We Will Never Know If Electronic Voting Compromises Elections: Democrats Should Worry About This

I hate writing about this since, on the one hand, I sound like a tin foil helmet type, but starting three years ago, statisticians realized that there was something very weird happening with electronic voting (boldface added):

…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).

(the original paper in pdf format can be found here)

In 2015, a Wichita State University researcher filed a suit to get Kansas, which uses electronic voting machines that also have a paper record, to release voting data to investigate this:

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 I put it last year:

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.

Unfortunately, Clarkson essentially lost (boldface mine):

A Sedgwick County judge has ruled that a Wichita State University statistician won’t get access to paper tapes from voting machines to search for fraud or mistakes…

Clarkson sued last year seeking access to the tapes under the Kansas Open Records Act. Representing herself without a lawyer, she lost.

Since then, Randy Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney, has taken up the case. He said Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, lost the open-records case because she is “a brilliant statistician” but “a horrible lawyer.”

He changed strategy and sought a recount of votes, on the assumption that Clarkson would be able to watch the process and get the information she wants.

Lahey ruled that Clarkson had already brought the issue of access to the tapes to court and lost, so he couldn’t order Lehman to turn them over now. The law prohibits fighting the same legal issue twice.

Lahey told Rathbun that he “won the battle” because the case could go to trial on the question of whether to have a recount. But he “lost the war,” because Clarkson won’t get access to the ballot tapes even if she wins at trial.

Democrats should have been all over this, because there really does seem to be something biased going on here. And it could hurt Democrats if past evidence is any guide. Stupid. Very stupid.

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5 Responses to We Will Never Know If Electronic Voting Compromises Elections: Democrats Should Worry About This

  1. Felicis says:

    I had never heard the followup on this case – though I am not surprised at the outcome. Another reason I like living in Oregon (paper, mail-in ballots).

    Of course – this is yet another reason that the Republican legacy of horrible governance is going to be with us for a long, long time – between voting booth chicanery, voter ID laws, and gerrymandered districts, I fully expect this bullshit to be around the rest of my life.

  2. Netizen Denizen says:

    You’d think Democrats would be all over every scenario in which they can come in and actually stand up for — instead of TO — the “average Joe”. This same thing happened in Ohio in 2004 when the Greens and Libertarians advanced the recount among questionable voting irregularities, and it wasn’t until the recount was well underway that Dems swooped in and pretended to always support the recount.

    The same thing happens at the workplace level too, where unions stage a walkout/strike and Dems refuse to take a public stand until enough press has been generated that they can come in and pretend to be saviors. It’s unfortunately the modus operandi of the national and state Dem parties to refuse to get involved unless they can get favorable press coverage.

  3. Robert L Bell says:

    I am a statistician who has personally reviewed Clarkson’s lists of numbers. While the J-curve she likes to talk about is in fact present, there is precisely ZERO reason to accept this as evidence suggesting – much less proving, as your typical hard core tin foil hat loons insist – fraud at the polls. What we have here is an ineptly specified null hypothesis, cherry picking of data rather than an honest sampling of relevant populations, and an astoundingly willful refusal to examine – much less engage and refute – the list of plausible alternative hypotheses that have been suggested.

    Therefore I suggest that you drop this crackpot conspiracy theory forthwith as your embrace tars all Leftists as gullible and willfully stupid.

    • mrtoads says:

      Mr. (Dr.?) Bell – not that I would be so crass as to doubt that your claims about yourself are accurate, I cannot forget President Lincoln’s famous quote that “half of everything on the Internet is bogus”. Talk is cheap – in fact, some talk is free – so it would set my mind (if nobody else’s) at ease to know that you are, in fact, a statistician. After all, if I accepted your assertions at face value, I might legitimately be tarred as gullible and willfully stupid, and we wouldn’t want that. Once that hurdle has been cleared, the rest of your claims can be taken seriously. Alas, that in these days of our lives, the constant wash of internet trollery has made so many of us suspicious and cynical. Alackaday.

      • mrtoads says:

        sorry – forgot the “but” before the “I cannot” in the first sentence. Alas that in this modern age, there seems to be no manner in which I can edit a comment. Alackaday.

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