August 8, 2006, 11:58 am
Don't Rely on Polls. Polling in the 4th Distict of Georgia shows
McKinney trailing 39%
to 52% in her runoff race with challenger Hank Johnson.
I'm not a fan of McKinney's. But I wouldn't count her out based just
on a poll.
Look what happened in 2005 Detroit mayor's race: incumbent Kwame Kilpatrick, beset by
troubles of his own making, trailed in EVERY poll to challenger Freman Hendrix. Polls of
Detroit voters were done by all kinds of respected polling organizations.
Right up to election day, there was NO poll showing Kirkpatrick leading.
There was a very slight trend in his direction in the closing days, but
not enough to make a dent in Hendrix's strong lead.
Yet Kilpatrick won by 14,000 votes. It was a historic failure of
For all kinds of reasons, polling is getting harder and harder to do in
this country. An increasing number of people, tired of telemarketers, and
armed with Caller-ID, are not speaking to pollsters any more. Polling in
person is pretty much precluded by gated communities and by general
unwillingness to open doors to strangers.
These problems are masked if the people a pollster does get to speak
with are not significantly different from the ones who are unavailable.
But what if they ARE different?
Polling in low-income minority communities — such as the city of
Detroit, or the 4th District of Georgia — faces precisely this
difficulty. In those areas, the voters who pollsters can reach by phone
ARE qualitatively different than the ones you can't. So poll results are
going to be misleading.
Yes, some people in ALL demographic groups have gotten rid of "land
line" (pollable) telephones, and switched to cell phones. But, in general,
people who have ordinary cell phones, the ones which require a contract
and monthly payments, are not really very different from people with land
The problem is people who have no land line, no cell phone contract,
but use instead those convenience store prepaid phones. These voters are
not pollable using current methods, so their views don't count in any
surveys. But many of them DO vote.
These are the poorest and angriest voters. And given a choice between a
seemingly militant black candidate (like Kilpatrick or McKinney) and one
who is moderate enough to get significant white support (like Hendrix or
Johnson), they go with the militant.
I don't know if McKinney will win, but I bet she does significantly
better than the polling seems to show.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
August 7, 2006, 8:11 pm
Primary Election Tomorrow. Here are a couple of things about
tomorrow's election. First, today's message to my staff:
Subject: From the Clerk-Register
Date: August 7, 2006
Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 8, is the primary election in Washtenaw
County and statewide. At stake are dozens of offices from township
trustee and city council to U.S. Senator.
And with one party increasingly dominant in Washtenaw County, the
primary usually determines who is elected. We have 28 contested
primaries: in 17 of these, the winner will be unopposed in the November
general election. There are also 15 tax proposals (each affecting certain
areas) and three recalls in Pittsfield Township. I strongly encourage
everyone to take a few minutes and vote tomorrow.
Elections are just a part of all the things we do here, but our office
is most visible to the public at election time. Today's Ann Arbor News
features a front page photo of our own Steve Kirschner demonstrating the
AutoMark voting device.
Our Elections staff is facing many challenges all at once. The new
AutoMark machines were rushed into our hands to meet a federal deadline,
with limited time for testing and training. The discovery of longstanding
errors in geographic coding necessitated reprint of some ballots. The
recall in Pittsfield Township means that we step into the shoes of the
township clerk and run those polling places on Election Day. Our
tabulators were upgraded, also on a hurry-up schedule with very short
notice. We will be piloting a hand-count audit in six precincts to check
on the accuracy of the tabulating equipment. And because this is a
primary, we have the usual issues with party voting rules — you can
vote in only one party's primary, and some voters get angry or confused
about that - and the election of precinct delegates, including probably
hundreds of write-in candidates whose votes will have to be individually
counted and entered into poll books.
Despite all these issues, I expect to have a smooth election. Whether
or not we like the outcomes tomorrow, the public and politicos will be
confident in our results. And that reflects well on all of us, even if
your job is unrelated to elections.
Let's have a great week!
And here's today's message to all the county clerks in the state from
Chris Thomas, the state Director of Elections:
From: Thomas, Christopher M
To: County Clerks
Sent: Mon Aug 07 17:56:56 2006
Subject: Election Day
I wish you all a good election day tomorrow. The weather seems to be
cooperating as it will cool off tonight and be a low humidity day
The "News You Can Use" coming out late this afternoon has all the
updated numbers on each vendor's help desk. Also, there is policy
regarding news media in the polling place. Essentially, they must live
under the same rules as poll watchers. They cannot roam around the
polling place nor can they talk with voters in the polling place.
Under the state contract, the vendors are required to establish a level
of election day support for you and the local clerks. If you are having
any difficulties with any of the vendors please call this office. We will
definitely intervene to get things on track.
I realize this has been a difficult transition for many of you as both
optical scan and AutoMark are new in your county. I have confidence in
the quality of the systems in place. It may take an election to work
through some issues and the human interaction with these systems. In
addition to the Federal mandate, we chose a lower turnout election for the
first test drive.
Thank you for all you have done to prepare for tomorrow and to assist
local clerks in their preparations.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
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