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The odds are 662,000 to 1
Despite what you may have heard, the exit polls were right
by Steve Freeman and Josh Mitteldorf,
In These Times

Feb. 15, 2005

Recall the Election Day exit polls that suggested John Kerry had won a convincing victory? The media readily dismissed those polls and little has been heard about them since.

Many Americans, however, were suspicious. Although President Bush prevailed by 3 million votes in the official, tallied vote count, exit polls had projected a margin of victory of 5 million votes for Kerry. This unexplained 8 million vote discrepancy between the election night exit polls and the official count should raise a Chinese May Day of red flags.

The U.S. voting system is more vulnerable to manipulation than most Americans realize. Technologies such as electronic voting machines provide no confirmation that votes are counted as cast, and highly partisan election officials have the power to suppress votes and otherwise distort the count.

Exit polls are highly accurate. They remove most of the sources of potential polling error by identifying actual voters and asking them immediately afterward who they had voted for.

The reliability of exit polls is so generally accepted that the Bush administration helped pay for them during recent elections in Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine. Testifying before the House Committee on International Relations Dec. 7, John Tefft, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, explained that the Bush administration funded exit polls because they were one of the "ways that would help to expose large-scale fraud." Tefft pointed to the discrepancy between exit polls and the official vote count to argue that the Nov. 22 Ukraine election was stolen.

Last November in the United States, as in Ukraine, the discrepancy between the presidential exit polls and the tallied count was far beyond the margin for error. At the time, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies hired to do the polling for the National Election Pool (a consortium of the nation's five major broadcasters and the Associated Press), didn't provide an explanation for how this happened. They promised, however, that a full explanation would be forthcoming.

On Jan. 19, on the eve of the inauguration, Edison and Mitofsky released their report, "Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004," which generated headlines such as MSNBC's "Exit Polls Prove That Bush Won." But, the report does nothing of the sort. It restates a thesis that the pollsters previously intimated -- that the discrepancy was "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters." But the body of the report offers no data to substantiate this position. In fact, data presented in the report serve to rebut the thesis, and bolster suspicions that the official vote count was way, way off.

The report states that the difference between exit polls and official tallies was far too great to be explained by chance ("sampling error"), and that a systematic bias is implicated.

With that statement the pollsters confirm the discrepancy we initially documented. The exit polls were based on more than 70,000 confidential questionnaires completed by randomly selected voters as they exited the polling place. The overall margin of error should have been under 1 percent. But the official result deviated from the poll projections by more than 5 percent -- a statistical impossibility.

The pollsters report that the precincts were appropriately chosen for sampling, in that the aggregated official results from the sampled precincts accurately reflected the official statewide ballot counts.

In saying this, Mitofsky and Edison vindicate a key piece of their methodology -- the representativeness of their samples. If the fault indeed lies with the exit polls, the range of possibilities for error is therefore narrowed.

Finally, they report that the source of error is, in fact, within-precinct error (WPE), the difference between official precinct tallies and the exit poll samples from those same precincts. On average, across the country, the President did 6.5 percent better in the official vote count, relative to Kerry, than the exit polls projected.

This admission further narrows the range of possibilities. If the polling data are accurate, the only remaining possibilities are "non-response bias" (i.e., Bush voters disproportionately did not participate in the exit polls) and/or errors in the official tally.

However, having gotten to this point in their argument, Mitofsky and Edison summarily dismiss the possibility that the official count was wrong. They reject the election fraud hypothesis because, they say, "precincts with touch screen and optical voting have essentially the same error rates as those using punch-card systems."

Indeed, they do. But this fact merely suggests that all three of these systems may have been corrupted. Indeed, there is little question about problems associated with both punch card systems (recall the Florida debacle in 2000) and mechanical voting machines, which are generally unreliable, vulnerable to tinkering and leave no paper trail. That's why both systems have been slated for termination under the Helping America Vote Act of 2002.

