Thursday, October 31, 2013


Actual count of testimony on marriage equality bill shows a 12 point spread in favor, not 20-percentage points against

Update: This post was updated on Nov. 1 to correct a spreadsheet error. The error had inflated the number of testimonies in opposition. With this correction, it appears that supporting testimony was in the majority, not opposing, as originally reported. We regret the error. Two comments were moved from the original post to this one.

by Larry Geller

How an actual count of testimony on Senate Bill 1 turned out—with duplicates eliminated

Let’s examine how well the Legislature is tallying up the testimony for or against SB1. Here is a snip reporting Senator Hee’s comments on the count submitted to the Senate:

Of 3,459 pieces submitted by Sunday morning, 40 percent were in favor of SB 1 and 60 percent were either against SB 1 or the special session, said Hee. It's not clear what the testimony submitted since that time said; Hee said his staff hasn't had the time to read it all.

[Civil Beat, Hawaii Senate Panel Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill, 10/28/2013]

It appears that Hee has rounded a bit, at least it would be odd if exactly a round 60/40 split was the case. Let’s do the job right by counting the testimony exactly. With the help and hard work of a Disappeared News volunteer, here is a more accurate breakdown.

First, Senator Hee’s report breaks down as follows:

1384 support SB1 (i.e., 40%)
2075 oppose SB1 or the special session (60%)

Next, looking at the testimony itself, as posted on the Capitol website:

After removing doubles, triple and quadruples:

Testimony In Favor of the Bill  1307
Testimony Against the Bill   1014
Testimony Against the Special Session  363
Testimony Providing Comments Only  13

Yes, there were multiple submissions. But even if they were counted, there were only 2894 separate testimonies total in the public record, not 3459.

Of the 2321 for or against the bill, the percentage breakdown is then 56% in favor, 44% opposed. That’s a 12 percentage point difference in favor, not a twenty percentage point difference against.

Any data analysis should be accompanied with a note on the methodology used. Here is how these numbers were arrived at.


Starting with the raw data in a spreadsheet in the order of the Committee's online PDF of testimony. The sheet is sorted by name and then duplicates had their second and third testimonies "zeroed" for the count.

If testimony was both against the bill and the special session (or if there was any doubt regarding what the testimony was opposing, it went into the "Against the Bill" box). If someone indicated "Comments Only" on the form but actually wrote comments opposed to the bill, they were put into the "Against the Bill" box.

It should be noted that there were no pro-same sex marriage people advocating against the special session.

A copy of the analysis spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

Analysis of testimony submitted on SB1, the marriage equality bill just passed by the Hawaii legislature, shows that the count for or against is not as stated to the press by Senator Hee (see box).

The actual count of testimony for or against also does not tally with Hee’s number, though he may well have unofficial (unposted) testimony in his pocket. The numbers analyzed here are only for officially received and posted testimony.

Unfortunately, the number of testimonies submitted may also depend on the efficiency (and funding) of campaigns for or against the adoption of a same-sex marriage law in Hawaii. The number may also depend on whether clergy who consider marriage to be religiously determined have been effective in convincing their flocks to take action, and whether civil libertarians have motivated sufficient numbers to send in something with their views.

Yesterday I received multiple emails stating that all testimony submitted for the Thursday House hearing on SB1 had been lost, and so should be re-submitted. Checking with the Capitol webmaster and the House Clerk, neither was aware of lost testimony.

As a person with a data processing background, I suspected that the systematic re-submission of testimony could pose a problem for those who are tallying up the for or against counts. At least, it creates an additional burden—if indeed anyone is seriously looking at the matter of duplicate testimonies.

Or triplicates. Or quadruplicates. The old joke, “vote early and vote often” makes sense with submitted testimony if it’s the count rather than the substance that is going to matter—as appears to be the case here.

In the end, the votes of individual lawmakers in the state legislature will decide whether Hawaii becomes the next state to legalize same-sex marriage. In the meantime, the media are tracking the progress of the Senate and House bills every which way. Marathon sessions in the Capitol building auditorium allow the public the opportunity to orate their feelings even as the newspaper reports how individual lawmakers have already made up their minds, or even “evolved” from their previous views and past votes.

If lawmakers have already decided, what difference does it make whether someone vents at them for the allotted two minutes? The volume of written testimony is so large, fueled and fanned by both proponents and opponents of marriage equality and the special session itself, that it is unlikely that many legislators will have read very much of it.

[Many years ago I was told by a (now former) senator that he never read the testimony submitted, which impressed me with the need to go down to the lege and speak in person if I really wanted to make a difference.]

So it appears that some sort of raw count may be used instead to weigh public sentiment on this issue. Unfortunately, the count may simply underline the power or budget of those organizing in support or opposition.

If a legislator is truly undecided at this point, at least there should be an accurate count of testimony submitted.

You’re welcome.

Update: More at Hawaii legislature receives suspect testimony, including apparently from a 1-year old, on marriage equality bill (10/30/2013)


At least that family's dog or cat didn't try to send in testimony. They probably didn't think of it.

testimony submitted by: Haunani Jones (

p342 (Part 3) Haunani K. Jones
p997 (Part 6) "Keawa'iki Jones-Age 9"
p999 (Part 6) "Kingston Jones-Age 11"
p1027 (Part 6) "Ko'iaweikawaihu'ihu'iowaihe'e Jones-Age 1"
p1155 (Part 6) Haunani K. Jones

Are you also going to do the same for the House submissions?

It's a lot of work. For one person to do it (there are many thousands of testimonies), it wouldn't be done before the end of the special session anyway. I do understand, from some emails, that a legislator may put his staff onto it. I had suggested that if a team divides the work, it could be finished in time. So let's see if they do it, and I hope they will share the results here.

If they truly wanted a fair count, they would eliminate all testimonies by out of state persons. It is a known fact that the pro-SSM movement was organized by MAINLAND BASED special interest groups. (a San Fransico based movement builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people) is just one of these CONFIRMED groups. If Hawaii's people really are for same sex marriage, then why the out of state funding and marketing. Multiple mainland based pro-SSM blogs also posted the testimony submission link on their page for people to use. I know that hawaii is a primarily liberal state, but at least make an effort to hear both sides of the story before sharing a glaringly bias report.

That could be done, because testimony is supposed to have an address included. Sorry, did not think of that. Your suggestion is a good one. I'm sure there are many without addresses, but in principle it would have been easy to do.

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