Since it’s Election Day and not much to do except vote (and, well, live), let’s talk about electoral fraud. Not the type that Republicans have been caterwauling about (and which essentially doesn’t exist), but good ol’ fashioned cooking the books. There are two disturbing reports out that describe some truly bizarre patterns. Here’s what they found in the GOP Iowa caucus in 2012:
What the authors did is look at the percentage of votes cast (the vertical axis on the left) according to the number of votes cast, where voting precincts where sequentially added from largest to smallest (the horizontal axis on the bottom). In other words, if the smallest precinct had 100 votes, with the next largest having 110, then the 210 mark on the graph would give the results of those 210 votes. Admittedly, one graph is tinfoil helmet territory, but look at New Hampshire in 2012:
And Arizona in 2012:
And Ohio in 2012:
Oddly enough, this pattern occurs in seven other states. And it always favors Mitt Romney. This doesn’t seem to be an urban/rural divide either: the authors took a geographically randomized subset of the data and found the same patterns. In addition, these patterns also hold within counties. What it looks like is that someone is electronically putting his or her thumb on the scale in large precincts to tilt things towards Romney (the one state that doesn’t appear to have this problem is Utah where Romney won in a blowout). This also isn’t opponent specific: in some cases Paul took the hit, while, in others, Santorum did.
Similar patterns are found in some of the 2008 primaries and in the 2008 general election. In 2008 in Cuyahoga County, OH, the same type of pattern favored McCain over Obama, even though there is no relationship whatsoever between the ratio of Democrats to Republicans and precinct size (R-squared is 0.01). Interestingly, these patterns also weren’t seen in the 2008 Democratic or Libertarian primaries.
The only hypothesis I can think of that doesn’t involve fraud is that Romney’s campaign is brilliant at microtargeting voters and maximizes efficiency by targeting large precincts (though I think this is falsified by the spatial randomization test).
I hope someone at Obama’s headquarters is keeping an eye on this. And for the love of the Intelligent Designer could we please get rid of electronic voting machines? Yes, this sounds crazy, but if anyone were to do this, wouldn’t Romney, who has demonstrated an utter lack of scruples and shame, be the guy to do it? He certainly has the money. No one, including me, wants to believe that he, or one of his supporters, has committed electoral fraud on a national level, so I am desperately open to other hypotheses.
Haven’t come up with one yet.
I will now don my tin foil helmet.
Note: The paper can now be found here.
I note that one of the biggest drop-offs is Paul. Part of the effect might be explained not by Romney targeting large precincts, but by Paul targeting small ones, on the theory that it might only take a handful of rules-lawyers to win a small precinct where overall turnout was low, and thus score delegates to the state conventions. That kind of sums up the Paul operation, doesn’t it? But I’m not sure if that would hold in a primary.
On the subject of electronic voting machines, yes, they are obviously far from tamper-proof. One has to wonder what an unscrupulous candidate, say whose own family member owns the voting machine company, could do to the sanctity of an election.
On the other hand,I believe there are ways to keep the machines honest if not their masters. What if, for instance, you received two paper receipts after pulling the lever (or pressing the button). The receipts would contain hour voting information. One receipt is for your own records, the other is folded and sealed and dropped into an old-fashioned box at the polling place.
So now you have instant electronic results to pick (or suggest) a winner at poll closing time AND an honest paper ballot that you have personally checked for accuracy (and don’t have to waste time hand-writing).
In the event of a challenge, a quick comparative study could be performed on a suspect machine or machines in a challenged district(s). If one machine is found to be rigged, all would come under reasonable suspicion of same, demanding a hand count (and future prosecution of the perpetrators)..
Now if we can just figure out a way to keep voter rolls out of the hands of felonious governors and secretaries of state…
I always thought that it was a more-or-less open secret that the GOP nominee is chosen by the party leadership and big donors, and that the primaries are just for show.
But the Big Boys need a mechanism to nail down their choices, and nothing is simpler, safer, or cheaper than tinkering with the e-machine vote.
It was obvious to me early-on that Romney was The One this year, but those Big Boys had to reckon with the idiotic Tea Bagger faction they’d created. Their solution seems to have been to completely bypass them in the Republican Presidential primaries.
Betcha they’re wishing they’d thought to do the same in the Indiana Senate primary. But in fairness to the Big Boys, I also thought Lugar was about as safe as it was possible to be.
I read this and was not at all convinced about their statistical methods for accounting for the cofounding factor of larger precints being more rural. There are many weird things about the report, not the smallest of which is reporting the cumulative data on the y axis instead of showing each precint’s percentage.
If you aren’t convinced that the methods in this report are dubious upon a second look, I’d be happy to oblige with a longer explanation.
Obviously I mean that larger precints are more urban.
Yeah, that was my first thought too. It’s easily testable, the correlation between precinct size and urban-ness, if you’ve got the data.
Then you would want to compare to other elections to see if bigger precincts and/or urban precincts consistently pick different candidates in this way, or if this really is a weird trend.
Those cumulative tallies are a terrible choice, smoothing too much detail out the graph as it progresses. Thumbs down from Tufte. A scatter plot of precinct size vs vote percentage (or raw vote tally) would offer superior information.