Thursday, March 31, 2005

Cole Slaw Roundtable: Goddammit, they really did steal the election

For a couple of weeks, I was convinced that the election was stolen. I donated to Black Box Voting. I encouraged friends to do the same, followed stories on blogs and Air America, and thought that the press was covering up. Every night, I made all of my own cole slaw, then ate it, drowning my sorrows in cabbage and mayonaise. Eventually I figured that this was one of the five stages of grieving, and moved on to acceptance.

So now this study comes out, and, yeah, the goddamn thing was stolen after all. Twelve researchers -- statistics and math professors -- studied how the discrepencies between the exit poll results and the final vote count might have arisen. The Edison/Mitofsky (or E/M) consortium was responsible for the exit polls. E/M concluded that the margin between the polls and the vote count was attributable to inaccuracy at the poll-taking level -- that basically, Kerry voters were more apt to respond to exit polls than Bush voters. The new study concluded that this explanation is undermined by E/M's own research. Sayeth the report: "Edison/Mitofsky did not come close to justifying this position, however, even though they have access to the raw, unadjusted, precinct-specific data set."

A random error of this type was virtually impossible. According to the study, "[t]hese estimates range from 1 in 959,000 to 1 in 1,240." "[S]tatistically significant discrepancies of exit poll results from reported election outcomes were concentrated in five states, four of which were key battleground states. "

Were Bush voters more reluctant to identify themselves than Kerry voters? If you think that, this blog would like to sell you a cabbage patch in Brooklyn. "No data in the E/M report supports the hypothesis that Kerry voters were more likely than Bush voters to cooperate with pollsters and, in fact, the data provided by E/M suggests that the opposite may have been true." In precincts where Bush carried 80 percent or more of the vote, the response rate among those polled was higher than in 80-percent plus Kerry precincts. The study found no basis to conclude that response rates were any different in precincts where the percentage of Bush votes was smaller. To attribute the exit poll discrepencies to polling error, three conditions must be met: "E/M's exit poll data not only requires a 'reluctant Bush responder' syndrome, it also requires a 'high range of Kerry voters response rates that varies far more than Bush voters' plus a 'Kerry voters respond most in Bush strongholds' theory."

And while the poll results did not accurately predict the final vote count in the presidential election, they did accurately project the vote counts in Senate races. This can't be attributed to ticket splitting: "Historic data as well as the exit polls themselves indicate that the ticket-splitting rate is low."

Then, the study gets into the real slaw. "[T]he only remaining explanation – that the official vote count was corrupted – must be seriously considered." The study suggests what many were saying in the weeks after the election -- that faulty voting machines are to blame for four more years of hell. A New Mexico study found higher undervotes in pushbutton electronic machines than in traditional voting machines. But E/M has refused to release data that would address this line of inquiry, and E/M itself ignored the theory in its own report.

The study concludes: "The recent and ongoing proliferation of sophisticated computerized vote recording and tallying equipment, much of it unverifiable and hence 'faith-based,' dramatically augments the opportunities for wholesale and outcome-determinative distortions of the vote counting process. That the lion's share of this equipment is developed, provided, and serviced by partisan private corporations only amplifies these serious concerns."

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