Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 20, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

VOTING FRAUD UPDATE....The latest investigation into possible voting fraud in the 2004 election comes in a paper by a team at UC Berkeley headed by sociologist Michael Hout. Basically, they are trying to figure out whether the returns in counties that used electronic voting were systematically different in unexplainable ways from those that didn't.

Bottom line: they didn't find anything fishy in Ohio, but they did in Florida: "the total estimated excess votes in favor of Bush associated with Electronic Voting...is 130,733."

However, both Kieran Healy and Andrew Gelman are skeptical that Hout's results stand up. The chart on the right, adapted from Gelman's site, shows why.

The chart shows the size of the vote swing toward Bush in all Florida counties, and the basic pattern is simple: the more Republican a county was in 2000, the more heavily their vote swung even further toward Bush in 2004. At the bottom left are counties that are strongly Democratic, and their swing to Bush was actually negative compared to 2000. At the top right are counties that are heavily Republican, and their swing toward Bush was eight percentage points or more, far higher than the statewide average swing of 2.5 points.

Counties in red used electronic voting and counties in black didn't. Nearly all the counties fall within the two black lines, and there doesn't seem to be much difference between them. Both red and black circles show the same basic pattern, which means there's no special reason to think that anything funny was going on in counties with electronic voting.

In fact, it turns out that Hout's entire result is due to only two outliers: Broward County and Palm Beach County. This suggests several things:

  • There was almost certainly not any systemic fraud. If there were, it would have showed up in more than just two counties.

  • The results in Broward and Palm Beach are unusual, but it's hard to draw any conclusion from just two anomolies. As Kieran says, "it seems more likely that these results show the Republican Party Machine was really, really well-organized in Palm Beach and Broward, and they were able to mobilize their vote better than the Democrats."

  • Anyone who wants to continue investigating possible fraud in Florida anyway should focus on Broward and Palm Beach.

That's the latest. I'll post more if I hear anything interesting.

Kevin Drum 5:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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