Voting "Irregularities"

Some guys at UC Berkeley did some data crunching on the numbers in Florida from 2000 to 2004 and got some pretty interesting results. Their paper, The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections, comes to some pretty strong, well-founded conclusions. Here's what they have to say in their summary:

The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections Summary:

- Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may
have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W.
Bush in Florida.

- Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic
voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases
in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect
cannot be explained by differences between counties in income,
number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size of
Hispanic/Latino population.

- In Broward County alone, President Bush appears to have received
approximately 72,000 excess votes.

- We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to


Because many factors impact voting results, statistical tools are
necessary to see the effect of touch-screen voting. Multipleregression
analysis is a statistical technique widely used in the
social and physical sciences to distinguish the individual effects of
many variables.

This multiple-regression analysis takes account of the following
variables by county:

- number of voters

- median income

- Hispanic population

- change in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004

- support for President Bush in 2000 election

- support for Dole in 1996 election

When one controls for these factors, the association between electronic
voting and increased support for President Bush is impossible to
overlook. The data show with 99.0% certainty that a county’s use of
electronic voting is associated with a disproportionate increase in
votes for President Bush.

The data used in this study come from CNN.com, the 2000 US Census, the
Florida Department of State, and the Verified Voting Foundation – all
publicly available sources. This study was carried out by a group of
doctoral students in the UC Berkeley sociology department in
collaboration with Professor Michael Hout, a member of the National
Academy of Sciences and the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center.

They even offer up the actual data in excel format, but that is only for the truly nerdy, as we're dealing with a lot of numbers.

Want more on this particular story? Hit up this thread at Slashdot for additional links and some well-thought out comments.

Of course, all of this isn't exactly news; it's just news with scientific backing. A number of articles just after the election pointed out the discrepancies between electronic voting states and exit polls, while exit polls in states without these e-voting problems remained on point. For example, check out this one from David Swanson:

An analysis of the original AP exit polling, which showed Kerry with a tighter margin and leading in myriad states, raises serious questions about the authenticity of the popular vote in several key states, RAW STORY has learned.

Since the actual outcome of the votes have been called, AP has changed nearly all of their exit polling to tighten the margin. A reason has not been given.

The analysis, first conducted by a poster at the popular Democratic Underground, suggests possible voter fraud in states that do not have electronic voting receipts, and those that limit the media’s access to polls.

Two inquiries placed by RAW STORY with the media contact for the six-network exit polling consortium at NBC News has received no response.

The curious result comes after the head of Diebold, which produces much of the nation’s electronic voting machines, told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

An exit poll involves asking someone after they walk out of the election booth who they voted for. While not a guide for proving results, it can be a mechanism for ensuring voting accuracy and flagging potential fraud. Exit polls were recently used in Venezuela to ensure the vote was accurate and legitimate.

Perhaps more importantly, while exit polling is unreliable, the odds of President Bush having gaining an advantage from every exit poll in swing states is an extremely improbable coincidence.

In Florida, Bush led exit polling by CNN of more than 3 million voters by just 5355 votes. Yet he led by 326,000 in the end result. This morning, CNN changed their exit polling to favor Bush, saying that had overweighted African American voters.

In Wisconsin, where exit polls put Kerry up seven percent, Bush has a lead of one percent, an unexplained difference of eight percent.

In New Mexico, Kerry led Bush by 3.8 percent, yet Bush leads Kerry by 3 percent in actual reported voting.

In Minnesota, where a new law sharply restricts reporters’ access to polls, Kerry led 9.6 percent in exit polling. Actual voting counts found that Bush trailed by 5 percent, with a 5 percent discrepancy favoring Bush.

Ohio, which does have paper trail capability but does not mandate receipts, had exits showed Kerry and Bush in a dead heat; in the near-final results, Bush led by three percent.

Exit polls put Kerry up by 8 percent in Michigan; actual results show Bush trailing by just 3 percent.

Nevada, which also has electronic voting – though should have mandated paper trails, had a variance of 4.2 percent. Kerry led the exit polls by 1.2 percent, while Bush led reported votes by 3 percent.

Two states with paper trails for voting were within 0.5 percent margin of error.

New Hampshire, which has electronic voting but provides verified receipts, exit polling is within 0.1 percent of the actual vote. Kerry led by 3 percent in exit polling, and 2.9 percent in the actual vote.

Maine, the final state for which analysis of exit polling was conducted before the AP “resampled” their data, was in the Kerry column by 7.5 percent; the end result put Kerry up 8 percent, a variance of 0.5 percent. Maine has no electronic voting.

