In Which I Don My Tin Foil Helmet

Three years ago, I stumbled across a paper by a mathematician who noticed something very odd in the 2012 primaries:

…this pattern [a consistent pattern favoring Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up] 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).

(due to linkrot, the paper can now be found here)

So a Wichita State University mathematician is trying to figure out what’s going on. And that’s when things get really weird (boldface mine):

A Wichita State University mathematician sued the top Kansas election official Wednesday, seeking paper tapes from electronic voting machines in an effort to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country….

Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, said she has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate “a statistically significant” pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct.

While it is well-recognized that smaller, rural precincts tend to lean Republican, statisticians have been unable to explain the consistent pattern favoring Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up. In primaries, the favored candidate appears to always be the Republican establishment candidate, above a tea party challenger. And the upward trend for Republicans occurs once a voting unit reaches roughly 500 votes.

This is not just an anomaly that occurred in one place,” Clarkson said. “It is a pattern that has occurred repeatedly in elections across the United States.”

The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling, she said.

“I do not know why this trend is there, but I know that the pattern is there and one way to establish that it is or is not election fraud is to go and do a physical audit of paper records of voting machines,” she said.

Clarkson wants the hard copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model…

Clarkson became more interested in the issue after reading a paper written by statisticians Francois Choquette and James Johnson in 2012 of the Republican primary results showing strong statistical evidence of election manipulation in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Clarkson said she couldn’t believe their findings, so she checked their math and found it was correct and checked their model selection and found it appropriate. Then she pulled additional data from other elections they hadn’t analyzed and found the same pattern.

As some readers might know, Republicans in various states have passed legislation to crack down on voter fraud, so obviously they jumped to help Clarkson.

Of course not! I make the funny:

Clarkson asked Sedgwick County to do a recount in 2013 but the time to file had expired. She then filed an open records request, but officials refused to provide the requested documents. She filed a lawsuit but the judge said the paper records were ballots, even though they didn’t identify the voter, and thus were not subject to the state’s open records law.

Clarkson filed for a recount after the November election, but Sedgwick County officials again refused, saying only a judge could release the records.

A lawsuit she filed in February against Kansas’ attorney general – and later amended to add the Sedgwick County election commissioner and Kobach – sought a court order giving her access to a certain number of voting records to conduct an audit.

She mailed it to the Sedgwick County election commissioner and Kobach, who under state law had 30 days to respond. Neither responded, later saying they weren’t aware they’d received the summons.

“I don’t know if we did or not,” said Eric Rucker, assistant secretary of state. “We are not going to comment on the status or the nature of this litigation at this time.”

If either voting rights groups or the Democrats had any brains (I make the funny again!), they would be all over this. Make it a cause célèbre. Do a little political jiujitsu and turn the ‘voter fraud’ frown upside down. Because, as I noted in 2012, there is something really weird going on here, and it is consistent with–which does not mean it is due to–someone trying to subtly weight the favorites.

Who happen to be Republican.

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5 Responses to In Which I Don My Tin Foil Helmet

  1. Pingback: BAMTOR is Back – Bridget Magnus and the World as Seen from 4'11"

  2. paintedjaguar says:

    I assume you are familiar with Bev Harris and her associates at Black Box Voting, and their investigations into voting machine tampering during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections? If not you really should be. Sometimes a shiny chapeau is exactly the proper couture for the occasion.

  3. This is why we give thanks for Nye Bevan and the NHS, medical treatment free at the point of consumption.

  4. Pingback: Recommended reads #58 | Small Pond Science

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