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Many people are shocked that convicted felon Ted Stevens could possibly be ahead of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in the fight for his US Senate seat, or that under-investigation Congressman Don Young has probably held on to his seat against Ethan Berkowitz.  This seems especially dubious as polls that were correct in every other state were seemingly way off in Alaska.  An article in the Anchorage Daily News titled "The Pollsters missed the mark" discusses this:

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"The real question is where were the all the Democrats?" Dittman said, noting the voter turnout was supposed to be in record proportions. Instead, only an estimated 57 percent of registered voters had a say - a far drop from the 66 percent turnout in the 2004 presidential election, according to state elections division figures.

The issue of the incorrect polls has triggered some concern both here and in other parts of the country, especially on the "interwebs" where folks have raised the specter of a "rigged election."  It's understandable that we're all having flashbacks to Alaska 2004, where the Division of Elections reported some precincts had over 100% turnout.  (Voting "early and often" is not just a tongue-in-cheek saying in Chicago!)  

However, we should all subscribe to the "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" mantra of "Don't Panic!"  I can think of at least four reasons why:

1) Per the Division of Elections, there are three different types of ballots that still must be counted:  1/2 of the early voting ballots (9,500), the absentee ballots (48,000) and the "questioned" ballots (16,000). ("Questioned" ballots come from registered voters who go to a different precinct and are allowed to vote the Congressional and Presidential elections or un-registered voters who go to a precinct and are allowed to register and vote in the presidential election only.  All of these votes are checked by hand to determine the voters status.)  

That's 73,500 ballots which equal about 15% of all registered voters in the state of Alaska.  That's a lot of votes yet to be counted.

2) While Ted Stevens is making the claim that absentee votes "always break conservative," we are operating in an entirely new world because of Barack Obama's campaign strategy.  As the result of an Obama and Begich Campaign "Get Out the Vote" juggernaut, it's quite possible that those absentee, early voting and questioned ballots will break Progressive (I know mine is in there)...completely turning that "conventional wisdom" on its head.  Also, the absentee ballots are often military-dominated, which has caused them to trend towards conservative in the past, polls and FEC records have shown this election cycle that both the oversees and US-stationed military have heavily favored the Democratic presidential candidates...specifically Barack Obama...over the McCain ticket when it comes to political donations.  The "conservative assumption" no longer carries any weight.

3)  Much of this "poll angst" is based on the inaccuracy of the pre-election polls.  However, those are not the "canaries in a coal mine" when it comes to election tampering or election fraud.  International election-watching experts like Nobel Peace Prize recipient President Jimmy Carter have made the case for watching exit polls:

Exit polls are the most accurate way of detecting election fraud. In fact, according to my fellow peace witness, Dr. Daniel Hurwitz – professor of mathematics at Skidmore College - if the exit polls are more than 1 percent different from the outcome of the election, “something fishy” is going on. The 1 percent rule is what international election protection organizations (like the ones that send in Jimmy Carter as an observer) use to judge whether or not fraud is taking place.
The AP conducted an exit poll in Alaska of 20 random precincts polling of 1294 Alaskans:
"...the exit poll and incomplete ballot results had the 40-year incumbent with a very slight lead - 3,363 votes - over Democratic rival Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. More than 60,000 absentee and questioned ballots remain to be counted, so the outcome may be days in coming."
I have talked to AP and have gotten some of the mathematical break-out.  However, since 253 of the 1294 polled were absentee/early voters, I won't be able to do an accurate comparison until all of those votes are counted.

4) Per the Democratic Party, changes have been made since 2004 which ensure that (and this is important) every Alaskan has a paper ballot.  Any potential machine discrepancies should be caught in a recount, which we can almost guarantee will happen by either the Begich or Stevens campaign after all ballots are counted.

5) Alaska is the only state in the US who knew Obama had probably clinched the presidency almost two hours before our polls closed at 8:00 PM. Between the the good folks at Rasmusson, etc...giving both Begich and Berkowitz a "comfortable" lead and the news showing that Obama would probably be the victor before many folks got off work, it's possible they just went home.  This reason is the most uncomfortable and the one I will refuse to accept unless, in the end, all evidence points this direction.  

While vigilance in the voting process is definitely required and rage over past problems is understandable, these accusations are premature.  According to the nice lady at the Division of Elections as well as Heather Rauch of the Begich Campaign, all ballots should be counted by November 21st.  

Let's wait until then before we "don the tin foil."

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Originally posted to Celtic Diva on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:33 PM PST.

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