Election Fraud Statistician: Clinton’s New York Win Receives Mostly Clean Bill of Health

In a working paper provided to GoodGawdAnotherBlog, Professor Walter Mebane concludes that his well-regarded election fraud diagnostics produce “scant evidence that any frauds occurred” in New York City during the April 19, 2016 primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders.  According to the “finite mixture” statistical model used, furthermore, there is “no evidence whatsoever that large or widespread frauds occurred.” The finite mixture model necessarily produces some ambiguity, however, and cannot catch all kinds of potential fraud, according to Professor Mebane.

As part of an ongoing effort to take allegations of election fraud seriously, without simply accepting or dismissing them up front, I approached two elections statistics professors previously consulted by FiveThirtyEight in their effort to suss out potential electronic hacking of a Democratic primary in South Carolina in 2010. Professor Mebane and Assistant Professor Michael G. Miller concluded in 2010 that the South Carolina results showed evidence of substantial fraud to a 90% degree of certainty.

While Professor Mebane plugged data into his finite mixture model, Miller applied the same Benford’s Law test used and reported on by FiveThirtyEight in 2010. My discussion with Miller, however, ended with a bizarre series of accusations leveled by Miller against me in email then on Twitter: “The author of this piece should not be a journalist,” Miller stated, and “there is no evidence of fraud in this election in the data I have analyzed…also Doug is B-squad.” For anyone interested in such mundanity, rather than going in tit for tat with Professor Miller’s tweets as mostly still present on his recent timeline, I have posted the full email exchange that led to him taking his ball of stats and leaving the playground.

At its heart, the finite mixture model uses sophisticated statistical formulations to measure voting outcomes versus an expected distribution based on detailed data of voter registrations and candidate results at the smallest level, in this case New York City’s 5,217 elections districts. Where results meet the model’s expectation of a fairly even and predictable distribution of votes across precincts or districts, they are termed “unimodal.” New York City’s results are, alternatively, “multi-modal.”

Multimodal results indicate that there is some unevenness to candidates’ expected vote distribution, but the model builds room for a level of ambiguity allowing for multi-modal results in situations where, for instance, strategic voting or concentrated get out the vote efforts may produce otherwise unexpected outcomes. “The few indications of ‘frauds’ that the model gives,” according to Mebane’s conclusion, “are readily interpreted as due to strategic behavior, most likely strategic behavior involving specially coordinated mobilizations to turnout and vote.” The key measurement is found in the far right hand column of the chart, from Mebane’s working paper, as reproduced here:

Waler Table 2

Rather than wading into all of the statistical details of the chart, the key columns for us are the far left column (by congressional district, or CD, as represented in New York City) and the far right hand column. Where figures in the right column reach .015 or greater, Mebane concludes that substantial fraud is highly likely to have occurred, but “[n]one of the pi + pe values in Table 2 are remotely as large as that.” (My publishing platform will not allow me to properly subscript the “i” and “e” in pi + pe.)

Notably, however, the largest value by far in the far right hand column is for Congressional District 9, which is wholly located in Brooklyn. Where most other results are orders of magnitude below .015 and only one (CD 8 in Queens) is even 20% of the way to a .015 result, CD 9 makes it over 60% of the way there.

I followed up with Professor Mebane to ask whether that result could be capturing the infamous purge of more than 100,000 Democratic voters in Brooklyn that has been the partial target of an Election Justice USA lawsuit and has seen two Brooklyn Board of Election’s officials relieved of duty without pay. “More facts can’t be bad,” Professor Mebane replied. “The finite mixture model is just a model. Another limitation of it that I’ve written about is that it’s insensitive to many patterns of voter suppression. If the voter purge did that, the effects might not show up in the model estimates.”

I am committed to completing investigations by two other avenues into potential fraud, like intentional voter suppression, that could avoid detection by the finite mixture model. I expect to publish a critical article relating to Democratic voter registration high jinks in the next week and a half. The topic under contention with Miller, however, will take a fair bit longer for me to publish on. I am awaiting key data requested under New York’s Freedom of Information Law.

Note: Professor Mebane intends to use the material in his working paper as a part of another academic piece he is preparing but has said he would host it on his personal website if there turns out to be sufficient interest. Statisticians interested in the data plugged into the finite mixture model and used for the aborted Benford’s Law Test results should email me at djjohnso@yahoo.com. Those wishing to reach me more securely could send me an encrypted message at an alternate address.

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How Jon Ralston’s Pack of Lies Ran Riot in The Fact Averse Media

Jon Ralston, the dean of political reporting in Nevada, has spread nothing less than a pack of lies about what went down at the state’s Democratic convention on Saturday. And the fact averse oligarchic national media has run completely riot with the provable falsehoods. No chairs were thrown at the convention Saturday. No death threats were made against the chair of the convention Roberta Lange. And Bernie Sanders delegates were not simply mad because their louder shouting was ignored.

Ralston has been the culprit behind each of these falsehoods; and the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and a dizzying array of other outlets have swallowed them whole then regurgitated them for their much more massive audiences.

While as late as 2012 Ralston could be counted on as someone with a known Liberal establishment bias who would nevertheless stand firm where it came to truth and journalistic integrity, his ethics began to slip in the years since. (And let’s be clear, refusing to write for an outlet anymore that pulled a column unfavorable to Harry Reid is honorable; waiting over two years to reveal that fact is a bit dastardly.)

Here are the details of the lies originating or spread by Ralston, followed by how they spread among the chattering elite who attempt to pass themselves off as unbiased media:

Ralston reported live from the convention for most of the day, but decided to leave before tensions boiled over. Nevertheless, it was taken as a simple fact that he had observed Sanders supporters throwing chairs when “Roberta’s Rules” were enforced with finality at the end of the proceedings. Ralston tweeted:

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As it turned out, Ralston finally admitted last night that he hadn’t seen this himself but was relying especially on local reporter Andrew Davey. Davey first said he had still frames showing the chair throwing which he would publish. He has not produced the stills in question, but did retweet a still image of a chair held high that was initially posted on Reddit. I spoke with the person who posted it to Reddit and confirmed that it was grabbed from the video now widely seen which shows that other Sanders supporters quickly took away the chair in question. I asked Davey by Twitter if he still had photos to publish, then criticized him for retweeting the Reddit image instead. He blocked me.

In spite of the fact that the whole thing was filmed live from multiple angles, “the revolution will be periscoped” as Ralston snarked on Twitter, no one has any images or video of even a single chair, let alone chairs plural, being thrown.

Ralston was also the source of the claim that Roberta Lange received death threats, again plural. Ralston first reported that he had received audio and text of messages received by Lange after her phone number was posted online in the aftermath of Saturday’s mess. Ralston misreported the single instance that could be interpreted as a threat, however. The lede for his post on the matter simply stated: “One caller suggested she would be hung or burned.”  The problem? When Ralston got around to posting the actual message later in the day, the caller turned out not to have said she would be hung, but rather that she should be.

MALE CALLER: Hi Roberta Lange. This is a citizen of the United States of America and I just wanted to let you know that I think people like you should be hung in a public execution to show this world that we won’t stand for this sort of corruption. I don’t know what kind of money they are paying to you, but I don’t know how you sleep at night. You are a sick, twisted piece of shit and I hope you burn for this! You can return my call at 619-838-9222. I’d love to go into further detail with you about this, though I am sure you don’t have courage to do so. You cowardless bitch, running off the stage! I hope people find you.

Impolite. Wrong. Harassment, even if not criminal. And part of a 250 year tradition of overblown political rhetoric in the United States. Not a threat. No words at all implying that she will or “would be” killed as Ralston falsely reported.

Finally, Ralston was very aware of what the Sanders’ campaign’s complaints are. Bernie’s statement on this, in fact, comes closest of anything he’s said to acknowledging what his supporters are now convinced, with plenty of evidence, is a nation wide phenomenon: Sanders supporters are being flipped off the Democratic voting rolls against their will in order to disenfranchise their participation in closed primaries, caucuses, and conventions. Fifty-eight Sanders supporters were denied entry to the Nevada Convention and were told they weren’t Democrats. Other than the one guy who acknowledged he switched his registration on his own, this is ludicrous. Nevada had onsite registration for the original caucuses in February, and no one could participate in them unless they were registered as a Democrat.

Clinton had just thirty more delegates than Sanders in the final count. And while establishment Dems were challenging Sanders’ delegates’ credentials, Roberta Lange passed rules cutting out the county level convention results which were more favorable to Sanders.

Ralston wrote a post, even, acknowledging that this was the issue, but glossed over the fact that people would have had to be flipped off the rolls somehow in the last few weeks and that many have stated that they did not do so themselves. Then on Twitter, Ralston continued to insist that Sanders people were only mad that their louder shouting didn’t win the day:

And the Truth Averse Media has gone wild with Ralston’s first class lying. The New York Times ran with  “Thrown chairs” as it’s lede in an article headlined by the falsehood about death threats.

Rachel Maddow ran a deceptive clip on MSNBC saying chairs were thrown while reportedly showing footage of chairs thrown at a wrestling production. (I cannot find the original Maddow clip with this as of yet.) People on social media then insisted that networks had shown actual footage of chairs thrown at the convention. Maddow retreated only a bit by having Ralston on to say that even though he had not seen the chairs thrown, other eyewitnesses have told him the video is wrong. CNN had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on to denounce Bernie Bros throwing chairs at the stage.

And so on and so on and so on.

Hours and hours after the woman who took and posted the original video showing the raised chair has offered to talk to any media that will listen, none have. Sanders supporters have now promised to donate $100 to Clinton’s campaign or vote for her in California if anyone can produce video evidence of the phantom chair throwing.

It won’t happen.

And the murder of crows that pretends to be honest, unbiased journalists will continue on to the next trust-killing monstrosity.

 

Clinton Does Best Where Voting Machines Flunk Hacking Tests: Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders Election Fraud Allegations (Part 6)

At the end of the climactic scene (8 minutes) in HBO’s Emmy nominated Hacking Democracy (2006), a Leon County, Florida Election official breaks down in tears. “There are people out there who are giving their lives just to try to make our elections secure,” she says. “And these vendors are lying and saying everything is alright.” Hundreds of jurisdictions throughout the United States are using voting machines or vote tabulators that have flunked security tests. Those jurisdictions by and large are where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is substantially outperforming the first full wave of exit polling in her contest against Senator Bernie Sanders.

