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 Senate and House Races Bring Surprises.

5 11 2008

It’s been an amazing day in American politics. President Elect Obama has heard the voice of America, and it is demanding change. The future seems full of promise and possibility for the first time in a long time.

But back on the Last Frontier, we know it just wouldn’t be Alaska if things went smoothly, or predictably. Any day now, I expect new Alaskan license plates to be released saying “Alaska” on the top, and “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” across the bottom.

Despite polling numbers that indicated comfortable leads for Senate candidate Mark Begich, and House candidate Ethan Berkowitz, both races are too close to call until the final absentee and early votes are counted. Yes, it seems that we now have a “Stevens Effect”, people who say they wouldn’t vote for a convicted felon to pollsters, but when they get behind the curtain, they just can’t seem to resist the temptation.

Mark Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R-I)

At last count with 99% of precincts reporting Begich trailed Stevens by only 4000 votes, 46.5% to 48%. But don’t write off Begich just yet. There are tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted – almost 50,000 in all. Absentee ballots have yet to be tallied, and more are arriving daily. In addition, any early votes that happened between last Thursday and Election Eve, are still to be counted. What does all this mean? We won’t know the outcome of this race for two weeks.

If Stevens is elected, he will face expulsion by the Senate, Alaskans will have the dubious honor of being the only state to ever elect a convicted felon, and Stevens will face expulsion. It will require a 2/3 vote to remove him. Sarah Palin, who asked Stevens to step down so Alaskans could have a “real” choice would NOT be able to appoint anyone to fill the seat. I heard pundits last night speculating that Palin would appoint herself to the seat. That will not happen. The Alaska Supreme Court has already decided this issue and removed the right of a governor to appoint anyone to a senate seat. Period. That said, there is nothing to prevent Palin from entering herself as a candidate in the special election to fill that seat.

So, what happened?

There are as many theories and opinions as people. Here are a few.

  • Stevens is more like family than a mere politician. If he says he’s innocent, then he’s innocent. He was railroaded. He continues to have the support of Alaska’s other Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young. The feds were just out to get him.
  • Some Alaskans, despite being presented with the facts, will never ever vote Democratic. Ever.
  • Stevens gained votes from the inflated Republican turnout that came out to vote for Palin.
  • If Stevens gets in and gets expelled by the senate, there’s another opportunity to get a different Republican in that seat and not create a potential Democratic dynasty. This was openly promoted by right wing talk radio before the election.
  • Some Alaska voters have voted for Stevens every election of their lives. They’re happy with what he’s done, so why stop now?
  • Alaskans are terrified of giving up seniority in the Senate. We’re ignored a lot, and we worry that if Ted isn’t there with his experience, his connections, and his doggedness, we’ll be up a creek.
  • Nobody “outside” (aka the Federal Government, the FBI and the IRS) is going to tell me who to vote for. (sticking out chin, crossing arms and feeling like and Alaskan “maverick”)

Ethan Berkowitz (D) vs. Don Young (R-I)

This race is not as tight as the Senate race. In a stunning outcome that flies in the face of all recent polls, Don Young looks like he will pull it off. The bombastic, bloviating incumbent has a comfortable lead over the favored newcomer, and is up by more than 17,000 votes. The same 50,000 ballots have yet to be counted for these candidates, but that’s a pretty big margin to make up for Berkowitz. So, as excruciating as it is, and despite the fact that Berkowitz has not conceded, we may be sending Don Young back for his 19th term as Alaska’s one and only member of the House of Representatives. I would like to extend my humble apologies to the United States Congress. Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

So what happened?

Look back up at the “So what happened?” section above and insert the name Don Young, every time you see the name Ted Stevens, and add the following:

  • Just because he’s spent $1.2 million in legal fees, doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong. He hasn’t even been indicted yet!

Asked if he was surprised at the way the numbers were running, Young said, “Not me. … The pollsters were wrong and they’ve always been wrong. … They don’t understand Alaska.”

The Anchorage Daily News has some good coverage of the Stevens-Begich race and the Young-Berkowitz race.

There are many chapters yet to be written.

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I Voted!

4 11 2008

vote11

I feel better.  I thought about voting early, but my usual polling place is generally pretty quiet, and I do love the festive feeling of voting on the day, so I waited.  Then I kept thinking….what if my name isn’t on the voter rolls?  I checked to make sure it was….but what if something happened AFTER I checked?  What if I get hit by a bus before election day?  What if my car runs into the ditch and I don’t make it in time?

So it was with great relief today that I walked into my polling place to finally vote.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  The poll worker who checked me in was a woman of color, and I had such a stupid smile on my face that I made her smile back in spite of herself.  There were 12 polling stations set up, and no line.  I dodged behind the curtain and just looked at the ballot for a minute.

