The Earth, is it flat or is it round?

I thought it might be interesting to compare discussion of potentials for election fraud from two media sources yesterday. On Democracy Now, statistician Kathy Dopp discusses the mathematically curious and counterintuitive results of election results in several counties:

A group of mathematicians and statisticians that I'm working with, including people in the Statistics Department and Math Departments at Stanford University and Temple University and all the way over in England, we're planning a comprehensive statistical study of the 2004 election, and we plan to see if we can develop methods to pinpoint counties with large errors in vote counts and provide that evidence for others who would like to do Freedom of Information Act recounts to check our methods, and spend the next year or two uncovering problems with particular voting machine vendors. What we found was that in the touch screen machine counties in Florida, they all showed significantly positive percent changes in votes for both Republicans and Democrats. However, the counties using opt-scan machines of Diebold and EF & S showed significant positive change only for the Republican candidates, and so we hope to have in place by 2006 a system so that by the day or two after an election, we'll have this analysis available to candidates so they can know where to ask for recounts before conceding.

She does not draw any bold conclusions about fraud, but she does point up some causes for concern.

Meanwhile, writer Kim Zetter, in a Wired article titled, "Florida E-Vote Fraud? Unlikely," offers a different spin:

But according to academics, the internet pundits are reading the data out of context. Demographic figures and vote trends over several years show the numbers to be consistent with previous elections. According to University of California at Berkeley political scientist Henry Brady, the Republican vote share has been going up in Florida's rural optical-scan counties for years.

...and this proves optical scanners are reliable and immune to tampering how? To be fair, most of the academics quoted in the article express caution when it comes to drawing any conclusions. But that did not stop Zetter or the Wired editors, who label fraud as "unlikely" and, therefore, not worth thinking about.

Of course, what Zetter ignores altogether is the bigger question of how we ended up with private companies having such an inordinate amount of control over our elections. Radio host Thom Hartman said it best on Democracy Now yesterday:

The fact that of all of the commons, our road systems, the police, the fire, the air, our water, of all of the commons that we administer through our government, the most important of the commons is our government itself. That's what we collectively own, we, the people. That's the thing that's unique about our form of government. And the way that we, you and we the people, administer that commons of the government is through the vote. That's our direct route into the Administration of the commons. How we have set up a situation that we have inserted private for-profit companies into the middle of this process between you and I and our pushing the button or marking the mark, and then these corporations saying to the government, and here's the vote total, this in my mind is just absolutely the ultimate crime.

Hopefully we can address these concerns and reclaim (or perhaps claim for the first time in history) public control and accountability of our elections. But first it will take winning the public debate with the Flat Earth Society, who seem so eager to place election fraud questions into the Area 51 of public consciousness.


I always thought electronic machines for voting was a horrible idea. It is ironic that the screaming of acusations of election fraud in the 2000 election birthed this move to electronic voting machines. Now that they are here the same ideologic side is now tossing around more allegations towards the republican party. It is always better to keep it simple.

Paper ballots work fine and keep everything accountable. If you are incapable of punching a whole or filling in a circle, then you have someone help you or suffer your vote not counting. Simple. I always end up back to a problem in this country with personal accountability. Hmm

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