CounterPunch has interviewed hackers, academics, exit pollsters, and elections officials and workers in multiple states for this series taking election fraud allegations seriously.  The tearful breakdown in Hacking Democracy is not surprising. There is a well-beyond remarkable gap between what security experts and academics say about the vulnerability of voting machines and the confidence elections experts and academics, media outlets, and elections officials place in those same machines.

In Leon County, Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting team had just demonstrated a simple hack of an AccuVote tabulator for bubble-marked paper ballots. Ion Sancho, Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections, also fights back tears in the Hacking Democracy clip: “I would have certified this election as a true and accurate result of a vote.” Sancho adds, “The vendors are driving the process of voting technology in the United States.”

In 2010, and this reminder will pain those of you who can remember when Nate Silver’s outfit did real data journalism rather than primarily yay-Clinton boo-Trump punditry, a FiveThirtyEight column argued that hacking was one of two possibilities for statistical anomalies in a Democratic Senate primary in South Carolina: “B. Somebody with access to software and machines engineered a very devious manipulation of the vote returns.”

Joshua Holland’s column in The Nation “debunking” claims of election fraud benefiting Clinton rests its case on a simple proposition: why would Clinton need to cheat when she was winning anyway? Apparently, Mr. Holland has never heard of an obscure American politician named Richard Nixon.

More importantly, entering the South Carolina primary, the pledged delegate count was 52-51. CNN’s poll two weeks out projected an 18 point Clinton win. Ann Selzer, the best pollster in the United States, projected a 22 point Clinton win. RealClearPolitics’ polling average projected a 27.5% win. FiveThirtyEight was much bolder in projecting a 38.3% Clinton win. The early full exit poll said Clinton had won by 36%, pretty close to FiveThirtyEight’s call. Tellingly, white people in that exit poll went for Sanders 58-42. But the final results said Clinton won by 47.5%, an 11.5% exit polling miss. And the exit polls had to adjust their initial figures to a 53-47 Clinton win with white Democrats in South Carolina.

Three days after South Carolina’s primary, Clinton seriously outperformed her exit polling projections again in a bunch of states on Super Tuesday, including Massachusetts where she went from a projected 6.6% loss to a 1.4% win. Super Tuesday set the narrative that Sanders had no chance of beating Clinton in pledged delegates.

Correlating Exit Polling Misses and Bad Machines
Let’s be clear: yes, correlation does not equal causality. What strong correlation does do, however, is set the agenda for reasonable investigation. Mocking fraud claims where there is a strong correlative case and actual evidence of potential vote tampering in places like Arizona, New York, and Chicago is precisely the kind of thing that has seen confidence in media outlets plummet to an all-time low. Just 6% of people in the U.S., about the same number as for Congress, have high confidence that media are unbiased and accurate.

Meanwhile, according to a September 2015 study (.pdf) by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, South Carolina uses all machines more than ten years old. In fact, drawing on the source of the Brennan Center report over at Verified Voting, South Carolina uses provably hackable voting machines without a verified paper trail. Virtually all counties in South Carolina use two machines in particular – Electronic Systems and Software’s (ES&S) iVotronic, a touch screen voting machine without a paper trail, and ES&S’s Model 100, used to tabulate absentee and provisional ballots.

Kim Zetter, the best reporter on hacking and computer security at Wired Magazine, delved into the Brennan Center report with an article entitled “The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines.” Zetter noted that in 2002, after the Bush v. Gore disaster, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with billions of dollars available for counties throughout the U.S. to upgrade to new voting machines. Zetter then hits the critical point for discussion of election fraud allegations in the Democratic presidential primary:

But many of the machines installed then, which are still in use today, were never properly vetted—the initial voting standards and testing processes turned out to be highly flawed—and ultimately introduced new problems in the form of insecure software code and design.

Things are dismal, yes, but they are not evenly so. As this map from the Brennan Center report shows, there are just a few states that are as bad off as South Carolina (all machines ten years old or greater). But there are also just as few states that are relatively well off with all machines newer than ten years old.

State by State 10 year old voting machines

Of the nine places where the exit polling has missed by more than 7% (South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, New York), two-thirds are states where all or the majority of election jurisdictions are using machines ten years old or greater. For these six states the average initial exit polling miss is a whopping 9.98%. From my column on exit polling misses last week, the average exit polling miss in Clinton’s favor is 5.1%. For the three states (Oklahoma, New York, Maryland) for which there is polling and for which all election jurisdictions use machines less than ten years old (gray in the map), the average is just a 1.67% miss in Clinton’s favor. Now take note, this 1.67% average includes New York with its huge miss in Clinton’s favor. Alabama is also worth looking at, with a minority of jurisdictions having machines more than ten years old, because I have been using an “Alabama Test” to see whether theories for the exit polling misses make sense.

I put figures like this to exit pollster and Executive Vice President of Edison Research Joe Lenski for question 10, which I’d previously left out of the published version of the interview I completed with him. I wanted to know whether the gap in exit polling misses raised any red flags. Here was Lenski’s reply:

The reliability of vote equipment is a true concern but I don’t see any evidence how the concentration of older voting machines in certain states would have affected either candidate more than the other.  There are many examples of vote count errors.  Here is a link reporting a recent vote count error in the Michigan primary that inflated Ted Cruz’s vote by 3000 votes  http://uselectionatlas.org/WEBLOGS/dave/ .  These types of errors are discovered all the time but there is no evidence that these are anything more than mistakes by local election officials – not a systematic attempt to affect a single candidate’s vote totals.  This reminds me of theories after the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic Primary based upon the fact that Hillary Clinton did better in towns with voting machines while Barack Obama did better in towns that voted on paper.  That was simply an artifact of the demographics in New Hampshire of the towns that had voting machines versus those that voted on paper.  Again the states with older voting machines in 2016 may just be the same states with demographics that favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

But again, as I argued last Wednesday, the demographics by state and other proposed reasons for exit polling misses do not actually add up. Big misses have happened in the South, in Massachusetts, and also in Ohio where Sanders otherwise did quite well in the Midwest. Nor do age or early voting patterns predict exit polling misses. Still, what is most remarkable about Lenski’s statement is that he is one of the few non-tech experts we spoke with who recognized that the “reliability of voting equipment is a true concern.”

None of the three elections academics I spoke with for last Wednesday’s piece appeared to be familiar with the Brennan Center report on aging and vulnerable machines, and Antonio Gonzalez, an exit polling expert and Latino voter registration guru who called for parties not to seat Arizona’s delegations in last Thursday’s piece, seemed a bit floored when I presented him with question ten from my interview with Lenski. “Oh,” he said, “I thought Congress was supposed to have taken care of that with HAVA.” HAVA, as noted earlier, offered money from 2002 to 2006 for states to upgrade to the then latest and greatest voting technology.

At this point we should take a look at the proven flaws in four very old and hackable machines in particular. These machines or similar elderly and vulnerable machines are in use in almost all places where Clinton outperforms exit polling most substantially. Because I am taking evidence and counter-evidence seriously, we will also look at the machines used in New York City, which are not quite so old (about six or seven years). While those machines, ES&S’s DS200, have had several problems over the years of the type suggested by Lenski, they also have not verifiably flunked independent security tests, so far as I know.

AccuVote (TS, OS, TSX models)
AccuVote technology is among the worst of the worst. This is the Diebold technology hacked in the Hacking Democracy clip. It is more than ten years old, can be hacked in such a way that even those models (OS, TSX) with a paper trail can be tricked, and it is in use throughout Georgia (12.2% miss) and in more than 300 counties or other election jurisdictions in more than 20 states.

AVC Edge and Edge II  (from my column on Chicago Friday)
The AVC Edge and Edge II (with paper trail) were provably hacked by a “Red Team” from UC Santa Barbara hired by the State of California in 2008. Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, called and emailed to complain after my article last Friday. He dismissed the suggestion that Edge II could be hacked because of the paper trail. Not only is this laughable since his team engaged in a wildly inaccurate audit of the paper trail from the Chicago Democratic primary, but Allen apparently failed to click on the link regarding the UCSB Red Team test that I included in the article. The first paragraph of that article notes that Edge machines, “even those with a so-called Voter Verified Paper Trail” can be successfully hacked by a single person. AVC Edge machines are in use without a paper trail throughout Louisiana (where there were no exit polls but where Clinton seriously outperformed her pre-election day polling average) and in more than 130 counties in various other states.

Model 100 (from ES&S)
Model 100 also badly flunked (.pdf) the California “Red Team” test in 2008. Like the other machines in this list, it is hackable in a way that spreads virally to other machines in the same network. Hundreds of jurisdictions still use Model 100 to tabulate votes, including especially Wayne County (Detroit), 27 counties in Ohio, 9 counties in Tennessee, 78 counties in Texas, and many more that match very well with where Clinton has outperformed exit polls.

iVotronic (ES&S)
iVotronic machines are touchscreen voting machines, many without a paper trail. iVotronic machines flunked a University of Pennsylvania test in 2007 and are the precise machines in question in the previous suspicious Democratic primary results in South Carolina in 2010. They continue to be used throughout South Carolina (no paper trail) and in hundreds of counties in states where Clinton has suspiciously overperformed exit polling.

DS200
DS200 machines have had a wide variety of malfunctioning problems, particularly in New York City, but those problems can and mostly have been addressed in places like New York City by retraining poll workers to check immediately whether each voters’ vote was counted and then offering a new chance to vote if necessary. As stated, the DS200 has not been provably hacked so far as I know. Newer machines of this sort were put into use just this year in Maryland where the overall exit polling missed in Sanders favor, for once, but by just 0.6 points. Still, the votes in Baltimore County have now been decertified because, among other things, there were more votes than voters who checked in at the polls. In Maryland, the DS200 machines are all networked to a statewide system for tabulating votes quickly. Networking, however, is not required, and my best information suggests that networking is not how the DS200 is used in New York City. Instead, precinct workers pull the results off the machine at the end of the voting day and relay them to county headquarters, according to my discussions with a poll worker from Brooklyn.

What About the Exceptions to This Correlation?
But we also would have to deal with where there are exceptions to this strong correlation between hackable machines and Clinton beating the exit polling badly. Here’s where my conversation with a particular veteran hacker comes into play. I chatted securely with a long-time member of Anonymous whom I’ll call the King of SciAm (not the handle they use publicly or privately). The King of SciAm has long worked with the Telecommix branch of Anonymous. Telecommix rose to fame when Hosni Mubarak cut off internet access in Egypt during the Arab Spring uprising. Telecommix found work-arounds via dial-up internet to keep information from activists on the ground flowing out of Egypt. As a general rule, Telecommix does not take part in Anonymous leaks or website shutdowns and defacements, but they made an exception to that rule early in this campaign cycle. Telecommix members defaced Donald Trump’s website with a tribute to Jon Stewart upon his retirement. The New Yorker’s Alex Koppleman called it the “classiest website hack ever,” a compliment the King of SciAm relishes.

