Crunching the Numbers in Alaska.

6 11 2008

OK…

I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist. I say “generally”, because sometimes conspiracies happen. And sometimes it would be foolish to ignore them. The only thing worse than being labeled a conspiracy theorist, is being labeled a gullible idiot when it all comes to light. So I invite you to hop on board the Conspiracy Theory Express with me for a moment, because it’s pulling out of the station here in Alaska, ready to take you on a five minute tour.

As the final numbers roll in from state and national elections, I and others have noticed some results that are interesting at best, and highly suspect at worst. Either way, they deserve some scrutiny.

Let’s look at the national numbers first. Keep in mind that Alaska’s very own Governor, and the new GOP golden girl, Sarah Palin, was on the ticket. And Barack Obama has excited progressive Alaskans like no candidate before. He had five field offices, great ground organization, and inspired the biggest candidate rally in Alaska history. Voter turnout here was expected to be through the roof and breaking all records.

In 2004, 66% of registered voters turned out to vote in the presidential election between George Bush and John Kerry.

In 2008, including the votes still outstanding, only 54% of registered voters turned out.

And the strangest part of all? Voter turnout in the primaries, before Palin was even on the ticket, was up 12% from 2004. We also had more than 20,000 new registered voters.

Curious.

As these strange numbers rolled in at Election Central, I was there watching. Here’s how it fell out over time.

With 36% of the precincts reporting:
61.76% for McCain
35.64% for Obama

With 81.3% reporting
61.54% for McCain
35.69% for Obama

With 96.1% reporting
61.29% for McCain
35.96% for Obama

Alaska, like many states, has blue areas and red areas. The Mat-Su Valley, home of Sarah Palin is very very red. Anchorage? Blue. The Kenai Peninsula? Red. Juneau? Blue. You get the idea. When I, and my fellow progressive celebrants watched the first numbers come in, we thought, “That must be the Valley”, because the latest polls actually had the presidential race neck and neck with Obama only 2.7 points behind. We kept waiting for the progressive areas of the state to kick in, but they never did. No fluctuations one way or the other more than .3%. And George Bush won the 2004 election her by a margin of…..61-35.

Strange.

Then, we’ve got the two Congressional races.

Ted Stevens vs. Mark Begich. The convicted felon is currently ahead by about 3300 votes, with about 60,000 absentee and early votes left to count. It’s a squeaker, and Begich may pull this one off. By why is it a squeaker when the last poll had Begich 22 points ahead? He’d been running at a dead heat in the polling before Ted’s conviction, but after the seven felony convictions came in, Begich’s lead widened considerably. Pretty stunning turnaround for Stevens.

Remarkable.

How about Ethan Berkowitz vs. Don Young for the Congressional seat?

Berkowitz consistently led Young in every single poll since May by 5-14 points. Contrary to this comfortable and consistent lead, Don Young managed to pull off a stunning upset by trouncing Berkowitz by more than 7 points.

Amazing.

And since history is always our best teacher, let’s look back at the 2004 elections in Alaska. The majority of precincts had voter turnout of over 100%. In some cases, voter turnout was over 200%. Either Alaskans are enthusiastic about their vote to the point of breaking the law and voting twice, or there’s something very very wrong.

(From Shannyn Moore) There are 40 districts in Alaska. The Anchorage area districts run from District 17 to District 32. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and pick any district from 17-32. Pay particular attention to the 3rd column labeled % turnout. Hit the back arrow and select another district. There are more precincts with voter turnout over 100% than under 100%. In other words, many more people voted in Anchorage area precincts than there were registered voters. Clearly, this is not possible. In 2006, the Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Division of Elections to release public records needed to verify the 2004 election results. The Democrats ALSO sought to have the Alaska Division of Elections release the raw election data for the 2006 election.

It’s been more than 24 hours since the polls closed in Alaska, and the red flags are already waving.

OK, the Conspiracy Theory Express bus 5-minute tour is over, and you may now hop off. This was just a test drive. Keep your eyes on how the final numbers turn out. Democracy requires vigilance, and hopefully our state candidates will not be afraid to stand their ground. The Obama campaign had a team of lawyers at the ready in case election fraud was detected. It’s a wise precaution, and an obligation to the electorate whose fundamental rights hang in the balance. If I were Ethan Berkowitz or Mark Begich or Barack Obama, I’d make sure I took the process to the end, and took advantage of the media spotlight which still shines on our state, before it vanishes, and we are left to sort out our election questions in the dark. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

UPDATE – Here’s some new coverage on this topic from The Washington Post and from 538.com.

