Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Alaska And Minnesota Senate Races

It's a crazy world. After election day passed, we were left with a few too-close-to-call Senate seats still up for grabs. One of them, Alaska, was just decided. Senator Stevens just barely lost his re-election bid by a mere 3,724 votes despite being convicted on felony charges. Alaskans almost elected a convicted felon! What do you have to do up there to lose an election by a wide margin -- kill Bambi? Oh yeah, that gets you the Vice Presidential nomination.

Another close Senate race is still underway in Minnesota between comedian Al Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. I have no dog in this fight (aside from not wanting any party to achieve a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority). I just find these tight contests fascinating. Franken currently trails by about 200 votes heading into a recount. A recent Sam Stein article for The Huffington Post discussed an analysis of voting patterns in Minnesota by Dartmouth professor, Michael C. Herron. Professor Herron believes that Franken will ultimately win the seat, but what I found more interesting was the following:

According to Herron's analysis, of the 2.9 million people who went to the polls in Minnesota, there were approximately 34,000 residual voters in the Senate race. In other words, there were 34,000 more ballots cast than total number of recorded votes for all the Senate candidates.

Why the difference? A good portion of voters, Herron concludes, voted in the presidential election but deliberately did not vote for a Senate candidate. These people won't matter when it comes to a recount.

There is, however, a portion of the 34,000 who intended to vote for one of the Senate candidates but messed up. Voters were supposed to fill in the circle next to the name of the candidate they supported. Some, however, marked X's. Others circled the name itself or crossed out the names of candidates they didn't like.

This group is key to determining the Minnesota Senate victor.

Basically, the Senate seat will be decided by the subset of the Minnesota population that was too ignorant, lazy, confused, or illiterate to follow directions. I'm not sure I'd want to win that race.

Disclosure: The Rubbernecker is long incredulity and short lazy gophers.

The Market Rubbernecker is affiliated with Aspera Financial, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Please read the disclaimer on the home page of the Market Rubbernecker site.