Thursday, November 18, 2004

VOTE WATCH I've been reluctant to do any posting about election irregularities until all the facts are in and it becomes easier to separate the crackpot theories from the legitimate questions.

It's not yet clear which category this falls under. But it seems like something to at least keep an eye on:

What: A research team at UC Berkeley will report that irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 - 260,000 or more excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004 presidential election.

The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used versus counties using traditional voting methods. Discrepancies this large or larger rarely arise by chance--the probability is less than 0.1 percent. The research team, led by Professor Michael Hout, will formally disclose results of the study at the press conference.
Press conference starts at 1pm EST. (Link via Rotten Denmark.)

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann, the mainstream media's point man on the election irregularity issue, rightly notes that similar-sounding challenges to the Florida numbers (rooted in statistical analysis and demographic data) have been leveled and answered before.

But one would think that the Berkeley folks are aware of that back-and-forth. They would have to be pretty foolish to put themselves on the line like this without some fairly compelling evidence.

UPDATE UPDATE: The Berkeley team's working paper is available as a .PDF file here. Their updated press release is here.

My take: Even if the statistical techniques the paper uses are beyond reproach--and I have no idea if they are--this kind of circumstantial case won't have an impact in the court of public opinion unless concrete, eye-grabbing examples of anomalies can be produced. (An African-American precinct in Broward or Palm Beach going overwhelmingly for President Bush, for example.)

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.