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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

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Anomalies Begin to Creep In From Swing States
Monday, November 15, 2004
Here is an article from Colin Shea, I gather not part of Zogby, but the article apparently is at their website. Probably since they called it for Kerry. Clearly Shea leans Dem, but I am unaware of any political bias from the company-- indeed I saw Zogby on TV and he said-- quite logically-- that his goal is to get it right, because that's what makes you a successful political poller.


I Smell a Rat
By Colin Shea

Friday 12 November 2004

I smell a rat. It has that distinctive and all-too-familiar odor of
the species Republicanus floridius. We got a nasty bite from this pest
four years ago and never quite recovered. Symptoms of a long-term
infection are becoming distressingly apparent.

The first sign of the rat was on election night. The jubilation of
early exit polling had given way to rising anxiety as states fell one
by one to the Red Tide. It was getting late in the smoky cellar of a
Prague sports bar where a crowd of expats had gathered. We had been
hoping to go home to bed early, confident of victory. Those hopes had
evaporated in a flurry of early precinct reports from Florida and Ohio.

By 3 AM, conversation had died and we were grimly sipping beers and
watching as those two key states seemed to be slipping further and
further to crimson. Suddenly, a friend who had left two hours earlier
rushed in and handed us a printout.

"Zogby's calling it for Kerry." He smacked the sheet decisively.
"Definitely. He's got both Florida and Ohio in the Kerry column. Kerry
only needs one." Satisfied, we went to bed, confident we would wake
with the world a better place. Victory was at hand.

The morning told a different story, of course. No Florida victory for
Kerry - Bush had a decisive margin of nearly 400,000 votes. Ohio was
not even close enough for Kerry to demand that all the votes be
counted. The pollsters had been dead wrong, Bush had four more years
and a powerful mandate. Onward Christian soldiers - next stop, Tehran.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

I work with statistics and polling data every day. Something rubbed
me the wrong way. I checked the exit polls for Florida - all wrong.
CNN's results indicated a Kerry win: turnout matched voter
registration, and independents had broken 59% to 41% for Kerry.

Polling is an imprecise science. Yet its very imprecision is itself
quantifiable and follows regular patterns. Differences between actual
results and those expected from polling data must be explainable by
identifiable factors if the polling sample is robust enough. With
almost 3.000 respondents in Florida alone, the CNN poll sample was
pretty robust.

The first signs of the rat were identified by Kathy Dopp, who
conducted a simple analysis of voter registrations by party in Florida
and compared them to presidential vote results. Basically she
multiplied the total votes cast in a county by the percentage of voters
registered Republican: this gave an expected Republican vote. She then
compared this to the actual result.

Her analysis is startling. Certain counties voted for Bush far in
excess of what one would expect based on the share of Republican
registrations in that county. They key phrase is "certain counties" -
there is extraordinary variance between individual counties. Most
counties fall more or less in line with what one would expect based on
the share of Republican registrations, but some differ wildly.

How to explain this incredible variance? Dopp found one over-riding
factor: whether the county used electronic touch-screen voting, or
paper ballots which were optically scanned into a computer. All of
those with touch-screen voting had results relatively in line with her
expected results, while all of those with extreme variance were in
counties with optical scanning.

The intimation, clearly, is fraud. Ballots are scanned; results are
fed into precinct computers; these are sent to a county-wide database,
whose results are fed into the statewide electoral totals. At any point
after physical ballots become databases, the system is vulnerable to
external hackers.

It seemed too easy, and Dopp's method seemed simplistic. I re-ran the
results using CNN's exit polling data. In each county, I took the
number of registrations and assigned correctional factors based on the
CNN poll to predict turnout among Republicans, Democrats, and
independents. I then used the vote shares from the polls to predict a
likely number of Republican votes per county. I compared this
'expected' Republican vote to the actual Republican vote.

The results are shocking. Overall, Bush received 2% fewer votes in
counties with electronic touch-screen voting than expected. In counties
with optical scanning, he received 16% more. This 16% would not be
strange if it were spread across counties more or less evenly. It is
not. In 11 different counties, the 'actual' Bush vote was at least
twice higher than the expected vote. 13 counties had Bush vote tallies
50 - 100% higher than expected. In one county where 88% of voters are
registered Democrats, Bush got nearly two thirds of the vote - three
times more than predicted by my model.

Again, polling can be wrong. It is difficult to believe it can be
that wrong. Fortunately, however, we can test how wrong it would have
to be to give the 'actual' result.