Notably, Mitofsky and Edison unsucessfully try to explain away the fact that, according to their data, only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error.

Further, data that are underplayed in the report provide support for the hypothesis that the election was stolen.

First, the report acknowledges that the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count was considerably greater in the critical swing states. And while that fact is consistent with allegations of fraud (if you are going to steal an election you go after votes most vigorously where they are most needed), Mitofsky and Edison suggest, without providing any data or theory to back up their claim, that this discrepancy is somehow related to media coverage.

Second, in light of the charges that the 2000 election was not legitimate, the Bush/ Cheney campaign would have wanted to prevail in the popular vote. If fraud was afoot, it would make sense that the president's men would steal votes in their strongholds, where the likelihood of detection is small. Lo and behold, the report provides data that strongly bolster this theory. In those precincts that went at least 80 percent for Bush, the average within-precinct-error (WPE) was a whopping 10.0 -- the numerical difference between the exit poll predictions and the official count. That means that in Bush strongholds, Kerry, on average, received only about two-thirds of the votes that exit polls predicted. In contrast, in Kerry strongholds, exit polls matched the official count almost exactly (an average WPE of 0.3).

Other report data undermine the argument that Kerry voters were more likely to complete the exit poll interview than Bush voters. If this were the case, then one would expect that in precincts where Kerry voters predominated, the cooperation rate would be higher than in pro-Bush precincts. But in fact, the data suggest that Bush voters were slightly more likely to complete the survey: 56 percent of voters completed the survey in the Bush strongholds, while 53 percent cooperated in Kerry strongholds.

The exit polls themselves are a strong indicator of a corrupted election. Moreover, the exit poll discrepancy must be interpreted in the context of more than 100,000 officially logged reports of irregularities during Election Day 2004. For many Americans, if not most, mass-scale fraud in a U.S. presidential election is an unthinkable possibility. But taken together, the allegations, the subsequently documented irregularities, systematic vulnerabilities, and implausible numbers suggest a coherent story of fraud and deceit.

What's more, the exit poll disparity doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't count those voters who were disenfranchised before they even got to the polls. The voting machine shortages in Democratic districts, the fraudulent felony purges of voter rolls, the barriers to registration, and the unmailed, lost, or cavalierly rejected absentee ballots all represent distortions to the vote count above and beyond what is measured by the exit poll disparity. The exit polls, by design, sample only those voters who have already overcome these hurdles.

The thesis of the Mitofsky/Edison exit poll report and the headlines that it generated are curiously detached from the numbers in the report itself. Statisticians who have studied the exit polls find substantial evidence to support the thesis that the vote counts -- not the exit polls -- were inaccurate.

Apparently, the pollsters at Mitofsky and Edison have found it more expedient to provide an explanation unsupported by theory, data or precedent than to impugn the machinery of American democracy. Unfortunately, their patrons in the media find it correspondingly preferable to latch onto a non-confrontational thesis, however implausible, than to even suggest the possibility of foul play.

As originally published
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There's much more than this at Unknown News.

There were, Joiner says, too many things that occurred on Nov. 2 that "still don't smell right."

He can't just pretend everything is rosy, he says, when he reads that Steven Freeman, a respected University of Pennsylvania professor, says the odds of the exit polls in the critical states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania all being so far off were about 662,000 to 1.

Voting glitches haunt statistician

by Rob Zaleski, The Capital Times [Madison, WI]

March 4, 2005

Brian Joiner wishes he could "just get over it."

He wishes he could ignore the thousands of reported voting irregularities that occurred in the Nov. 2 election, accept the fact that George W. is going to be around another four years and just hope that we haven't created even more enemies or fallen even deeper into debt by the time 2008 rolls around.

"I'm sure the Republicans would like me to forget all that stuff, just like they wanted everyone to forget all the strange things that happened in the 2000 election," the retired 67-year-old UW-Madison statistics professor said this week.

Well, sorry guys, but he can't.

