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.
Red-faced opinion pollsters suddenly had a lot of explaining to do and launched internal investigations. Political analysts credited the upset - part of a pattern of Republican successes around the country - to a huge campaigning push by President Bush in the final days of the race. They also said that Roy Barnes had lost because of a surge of 'angry white men' punishing him for eradicating all but a vestige of the old confederate symbol from the state flag.
But something about these explanations did not make sense, and they have made even less sense over time. When the Georgia secretary of state's office published its demographic breakdown of the election earlier this year, it turned out there was no surge of angry white men; in fact, the only subgroup showing even a modest increase in turnout was black women.
There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia, however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.
Be afraid, be very afraid, and make damn sure Australia never adopts this corrupt idiocy of privatised voting.
Thanks to Seeing the Forest for the link.