The Anchorage Daily News has now gotten on the bandwagon casting a critical eye on Alaska’s “puzzling” voter turnout.
Did a huge chunk of Alaska voters really stay home for what was likely the most exciting election in a generation?
That’s what turnout numbers are suggesting, though absentee ballots are still arriving in the mail and, if coming from overseas, have until Nov. 19 to straggle in.
The reported turnout has prompted commentary in the progressive blogosphere questioning the validity of the results. And Anchorage pollster Ivan Moore, who usually works with Democrats, said Friday that “something smells fishy,” though he said it was premature to suggest that the conduct of the election itself was suspect.
With 81,000 uncounted absentee and questioned ballots, some of which will be disqualified, the total vote cast so far is 305,281 — 8,311 fewer than the last presidential election of 2004, which saw the largest turnout in Alaska history. That was the election where Alaska’s selection of George Bush for a second term was a foregone conclusion, though there was an unusually hot Senate race between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Gov. Tony Knowles.
Four years later, the lead-in for the 2008 election was extraordinary:
• Unheard of participation in the Democratic caucuses and strong Republican interest in theirs as well.
• A huge registration drive by Democrats and supporters of Barack Obama that enrolled thousands of first-time voters.
• Obama’s historic candidacy.
• Gov. Sarah Palin’s unprecedented bid for vice president as an Alaskan and a woman.
• A race in which Republican Ted Stevens, a 40-year Senate veteran, was facing voters as a recent convicted felon against Anchorage’s popular mayor, Mark Begich, a Democrat.
• A Congressional race in which Republican Don Young, in office almost as long as Stevens, was seeking re-election after a year in which he spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending against an FBI investigation of corruption involving the oil-field services company Veco Corp. Young’s opponent, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, had been filmed on the state House floor in 2006 demanding an end to Veco’s corrupt practices weeks before the FBI investigation became known. The news clip played over and over as legislators and then Stevens were indicted and convicted, boosting Berkowitz’s status.
The full article, including reactions from pollsters, the Democratic and Republican parties, the Division of Elections, and progressive blogger, Shannyn Moore.
The fact that this is on the radar of all those mentioned above is a very good thing. After the last eight years, it’s become more and more difficult for those ‘puzzling’ election anomalies to slip under the radar. Mark Begich himself set up a legal team to monitor the vote counting to make sure every vote is counted.
So on it goes. The election in Alaska is not over yet.