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Alaska Primary Night at Election Central

27 08 2008

Well, it’s no Democratic National Convention, but it was quite a show tonight. I listened to Hillary Clinton’s pretty darned good speech, and then took off for the Egan Center and Election Central. While circling for a parking spot the only person outside was a Nader guy. Gotta give ’em credit for trying. They’re kind of like the Ron Paul people, only their candidate is smart enough not to endorse Don Young.

Half an hour and a glass of Chardonnay later, the fun began. Whoops and shrieking in the hallway were heard and Les Gara made the first ‘grand entrance’ of the evening.

Then, the big guns (and the big signs) arrived. Ethan Berkowitz came in with an impressive entourage, looking pumped up and ready for the interviews.

By this time the numbers were really starting to come in up on the big board. It was obvious that all the ballot initiatives would go down. For a minute I just felt like going home and putting a pillow over my head. Then I remembered the bartender told me there was Tequila. But I just sat and watched for a while, making really sure the numbers said what I thought they said. Clean Elections was the worst…oh, excuse me….I mean “Public Funding of Elections”…which is precisely why it went down. The wording was enough to do it. And for this we can thank Sean Parnell.

And speaking of Sean Parnell… at this point in the evening, there was a mere 4 vote split between Lt. Governor Parnell and Congressman Young. I’m starting to think that the mini operation chaos might have had some effect. As a matter of fact, I ran in to three non-partisans who voted for Young in the primary so he’d go down in the general election.

It had also become obvious that Diane Benson wasn’t going to be able to win her match-up with Ethan Berkowitz. But, as usual, the woman who first took on Don Young with a credible and spirited campaign, handled herself well and was surrounded by a group of die-hard supporters.

The Gabrielle LeDoux and Linda Menard groups had filtered in earlier, with little fanfare. LeDoux was instantly marginalized by the 45-45 Young/Parnell horse race.

Menard won her district handily. Erick Cordero, her Democratic opponent in the general election was there too. He’ll have a tough road.

Then the man of the evening arrived. Mark Begich swooped in, followed by a huge sea of supporters with signs. He wasn’t on a white horse, but he might as well have been. The camera crews were crawling all over themselves to get an unobstructed view. The energy was through the roof, and the Begich crew were all smiles, fist pumps and energy. No sooner had he entered than he was whisked away from one news crew to the next for interviews. The flock of supporters followed dutifully, chanting “Beg-ich Beg-ich Beg-ich!” and “Go Mark Go! Go Mark Go!”

Then the Ted Stevens crew arrived.

Ted was in and to the news crew before anyone hardly knew he was in the room. He had a steely gaze and walked like he was about to miss a bus. He had a large crowd, but not as large as the Begich bunch. As Ted began his first interview with Channel 2, the rowdy excited chants of Beg-ich Beg-ich practically drowned out the interview. His sign holder stood behind him holding up a campaign sign and clenching her jaw. She stared off in the direction of the chanting crowd just 20 feet away and looked like she wanted to break something.

After a few minutes of this, it dawned on the Stevens crowd that all this enemy chanting was not a good thing. Someone weakly started a “Go Ted Go!” and a few others joined in. Sign holder kept giving the thumbs up, directing the Stevens crowd to pick up the volume (see below), hoping they’d drown out the Begich crowd that was so loud that Stevens was obviously raising his voice to be heard. It was almost painful to watch. And, of course, he was less than pleased when questions about the indictment came up.

The Begich folks relentlessly tailed the current senator with signs, and some even chuckled at the double meaning of the growing chants of “Go Ted Go!” from the Stevens camp.

The nail-biter at the end of it all was the Young/Parnell race. Undecided last night, it’s still up for grabs this morning. Currently Young has regained his lead, and come up from a 700 vote deficit, to a narrow 140 vote lead with 9 precincts left to come. Neither candidate was at the Egan Center. Don Young is in Fort Yukon, and Sean Parnell was down the street at his campaign headquarters, but never made an appearance. More thoughts and photos to come…