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Election Day did not go off without a hitch, but compared with the last two general elections, 2008 seems to have functioned well–even given the historically high voter turnout. Moreover, the results suggest to us that the pollsters are getting ever better at their trade. (A salute once more to my favorite numerologist, Nate Silver, who projected the vote with astonishing precision.) Still there are some results that suggest that the system is being gamed—weirdness in Georgia and, as usual, Alabama. But the most striking of the irregularities by far come out of Alaska.
Two races in Alaska attracted national attention. One was the Senate race in which convicted felon Ted Stevens, the most senior Republican in the senate, sought a fresh mandate. His own Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, called for his resignation, as did Governor Sarah Palin, who once headed one of his campaign PACs, and other G.O.P. leaders. But Stevens persisted. The other widely noted race was for the sole at-large house seat, held by Don Young, the so-called “prince of pork” who ranked high in a number of lists of “most corrupt” members of Congress. Polling showed both Stevens and Young failing in their efforts at reelection against Democratic opponents.
But as returns came in, it looks like Alaskans just can’t quit their felonious senior senator, or their pork barrel champion congressman. Both are coming out on top. Which suggests that the polling was well wide of the mark. Or was it? Something is very odd about those vote totals. As Nate Silver writes:
Stevens currently holds a lead of 3,353 votes, or about 1.5 percent of the votes tallied so far. But, there are quite a large number of ballots yet to count. According to Roll Call, these include “at least 40,000 absentee ballot, 9,000 early voting ballots, and an undetermined number of questionable ballots”. Indeed, it seems possible that the number of “questionable” ballots could be quite high. So far, about 220 thousand votes have been processed in Alaska. This compares with 313 thousand votes cast in 2004. After adding back in the roughly 50,000 absentee and early ballots that Roll Call accounts for, that would get us to 270 thousand ballots, or about a 14 percent drop from 2004. It seems unlikely that turnout would drop by 14 percent in Alaska given the presence of both a high-profile senate race and Sarah Palin at the top of the ticket.
But even if Begich were to make up ground and win a narrow victory, this would seem to represent a catastrophic failure of polling, as three polls conducted following the guilty verdict in Stevens’ corruption trial had Begich leading by margins of 7, 8 and 22 points, respectively.
The more likely answer is that someone has lost track of a very substantial part of the Alaska vote. Moreover, the disappeared votes appear to be disproportionately drawn from the Democratic column. Alaska, as John McCain taught us, has a long record of corrupt politics. Seems that this doesn’t stop with gratis home makeovers and bridges to nowhere.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount of U.S. military aid given to the government of El Salvador each minute during the 1980s:
A team of European sexologists reported that 40 percent of Italian couples were not having sex, due in part to Italian men’s declining sex drive and growing predilection for prostitutes and cybersex.
Telecommunications company AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion in a bid to find new ways to reach consumers, and hackers took control of Internet-connected cameras and baby monitors to overwhelm the routing company Dyn with traffic, causing worldwide disruption to outlets such as Netflix and Amazon.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."