Sunday, December 12, 2004

Election Inaccuracies: a Review of the Evidence

I have been following all the different threads of evidence, debate and discussion about the 2004 presidential elections, and this has sometimes meant donning the tinfoil armor and still getting bombarded by rotten tomatoes. Many want to just forget about the elections and to focus on the future, others wish some sort of closure before they can start reading about "Bush Disasters, Chapter 2". If you belong to the former group, stop reading right here. This is intended for the latter group and for all the tinfoil hat folks among us.

What I want to do here is to give a very short summary of the various avenues that have been taken in trying to understand whether these elections were acceptably non-fraudulous and accurate or whether they were not. My intention is not to make a theory about what happened or to indicate any overall judgment on the outcome; simply, I hope to show what is happening in this field outside the so-called liberal media and outside the so-called Democratic Party.

If all you want is a very very short summary of the issues, this article by Alan Waldman covers most of the issues and gives the major pieces of evidence. Its tone is somewhat partisan but there are no actual distortions.

The Evidence

This consists of several types:

1. Evidence indicating that voters were mislead or hampered in their attempts to vote. The number of incidents is very large from all parts of the country, but there are states which are especially nasty in this respect, and Ohio is one of them. Some people argue that voting machines were allocated so that voters in predominantly Democratic areas did not have the same ability to vote as voters in predominantly Republican areas. Minorities, in particular, suffered from this.

2. Evidence of problems in vote counting in recording. Once again, these problems come from many areas of the country, but most of the research has focused on Ohio. Several Ohio counties have shown impossible vote totals (higher than the number of registered voters) and extremely perplexing patterns of more votes to the libertarian party candidate than Kerry in predominantly black areas of Ohio. Other oddities abound. The Warren County lockdown on election night in Ohio is one of these oddities and it has not been adequately explained.

3. Unacceptable conduct by some election officers, especially by Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio. His directives have been based on party-politics and recently he appears to have put a lockdown on Ohio voting information. This is not legal if it is true.

4. Circumstancial pre-election evidence. All the traditional signs before the election indicated a different outcome than the one that took place. No satisfactory explanation has been given for the remarkable turn in the events.

5. Exit poll discrepancies with the actual votes. The exit polls appear to have been either correct or biased towards Kerry. While this is possible, the actual data on the exit polls has not been made available to outside analysts, which means that it is not feasible to study whether this actually is the case. The study of exit poll data by statisticians such as Steven Freeman may indicate that the likelihood of the observed exit poll deviations from the actual vote is very small if the exit polls are truly drawn from the same population as the votes. Thus, either the exit polls were biased, but not in all states, or the voting results themselves are incorrect.

It would be possible to cast further light on this by looking at exit polls for other races than the presidential one. If these races show the same bias in exit polls as the Kerry-Bush race, then it is more likely that something was wrong in the exit polls themselves. But this data is proprietory!

6. Statistical analyses looking at aberrations in the voting data. Several of these kinds of studies have appeared on the internet, some much better than the others. Refutations also abound. The problem with statistical studies of this kind is that they cannot tell why any particular voting data would seem aberrant. Thus, however important these kinds of studies might be, they are not actual evidence of voting problems. What they do provide is information on the places where one should dig deeper.

7. Possible information of actually fraudulent acts in the elections. Here is where we enter the twilight zone in some ways. It is important to stress that I have no way of judging which evidence is reliable and which evidence is not, but in general the amount of evidence that has been made public by various individuals is insufficient for the evaluation that is needed.

I am aware of three major strands of work into this:
a) The efforts by Beverly Harris and her Blackboxvoting crew in Florida.
b) The articles by Wayne Madsen on the alleged financing of vote fraud in the elections.
c) Clint Curtis' affidavit. He is an alleged whistleblower on election fraud.

None of these strands seems to have provided evidence that I would call reliable and convincing, but this doesn't necessarily meant that none of them has any merit. I just have no way of knowing whether that is the case or not, but I'd recommend extreme care and sceptism before venturing into a deeper study of these theories.

In addition to these theories, various accusations have been made in Ohio and elsewhere.

I have omitted much and simplified the rest. There is no real alternative to that if I wish to spend less than a thousand pages on this topic. I have also said nothing about the activities that are taking place concerning possible election inaccuracies, and there are many such activities. Google Cliff Arnebeck if you want to know what might happen in Ohio tomorrow.