The King of SciAm emphasized to me that, if hired to hack an election (which they would never do), the first thing they would do would be to figure out the best way to leave no trace: “we’d target the network packets or their headwater.” The key idea being for “a hack to survive the security audit trail after the vote is certified.” Furthermore, “we would likely try to target the thing most likely to get it’s logs wiped first – so – whatever it plugs into to move the data. Are the voting machines in use network connected?”

The King of SciAm told me that targeting old, provably hackable machines is “not an unfair theory,” but “you asked how (if we did these sort of things) we would do them.” The problem, they noted, “is that any change to the voting machine operating system or driver stack will likely be found in the security auditor’s rotation pretty quickly. This is because once the machines are down (end of election day) – they are no longer accessible to revert any source code changes or wipe any logs that said you were there, unless you’ve written STUXnet – in which case you wouldn’t be targeting the booth machines either.”

The King of SciAm was not at all surprised that sloppy hackers may be targeting older machines in places like South Carolina and Chicago, nor that elections officials were cluelessly trusting those machines and not even properly following procedures that could catch a less sophisticated hack.

So if, instead of targeting the DS200 in New York, hackers had targeted further upstream in the voting ecosystem, how would you catch it? The King of SciAm noted that you would have to use some procedure to “match 100% of the data, not 5%,” as in Chicago.

To do this, you would need to use a methodology much more like that used in the FiveThirtyEight article on irregularities in the South Carolina 2010 primary election. There, FiveThirtyEight referred to a Benford’s law test on precinct level results. That test showed an “unusual, non-random pattern in the precinct-level results suggest[ing] tampering, or at least machine malfunction, perhaps at the highest level.”

Intriguingly, after I began this series on election fraud allegations, a reader who would like to remain anonymous, emailed to point out similar irregularities in New York’s Democratic primary this year:

Results for Kings County and Bronx county [show] deviation from perfect 60-40 and 70-30 results was the same 0.035% The increase in votes in Kings (Brooklyn) from 2008 is incredible, almost a perfect 10%. Not only that but that’s where over a 100,000 voters lost their right to vote. Another 20,000 votes in Kings would mean almost a 20% increase which would be amazing compared to other counties that experienced decreases or mild increases.

Furthermore, the overall results in New York, as announced on election night, deviated from a perfect 58-42 split “by 0.005345%. That’s 97 votes out of over 1.8 million.” Will FiveThirtyEight apply a Benford’s law test to 2016 primary results? Not a chance. They have boosted Clinton throughout and are already quite embarrassed by how badly they missed on the GOP side with Donald Trump.

But what about our test? The “Alabama Test.” What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Alabama only has a minority of jurisdictions using old, provably hackable machines. Is that a weak correlation for the theory that in most places sloppy hackers targeted old, provably vulnerable machines while apparently more sophisticated hackers would have had to have been involved with targeting New York’s results as well as registration switching operations in a wide variety of states?

Taking a look at Alabama on a county level gives us a fairly strong answer. Most of Alabama’s counties also use hand cast ballots tabulated by the DS200, but a minority use Model 100, one of our flunked election machines. Three of the flunked Model 100 counties, however, are three of the four biggest counties in Alabama (Jefferson, Mobile, and Montgomery) and accounted for around 40% of the vote for Democrats in Alabama. Clinton won by a 64.2% spread in Jefferson, by 66.5% in Mobile, and by a stunning 73.4% in Montgomery. What happened in Madison, the one county of the top four by population that votes using the DS200 model? Clinton won by just a 38.5% spread! In fact, Clinton did not make it to 80% of the vote in any of the top twelve counties by population except for those three counties using Model 100 to tabulate votes.

And controlling for factors like African American voters or wealth does not account for this phenomenon. Take for instance Mobile where the population is 35.3% black versus a 24.6% black population in Madison County. A 10% difference in black population does not account for a 28% difference in the Clinton-Sanders spread. What’s more, if you compare Mobile to a very similar county in North Carolina (where the exit polls did not really miss), you see something similarly telling.

Cumberland County, NC is very comparative to Mobile, Alabama. They have similar populations, similar numbers of black residents (with Cumberland slightly higher at 37.6% African American), very similar per capita income figures, and both counties had about 35,000 Democratic voters. Clinton won Cumberland by 32.8%, very close to the Madison County (DS200 model) results and about half the percentage spread Clinton saw in Mobile (Model 100). 

****

Of the theories we have so far for why exit polling missed in Alabama by a huge 14%, the only theory that provides a reasonable explanation is vote tabulating machine tampering. Now, perhaps someone else will come up with a non-fraudulent exit polling miss theory that passes the Alabama Test and explains other states as well. Such a theory cannot be about early voting (Alabama had none) and over-projecting young voters (there were very few according to exit polls of Alabama).

Until someone comes up with such a workable theory, election fraud benefiting Hillary Clinton to the tune of a 120 to 150 pledged delegate difference, is the best explanation we have. People wanting to prove this theory should be suing for a technologically sophisticated and independent review of results and the voting results’ entire computer ecosystems in places like Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama, Boston, Chicago, New York, and many others.

Part 1: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously
Part 2: Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations
Part 3: In-depth Report on Exit Polling and Election Fraud Allegations
An Interview With Lead Edison Exit Pollster Joe Lenski
Part 4: Purged, Hacked, Switched
Part 5: Chicago Election Official Admits “Numbers Didn’t Match”

 

Chicago Election Official Admits “Numbers didn’t match”: Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders Election Fraud Allegations (Part 5)

Jim Allen, Communications Director for the Chicago Board of Elections (BoE), acknowledges that “the numbers didn’t match” initially in the legally mandated 5% audit of voting and tabulating machines after the recent Illinois Democratic primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Allen, however, insists that this is simply a “perception issue” and that absolutely no election fraud took place.

Allen was responding by phone to my questions regarding allegations from citizen vote monitoring groups Who’s Counting? – Chicago and the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project (IBIP). Dr. Lora Chamberlain is a leader of Who’s Counting, which works with IBIP to credential election day monitors and joined them this year to audit the audit. IBIP was started in Illinois in the aftermath of the 2000 Al Gore versus George Bush Debacle. A total of six members of the two groups gave affidavit-based testimony at the April 5, 2016 Chicago Board of Elections meeting.

The testimony is, simply put, beyond stunning.

It can be viewed in its entirety on the official Chicago Elections YouTube channel. Beginning around the 24 minute mark will launch you into a most profoundly bizarre and troubling hour of bureaucratic bore and can-this-be-for-anything-like-real nonsense-mongering.

Chicago BoE Legal Counsel James Scanlon says early on that “[t]he 5% audit or tabulation cannot be used to change the results of the election. It’s only a means of testing the voting equipment.” Multiple times BoE members suggest that citizens testifying aren’t really credible to talk about an audit because they aren’t professional auditors. As Andrew Galipeau notes by way of comment over at YouTube, the entirety of the citizen monitoring discussion takes place after the BoE has already pulled a fast one to certify the election results without allowing time for objections from those who showed up to do just that:

0:00 Meeting opens and introductions
0:30 1st item of business (accept the results)
0:45 From the audience “Can we object?” – “No, not yet”
1:01 “Any discussion? Does not let audience know this is the time to object/discuss
1:14 Motion passes and they accept the results.
1:38 Meeting is adjourned.
1:48 You can see her visibly exhale in relief, as they have just certified the results and the public has not realized Special meeting is started (but they have already accepted the results). The entire rest of the video is essentially meaningless and just putting on a show for the public to air grievances with no legal recourse available. Really wish we could fix it, bureaucracy is bullshit. It’s all certified legally official before 2 minutes into the video.

I followed up with an interview of Dr. Chamberlain and spoke by phone with Jim Allen twice. Between one direct comment on the video and my interviews with Allen, the Chicago BoE never denies the counting irregularities. When pushed, they simply state, as Allen did in a follow up email to our conversations,

The numbers did match. There were questions about the process of taking the first tabulation sheet back and finding and correcting the errors on that tabulation sheet. The numbers did match. Again, no votes were added or removed.

Allen used an analogy with me about balancing your personal checkbook: “If you are going through your checkbook and the first time is mismatched, you don’t immediately yell ‘the bank is ripping me off’.”

What isn’t clear, on this analogy, is whether the checkbook figures were ever actually balanced or whether the bottom line was simply fudged to accept that the bank is always right.

Four of the people who gave testimony described unbelievable irregularities in detail without a single word of rebuttal about the specifics of how the audit tabulation occurred from the Board. In sharp contrast to a more orderly audit in Rensselaer County, New York, Chamberlain, Michelle Suzanne Gale, Rebecca Kerlin, and William Shipley stated that problems included erasure of tally sheet votes when they didn’t match (then adding some to get to the correct, pre-determined number), attempts to hide the work that was being done or to block the view of monitoring citizens, rapid adding of tallies to tally sheets near the end of the day to make things work, inconsistencies in the way names were read leading employees tallying the results to say “wait, I’m confused” without real redress, most stations having a single person to tally results for particular machines rather than two tally-ers, tally-ers falling asleep or absenting themselves to the bathroom while the results continued to be read-out, double reading of votes that had already been tallied, and multiple methods for cheating or fudging the results when they didn’t match, which was apparently quite often.

Shipley says in his testimony that he took photographic evidence, which I have not yet seen, of the erasure of tally marks.

Allen was willing to cop to some of the troubles, especially with tallying. He attributed it to counters not having enough space on their tally sheets. “The tally sheets did not change in size,” Allen told me, when they moved from the election day machines to the early voting machines. Early voting included substantially more votes as it took place over a fifteen day window before election day. The citizens groups emphasized as well that it was the early voting machines with the most troubles. This led, according to Allen, to “writing on the backs of sheets” when “instead of keeping the first tally sheet and handing the preparers of the hand count a new blank sheet to start over” they just used the same, smaller-sized sheet. “So you were correct, the numbers didn’t match” the first time around. But, Allen added, “there’s no proof or evidence we are aware of that any votes were added or erased. That’s a pretty inflammatory allegation.”