Kerry does not gain by any significant margin in actual voting in any state for which analysis has been conducted, RAW STORY found.

Exit polling accurately predicted the results in most states with very little error. Where there were discrepancies, they were significant in the +5 percent range, and always favored Bush.

Allegations of voter fraud is not new to President Bush. On November 12, 2000, the Washington Post ran an article suggesting anomalies in the hotly constested state of Florida.

Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum, a Democratic Party official of Volusia County. At 10 p.m., she called the county elections department and found that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000 votes. But when she checked the county’s Web site for an update half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore’s count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,000 … all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters.

Early returns from Florida showed the Green Party candidate leading President Bush and Sen. Kerry in two Ohio counties. They later appeared corrected, but raised eyebrows among liberal bloggers.

I think we'd all agree it's rather convenient that questions of fraud exist around every election involving "President" Bush. I don't seem to recall any major questions about voter fraud in any of our other, recent major elections. Then again, it's probably just a computer glich, nothing more [cnn.com]:

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct, Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch.

State and county election officials did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for more details about the voting system and its vendor, and whether the error, if repeated elsewhere in Ohio, could have affected the outcome.

Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after acknowledging that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result. (Full Ohio results)

The Secretary of State's Office said Friday it could not revise Bush's total until the county reported the error.

Strangely, we haven't heard much about Ohio since the "end" of things, despite the fact that the offical recount must be either ongoing or complete. Tom Paine seemed to think that Kerry actually would havewon in Ohio, if every vote had counted:

Bush won Ohio by 136,483 votes. In the United States, about 3 percent of votes cast are voided—known as “spoilage” in election jargon—because the ballots cast are inconclusive. Drawing on what happened in Florida and studies of elections past, Palast argues that if Ohio’s discarded ballots were counted, Kerry would have won the state. Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports there are a total of 247,672 votes not counted in Ohio, if you add the 92,672 discarded votes plus the 155,000 provisional ballots. So far there's no indication that Palast's hypothesis will be tested because only the provisional ballots are being counted.

Greg Palast, contributing editor to Harper's magazine, investigated the manipulation of the vote for BBC Television's Newsnight. The documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," based on his New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, has been released this month on DVD .

Kerry won. Here are the facts.

I know you don't want to hear it. You can't face one more hung chad. But I don't have a choice. As a journalist examining that messy sausage called American democracy, it's my job to tell you who got the most votes in the deciding states. Tuesday, in Ohio and New Mexico, it was John Kerry.

Most voters in Ohio thought they were voting for Kerry. At 1:05 a.m. Wednesday morning, CNN's exit poll showed Kerry beating Bush among Ohio women by 53 percent to 47 percent. The exit polls were later combined with—and therefore contaminated by—the tabulated results, ultimately becoming a mirror of the apparent actual vote. [To read about the skewing of exit polls to conform to official results, click here .] Kerry also defeated Bush among Ohio's male voters 51 percent to 49 percent. Unless a third gender voted in Ohio, Kerry took the state.

So what's going on here? Answer: the exit polls are accurate. Pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" Unfortunately, they don't ask the crucial, question, "Was your vote counted?" The voters don't know.

Here's why. Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio punched cards for Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were simply not recorded. This was predictable and it was predicted. [See TomPaine.com, "An Election Spoiled Rotten," November 1.]

Once again, at the heart of the Ohio uncounted vote game are, I'm sorry to report, hanging chads and pregnant chads, plus some other ballot tricks old and new.

The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called "spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of the vote is voided, just thrown away, not recorded. When the bobble-head boobs on the tube tell you Ohio or any state was won by 51 percent to 49 percent, don't you believe it ... it has never happened in the United States, because the total never reaches a neat 100 percent. The television totals simply subtract out the spoiled vote.

Whose Votes Are Discarded?

And not all votes spoil equally. Most of those votes, say every official report, come from African-American and minority precincts.

We saw this in Florida in 2000. Exit polls showed Gore with a plurality of at least 50,000, but it didn't match the official count. That's because the official, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, excluded 179,855 spoiled votes. In Florida, as in Ohio, most of these votes lost were cast on punch cards where the hole wasn't punched through completely—leaving a 'hanging chad,'—or was punched extra times. Whose cards were discarded? Expert statisticians investigating spoilage for the government calculated that 54 percent of the ballots thrown in the dumpster were cast by black folks.

Scary stuff, guys. I just wish it weren't true.
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