The 2004 election revisited, part 2


Revisiting the 2004 election. Part 2.

Still in the spirit of the holidays, following up on the 2004 presidential election

Electoral College, 2004

Not merely was the Electoral College manipulated. What happened in November 2004 to the popular vote? The question is raised by, among others, Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., of the non-profit Verified Vote 2004, and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., Institute of Government and Public Affairs, U. of Illinois-Chicago.

Baiman and Simon’s paper, “The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won the Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data,” focuses on disparities discussed by U. Penn research professor Steven Freeman, quoted previously.

Key question from 2004

Substantive and solidly researched, the paper bears out the fact that vote tallies diverged significantly from the reasonably expectations based on exit polling. Here quoted for convenience are Baiman and Simon’s main points:

Executive Summary

  • There is a substantial discrepancy–well outside the margin of error and outcome determinative–between the national exit poll and the popular vote count.
  • The possible causes of the discrepancy would be random error, a skewed exit poll, or breakdown in the fairness of the voting process and accuracy of the vote count.
  • Analysis shows that the discrepancy cannot reasonably be accounted for by chance or random error.
  • Evidence does not support hypotheses that the discrepancy was produced by problems with the exit poll.  [emphasis added]
  • Widespread breakdown in the fairness of the voting process and accuracy of the vote count are the most likely explanations for the discrepancy.
  • In an accurate count of a free and fair election, the strong likelihood is that Kerry would have been the winner of the popular vote.”

Many of us couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Regrettably, Baiman and Simon’s paper never cracked through the surface in large media outlets. A quick search of the Lexis-Nexis database shows zero mention of the paper in U.S. newspapers. The print press collectively did not quote, or mention, the public statement released through U.S. Newswire Jan. 4, 2005, announcing a press conference at the National Press Club by the authors, other election experts, and activist groups including the NAACP. No magazines ran articles on election fraud as an issue.

The authors echoed questions raised by my North Carolina reader quoted in the previous entry. As they pointed out,

“Although it is the Electoral College and not the popular vote that legally elects the president, winning the popular vote does have considerable psychological and practical significance. It is fair to say, to take a recent example, that had Al Gore not enjoyed a popular vote margin in 2000, he would not have had standing in the court of public opinion to maintain his post-election challenge for more than a month up until its ultimate foreclosure by the Supreme Court. [emphasis in original]

In the 2004 election now under scrutiny, the popular vote again has played a critical role. George Bush’s apparent margin of 3.3 million votes clearly influenced the timing of John Kerry’s concession. Although the election was once again close enough that yet-to-be-counted votes offered at least the mathematical possibility of a Kerry electoral college victory–and although, once again, concerns about vote counting were beginning to emerge from early post-election reports and analyses–Kerry apparently believed that, unlike popular vote-winner Gore, he did not have effective standing to prolong the race.”

Baiman and Simon were well aware of the sensitive situation in Ohio,

“Yet to overturn the Ohio result, giving Kerry an electoral college victory (or even to disqualify the Ohio electors via challenge in Congress, which would deprive Bush of an electoral college majority and throw the election to the House of Representatives), would likely be regarded as unjust and insupportable by a populace convinced that Bush was, by some 3.3 million votes, the people’s choice.

Thus, although the popular vote does not legally determine the presidency, its significance is such that we must give due consideration to any evidence which puts the popular vote count itself at issue.”

[emphasis in original]

Hence the analysis of the anomalies. Citing the historical track record of exit polling and the 2004 results reported by exit polling authority Warren Mitofsky, Baiman and Simon argue convincingly for the credibility of the exit polls.

The crux:

On election night 2004, the exit polls and the vote counting equipment generated results that differed significantly.”

As the authors remind readers,

“In the early morning of November 3, 2004, a CNN.com website screenshot entitled “U.S. PRESIDENT/NATIONAL/EXIT POLL” posted national exit poll results updated to 12:23 A.M., broken down by gender as well as a variety of other categories.[note] The time of the update indicates that these results comprised substantially the full set of respondents polled on election day, but were free from the effects of a subsequent input of tabulated data used to bring about ultimate congruence between the exit poll and vote count results.”

The outcome of this national exit poll was 48.2% Bush, 50.8% Kerry.

