No Comment — November 7, 2008, 3:15 pm

Something’s Odd in Alaska

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

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.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Number of cows electrocuted by a faulty milking machine in Maidstone, England, last March:

33

Entomologists working in Iran and Turkey learned that a rare species of solitary bee builds brood chambers of brightly colored flower petals.

The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today