That “inflammatory allegation,” however, is precisely what multiple affidavits and witnesses insist happened. Most troubling, in my viewing of the video and follow-up discussions and emails, there is only one suggestion ever of a recount when, as both sides agree, the tallies didn’t match. BoE members never come close to describing any procedure required in terms of starting over when things do not match. Shipley instead reports around the 1:21 mark that when one brave auditor in a single instance spoke up against what appeared to be pressure from the top to make things just match, they were reluctantly told to recount. The individual tally-er did so and said again that it did not match. A third time, then, they were asked to recount, and it still did not match. At this point, according to Shipley, other counters were brought in to bring the audit results in line with the reported vote total.

Since Chamberlain in particular reported that the mismatches would have meant substantially more votes for Bernie Sanders in a very specific case, I followed up with her to ask if all or most of the mismatches were similarly suggestive of a miscount favoring Clinton. Chamberlain responded, “It appears to us that the inaccuracies were mostly in favor of Hillary,” but she added, “we are not going to say that in a court of law because we didn’t have every table covered every day” and “there was a lot of blocking behavior” by BoE employees throughout the process.

Allen, for his part, is most upset about the timing of the affidavit reports. For citizen monitors, it makes perfect sense. The audit ended at the beginning of the last week in March and they showed up to the next meeting the first full week in April. For Allen, this was much too late as “things were sealed” as of the certification which they were legally required to do by that date. For Allen, the two groups “waited until after the board was required to make a legal declaration” before raising objections. Chamberlain and IBIP, however, reasonably believed that they were showing up to make objections at precisely the right meeting.

Allen insists that the machines are perfectly good, even though they were first certified in 2002 and put into use in 2006. They’ve survived more intense recounts, by Allen’s reckoning, with candidates from two sides present and without showing a single missing vote.

And this appears to be the real rub.

Allen and the Chicago Board of Elections have an overweening trust in the machines that tabulated the early votes. For Allen, the citizen groups’ objections are mystifying; he thinks they mean that the entire Board and its employees and volunteers were “in the hop for Clinton.” Near the end of my initial conversation with him, I double checked to make sure that Verified Voting information is correct about the type of machines used for early balloting in Chicago.

By this point in my research I had realized strongly that it isn’t enough to simply state that electronic machines are stealing votes. There are dozens of different types of voting and vote tabulation machines in use across various states and counties. They are not all equally vulnerable to hacking of votes. Some are quite old; some were newly bought and put into use for this election cycle. Some are networked to other voting machines or tabulators in a particular county; some are not. Some have paper trails while, sixteen years after Bush v. Gore, some still do not. Some have been very provably hacked, while others have  passed “Red Team” vulnerability tests. (And some of the ones that have been hacked are particularly vulnerable because they are networked, hacking has proven viral, and hiding the corruption, even from a paper trail, is easily accomplished.)

On Monday my final report in this series, Part 6, will look at a handful of machines among the worst of the worst as they are present in various counties throughout various states. Do those worst of the worst machines match up with where exit polling is most terrible or not?

Allen responded to my question to confirm that Chicago early voting machines are the AVC Edge II Plus or EIIP. Over the final ninety seconds as we closed that initial phone conversation, I quickly Googled the AVC Edge. Other than having a paper trail, it is in fact among the worst of the worst. It would not take Allen’s entire crew to be corrupted, just a lazy audit process. In 2008 a team of scientists from the University of California Santa Barbara showed that a single person could hack the Edge without breaking the security seals. Furthermore, the hack could be accomplished in such a way that the bad code would easily spread to all other machines in a particular county.

Eight years later, those easily hackable AVC Edge machines are still counting votes in a wide variety of states and counties, including in the third largest city in the United States. And one of the only processes by which to test the security of these machines in Chicago is nothing less than a tremendous joke.

Part 1: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously
Part 2: Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations
Part 3: In-depth Report on Exit Polling and Election Fraud Allegations
An Interview With Lead Edison Exit Pollster Joe Lenski
Part 4: Purged, Hacked, Switched

 

 

 

 

Purged, Hacked, Switched: On Election Fraud Allegations in Hillary Clinton Versus Bernie Sanders (Part 4)

Antonio Gonzalez of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) is no stranger to exit polling misses. Gonzalez ran a national exit poll of Latino voters in 2004 that proved more correct than Edison Research’s polling for the National Election Pool, but has defended Edison against claims that they misread the Latina and Latino vote in the Nevada caucuses on the Democratic side in 2016. Last week I asked Gonzalez why exit polls are missing so badly for primaries between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. “The exit polls,” he believes, “were accurate in who actually turned out, in who tried to vote.”

Part 1: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously
Part 2: Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations
Part 3: In-depth Report on Exit Polling and Election Fraud Allegations

A woman named Chloe (whose personal information is otherwise redacted below) describes registering as a new voter more than a week before New York’s deadline with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In spite of persistent efforts, including a record of more than a dozen calls and emails stretching to page fifteen of Exhibit A in Election Justice USA (EJUSA)’s lawsuit filed in New York City, Chloe still has not been registered as a Democrat.

Chloe Redacted

Included in well over a hundred of pages of similar proofs in the Exhibits, another denied voter named Daniel provided a copy of an email sent by Debbie Wasserman Schultz to registered Democrats on April 19, the day of the New York election, encouraging them to get out and vote. Daniel’s registration was purged or switched in the 24 hours before he tried, and was denied, the right to vote.

While Gonzalez attributes much of the trouble in New York and Arizona to confusion over who was eligible to vote, CounterPunch has reviewed details and supporting evidence from databases of voters wrongly denied the right to vote in closed primary contests between Clinton and Sanders. Three databases with records of over a thousand cases show that would-be voters who followed proper procedures to register as Democrats were disenfranchised – either denied the right to vote or forced to vote provisionally or by affidavit.

For those who did vote provisionally or by affidavit, the vast majority of their votes have not counted. This includes 91,000 uncounted affidavit ballots in New York City alone and 20,000 uncounted provisional ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona. For Arizona, CounterPunch reviewed each individual record in a 151 person database collected and published by the online collective Anonymous. Details of 716 entries in a denied-voter database are summarized in Exhibit I of EJUSA’s New York City lawsuit. The third database includes records from would-be voters experiencing registration problems in a wide variety of states from California (which does not vote until June 7th) to Pennsylvania as well as more than one hundred cases, from counties throughout New York, that have not yet been incorporated into EJUSA’s lawsuits. EJUSA gave us limited access to the databases for verification purposes.

The impacts of registrations denied or switched and of voters improperly purged from voting rolls, even when they followed stated laws and procedures, goes well beyond those 100,000+ uncounted ballots, however. Thousands more voters appear to have been denied ballots altogether or simply stayed home when online State records told them they would not be allowed to have their vote counted. The only available conclusion is that forces supporting the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton were willing to use any means necessary – legal, gray, or flatly illegal – to put down the Bernie Sanders insurgency that threatened to upend Clinton’s coronation as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

CounterPunch has obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed by EJUSA in New York City and the accompanying Exhibits. Together with the databases and emerging story, they paint a picture of a Democratic machine every bit as corrupt as the Tammany bosses of the 1920’s and 1930’s who opposed Franklin Delano Roosevelt at every turn.

Exhibit I of the lawsuit includes these summary facts of the 716 entry EJUSA database:

  • 97 respondents “clearly misunderstood New York’s registration deadlines”
  • 619 respondents who did understand the deadlines represented nearly every New York County
  • 401 respondents registered from 2012-2016 and legally should not have been subject to voter roll purging
  • 303 registered during the current campaign in either 2015 or 2016 and before the relevant deadlines
  • 140 of the 619 were switched, without knowledge or consent, to no longer registered
  • 289 of the 619 had been switched, without knowledge or consent, to independent
  • 79 of the 619 had been switched, without knowledge or consent, to a different party
  • 27 of the 619 were simply unlisted at their polling site even though properly registered and active
  • Of those who reported to EJUSA after election day 75.9% were forced to vote by affidavit ballot, 10.3% were turned away by poll workers entirely without voting, 4.1% went before a judge and were granted a court order to vote regularly, 8.2% saw their registrations had been switched or purged and did not attempt to vote. 1.4% reported never receiving requested absentee ballots

According to Stewart McCauley, who helped collect the data and analyzed it by affidavit for  Exhibit I, EJUSA has found that “[t]here are four broad methodologies that were used” to disenfranchise New York voters, the first two of which were also present in Arizona. “Two by hackers (possibly), and two that had to have been carried out by BoE [Board of Elections] officials and/or employees:

  1. Logging in (most likely after identifying the voter’s candidate of choice) to the BoE database remotely and tampering with registration records, including back-dating of changes
  2. Crudely forged hand signatures to alter party affiliation via paper forms
  3. BoE “nuclear” approach: actively purging eligible voters through a variety of methods, including intentional bouncing of maintenance letters (but note that the majority of our respondents/plaintiffs could not legally be removed as it has been less than five years since they registered)
  4. BoE officials and employees actively neglecting to register new voters”

Tomorrow, I will be taking a closer look at the possibilities (or not) that election machines have been hacked and rigged. For now, McCauley’s suggestion that New York’s Board of Elections may have been hacked is bolstered by evidence presented at the end of Anonymous’ report on Arizona. On the last day for new registrations in New York, Anonymous discovered an invalid security certificate, evidence of a Man-in-the-middle attack, on the site used for online registrations.

CounterPunch‘s analysis of each entry in the Anonymous database confirms that the primary target for registrations switched without the knowledge or consent of the intended voter overwhelmingly affected supporters of Bernie Sanders. In Arizona and New York, dozens upon dozens of cases, like Chloe’s and Daniel’s, include proof from citizens that they were or should have been registered Democrats. Having reviewed mountains of evidence, we do not see any possible non-nefarious reasons for more than a very very small handful of these cases.

Yesterday, I wrote about various reasons exit polling could be so far off in various states. While Arizona did not have exit polling and other affected states seem to have had these issues on a far smaller order than New York, it is worth looking at what the outcome would be if nearly all of the 91,000 ballots in New York City were from voters who should have been allowed to vote and would have voted for Sanders. (These assumptions are hypothetical for the purpose of testing the exit poll miss only; a reliable NYC BoE precinct worker we spoke with told us that the majority of affidavit ballots cast in his precinct were by voters unaware of the registration deadlines.)

Even if all 91,000 ballots counted and were for Sanders, the exit polling in New York would still have missed by around 6%. While some of these issues affected counties surrounding New York City and beyond, they do not seem to be the only issues that caused the exit poll miss in New York. As I wrote yesterday, even to the extent that these issues explain exit polling misses in New York, they do not help us understand anything about huge ten-point plus misses in open primaries or mixed-primaries with same day registration allowed.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit around these issues in Arizona appears to have floundered by including just one plaintiff rather than hundreds, as in the New York lawsuit. I am told there are no plans as of now to appeal.

