Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Curious Numbers in South Carolina's Election

After finishing the last post on the South Carolina primary elections, I kept poking around.  What I found first was election results from the 2008 Democratic primary in South Carolina and they were so completely bizarre I couldn't believe them. And with good reason, they were totally wrong. All the Obama results were 0% with just a few votes per county even when there were thousands of African-American voters. I mention this to remind people to think when they see things on the internet. When it's too strange to be true it probably isn't.  Fortunately there was a link to the same results in a different format. They seemed much more sensible - Obama won with 55% of the vote. But let's try thinking again. In 2008, Obama got 55% of the Democratic primary vote in South Carolina.

In 2010, Al Greene took the Democratic primary with 59% of the vote!  According to Charleston South Carolina's Post and Courier these are the election results for last week's Democratic primary election for the US Senate:

U.S. Senate - Dem Primary
June 09, 2010 - 04:54AM ET
South Carolina - 2109 of 2109 Precincts Reporting - 100%

Name Party Votes Vote %
Greene , Alvin Dem 99,970 59%
Rawl , Vic Dem 69,572 41%

Let's think about this for a bit.  First, a small discrepency:

In 2008 the Post and Courier says there were 2259 precincts and in 2010 there are only 2109 precincts.  There's probably a good explanation, but we do need to find out what it is.

Now, let's think about the 2008 primary election.  The first really serious female presidential candidate and the first serious black presidential candidate were both running and getting tons of attention.  Everyone was worked up about this and there was lots of national attention on the primary elections that day.  Plus, John Edwards from neighboring North Carolina was on the ticket.

So an extremely articulate black candidate with lots and lots of publicity running against two white candidates, Obama,  got 55% of the vote in 2008.

In 2010,  an inarticulate black candidate with no publicity and no funding running against one white candidate with high name recognition and good funding got 59% of the vote.  Something is bizarre here.

You can say, "But far fewer voters actually turned up to vote, only about 1/3."  But, presumably, the voters who turned out this time around would be more likely to be party regulars who pay more attention to the elections and are better informed.  They would have looked at the two candidates and seen that the one was totally off the wall.  The other candidate was white - like 62% of South Carolinians (though the percent of white Democrats is probably lower, it still appears to be over 50%.)  I know almost nothing about North Carolina politics, but nothing I've read yesterday and today suggests that Vic Rawl had high negatives.

When something doesn't look right, we should look a little harder.  Sometimes we can explain the problem.  Like the other day while running, I sensed the color of the trees was funny.  I looked up and one of the birches had been broken near the top and it was hanging down.  Oddity explained.  Now, these numbers in South Carolina, plus Greene's inability to answer questions about things like where he got the money to run and reports of problems with the computers all raise serious questions.  These were paperless touch screen computers so voters don't have, and the voting machines don't produce, any independent hard copy of the votes.  There are serious questions about electronic voting and it's quite possible that South Carolina could be the first example of voting machine rigging on a large scale.

Or, it could turn out to be as simple as voters voting for the candidate with the same name as a famous gospel and soul singer.  

[Update 3:30pm June 16:  This Huffington Post blogger found a lady who said she voted for Al Greene because his name sounded like the singer.  The blogger writes as though this were further proof of South Carolina's problems, we all know that name recognition is a major goal in  politics.  After all, Californians elected a governor because his name was the same as a movie star.  What's the difference?]

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