I filled in Mark Begich, then Ethan Berkowitz, then my local race.  I saved Obama-Biden for last.  I took a deep breath and really thought about what it took to get to this day, not only all the incredible work that has gone into this particular election, but also to have a viable African-American candidate on the ballot as nominee for the President of the United States.

I hope to see a woman in that spot too, some day.  But I want to vote for a woman who has earned her place on the ticket through her own intelligence, principles, work ethic, determination and grit, not someone who got picked as a strategic calculation, and a poor one at that.  I looked at Palin’s name on the ballot.  After my deep breath, I filled in the Obama-Biden oval carefully…being sure not to leave one little white space.  Then I double checked to make sure I filled in the right oval, and didn’t make a horrible mistake because of my reverie.

Then off to the optical scan machine to watch my ballot get sucked into the little slot.  Number 555.  Pretty good turnout so far.  I’ll be back later to photograph the paper tapes they are required to post in the window.  In 2004, we had some precincts in Anchorage with a 220% voter turnout.  Not again.

We should be getting the first returns from the east coast within the hour!

vote2





Signs of the Times in Anchorage. Open Season on Idiocy.

1 11 2008

I had to run an unexpected errand in South Anchorage today. My travels took me to “the Hillside” to one of Anchorage’s more lucrative zip codes. This is the area with the big houses that overlook the Anchorage skyline and Cook Inlet, where you expect to find many traditional Republican voters, and oil industry executives. I decided I was going to keep a tally of yard signs and see what I ended up with. I was quite surprised. Here’s the breakdown, with Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right.

Obama 4 – McCain  0
Begich 18 – Stevens  0 (Senate race)
Berkowitz  8 – Young  0 (House race)
Kenny 17 – Hawker  15 (Local House race)

The latest numbers now show Mark Begich with a 20 point lead over convicted felon Ted Stevens in the Senate race. Ethan Berkowitz is 9 points up in the House race over Don Young. And from the looks of it, the local Democrat might even stand a chance in this Anchorage red zone. My faith is restored.

The bad news in the sign department is that an Obama-Biden sign that got stolen and replaced down the street from me, is gone again. But my own sign, is still sticking proudly in its snowbank.

And remember a while ago, when I found signs hung up over the highway that said, “Obama 4 Change 2 Islamic Law -N- USA”? Well, the perpetrator obviously has nothing but time on his hands, because they’ve started popping up all over town. In actuality this tortured soul with the spray paint, the stencils, and the disregard for the English language has provided a new sport for my spouse.

Today's Haul.

Today's haul.

Spouse has started a collection, and everytime a sign is seen, the brakes screech, the exacto knife comes out of the glove compartment, and the sign ends up in my trunk. I think that Spouse secretly likes this activity. In any case, we  added three new signs to the collection today, which brings the total up to 8.

This time there was a new development….the name of a website was written on one of the signs. Since it was written in small letters, it’s doubtful that our sign maker intended it to be seen by the passing traffic. It was meant…..for US, the sign taker-downers.

Something looked fishy about the website address…. http://www.obessionthemovie.com. Obession? I tried it. No movie. It was as I suspected. I tried obSessionthemovie.com. Paydirt! Obsession – Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The trailer has collapsing towers, crowds chanting “Death to America”, and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the Fox crowd saying that “every single American should see this movie.”

So keep an eye out Anchorage and Eagle River area residents! It’s open season on illegally displayed, badly written, factually incorrect political signs with spelling mistakes! And you don’t even need a hunting license!

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Senatorial and House Debate in Anchorage

9 10 2008

It’s been a busy news week in Alaska, and I’ve yet to have time to write about this week’s Senatorial and House debates!

As we know, Ted Stevens is…otherwise occupied this week, so his debate with Mark Begich had to be filmed and shown to the crowd assembled at the University of Alaska, on screen.  The moderator was John Tracy.

I arrived a bit late, and missed the very beginning of the Begich/Stevens debate.  As I walked in the door, Ted Stevens was speaking.  I came in, walked down the aisle, looked around, found a seat, took off my coat, got out my camera, found my notepad, then had to hunt for a pen, opened the notepad, uncapped the pen, and he was still speaking….the same sentence.  All I could write on the pad was “longest run-on sentence ever uttered.”  Taking notes was to prove almost impossible.  Ted Stevens has a similar affliction as Sarah Palin.  Charlie Gibson has finally given it a name.  It’s the “Blizzard of Words” phenomenon.

All I can say is this, which I’ve plucked out of Ted’s blizzard of words.  According to Stevens: our country has absolutely no hope for the future without drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  We also need to drill offshore on the Continental Shelf.  And we need to find a way to decrease fuel costs.  We can create 20,000 jobs for every million barrels of oil we drill.  “You can’t get there (energy independence) without ANWR!” 