While SVERP’s Antonio Gonzalez thinks the major issue in Arizona was voter suppression “consciously, or unconsciously” by Republican state officials, he is very clear about what the remedy should be:

“In my view, the Arizona primary, the Democratic primary, the Republican primary, should be thrown out and a new election should be held.”

According to Gonzalez, “the suppression of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters” was a violation of the Voting Rights Act as it had a “disproportionate affect on Latino” voters. “Typically, Latino voters vote more heavily on election day” rather than in early or absentee balloting. Seventy percent of Latino voters in the state are in Maricopa county, according to Gonzalez, and the Democratic (and Republican) party should not seat delegates from Arizona: “Those delegates should be thrown out, the awarded delegates based on a fraudulent vote should not be allowed. Either that delegation should be disqualified in total at the party convention or you have to have a new election.”

Unless Democrats or the New York City Board of Election can provide compelling evidence contrary to Election Justice USA’s findings, New York’s delegation also should not be seated at the Democratic Convention in July.

Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders: In-depth on Exit Polling and Election Fraud Allegations (Part 3)

See my interview with Edison Research’s lead pollster Joe Lenski for background to this article if desired. Besides Mr. Lenski, for this and the articles that follow in the series, I have spoken with four additional U.S. elections and polling experts by phone or email: Professor of Political Science J. Celeste Lay of Tulane University, Professor of Political Science Amy Fried of the University of Maine, Professor of Political Science Lonna Atkeson of the University of New Mexico, and Antonio Gonzalez of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

What if early exit polling in the United States is actually quite reliable, except when it involves George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton?

Last night in West Virginia the first full exit poll projected a 19.3% Bernie Sanders win. The first full exit poll is released to CNN and others in the National Election Pool by Edison Research just as polls close for a given state. CNN posts the results within five or ten minutes of poll closing.  With 96.8% reporting this morning, Sanders is up 15.4% in West Virginia for a 3.9% difference in Hillary Clinton’s favor. Not bad. In and of itself, this would cause no concern. It is definitely within the margin of error.

Part 1: Hillary Clinton Versus Bernie Sanders: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously
Part 2: Hillary Clinton Versus Bernie Sanders: Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations

For our purposes, the 3.9% miss does raise some concern as outlined in our nine criteria in Part 1 for when a state may show moderate potential for substantial election fraud. The problem is that the majority of West Virginia jurisdictions use voting machines or tabulators more than ten years old and the exit polling miss is more than 3.5% in Clinton’s favor. Beginning with South Carolina, where the first full exit poll missed by 11.5%, 22 of 25 primaries have seen Clinton outperform her exit polling expectations. The average is a 5.1% exit poll bias in Clinton’s favor.

For the numbers I can find (nearly all of them) on the GOP side for the same states, the overall bias is virtually nil, with most results getting the margin between first and second place in each contest right within a percentage or two. In 17 of the 25 contests on the Dem side, the exit polling miss on the marginal difference was 3.5% or more; this has happened just four times on the GOP side. On the GOP side, the misses of 3.5% or more were distributed across candidates. On the Dem side, 16 of 17 were in Clinton’s favor.  For 9 of the 25 contests, the polling miss was 7.0% or greater, all in Clinton’s favor. This happened just once for Republicans (Texas).

In general, if exit polling were scientifically accurate, it would be right overall within the margin of error about nineteen times out of twenty. As Edison pollster Joe Lenski suggested, I would have liked to use Roper Center exit poll data to test the theory that, absent a race including Clinton or W., the early exit polls are generally accurate at a 95% interval. Unfortunately, these things are top secret. While dozens of universities theoretically have access to them via the Roper Center, you actually cannot just see them by making your way to the nearest university that has access. Most other polling results at the Roper Center are immediately available with subscription, but you have to get special Roper Center approval for designated-in-advance exit poll research including agreement from a top university official that you will stick strictly by the terms of your proposed research agenda.

My Roper Center special application was not approved in time for this article.

The results I can get a hold of from hunting around various places suggests this theory is generally true. Yes, exit polling missed by seven points for the Scott Walker recall (at or just over the margin of error … which you can’t know unless you have secret access!), by about ten points for the margin between Cruz and Trump in Texas, and by ten points for McCain versus Huckabee in Virginia in 2008. But these seem to be the expected exception in “nineteen out of twenty” times. They are randomized rather than all favoring one candidate. As argued above, things have been quite accurate on the Republican side this cycle, within the margin of error 24 of 25 times. Where there is deviation within the margin of error by more than 3.5% (just a handful of times), it has been randomized for which candidate it affected. Sometimes Trump. Sometimes Cruz. One time Rubio. Provided none of the margins of error are more than 8.0% (Masschusetts), Edison has missed the margin of error 36% of the time, all to Clinton’s benefit for Democratic contests.

On the one hand, you have long-time researchers like Richard Charnin who are quite certain that exit polling misses are hard and fast evidence of election fraud. Charnin’s work was the ultimate source of Tim Robbins’ initial contentious tweet after the New York Primary. Robbins removed the tweet but has since written a full-length defense of the idea in it for Huffington Post. Charnin’s work, and Robbins, has been mocked now publicly by Joshua Holland and many others. I do not agree with every move Charnin makes, but he does have multiple relevant degrees in statistics and has accurately recorded the first full exits versus final results in every instance I’ve checked. Charnin calculates margin of error using a well-accepted method, but Mr. Lenski, in my interview with him, disputed that way of figuring the margin of error for exit polls. Since I do not have secret clearance to access what Edison’s calculated margin of error is for various polls, I have decided to take 7%, or the marginal miss in the Scott Walker recall, as the barometer.

On the other hand, you have people who do not think election fraud explanations are worth entertaining. The exit polls are just bad, some will say. Others will advance any number of reasons for exit polling misses – any reason, that is, that does not include fraud. Professor Amy Fried responded to my questions along these lines with the following:

Exit polls simply are not intended for this purpose in the U.S. The questionnaires are too long and there is A LOT of selection bias in who will stop to answer all of the questions. This and the fact that the early and absentee votes have favored Clinton (due to the those voters’ age differences and the Clinton campaign’s greater competence in getting voters to vote before election day) likely account for much of the difference between exit poll results and vote totals. Plus on election day different people vote early versus late and so exit polls are adjusted over time. They are designed to give demographic detail plus more information about why people voted as they did, what issues are important and such.

Professor J. Celeste Lay agreed, pointing to youth voting and early or absentee voting as key factors that could be resulting in exit polling errors. She argued, “Most of this discussion is driven by Sanders supporters who are disappointed he is not winning and want to claim he has more support in the Democratic Party than he actually does.” She added, “Until proven otherwise, I’ll go with the numerous studies demonstrating the infinitesimal amount of voter fraud in U.S. elections.”

While Professor Lonna Atkeson was also generally skeptical of the possibility of fraud, the big misses by exit polling does give her some pause: “Exit polls are one tool we use to discover election fraud.”

If Professors Fried and Lay are right, we are left with “The Cult of Sore Losers” explanation. I will be drawing on Professor Atkeson’s work on voter perceptions of whether their vote is properly counted and perceived systemic fraud in future articles for this series. For now, my aim is to take an exhaustive look at both fraudulent and non-fraudulent possibilities rather than dismissing one or the other of them out of hand. Which possibility or possibilities best explain the known facts, not only about exit polling in general, but about why exits get some races right for Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders while getting many other races very wrong?

In short order, the non-fraudulent theories involve (1) the Bradley Effect (for why Clinton did so well versus exit polling in 2008) (2) voter enthusiasm for a particular candidate influencing who talks to exit polling workers (3) general exit polling sampling mistakes (4) missing out on early voters (5) suggestions that early exit polls are unweighted or (6) include a much smaller sample size and especially (7) oversampling of young voters and/or (8) closed primaries leading voters who have cast provisional or affidavit ballots to skew the exit polls.

Do any of these theories on their own or in combination with others help explain the misses? This is where the Alabama Test I first discussed in part one comes in. The exit poll released just as state polls were closing in Alabama on Super Tuesday turned out to be wrong by fourteen points, double the number that caused Harry Enten to write about the Wisconsin Scott Walker recall miss.

Some of these theories can be dismissed quite quickly:

The Bradley Effect (1) suggested that voters were reluctant to tell exit pollsters they had voted against the black guy in 2008. The black vote has swung precipitously to Clinton in 2016, as is well known, and Bernie doesn’t fit the model for other obvious reasons.

Voter enthusiasm for a candidate (2) would suggest Bernie Sanders supporters are more likely to talk to exit polling workers, but would suggest the same for Trump supporters. When combined with the youth theory, this theory does gain some traction, as Lenski’s answers suggest. We will take that theory more seriously under (7).

General exit polling mistakes (3), especially with respect to whether pollsters have the right voter turnout model in mind when planning where to poll, may well be a factor contest to contest, but without a specific suggestion of what they are, these mistakes should lead to misses sometimes in Clinton’s favor, sometimes in Sanders favor.

We will retain number missing out on early voters (4) for now, but note that exit polling does attempt to sample early voters. Since this is the most recurring suggestion apart from youth enthusiasm, it will be addressed further with number (7).

The idea that the first full wave of polling is unweighted (5), as my interview with Joe Lenski shows, is just a flat out myth. The polls are continually weighted throughout the day.

Additionally, Lenski told me that “[t]he exit poll results that are released around poll closing include nearly all of the voter interviews that are conducted during election day.” So much for (6) small sample size.

Lenski was most open to the suggestions of voter enthusiasm (2) or oversampling of young voters (7) skewing results somewhat. Older and less-educated voters tend to refuse more often per Edison observations over many cycles. But Edison accounts for this by taking rigorous demographic notes on all voters who refuse to participate and weights their sample size accordingly throughout the day:

“Our interviewers record the gender, approximate age and race of voters who decline to participate in the exit poll and the survey results are adjusted for the response rate by demographic groups so that the weighted results represent all voters. Typically younger voters are more likely to agree to participate in an exit poll than older voters so the percentage of older voters is typically adjusted upward to account for this non-response.”

This helps to address numbers (2), (3), and (7). Enthusiasm, youth, and general sampling errors are known and addressed by exit polling methodology. This is why, even though “Trump Overwhelming Leads Rivals in Support from Less Educated Americans,” exit polling still gets it right. Edison takes account of the fact that older and less-educated voters tend to refuse to be interviewed and adjusts accordingly. Nearly every exit polls from poll closing time has gotten Trump’s margin versus his nearest competitor right within about 1% one way or the other.

