Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Yesterday's Election Shenanigans

I was tired last night and not in a particularly good mood. So even though there was conflicting information I didn't pursue it.  But Mel at Bent Alaska covers it in detail and the story is going to be disturbing. From Bent:
"Yesterday, we reported that an administrator of Jim Minnery’s Protect Your Rights – Vote NO on 5 Facebook page posted the following notice: Attention Young People or First Time Voters – YOU CAN REGISTER AND VOTE AT THE SAME LOCATION TODAY !! It is super easy. Take a few minutes TODAY and stop by a polling station, register to vote (all you need is your AK driver’s license) and cast a NO Vote on Prop. 5. We really need you to vote. Tell at least 3 of your friends how easy it is."
As soon as I heard that there was a rush of people to the polls and they ran out of ballots,  I began to suspect that this was an intentional attempt disrupt the elections.

Mel's post makes it clear that the "Protect Your Rights" folks knew full well that the information was false.  They'd sent an earlier email out to their list telling people exactly when the registration deadline was. Is it possible the person who did the FB page and the email acted alone and didn't know about the deadline?  Not likely.  

The generally conservative - but with straightforward local political reporting - blog Alaska Pride (no, not gay pride) had this headline March 28:

Dittman Poll Shows 50 Percent Support Anchorage Proposition 5 Vs. 41 Percent Opposed; One Anchorage Got An Earlier Start, More Money, And Remained Civil

 Let's go back to 2009 when the Anchorage Municipal Assembly had hearings on an ordinance that would have done the same thing this ballot initiative tried to do.

Mayor Mark Begich had resigned to take his US Senate seat and liberal Assembly Chair Matt Claman assumed his job as Acting Mayor until the Municipal election in April, when he was defeated by current Mayor Dan Sullivan.  The new mayor doesn't take office until July 1.  There were enough votes to pass the ordinance on the Assembly, but Minnery and his Anchorage Baptist Church friends flooded the Assembly with people to speak against the ordinance - including busing people from outside of Anchorage.  Assembly chair Debbie Ossiander ruled that everyone could talk, even people from outside of Anchorage.  This strategy worked to delay passage of the ordinance for weeks, long enough that Mayor Sullivan took office and then vetoed it.

The liberals were outsmarted in terms of strategy.  And while busing in people from outside the city and getting the Assembly chair to let them speak pushes the limits of fair play, there is a long tradition of using the rules to thwart your opponents.  It tends to be ok if your side does it, but not if the other side does it. 

But telling people to go to the polling place to register, knowing they had to register 30 days earlier, in an attempt to disrupt the election crosses the line for me because it resulted in legitimate voters not being able to vote.  Clearly it's in the dirty tricks category.  But the First Amendment allows people to lie in most circumstances.

Assuming then they were intentionally getting unregistered people to the polls, what was their goal? 

If the anti-Prop 5 folks read the polling data that said Prop 5 was ahead 50% to 41%,  perhaps they decided to cause enough irregularities at the polls to challenge the election if they lost.  I don't know.  Now that they've won,  what will the Prop 5 folks do?  It would seem that even with a challenge, they are too far behind to get enough votes to win.  I'd emphasize the word seem.  I'm sure there are other possible scenarios. 

It's clear, to me anyway, that Minnery's group's Facebook post and emails were intended to get unregistered voters to the polling places to ask to register and then vote, which Minnery knew they were not entitled to do.  He couldn't help but know that this would disrupt the election process by diverting the attention of the voting officials from helping qualified voters.  And that it would increase the number of challenged vote ballots needed way beyond the normal level.  What his reasons for doing this were and what all the consequences were, we don't know.  Was he hoping to establish a grounds for challenging the election if they lost, which the Dittman poll suggested?

Of course, it also raises the question of how the Dittman poll could be so far off.  Last week it was 50% to 41% in favor.  And this week it is 58% to 41% against.  That is a HUGE margin of error.  Was Dittman really that far off?  Or is the vote count off?

I'd note that the ADN reported Tuesday that "More than 3,800 people had already voted at Loussac Library, City Hall or Chugiak Senior Center through Sunday . . . [and a]nother 2,675 people had requested absentee ballots. . ."   The absentee ballots have not been counted yet, nor, I believe, have the early votes.    But if 2,000 of the absentees actually send in their ballots, the total outstanding would only be about 5800 or 9.5%. 

Again, I encourage you to look at Bent Alaska's post on this.


  1. Could it be that they were hoping for exactly what happened - the illegitimate voters hit the polling stations in such large numbers that they ran out of ballots for the registered voters?

    Between the long lines and the lack of ballots, there were likely many legitimate voters who got frustrated and didn't cast their votes. PYR knew the people reading the announcement would vote no so they had nothing to lose by flooding the polls and causing chaos. Even if the votes ultimately don't count, as long as you discourage the pre-registered people from voting, it's worth the lie. You're getting a definite NO and might prevent a YES in the process.

  2. Anon, It looks that way, but I learned long ago not to jump to conclusions without the facts. There are always other plausible scenarios I hadn't thought of.

  3. nice posting.. thanks for sharing..


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