Rily takes the Pancake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2002

On Tuesday, people came in to eat at Ed’s Pancake House like they always do. They had a cup of coffee, a platter of hot pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon and voted for Alabama’s next governor.

Well, maybe that last one is a little out of the ordinary.

The Pancake Poll is a tradition and is something that the Pancake House is known for &045;&045; other than good food, of course.

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It started as an idea pitched to owner Ed Hogemann during the 1980 presidential election. Why not have the patrons of the restaraunt vote for President?

For Hogemann and his wife, Pat, the idea was an excellent one. When they tried talking about the elections to their customers, a good number of people didn’t know how to reply.

The idea is really simple – take a regular ballot and modify it to only seven of races are shown and make sure it is as easy to read as possible. Then, hand it to customers alongside their coffee, or catch them as they come in and out of the door.

It worked. Around 200 people voted and predicted Ronald Reagan to be the nation’s 40th president. One week later, the nation proved them right. And the poll has taken place ever since.

Ed Hogemann says the poll has an 85 percent accuracy rate and usually comes within one point of the percentage tallied up on the final national or state vote.

That, incidentally, was when Jim Folsom loss to Fob James in 1994.

The Pancake Poll has grabbed the attention of the national press as well. In 1980, The Montgomery Advertiser ran a story on the poll, complete with a picture of an pancake-shaped &uot;R&uot; for Reagan.

The next day, Hogemann received a call from the CBS national news. They wanted to know if they could send out a local camera crew and shoot a spot for the national news. Hogemann told them to come on out.

There is no set reason why the Pancake Poll is so accurate. But, Hogemann has a few theories.

Throughout the years, the Pancake Poll has grabbed the attention of the candidates that appeared on the ballot.

One candidate sent his entire office staff down to the Pancake House to vote. Hogemann immediately put a stop to that and initiated his &uot;poll tax.&uot; In order to vote, customers at least need to purchase a cup of coffee. Otherwise, he added, it would not be a fair vote.

After the Pancake Poll voted Fob James for governor, he took the results and posted them on the door of his campaign headquarters for the week leading up to the election.

Then, there was the time the Pancake Poll voted Don Siegelman for lieutenant governor, a race he lost back in 1990.

So who won the Pancake Poll for this gubernatorial election?

Riley, who had 106 votes, defeated Siegelman, who had 39.

The surprise result was Richard Motes defeating longtime state senator Hank Sanders, with 114 votes compared to Sanders’ 39.

When asked earlier about Riley’s lack of showing in Selma so far (Siegelman appeared at a breakfast Sunday morning), Hogemann believed that the poll results could finally bring him across the Edmund Pettus bridge.