We’re more if you add them….  Ann Tornburg math.

Well I learned something today. In South Dakota, Democrats hold an advantage. If they add independent voters to their rolls. And they can win if we follow Ann Tornburg math, named so after the South Dakota Democrat Chairwoman, who just ran the Democrat party into record low numbers of elected officials:

 ….voter registration with Independent voters and Democratic voters is still a significant majority, but it’s turning out everyone in both of those classifications of voter registrations, Democrats and Independents and convincing them to engage in down-ballot issues and that’s a problem that we definitely have.

Read that here.

Well, technically yes. If you add the 170,000 Democrats to the 120,000 Independents, you could try to claim more than the Republican party’s 253,000 voters. You could try if you’re a fool, or a simpleton.  

The fact is that just because Dem leader Ann Tornburg tries to claim Independents in public statements doesn’t mean that they claim her. In fact, imagine 120,000 people quietly sidling away from her at the cocktail party because she sounds ridiculous.

In reality, as opposed to where Ann lives, when they vote, Independents generally break along the same proportions of those who identify a party registration in their voting behavior. For example:

What’s interesting is when you break out those independents. As we noted in August, most independents lean toward one party or the other — and in 2012, the majority of those leaning independents voted for their preferred party’s presidential candidate. (According to the book “The Gamble,” 90 percent of Democratic-leaning independents backed Obama in 2012, and 78 percent of Republican-leaning ones backed Romney.)

Read that here.

This is not a secret thing taught to exclusively to political scientists. It’s Voter Behavior 101. Another example:

The result is a distorted picture of the nation’s political makeup, according to political scientist John Petrocik of the University of Missouri. In an analysis just published in the journal Electoral Studies, he argues that the definition of independent voters used by many pollsters is far too broad.

Americans, he noted, “prefer to think of themselves as independent-minded and inclined to judge candidates on their individual merit.” But, he finds, “Very few Americans lack a party preference.”

Although an increasing number of Americans are calling themselves independents, Petrocik argues this is “more a matter of self-presentation than an accurate statement about our approach to elections, candidates, the parties and politics in general.”


“While a disproportionate numbers of swing voters are independents, two-thirds of independent voters are not swing voters,” added Tom Jensen, communications director of Public Policy Polling.

“This idea of the sage citizen who eschews party affiliation, is unbiased and persuadable by reason and facts, is very much a myth,” said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. “Most people are committed to a party.

“They may not like the label, so some call themselves independents. But there are very few people who fit the archetypes of the wise, centrist independent. People who don’t have a lot of opinions tend to be disengaged from politics and less likely to vote.”

Read that here.

In South Dakota, guess what? If we accept the premise that 2/3 are not truly independent (I think that’s a little low) Of those roughly 120k independents, maybe 40,000 are true swing voters.  Of the rest, 60% – or roughly 48,000 look at what the Dems have to offer and go “bleaugh,” and vote GOP. Around 32,000 of those independents should generally align with Democrats. 

Adding all that up should give us a generally consistent 60/40 voting split between the 2 major parties. But that’s not what has been happening. South Dakota Democrats are so awful they have been having difficulty getting 30%. And that’s symptomatic of a political party which has utterly abdicated pretending to be one. 

In other words, attempting to pretend that Democrats can carry even half of independents is an utter fantasy. Or Ann Tornburg math. You achieve equally silly results. People might declare themselves to be independent, but how they vote typically reflects society as a whole.  

And in South Dakota, our society has repudiated the Democrat party, and all that it represents.

10 Replies to “We’re more if you add them….  Ann Tornburg math.”

  1. Anonymous

    See this is what happens when you use common core math!

    Good analysis as always Pat…if the numbers were as Ann says they would be winning a lot more races, which they are not…or at least be competitive

  2. Troy Jones

    Exactly Pat.

    In the last election, of the 21 contested State Senate Races, the Democrat candidate got under 40% of the Independent vote in 17 of them.

    In the two races they got more than 2/3 of the Independent Vote, they still lost (they lost all 21 of the contested races).

    What Tornberg has to realize is:

    1) While the GOP has grown 5% of its voter registration base in the last 10 years, the Democrats have lost 17%. These former Democrats (and new Independents) are voting Republican.

    2) The Democrats not only have to increase their % of voters registered but also have to put up candidates attractive to Independents. They are going backwards on both fronts.

  3. Anonymous

    Troy why don’t they just get back to the basics and really try to do the hard work and connect with the voters of South Dakota and actually BE a competitive opposition party that makes us ALL better?

    With one side that actually have a few good people trying to make a positive difference in the party and run for office and other the other end you have others driving people away like Professor Lansing who need to be banned permanently.

    1. Troy Jones

      I have idea. Yes, I’m a partisan Republican. But, I’m also a committed American who loves the bedrock of our freedoms (Constitution, regular elections, and peaceful transfer of power) so I also observe politics in general and I’m flat out flabbergasted by the Democrats implosion and reaction to the implosion.

      Frankly, if this partisan Republican had been asked to write a plan for the Democrats, I couldn’t have done a “better” job destroying any semblance of credibility and relevance in our state.

      I am not making this up. Post-election on Cory’s blog, Porter posted “to-do” list he had gotten from some Colorado Democrat post-election of what Democrats should do in the future to come back. As an American who wants competitive elections for the good of our democracy, I almost responded with point-by-point how flat-out stupid it was and a guarantee of failure (in summary, it was “let’s do more of what we are doing”) but I realized you can’t lead a dumb donkey to water. So, I just copied it, tweaked it as if it was my own and applied to the GOP, and sent it to someone I respect in politics. He was so concerned I fell off my rocker my phone rang BEFORE he finished reading it.

      1. Anonymous

        Real hard fought competition makes us better from sports, our jobs, sales, business, education, military and political parties. If we had serious competition among political parties in our state everybody wins and especially our state citizens but instead we have these complete nuts constantly destroying any chance for one team to ever get off the ground and build momentum. With the lack of serious competition here in SD we all pay the price for it in one way or another regardless of where we are politically.

  4. Anonymous

    It must those “German Americans” that are to blame for the demise of the South Dakota Democratic Party. 🙂

  5. William Beal

    Someone must have “gotten the memo,” as it’s a variation on the same argument presented in this Argus editorial.

    “… most South Dakotans are underrepresented in our state legislature. Democrats are 31 percent of the registered voters in the state and independents are 22 percent. Together they represent 53 percent of our electorate. Democrats hold only 15 percent of the legislative seats. Independents are completely unrepresented in the legislature. Something is obviously wrong with that.”


  6. Troy Jones


    Good thing I didn’t have a mouth full of coffee when I read your post’s end which included “something is obviously wrong with that”. I would have either choked or spit all over everything.

    Since the election, each day I see Dems and press set new standards for stupid.

    It can’t go on at this pace but the pace seems to be accelerating and not slowing down.

  7. PNR

    I’m listed in the rolls as an independent. I refuse to register as a member of a political party, partly in order to reduce (just a tiny bit) the junk mail and pleas for money that I get.

    But there’s no way I’m voting for a Democrat.

    It’s also curious that she wants to count independents as Democrats at just the time when the newest prominent independent is rather pointedly rejecting the Democrat Party.