Still Nate Cohn of the New York Times’ Upshot has insisted the polls are missing because of youth and early voting misses. Since Cohn, Lenski, Professors Fried and Lay, and Antonio Gonzalez all suggest the youth of Sanders’ supporters as a strong potential cause of exit polling misses, let’s take a close look at that possibility.

This is where the Alabama Test comes in. Alabama had a low turnout for 18-29-year-olds for this cycle, just 14% according to exit polling, and no early voting. No matter how radically you adjust the age turnout, you still cannot get anything like a fourteen point swing out of the mix. (Lenski did not respond to my follow-up question on the initial numbers for 18-29-year-olds for Alabama, but that number in the half-dozen initial versus final exit polls I have numbers for has never gone up or down by more than two or three percent. And Cohn’s argument is that this bias is reflected even in the adjustments.) Oklahoma at 12% is where Edison pegged the youth vote lowest, and it is, in fact, the only place that Sanders outperformed exit poll numbers at poll closing by more than 3.5%. Age demographics, as in Alabama, skewed considerably older in Georgia and South Carolina per exit polls where Edison missed by twelve points in each instance. In North Carolina, meanwhile, there was tons of early voting and an 18% 18-29-year-old turnout. On the theories enumerated above, North Carolina should have been a really bad night for Edison’s initial full exit poll.

The Edison margin for the gap between Clinton and Sanders was right within 1.7% points at poll closing in North Carolina.

Just as voter enthusiasm (2) cannot explain why Edison gets it right for Trump but not Sanders, the age and early voting argument falls apart when applied to specific cases. Alabama should have been just fine according to Nate Cohn’s argument, as should have Georgia and South Carolina; North Carolina should have been way off. The opposite was true.

Likewise outside the South: Ohio was a bad miss for the exit polls but the youth turnout, perhaps on account of Spring Break, was projected low. In other words, it is a a nice theory Nate Cohn floats, one Joe Lenski at Edison is open to even, but it doesn’t have much to show by way of explanatory power when you put it to use. Even if the exit polls did miss by a few percentage points in terms of young voters, there is nothing like enough room to explain ten point plus misses.

What about closed primaries and provisional or affidavit ballots (8)? Are the misses worse or more likely in closed versus open primaries? (The affidavit or provisional ballot argument.) No. New York (closed) was way off, while Maryland (closed) is the most accurate result to-date with the first full initial exit poll missing by just 0.6%. Several double digit misses (Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi) were in open primary states, while Massachusetts and Ohio are partially open primaries where the initial full exit polls missed by eight and ten points respectively. I will, however, look at how this issue particularly impacted New York tomorrow. It could partly explain New York’s huge exit polling miss.

In short, none of these theories show strong explanatory power or correlation with the states where exit polling has missed against where it has gotten things right. The simplest answer is that exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate; ones that involve them are likely to be terrible.

But just because the available non-fraudulent explanations don’t seem to work, we are not automatically left to conclude that fraudulent explanations are the only way to go. Perhaps someone will come up with a new, non-fraudulent explanation that works. In the meantime, I will put fraudulent explanations to the same scrutiny in the next few articles in this series.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Election Fraud Allegations: An Interview by Email with Lead Edison Exit Pollster Joe Lenski

Joe Lenski, Vice-President Edison Research, as pictured at edisonresearch.com.

Joe Lenski, Vice-President Edison Research, as pictured at edisonresearch.com.

Joe Lenski is Executive Vice-President and lead researcher for Edison Research, the exit polling firm that provides all the data for major networks and outlets on election day in the United States. After weeks of trying and dozens of calls and emails, Mr. Lenski agreed to answer questions by email. Here are the questions and his answers, excepting number 10, without editing. I will be referring to this interview regularly in Part 3 and following of my series on Election Fraud Allegations.

 

 

 

  1. At 5pm eastern, before polls close, Edison starts releasing general information to the news outlets that make up the National Election Pool (NEP) about demographic percentages (e.g. 18-29-year-olds made up 16% of the Democratic electorate in Wisconsin) and answers to more generalized questions (e.g. Is Ted Cruz honest and trustworthy?). Then at official poll closing time, even if people are still in line to vote, Edison releases the first full wave of exit poll numbers. That first full wave generally includes well over 90% of the final sample size. In New York, for instance, the sample size released at 9pm was 1367, or more than 98% of the final sample size of 1391. Is this generally correct or am I off base on anything?

Correct.  Edison Research exit poll interviewers call in exit poll results three times during election day – once in the late morning, once in the mid-afternoon, and once shortly before the polls close in a state.  The exit poll data that is released at 5PM to the news organizations comprising the National Election Pool (NEP members are ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press) and any other news organizations subscribing to the exit poll include about two-thirds of the interviews that will be conducted on an election day.  The exit poll results that are released around poll closing include nearly all of the voter interviews that are conducted during election day.

  1. After the first full wave of polling, a second and even third wave of polling begins using results released by the particular state to help Edison get the demographic sampling and vote percentages correctly. In New York, for instance, the first wave of full exit polling said Clinton won with Latino voters by eighteen percent, around 7 pm it had been 16%, but the final poll has Clinton winning the Latino vote by 28% even though the sample size grew by just 24 respondents. Is this generally correct, or am I off base on anything, and if so, could you explain what factors allow you to do this mathematically?

During election day before the poll close the exit poll data is weighted to adjust for respondent non-response by demographic groups.  Our interviewers record the gender, approximate age and race of voters who decline to participate in the exit poll and the survey results are adjusted for the response rate by demographic groups so that the weighted results represent all voters.  Typically younger voters are more likely to agree to participate in an exit poll than older voters so the percentage of older voters is typically adjusted upward to account for this non-response.  The overall response rate in most election exit polls is between 40 and 50 percent of voters who are approached.  In addition after the polls close in a state we compare our exit poll results in each precinct with the actual precinct returns and also with the vote totals for each county in the state.  This allows us to adjust the exit poll results so that they match the distribution of votes actually cast by geographic region in each state.

  1. So far for 2016, Edison has entrance polled caucuses in two states (Iowa and Nevada) and exit polled primaries in twenty-three states. Is this correct?

Including the Indiana primary on May 3rd Edison has conducted entrance polls in Iowa and Nevada this year as well as 24 state primaries.  We will also be conducting exit polls in West Virginia and Nebraska on May 10th.

[Note: I had sent these questions by email initially to Lenski before the Indiana primary and did not update the wording for this question before I sent them again after Indiana.]

  1. On the Democratic side, I have numbers for the first full wave of polling for twenty-two of the twenty-three primaries. In nineteen of those twenty-two primaries, Hillary Clinton wound up doing better, often much much better, in the final results versus what the first full wave of exit polling projected. Does this sound right?

Exit poll estimates are constantly changing during the day and evening.  I would not be able to answer exactly without knowing what time the estimates you are looking at were calculated.  There are time of day effects on the exit poll.  Older voters tend to be more likely to vote in the middle of the day.  Working voters tend to either vote early before work or later after work.

  1. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2012 which addressed what seemed to many of FiveThirtyEight’s readers like surprising differences between exit polling and final results. Enten was working with numbers from 2004’s general election and a state election in Wisconsin in 2012 with differences between exit polling and final results of around 5 percentage points, seven points at the top most. That would be just at the edge of the Margin of Error, slightly over in the case of Wisconsin; Enten explained why this is possible and not indicative of fraud. In fact, however, 2016 Democratic contests have seen Edison’s first full wave miss outside the margin of error in nine of the twenty-three primaries I have numbers for, all of them in Clinton’s favor and all by between eight and fourteen points. Are these calculations correct, and if so, can you comment on why that is possible?

The calculation of margin of error for an exit poll is more complicated than a simple calculation of margin of error based upon the sample size.  Exit polls have two stages of sampling – first stage is the selection of a sample of poll locations typically between 15 and 50 locations in a state; second stage is the random selection of voters within each polling location.  This two stage sampling procedure introduces a Design Effect (sometimes referred to in the literature as DEFF) that increases the overall sampling error.  Also there are many other contributions to total error in any survey.  As I mentioned before approximately 40 to 50 percent of respondents participate in the exit poll.  If the group of voters who refuse to respond to an exit poll differ from those who do participate in the exit poll that would introduce a source of error that is impossible to calculate based upon the information that we have before the polls close.  From our interviewer observations we know that older voters are more likely to refuse to participate in an exit poll.  There is also evidence that higher educated voters are more likely to participate in an exit poll.  Voters may have other reasons for declining to participate in exit polls – they may not have brought their reading glasses, they may not like any of the news organizations who sponsor the exit poll and whose logos appear on the questionnaire, etc.  All of these factors contribute to a total error for the exit poll survey that is much larger than a standard calculation of sampling error based upon the total number of interviews.

I now want to get your comment on some explanations that people, including you, have floated for the exit poll discrepancy level. One suggests fraud or other forms of officially miscounted ballots, several do not.

  1. The substantive explanation you’ve been giving for why these exit polls cannot indicate fraud while exit polls in what you call “emerging democracies” might is that the longer form of your questionnaire versus a simple “who did you vote for?” may lead to over and undersampling of various demographics. Bernie Sanders’ best demographic, however, is 18-29-year-olds. Given the general perception of 18-29-year-old attention spans, wouldn’t this explanation actually suggest that you might oversample older Clinton supporters rather than under-sampling them?

I don’t see how your assumption about the attention spans of 18 to 29 year olds has any influence here.  We know from our interviewer observations that younger voters are more likely to fill out an exit poll questionnaire than older voters.

  1. Another theory, one that might explain some level of discrepancy is that Bernie Sanders’ supporters, sometimes pejoratively called Bernie Bros, are so enthusiastic that they just can’t wait to tell everyone, including Edison pollsters, about their hero. Do Edison polling practices account for this possibility or could this explain why Edison is consistently oversampling Sanders voters?

The “enthusiasm” of a candidate’s voters may indeed have influence on who chooses to fill out an exit poll questionnaire and who chooses not to.  We do have some evidence from questions that we have asked during this primary season that Sanders voters are more excited about their candidate than Clinton voters.  It would make sense to hypothesize then that Sanders voters would be more likely to choose to fill out an exit poll questionnaire than Clinton voters.  However, I have no hard evidence to prove or disprove that hypothesis.

  1. Nate Cohn of the New York Times’ Upshot suggests that several cycles worth of data proves that exit polls overestimate young people’s turnout and that that, combined with early voting, is skewing results toward Sanders in Exit Polls. Could you comment on those factors?

