Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Tempering Voter Fraud Hysteria

"There is, in other words, simply no compelling proof that there were enough irregularities in enough areas affecting enough voters to cast doubt on Bush's commanding popular vote count lead, or even his thinner margins in key swing states such as Ohio or Florida."

"Given my current state of knowledge, it seems unlikely there will be enough bogus votes found to reverse the election," says David Dill, the Stanford computer scientist who's been leading the charge against paperless electronic voting machines for the past two years. At the same time, though, Dill adds that he's making "a highly qualified statement," and that he does not want to "declare the election over and done with." Odd things did occur last Tuesday, and even if the results aren't overturned, "it's extremely important that we seize this opportunity to review everything we can about this election," Dill says. "Having people comb through these results will give us more confidence in the legitimacy of this election. We shouldn't gain that confidence by resorting to the head-in-the-sand method we usually employ in the United States."

"Dopp's analysis does give one pause. For instance, about 70 percent of the 12,000 registered voters in Baker County are Democrats, but of the 10,000 votes cast there, more than 7,000 were for Bush. There are 11,000 registered voters in Holmes County, and 72 percent of them are Democrats -- but 77 percent of the voters in Holmes chose Bush. Considering that most voters across the country voted according to their party -- 90 percent of Democrats chose Kerry, and 90 percent of Republicans chose Bush -- why did so many Democrats in Florida's optical-scan counties go with Bush? And why was such a startling pattern not seen in counties that use touch-screen voting machines?

For anyone who knows Florida politics, the explanation is easy -- "Dixiecrats." Ansolabehere points out that in Florida, optical-scan machines are mainly in "rural areas or places with low population density, and those counties happen to be more Republican," even if voters there are registered as Democrats. These voters may keep their Democratic registrations alive so that they can participate in local Democratic primaries, but when it comes to national races they would never vote for the Democrat."

"This is not to say that nothing went wrong on Election Day. The Election Incident Reporting System shows that thousands of voters experienced registration problems such as the mysterious disappearance of their names from the voting rolls. In addition, David Dill points out that all over the country, voting machines broke down -- the most frequent mechanical problem seen on Election Day. Another frequent complaint: Very often, voters would attempt to select one candidate on a voting machine and for some mysterious, as yet undetermined reason, the candidate's opponent will have been selected. These errors, and many more, certainly contributed to one of the most pernicious problems seen on Election Day, the unconscionably long lines at the polls."


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