I tested two alternative scenarios to see how wrong CNN would have to
have been to explain the election result. In the first, I assumed they
had been wildly off the mark in the turnout figures - i.e. far more
Republicans and independents had come out than Democrats. In the second
I assumed the voting shares were completely wrong, and that the
Republicans had been able to massively poach voters from the Democrat

In the first scenario, I assumed 90% of Republicans and independents
voted, and the remaining ballots were cast by Democrats. This explains
the result in counties with optical scanning to within 5%. However, in
this scenario Democratic turnout would have been only 51% in the
optical scanning counties - barely exceeding half of Republican
turnout. It also does not solve the enormous problems in individual
counties. 7 counties in this scenario still have actual vote tallies
for Bush that are at least 100% higher than predicted by the model - an
extremely unlikely result.

In the second scenario I assumed that Bush had actually got 100% of
the vote from Republicans and 50% from independents (versus CNN polling
results which were 93% and 41% respectively). If this gave enough votes
for Bush to explain the county's results, I left the amount of
Democratic registered voters ballots cast for Bush as they were
predicted by CNN (14% voted for Bush). If this did not explain the
result, I calculated how many Democrats would have to vote for Bush.

In 41 of 52 counties, this did not explain the result and Bush must
have gotten more than CNN's predicted 14% of Democratic ballots - not
an unreasonable assumption by itself. However, in 21 counties more than
50% of Democratic votes would have to have defected to Bush to account
for the county result - in four counties, at least 70% would have been
required. These results are absurdly unlikely.

The Second Rat

A previously undiscovered species of rat, Republicanus cuyahogus, has
been found in Ohio. Before the election, I wrote snide letters to a
state legislator for Cuyahoga county who, according to media reports,
was preparing an army of enforcers to keep 'suspect' (read: minority)
voters away from the polls. One of his assistants wrote me back very
pleasant mails to the effect that they had no intention of trying to
suppress voter turnout, and in fact only wanted to encourage people to

They did their job too well. According to the official statistics for
Cuyahoga county, a number of precincts had voter turnout well above the
national average: in fact, turnout was well over 100% of registered
voters, and in several cases well above the total number of people who
have lived in the precinct in the last century or so.

In 30 precincts, more ballots were cast than voters were registered
in the county. According to county regulations, voters must cast their
ballot in the precinct in which they are registered. Yet in these
thirty precincts, nearly 100.000 more people voted than are registered
to vote - this out of a total of 251.946 registrations. These are not
marginal differences - this is a 39% over-vote. In some precincts the
over-vote was well over 100%. One precinct with 558 registered voters
cast nearly 9,000 ballots. As one astute observer noted, it's the
ballot-box equivalent of Jesus' miracle of the fishes. Bush being such
a man of God, perhaps we should not be surprised.

What to Do?

This is not an idle statistical exercise. Either the raw data from
two critical battleground states is completely erroneous, or something
has gone horribly awry in our electoral system - again. Like many
Americans, I was dissatisfied with and suspicious of the way the
Florida recount was resolved in 2000. But at the same time, I was
convinced of one thing: we must let the system work, and accept its
result, no matter how unjust it might appear.

With this acceptance, we placed our implicit faith in the Bush
Administration that it would not abuse its position: that it would
recognize its fragile mandate for what it was, respect the will of the
majority of people who voted against them, and move to build consensus
wherever possible and effect change cautiously when needed. Above all,
we believed that both Democrats and Republicans would recognize the
over-riding importance of revitalizing the integrity of the electoral
system and healing the bruised faith of both constituencies.

This faith has been shattered. Bush has not led the nation to unity,
but ruled through fear and division. Dishonesty and deceit in areas
critical to the public interest have been the hallmark of his
Administration. I state this not to throw gratuitous insults, but to
place the Florida and Ohio electoral results in their proper context.
For the GOP to claim now that we must take anything on faith, let alone
astonishingly suspicious results in a hard-fought and extraordinarily
bitter election, is pure fantasy. It does not even merit discussion.

The facts as I see them now defy all logical explanations save one -
massive and systematic vote fraud. We cannot accept the result of the
2004 presidential election as legitimate until these discrepancies are
rigorously and completely explained. From the Valerie Plame case to the
horrors of Abu Ghraib, George Bush has been reluctant to seek answers
and assign accountability when it does not suit his purposes. But this
is one time when no American should accept not getting a straight
answer. Until then, George Bush is still, and will remain, the
'Accidental President' of 2000. One of his many enduring and shameful
legacies will be that of seizing power through two illegitimate
elections conducted on his brother's watch, and engineering a
fundamental corruption at the very heart of the greatest democracy the
world has known. We must not permit this to happen again.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:45 PM  

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