Heart of Dixie by @BloggersRUs

Heart of Dixie

by Tom Sullivan

The special election for U.S. Senate today in Alabama should not be a toss-up. And yet.

With the fall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and members of Congress over sexual harassment claims, and with the allegations of child predation against Republican candidate Roy Moore, the cultural shift surrounding the #MeToo movement has changed the dynamics of the race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. In deep-red Alabama, tonight's outcome is anybody's guess.

Annie Linskey of the Boston Globe told Chris Matthews last night on "Hardball" she had visited an Alabama county where three-quarters of the voters had supported the sitting president last fall. "When I was looking for women who would say on the record that they were voting for Roy Moore, I mean, they laughed at me," she told Matthews. "They just laughed at me. Almost all of them said no."

Even though she is a yankee, Linskey said, Alabamians had all been polite. The puzzle pollsters seem unable to unravel is, were they being honest? What will women do away from reporters and husbands in the privacy of the voting booth?

"Somebody’s going to be wrong in Alabama," Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight. Silver examines the vagaries of calling cell phones or landlines, and live calls versus robocalls. There still remains the question of whether people who are going to vote for (or against) Roy Moore will admit to voting for (or against) Roy Moore. The polls are all over the place.

Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, worries aloud in the New York Times that Alabama's photo ID law may already have determined the outcome, something Silver's analysis did not consider. People may be coy about who they are supporting in today's election, but in Alabama supporters of photo ID laws are less shy about whom they do not want voting:

A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.”

The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves.

Douglas considers Alabama's law "a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color."

Estimates Douglas cites for how many registered voters do not have the required ID may be inflated, however. Telephone surveys we conducted in North Carolina ahead of the 2016 election found that many voters flagged for not also having a driver’s license (an indication they might not be able to vote) did in fact have other valid ID. But the size of the pool of exclusion is not the point. Republicans' public reasoning is that even one illegal vote "steals" the vote of a legitimate voter and justifies expensive and onerous measures in the name of election integrity. They are simply less concerned about integrity preventing even one legitimate voter from casting a ballot at all if that person is black or Latino and likely to vote for a Democrat.

People can be racists and not want to be seen as racists. People may vote for a sexual predator and not want to be seen as voting for a sexual predator. Or not. We'll know more about Alabama's heart tonight after 7 p.m. Central Time.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.