Monday, February 16, 2004

A few weeks ago Matthew Holt of The Health Care Blog posted this comment at Medrants in response to a John Edwards post.

There's no chance that Edwards will get the VP nod, Kerry (who's about to wrap up the nomination) needs a bullet-prrof southerner on the ticket and a trial lawyer just ain't that. And he also needs someone strong on defence and Edwards knows bupkiss about that.

But consder the VP debate between Max Cleleland, triple amputee in Vietnam and cheated out of his senate seat by Diebold voting machines (read the excerpt from the UK Independent in the middle of this), and draft-dodger war profiteer Dick Cheney. My mouth is watering (Wes Clark would do fine too).

Within the comment is a link to this site which cites this article from the Independent. (You have to pay for the whole story).

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.
Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.

Living in Georgia I have heard a great deal about this since the 2002 election. People opposed to electronic voting are quick to point out the polling cited above in claiming the election was "stolen" from not only Max Cleland but from Governor Roy Barnes as well. From Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Touch-screen opponents have alleged that Barnes' and Cleland's 2002 upset defeats are suspicious because of a last-minute fix to the machines.
The state had to apply "patches" — software repairs — at the last minute because many of the screens were freezing during tests. Patches are common in the computer world. But the state didn't have time to recertify the machines to make sure the fixes contained no malicious commands. The patches were tested after the election and found to be legitimate, Cox said.
Bobby Kahn, Barnes' chief of staff and now the interim chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, has found himself in the odd position of defending his boss's loss.
"I would love to believe that Governor Barnes really won and that he lost because of a computer meltdown or a grand conspiracy," Kahn has said. But the count was accurate, he said.
In an interview, Kahn said the last poll conducted before Election Day by Barnes' pollsters showed the governor with a 5 percent edge. The polls underestimated the number of rural whites who turned out against Barnes, Kahn said.
(emphasis mine).

As I posted in July the main issue with those rural whites was Gov. Barnes' change of the Georgia flag. While some may have legitimate issues with the way he ran his campaign (the television ad with Sen Cleland and Osama bin Laden comes to mind). Chambliss was able to paint Cleland as, well, not Zell Miller. Even Common Cause makes it clear that the losses suffered by Cleland and Barnes were not due to fraud:

The Green Party has alleged in its publications through innuendo that Georgia's 2002 election was stolen.

"In 2002, Georgia saw six big upsets of Democrats by Republicans, including one where incumbent US Senator Max Cleland (Dem.) had a big lead in the polls but was surprisingly upended by Republican Saxby Chambliss."

This simply is not true. While Cleland did show a stronger lead in early polls, that had disappeared by election day. On November 4, 2002, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote, "A recent poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution /WSB-TV indicated Cleland has a slim lead among likely voters. But a poll released Sunday by Zogby International indicated Chambliss had a slight edge. The race has been put in the 'toss-up' category by most national analysts." Chambliss went on to win with 52.8% of the vote.

While the Greens don't state it, the bigger surprise in Georgia 2002 was the upset victory of Republican Sonny Perdue over incumbent Democrat Governor Roy Barnes. Most analysts reason that Perdue got most of the same voters Chambliss got. (The totals were 1,071,494 for Chambliss and 1,041,700 for Perdue.) While both Barnes and Cleland had the power of incumbency, and Barnes had a huge advantage in fundraising, the Republican victories do not mean they stole the election. Georgia had already elected Republican Senators before, and the congressional delegation has been mostly Republican for years. As disappointing as the 2002 results might have been to Democrats and Greens, there is no evidence to support a stolen election.

I'm sure that we will see more of this as the election year proceeds. On a personal note I found the touch-screen system very easy to use and quite user-friendly.

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