-hour shifts with no breaks, 7 days per week, one worker could do 72 conversations per day. That means each campaign worker could have 21,240 conversations before the election and will have talked to about 3,500 people, and only 350 of them will actually change their vote from “No” to “Yes.”

At that rate, Fair Michigan will have to have more than 1,000 campaign workers talking to voters 12 hours a day for 295 days.

I am not having fun with these numbers. I am trying to make a point.

The numbers just don’t add up to success at the ballot in November.

If we lose at the ballot in November, or if we don’t get enough signatures on the petition, we can’t go back a year or two later to pick up the votes we need because the votes weren’t there in the first place and we just can’t afford to launch one $20 million ballot campaign after another.

Now, consider the alternative.

In the State Senate, there are 38 seats – 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

In the State House, there are 110 seats – 61 Republicans and 46 Democrats (3 seats are vacant).

That means, changing just 9 seats in the Senate and 6 in the House to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Michigan’s civil rights law, to include protections for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.

But, losing at the ballot in November will set us back years because it takes the air out of our argument. It would make it almost impossible to swing the 15 to 20 votes we need in Lansing. There will be no incentive for them to vote for Transgender rights if the majority of voters already told them “No.” And, with a price tag of $20 million, it will be decades before we will be able to get the funding for another ballot measure.

Compare that scenario to the legislative process where, if a vote in the House and Senate don’t go our way, we can come back the next session of the Michigan State Legislature and try again. We can elect new legislators to get the job done, or we can lobby those who are already there until they get it.

The point is, we just keep going back until we get it right.

And that’s what my father did when he realized that he drove off without my brother. He turned the van around and when we got to the gas station, there was my brother, waving . . . and crying. Fortunately, nothing worse than that happened. We lost a little time and used a little more gas than we should have, but that was it. Before we drove off, my father told us all to be quiet while he counted.

“Ten,” my father said and then, pointing to the dog, he barked, “Eleven!”

Some punchlines never grow old.


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This entry was posted on January 10, 2016 by in Human Rights and Civil Rights, Uncategorized and tagged , .
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