There has perhaps never been a less reported headline in the history of U.S. politics. In a world, or in a political realm, now bating its breath over the possibility that Iowa Christian conservatives may wander from Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum or vice versa–in an election neither can hope to win–the fact that historically reliable exit polling showed John Kerry on top in the presidential election in 2004 went unremarked.

Baiman and Simon quoted Freeman’s discussion of the close battleground states, cited earlier:

In particular, the odds against the discrepancies in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania occurring together are computed at 662,000-to-one, or a virtual statistical impossibility that they could have been due to chance or random error.”

The same pattern held on a broader scale:

“Receiving somewhat less emphasis is the overall pattern of discrepancy in the state polls—again with the vote counts turning in Bush’s favor, though less dramatically in the nonbattleground states, as will be discussed below. The national popular vote is not addressed in that paper, but the same statistical principles are applicable, and will be
employed in this analysis.”

The authors emphasize the large size of the national exit poll,  even more accurate than other exit polls:

“While the individual state samples totaled 73,678 reported respondents,[note] a national sub-sampling was undertaken by Edison/Mitofsky, which comprised 13,047 reported respondents, chosen as a representative random sample of the nation as a whole. This sample was drawn from 250 targeted polling places and from 500 individual telephone interviews with absentee and early voters.”

Baiman and Simon concluded with 95% certainty “that Kerry’s popular vote percentage would fall in the range 49.7% to 51.9%; that is, it would fall outside that range only once in 20 times.”

As they summarize, dryly, “Kerry’s reported vote count of 48.1% falls dramatically outside this range.”

That is, the vote reported for Kerry fell well outside the realm of probability.

The reaction to this solid analysis? In the immortal words of Sinclair Lewis, it made as much noise as a bladder hurled into the ocean. It had as much effect as a tract left in a speakeasy (paraphrase from Ann Vickers, 1933).

Despite the disregard in the national political press, other researchers have pursued the issues raised by the 2004 election. In a lengthy footnote, Baiman and Simon cite the work of MIT grad student William Kaminsky:

Kaminsky finds that in 22 of the 23 states which break down their voter registrations by party ID the ratio of registered Republicans to registered Democrats in the final, adjusted exit poll was larger than the ratio of registered Republicans to registered Democrats on the official registration rolls. In other words, the adjustments performed on the exit polls in order to get them to agree with the official tallies would, if valid, require Republicans to have won the get-out-the-vote battle in essentially every state. We find this requirement implausible, and indeed observational evidence pointed to just the opposite: massive new voter turnout, which virtually always cuts in favor of the challenger; huge lines in Democratic precincts; unadjusted exit poll data showing apparently greater Democratic turnout; etc. Exit polls appropriately stratified to official party ID percentages, which would effectively neutralize any suspected “reluctant Bush responder” phenomenon by including the expected proportions of Republican and Democratic voters, would on the basis of Kaminsky’s analysis have yielded results at least as favorable to Kerry as those upon which we have relied in our calculations.”

Again the Amen Corner.

The public out in front, again

As written previously, it wasn’t only eggheads who perceived the issue of lost votes. Taking a leaf from Ronald Reagan’s book, here it seems only fitting to quote an email from one of my gracious readers:

“Margie,

Thank you for your recent piece on the above that I read today at buzzflash.com.  Bush is the worst president of my fifty-three year lifetime and I lived through Johnson and Nixon back-to-back.

Bush has managed to combine the guns and butter policies of the Johnson administration with the excessive secrecy and lies of Nixon.  This is almost as big an accomplishment as his uniting of Sunni and Shiite factions against us in Iraq.

I was a precinct captain for the Kerry campaign for the three months prior to the 2004 Iowa caucuses.  I would often ask the Democrats I called upon what they were hearing about Bush from their Republican acquaintances.  They usually replied in the following way, “You know, it is funny that you should ask that question.  I cannot believe the number of Republicans that I know who have VOLUNTEERED the information to me that they will never, ever vote for Bush again.”  And this was well before things in Iraq turned really, really bad.

What is your sense about the mood among Republicans these days?  Thanks, again, for your efforts on behalf of truth, justice and peace.  The best, [name]”

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