There is a pattern that the exit polls show more younger voters than surveys of voters using other survey methods especially telephone surveys of voters.  It may be that even our adjustments of age demographics based upon our observations of non-response by age do not completely correct for this effect.  It may be that telephone surveys of voters are more likely to contact older people.  My guess is that the correct answer is somewhere in between but I have no hard evidence for that.

  1. Finally, in terms of non-fraudulent explanations, in New York City, where your first wave of exit polling missed the final spread by sixteen percentage points, there were over 121,000 affidavit or provisional ballots cast. This equals 12% of all New York City ballots. Could this account for all of the problems in New York and does Edison ask people whether they voted provisionally or not?

The exit poll did not ask voters if they had voted by provisional ballot.  I will not know how much effect that had on our estimates until I see the certified vote returns from the New York Board of Elections.

 [Question 10 and its answer is being withheld until the final article for this series]

  1. It seems like a tougher field on the GOP side with so many candidates, including not one but two anti-establishment candidacies. In Georgia, for instance, where the first wave missed on the Democratic side by 12.2%, it nailed the GOP race with deadly accuracy: 40% Trump (versus a 38.8% finish), 24% Cruz (versus a 24.4% finish) and 23% Rubio (versus a 23.6% finish). It looks like you’ve missed the margin of error just once for Republicans. In Texas you had an ~10.6% error on the gap between Cruz and Trump. This makes sense. We often hear the margin of error is +/-x.x 19 times out of twenty. In this case, Edison has gotten it right on the GOP side within the margin of error 20 times out of 21 (for the figures I can find). On the Dem side, you’ve gotten it right within the margin of error just 13 times out of 22. Is this information correct and if so, why has Edison polling been so much more accurate on the Republican side this cycle?

As I mentioned above the calculation of total error for an exit poll survey differs from the standard sampling margin of error calculation that I assume that you are using so I wouldn’t agree with your statement about how many of the exit poll surveys were within the margin of error.  However, if a differential non-response among younger voters is a cause for exit poll errors it would make sense that the errors would be larger on the Democratic side because the differences in vote between younger and older voters on the Democratic side in this primary season are much larger than on the Republican side.  Bernie Sanders has been typically receiving 70+% of the vote among 17-29 year olds in the 2016 primaries while Hillary Clinton has been receiving 70+% of the vote among voters 65+.  On the Republican side the Trump percentage among younger and older voters tends to only differ by ten points or less.  It would then make sense that if the exit poll were overstating the number of younger voters it would have much more effect on the Democratic side.

Three final questions:

  1. Given the level of scrutiny after New York, has Edison or will Edison be changing any of its polling practices for the final states you will be exit polling?

After each election Edison Research analyzes the exit poll results.  We are constantly evaluating all of the exit poll procedures to make sure that we have the most accurate exit poll survey results possible.

  1. Would you be willing to share the data with me that was released to NEP for the first wave of polling from 2016 Democratic and Republican contests. If not, could I at least have the topline from the first full wave for gender for the New Hampshire Democratic contest (that’s the one I’m missing)?

All exit poll data is archived at the Roper Center for Public Opinion research.  Any member of the Roper Center can analyze archived exit poll data.

  1. I very much appreciate your willingness to give me some of your time and to go on the record for these issues. Do you have anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered here?

Good luck.

Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders: Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations (Part 2)

Partly because this is a story with a beginning, middle, and end and partly also for more strictly logical reasons, it is helpful to begin where all things begin in U.S. Presidential primary season: Iowa. Bernie Sanders supporters paying close attention may actually have raised an eyebrow that Part 1 put Iowa in the “low to no” chance of substantial fraud category. After all, no less of an outlet than the Des Moines Register penned a tartly worded editorial about the February 1 caucus entitled “Something Smells in the Democratic Party.” Things would be tremendously better if New York’s flagship newspaper were to follow the Register’s lead in taking, at the very least, the horrendous optics of what happened in their state’s Democratic primary with anything resembling even mild disapproval.

Part 1: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously

Iowa
For now, the point is to follow where the criteria set out yesterday lead. Yes, I have seen evidence for sharp-elbowed fouls in Iowa with referees in the Democratic Party there first turning a blind-eye, then refusing to exercise authority for a proper review when called upon to do so. Again, these seem to be shenanigans that happen in nearly every election. Does dirty play on the court seem to have taken cues from the very top in this case? Yes. The Clinton clan is willing to play whatever way it takes to win. In this case, does it seem to have affected the outcome? There was just a 0.2% difference, so quite possibly yes as noted by the Register. But this was not a winner take all contest. At the very most, so far as I can tell, we are talking about a delegate shift from Sanders to Clinton, maybe two. I am open to being wrong and agree, in any event, with the Register’s call for Democratic caucuses to be at least as fair and transparent as the GOP Iowa caucuses.

But looking at our criteria or factors that may indicate election fraud, there isn’t just a question of substantial-ness. Bernie actually outperformed his expectations from the initial entrance polling by around 6% and by 3% from the pre-election polling. There are mutual allegations of “cheating” coming out of the Polk County convention. You can read an exhaustive blow by blow of it here from a local blogger who has Bernie sympathies but strives to be fair to all. At the end of the day, it seems to me like Americans passionate about politics going a bit overboard.

Nevada
Same goes for Nevada at County level caucuses especially in Clark County, where by the way, the Sanders campaign managed to gain two delegates according to the Ralston Report. In some cases this may be one side or another taking rough shots in the key were the ref has a bad angle. By another token, this is simply one side or the other out-hustling or out-organizing the other. This happens all the time in caucus politics. It may be highly unfortunate, but it comes with the territory.

Where Sanders jumped 6% versus entrance polling in Iowa, in Nevada Sanders was down 8% versus entrance polling. I corresponded with Professor Celeste Montoya for a Super Tuesday piece I never ended up publishing. Montoya researches and writes, among other things, on Latino Gender and Immigration Politics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As she noted then, entrance polls are “less precise than exit polls.”  Figuring out the margin of error is quite a bit different for an entrance poll versus an exit poll for a few reasons. Not only do those entering caucuses still have a chance to change their mind, but the process itself actually encourages people to do so. The fact that Sanders was up 6% in Iowa and Clinton was up 8% in Nevada shows that, overall, the entrance poll accuracy level was basically right. It missed in one direction one time and the other the next. Averaged together, they missed by just one percent in Clinton’s favor.

Not a big deal.

Team Clinton threw some sharp elbows and had a home team ref in Iowa and picked up a national delegate, maybe two. After Harry Reid put his thumb on the scales in Nevada, Team Sanders overcame more sharp elbows at county-level caucuses, out-hustled Team Clinton and almost certainly picked up two delegates.

Additionally, I’ve looked at the best evidence I can in two other states and want to downgrade each a category for now. Again, I am open to further evidence and argumentation.

Wyoming
Wyoming was in the “moderate” category in Part 1 because the caucus process there led to calls of fraud with some rebuttal given. While there were no pre-election polls or entrance or exit polling, Clinton did significantly outperform not only what my model expected, but also what Nate Silver thought maximally possible (a +57% Sanders spread) given that it was a caucus, demographics, and results from surrounding states. Having two factors from numbers four through nine on the list from Part 1 means it’s worth looking into a bit.

Once you do look into Wyoming, however, it seems like a case of over-eager Sanders partisans calling fraud when the Sanders campaign was just out-organized. You can read accounts here, especially in this comment, from people who think there was some sort of fraud and here for a more clear-eyed view of how results came down. Basically, Team Clinton sent out a mailer purportedly from Bill Clinton which made it really easy for people to cast surrogate ballots instead of showing up at the actual caucuses. While Bernie won handily with those who showed up on caucus day, Clinton won the surrogate vote about 2-1, especially in the big counties, and wound up with a tie in delegates. I see no reason to call this cheating or fraud. Again, we are talking about one delegate switching hands, three at tops, for a maximum of a six delegate closing of the gap.

Delaware
Phillip Bump at the Washington Post has been among the worst of the worst anti-Bernie Sanders dolts in the corporate media during the primaries. He famously wrote the article “Bernie Sanders keeps saying his average donation is $27, but his own numbers contradict that.” The article includes a section  “4. $27 Isn’t Really Accurate” under which Bump calculated that it was actually “$27.88 — or $28 on average.”

Delaware "Fraud"

Bump was among the first to mock actor Tim Robbins for pointing to exit polling as indicative of fraud, but of course did not actually look into why exit polls being off might be a problem. In another tendentiously titled piece, “The conspiracy theory-du-jour: Did The Washington Post steal Delaware votes from Bernie Sanders?,” Bump bravely tackles this set of screengrabs that made the rounds of those calling Democratic primary election fraud.

As the old saying goes, a broken clock is right twice a day. When I saw those screengrabs making the rounds, I figured it was a computational error that had been fixed. It’s not impossible that Sanders could win voters 6:1 in a county that is 13% African American and in a state whose main claim to fame is hosting the putative corporate headquarters of every business that wants to avoid state income taxes elsewhere. But it didn’t seem likely. And that is what the Associated Press told Bump had happened: fat fingers, corrected. I see no good reason to believe otherwise. It just doesn’t make sense, anyway, for people sophisticated enough to be able to manipulate voting machine outcomes in multiple states to be so clumsy at to show their work on voting night with millions of eyeballs glued to results.

****

If what is being complained about in Nevada, Iowa, Delaware, and Wyoming were the whole of Sandernista’s complaints about election fraud, I would be kind of okay with “The Cult of Sore Losers” label. It would sting, but ring true. At the very very best, we are talking about a dozen or so in terms of pledged delegate swing. Fighting tooth and nail for these would make sense if Sanders were down by something a bit closer than twenty-three dozen pledged delegates.

In Part 3, tomorrow, I will look very closely at the debate over exit polling having interviewed the lead pollster for Edison and the National Election Pool, several professors, and another expert with nationally relevant exit polling experience. These issues, if they are indicative of fraud, have a much much larger impact.

The Des Moines Register is right: “the Democratic caucuses [in Iowa were] a debacle, period.” But for these four states as a whole, it’s time to move on. Stop whining about a charlie horse from getting an errant knee with no foul call when elsewhere there are concerns with little men in the scoreboard, a rim two sizes too small, and referees taking gobs of cash.

Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders: Taking Election Fraud Allegations Seriously (Part 1)

Joshua Holland’s editor at The Nation apparently did not think much of his work to debunk election fraud allegations in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Instead, Holland put the half-baked column out at Raw Story after giving a softball interview, replete with a textbook example of circular reasoning, to the sole exit pollster for this election cycle. As with his since debunked debunking of a federally coordinated crackdown on the Occupy movement, Holland afterward went on his merry mocking way. Here, even though he acknowledged that he’d been alerted by dozens, if not hundreds of people, that a citizens group gave sworn testimony to irregularities in Chicago’s audit of electronically cast ballots between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Holland did not bother with so much as a phone call to Chicago’s Board of Elections to ask about those allegations.

Where conspiracy theories can be nipped in the bud, they should be. But bad reporting helps no one. Maniacal people have viciously attacked the survivors of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in part because unscrupulous media initially reported multiple shooters then did nothing to follow-up with the very simple explanation for why they got things wrong.

CounterPunch has a history, even if I do not personally agree in every case, of rejecting big United States conspiracy theories from those surrounding John F. Kennedy’s assassination to 9/11 trutherism. I have spent weeks investigating election fraud claims including interviewing multiple exit pollsters, veteran hackers, academic experts on United States elections, and elections officials and workers in multiple states. These include the Edison exit pollster interviewed by Holland along with a spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections. Over the course of several articles, I will be attempting to debunk election fraud allegations where they can be, or, alternatively, to provide the best explanations for why things seem amiss in so many different primaries and caucuses in the race between Clinton and Sanders.

I began with a set of factors to help determine which states required most attention for investigation:

1-Candidate Beats the First Full Wave of Exit Polls by 7.0% or more + 1 Other Factor
2-Evidence Suggesting Substantial Election Fraud Without Significant Rebuttal
3-3 or more of Factors 4-9 Below
4-Candidate Outperforms First Full Wave of Exit Polls by between 3.5% and 7.0%
5-Actual Evidence of Substantial Election Fraud With Some Rebuttal
6-Actual Evidence of Some Election Fraud Without Significant Rebuttal
7-Substantial Areas of State Use Voting or Tabulation Machines Proven to be Hackable or to Miscount
8-Candidate Strongly Outpolls Pre-Election Polls with No Obvious Explanation
9-State Uses All or Majority Voting or Tabulation Machines Greater Than 10 Years Old

Any one of the factors in numbers one through three means a particular state requires significant attention to explain what went wrong, though, for instance, a single good explanation for why exit polling is so bad would knock out most cases.

I will be saying more about the various factors over the course of the series. For now, the first factor, one that has drawn a decent amount of attention in some spheres already, is comparison to exit polls. I’ve already noted that when countries with governments the United States does not like hold elections, exit polling is taken as fairly authoritative in establishing the possibility of election fraud.

But the polling is different in the United States!” runs a certain logic.

Simply making this assertion without backing it up with data and sound argumentation does not work. I will be looking at those exit polling differences, where they matter, and at exit polling for primaries as a whole in Part 3. For now, I will grant that, in and of themselves, exit polls cannot make the entire case. After all, when exit polls sponsored by the United States government missed badly in Venezuela, the Carter Center negotiated a rigorous audit that would not be possible in many U.S. locations because of poor election machine design. The Carter Center then observed the details of the paper audit from beginning to end. The previous results were confirmed.

But that does not mean exit poll differences can be ignored altogether. When the recall election for Scott Walker in Wisconsin showed a 7% deviation from exit polling, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten addressed what seemed like a outrageous difference, only to argue that it was not so outrageous. Part 3 will address arguments like Enten’s, his colleague Nate Silver’s “Ten Reason’s Why You Should Ignore Exit Polls,” and similar suggestions that exit polling in the U.S. is just bad and we should accept it without question. In short, none of them weigh the evidence for and against manipulation of electronic voting machines a vote tabulators seriously.

Exit polling has been far more accurate on the GOP side, even with multiple candidates, including multiple anti-establishment candidates. There has been just one miss outside the expected margin of error, so far as I can tell, perfectly in keeping with what one expects in terms of scientific polling’s accepted accuracy interval of nineteen times out of twenty. Even where things have been closer to the margin of error, they have not all favored one candidate, least of all the GOP winner. Donald Trump has overperformed near the margin of error, or by more than 3.5%, just one time. Ted Cruz has overperformed four times, once outside the margin of error (Texas), and Marco Rubio underperformed significantly once. Clinton, meanwhile, has overperformed by at least 3.5% sixteen times, nine of those times outside the margin of error. Sanders beat a 3.5% margin versus exit poll expectations just once (Oklahoma), and it was within the margin of error.

Using the criteria above, I initially grouped the states into three categories. Having one factor of numbers four through nine is not enough to move a state into the “moderate” category. Some of the states, as we will note particularly tomorrow in “Debunking Some Election Fraud Allegations (Part 2),” can quickly be downgraded with a little research and reasoning. Others require far greater scrutiny to figure out what has happened. (The word “substantial” matters. I am not concerned in this series with the electioneering hi-jinks reported in every election ever from dogcatcher to the highest offices in the land. Bill Clinton’s election day antics have irritated people and are the subject of a lawsuit, but they are not likely responsible for even one delegate of Sanders’ current 275 pledged delegate deficit. As I’ve written previously, if exit polling had been reasonably accurate, the gap between Clinton and Sanders would likely be well over a hundred delegates closer.):

Strong Potential Indicators of Substantial Election Fraud for Sanders Versus Clinton (12)
South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, New York, Delaware

Moderate Potential Indicators of Substantial Election Fraud for Sanders Versus Clinton (8)
Virginia, Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wyoming, Indiana

Little to No Potential Indicators of Substantial Election Fraud for Sanders Versus Clinton (21)
Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Maryland, Vermont, Minnesota, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, Iowa, Nevada, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nebraska, Maine, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington

Danger Zone for Upcoming States:
California, New Jersey

Tomorrow’s piece will begin with a look at accusations of fraud for states like Wyoming, Delaware, and Iowa. As the week wears on, we will turn attention to more acute suggestions of fraud. Throughout, I will return to what I call the Alabama Test. I will be taking very seriously the best explanations for why, what people are perceiving as indicators of fraud, may actually not show fraud. But then we will apply the Alabama Test. Could a particular explanation help tell us why the first full wave of exit polling in Alabama missed the eventual outcome by fourteen points?

While Alabama may seem like an unusual place for a test case – Bernie Sanders didn’t even compete there – the proportional nature of Democrats delegate allocation means it matters. What’s more, various characteristics of Alabama’s election and exit polling put particular stressors on various explanations, fraudulent and non-fraudulent, for why exit polling missed there worse than any other place so far. Not all of the allegations of fraud involve exit polling, of course. Part 4, as planned, will look more in depth at the question of switched registrations, especially in Arizona and New York.

My commitment is, as ever, to follow the best evidence wherever it might lead, whether to fraudulent, non-fraudulent, or inconclusive conclusions.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of times Clinton has outperformed the first full exit poll by at least 3.5%. The correct number is sixteen rather than nineteen. I apologize for the misstatement.

NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification

New York City’s Board of Elections (BOE) was expected to certify results of the primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at 3:30pm Thursday. Instead, around 5:30pm BOE Director Michael Ryan officially announced the suspension-without-pay of a second high-ranking Board employee from Brooklyn and delayed certification of the results at least until 1:30pm on Friday, according to reporting from Gothamist journalist Nathan Tempey.

Developments over the course of the day Thursday were a bit tangled. On Wednesday, the BOE signaled that it would go ahead with certification Thursday afternoon even before listening to angry outbursts from dozens of residents denied the right to vote. Around ninety minutes before the results were to be certified, Election Justice USA reported that certification was to go ahead as planned even though a second Brooklyn BOE official, Betty Ann Canizio, was to be fired (the later announcement from the BOE said suspended). Forty minutes later, Election Justice posted an interview with their lawyer Jonathan Clarke over at The Young Turks with the following details:

Election Justice served legal documents to the NYC BOE along with the Boards for Nassau and Suffolk County (Long Island) seeking a restraining order to delay certification of results until the mess created by, among other things, a purge of 123,000 voters from Brooklyn’s Democratic rolls could be sorted out. Election Justice had previously sued on behalf of 200 voters from Brooklyn and beyond who said their voter registrations had been surreptitiously switched from Democrat to something else without their consent. Election Justice temporarily backed down from its restraining order request after the BOE quickly called Election Justice and said that it was attempting to meet the demands of the lawsuit by individually deciding whether to count each affidavit ballot cast by voters who were told that their names were not on New York City voter rolls. The Board promised to look at the voter registration change history of every voter forced to vote by affidavit.

It is unclear how long this might take as the New York Daily News has reported that there were more than 121,000 affidavit ballots, around 12% of all ballots cast in New York City on the Democratic side.

A prominent New York Times column suggests that those grousing about potential election fraud are part of a “Cult of Sore Losers.” Meanwhile, the Times reporting on the suspension of two Board of Elections officials has been minimal at best. The Times initially loaded a perfunctory 273 word article on the suspension of the first official, Diane Haslett-Rudiano, then buried a longer article on page A-16 under a headline which began with the word “Routine.” Both articles insisted that no voter disenfranchisement had occurred. As of 10:30am Friday, the Times had yet to report on the dismissal of Canizio or the delayed results.

The Daily News, New York Post, NPR, NY1/Time Warner, Gothamist, and The Villager all have related articles. NBC’s article on Canizio’s firing focuses on the “racially disparate impact” New York City’s voter suppression exhibits, particularly for Asian Americans. Perhaps the Times will eventually run with the brief Associated Press piece on the matter since it is a thing of such minor note in their home city.

It’s easy to mock people as sore losers, apparently, when your paper looks the other way at multiple heads rolling amidst allegations and lawsuits related to serious voter fraud.

The Times’ outgoing public editor Margaret Sullivan has already dinged the paper at least twice for election coverage heavily biased toward Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

At this point, we will have ample opportunity to see if New York City’s Board of Elections Chief Enforcement Officer Risa Sugarman is the fiercely independent watchdog she has claimed to be after recommending criminal charges around the financing of Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s most recent campaign or whether, as suggested, she’s another part of the Democratic machine with loyalties primarily to Governor Cuomo.

The allegations of fraudulently switched voter registrations, almost exclusively affecting Bernie Sanders’ supporters, echo similar claims from other states, especially Arizona. At this point, it seems unlikely that any level of evidence could cause major outlets to take claims of election fraud in the Democratic primaries seriously.

CounterPunch, meanwhile, has been speaking with voting officials in multiple states, veteran hackers, academic election experts, and exit pollsters. We will begin a full-fledged series on claims of Democratic election fraud, some of which may be debunked, early next week.