What is our biggest problem?  “Extreme environmentalists”  “Jimmy Carter”  and don’t forget “They opposed cutting timber too!” (uttered with horror).  His dreams for the future?  Keep kids in school. Give them hope. Drill everywhere, and “open the forests”.

When given the opportunity to ask a question of his opponent, Mark Begich, he wanted to know how he would convince those “New York California” politicians to drill drill drill!  Begich who is in favor of drilling (all Alaska politicians are), said he’d bring them up here to show them how it could be done in an environmentally conscious way. 

Begich, for his part, did very well.  He spoke in complete English sentences which could by understood by the audience.  He discussed his issues clearly and concisely.  He mentioned his website.  He did have on a little too much blush, but that wasn’t his fault.  He even held it together well when Ted Stevens told him he was “just as crazy as the devil.”

Begich got several rounds of applause during the debate.  Stevens did too, but they were more tentative…almost like the audience didn’t quite understand what he said, but they were trying to be kind.

Then we were on to 18 term Republican incumbend Don Young vs. Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz.

The questions started with the economy.  Don Young said he opposed the bail-out and had received 3800 phone calls about it.  3500 opposing, and 300 for.  He voted against.  The bail-out, he said, was a “slippery slope to socialism.”

Ethan Berkowitz said he would have been a “reluctant supporter” and stated concerns about the credit crunch affecting businesses.

Here’s the World According to Young:   All our financial woes started with Bill Clinton.  Alexander Hamilton put down the Whiskey Rebellion, and [Young] doesn’t know why he did…hahaha.  (???)  He wants to privatize social security to “let the young people invest.”  He shushed applause for Berkowitz.  He reprimanded the red warning light.  He doesn’t like Hillary Clinton.  Something else is Bill Clinton’s fault.  Most of the problems in the house are the fault of Nancy Paloosi (yes, that’s how he pronounces it).  The housing crisis was set off by energy issues because we’re not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Nancy Paloosi has a huge hammer and doesn’t want to burn fossil fuels because she wants to (eye roll) save the planet.”

He thinks Sarah Palin is a great candidate and it doesn’t bother him that she hasn’t endorsed him.  He doesn’t need anybody’s endorsement.  He’s “not going to do cartwheels” to get anyone’s endorsement.

He “look[s] forward to sending his first batch of earmarks to John McCain, and I dare him to veto it.”  Young loves earmarks and thinks that any member of congress who isn’t out to get lots of earmarks isn’t doing his/her job.

His question to Ethan Berkowitz?  How would you face up to Nancy Paloosi [sic] regarding energy issues and drilling?   Berkowitz responded that energy issues shouldn’t be partisan and that he would be an Alaskan congressman and represent the issues of Alaska.  Don didn’t like that answer.  “That’s just words!  You would have voted with her!”  Then looking at the audience, “He will do what she says to do!”

Hoooo.  Don Young has some major hangups with “Paloosi”.

Berkowitz was good the rest of the time.  He spoke up about alternative energy, no child left behind, hope and optimism.  When asked if he supported Palin, he responded he was supporting “Barack Obama and Tina Fey” which left out some of the AARP crowd who was hosting the debate.  He did get sporadic applause, but there was a noticeable lack of any kind of applause for Don Young.

Whichever political leanings the audience had, nobody was unsure of where the candidates stood, and no one left wondering which way to vote.





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…





Operation Chaos, Alaskan Style.

26 08 2008

Remember Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” where Republicans were instructed to switch over to the Democratic ballot in open primary states, and cast votes for Clinton? The idea was that Clinton would be easier to beat than Obama in the general election. Reports were mixed, but thousands of Republicans pulled the switcheroo just to stack the deck.

So, this morning, after voting, I asked my significant other, “So, who did you vote for?” I said this half-joking, knowing what the answer would be. Or so I thought. The answer came with a smile: “Don Young.”

I had to take the Democratic ballot, but my sneaky better half is a Non-partisan, chose the Republican ballot, and pulled the Progressive version of Operation Chaos. Recent polls show Ethan Berkowitz and Sean Parnell as a close match up. In the Don Young/Ethan Berkowitz match up, Young goes down like a bag of dirt.

I wonder how many others thought this through and did the same thing? A tip of the hat to you evil genius non-partisan Progressives out there. Go Don!!!

UPDATE:  It looks like those Operation Chaos folks may actually come into play in this race!  At Election Central the race has been neck & neck all night.  At one point only 4 votes separated the candidates.  It’s almost 2am Alaska time and right now Sean Parnell leads by less than 300 votes.  We’ll find out tomorrow.  I’ll post the results in the morning in addition to photos etc. from the evening’s festivities.