There were, Joiner says, too many things that occurred on Nov. 2 that "still don't smell right." He can't just pretend everything is rosy, he says, when he reads that Steven Freeman, a respected University of Pennsylvania professor, says the odds of the exit polls in the critical states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania all being so far off were about 662,000 to 1.

And since no one in the mainstream media has yet to provide a plausible explanation for such discrepancies -- "investigative reporting essentially is just dead in this country," he groans -- Joiner and many of his colleagues are going to continue to speak out and demand that government leaders provide some answers.

So that, at the very least, we don't find ourselves in the same situation in 2008.

But if the irregularities are as suspicious and troubling as he claims, why aren't John Kerry and other top Democrats making similar demands?

"Boy, I wish I knew," says Joiner, who was a volunteer observer for the Ohio recount in early December. Because you can sure as heck bet that Republicans would be screaming and demanding an investigation if Kerry had won under similar circumstances, he says.

"I think the Democrats read the tea leaves and think that people don't want to make a big fuss over this stuff. They'd just rather be quitters and move on."

Joiner knows full well some people will roll their eyes while reading this and dismiss him as yet another shoot-from-the-hip conspiracy nut.

Not quite.

In fact, he's among a group of prominent statisticians and academicians who contributed to a recent study that refutes a report by exit pollsters Edison and Mitofsky that exit poll errors on Nov. 2 were responsible for the unprecedented 5.5 percent discrepancy between the exit polls and the official results.

The study, done on behalf of US Count Votes, a volunteer scientific research project, not only disagrees with the Edison/Mitofsky findings but concludes that "the possibility that the overall vote was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously" and urges a thorough investigation.

Does Joiner personally believe the election was stolen?

"I don't know, that's a very tough question," he says. "But it's not clear to me that it wasn't, so it's a question of where the burden of proof is."

At the same time, Joiner says, he does believe the country's making a big mistake by relying so heavily on electronic voting machines.

"It's just too easy to hack those machines," he says. "And if they are hacked, how would we ever know?"

Joiner, incidentally, isn't the least bit surprised that the study -- which was released Jan. 28 -- has been virtually ignored by the media. Neither is Bruce O'Dell, vice president of US Count Votes.

"I think the mainstream media -- like most Americans brought up to be proud of our Democratic traditions -- simply assume that elections are honestly counted in the United States," O'Dell says. "They discount anecdotal reports of election irregularities and refuse to believe that systematic corruption could occur -- even though serious, systematic vulnerabilities both in voting equipment and in counting procedures have been well-documented."

He notes that when reports of widespread voting problems occurred in Ukraine last year, both local and international observers quickly concluded the election had been stolen.

"But when precisely the same scenario occurred here, not only were mainstream journalists not alarmed, they quickly labeled those who questioned the results as conspiracy theorists."

O'Dell says US Count Votes wants to develop "a single database of nation-wide precinct-level election results, along with matching U.S. Census demographic information and the type of voting equipment in use."

Its ultimate goal "is to be able to gather and analyze data as it comes in on election night, and to spot vote counting problems in time for candidates to request an investigation or recount -- before they concede."

And it hopes to have such a system in place by 2006.

Kjell Doksum, another UW-Madison statistician, says that if US Count Votes accomplishes just one thing, it's that there's a "paper trail" for every vote cast in 2008.

"This is easy to achieve," he suggested in an e-mail.

"Start a rumor that the Democrats have the world's best hackers and are going to fix the machines the next time."

As originally published


When reports of widespread voting problems occurred in Ukraine last year, both local and international observers quickly concluded the election had been stolen.

"But when precisely the same scenario occurred here, not only were mainstream journalists not alarmed, they quickly labeled those who questioned the results as conspiracy theorists."

Earlier related reports from our archives:
Vote fraud: Quietly undermining democracy

March 12, 2005:
Election fraud uncovered, mayor suspended
#
with comments by John O.


March 8, 2005:
Blogger digs deep into vote-rigging scandal


Feb. 14, 2005:
Ohio's election numbers don't add up


Feb. 1, 2005:
Election fraud:  Shut up, they explain


Jan. 26, 2005:
Ohio recount volunteers allege electoral tampering, legal violations and possible fraud


Jan. 24, 2005:
The strange death of American democracy: Endgame in Ohio


Jan. 13, 2005:
Ohio pulls plug on electronic voting
#
with comments by Kathy Fisher and H&HH


Jan. 11, 2005:
Election farce comes to a predictable end
#
with comments by Aaron Laundry


Jan. 11, 2005:
The last man to concede...
by Sheila Samples, Scoop


Jan. 6, 2005:
Democrats interrupt electoral vote count, force brief debate on Ohio elections


Jan. 4, 2005:
The recount that wasn't,
a chance to reassure voters missed

by Steven Leser, Elites TV


Jan. 3, 2005:
Bush asks judge to toss Ohio election suit
  • Ohio recount highlights continuing vote trouble

  • Vote protesters try last hurrah

  • Vote challengers accuse Blackwell of trying to let 'clock run out'
Jan. 3, 2005:
Is there one senator who will
stand up for black voters?



Jan. 2, 2005:
Footprints of electoral fraud: Early numbers


Dec. 31, 2004:
Greens, Libertarians re-open Ohio lawsuit


Dec. 31, 2004:
Ohio's official non-recount ends
amidst new evidence of fraud, theft and
judicial contempt mirrored in New Mexico



Dec. 27, 2004
Evidence of fraud and disenfran-
chisement in Ohio: A partial list



Dec. 25, 2004:
Ohio numbers support claims of Triad fraud


Dec. 23, 2004:
Video suppors Ohio vote fraud claim revealed


Dec. 23, 2004:
Guide to New Mexico vote irregularities
PDF FILE (REQUIRES ADOBE ACROBAT)


Dec. 23, 2004:
Warren County recount --
Snookered? What happened?



Dec. 22, 2004:
In Ohio, almost 1 in 50 votes
for president didn't count

Congressman seeks exit poll data



Dec. 21, 2004
Election results in southwestern Ohio


Dec. 21, 2004:
Election official “must have mis-heard” about patch installed on computer
and other unknown news about the very odd 2004 election

      . Democrats' lawyer asks Blackwell for
      investigation of TRIAD tampering
      . Congressman implicated in vote fraud
      . Recount continues in Ohio as vote machine
      company makes odd "service calls"
      . Recount observer not allowed
      to inspect machines
      . Ohio Justice throws out election challenge
      . Ohio election officials
      obstruct recount, say Greens
      . Kerry, Bush pick up votes in Ohio
      . "Please, please, please, count all the votes"
      . Election challenge refiled by activists
      . “Everyone felt better” after
      technician “repeated a repair”
      . Votes ought to be counted


Dec. 20, 2004
“Default settings” on voting machines


Dec. 20, 2004:
Global Election Systems email proves
they knew votes were not all counted



Dec. 18, 2004:
An introduction to ... The stolen election of 2004


Dec. 18, 2004:
Ohio vote count battles escalate amidst new evidence of potential criminal activity


Dec. 18, 2004:
Cuyahoga County ballots
seemed “pre-sorted” to volunteers



Dec. 15, 2004:
Proof of Ohio election fraud exposed


Dec. 14, 2004:
Zogby insists polls were "very,
very good, extremely accurate"
. Professor says vote numbers
   don't add up
. Congressman wants 'raw' exit poll data
. Who did voters pick on Nov. 2?
   In some cases, we'll never know
. Former Congressman jailed
   for confronting Blackwell
. Ohio Supreme Court won’t
   block certification?
. Some voters hold out hope
   for Kerry victory
. Ohio counties dealing differently
   with Kerry recount requests
. FBI, Congressional staffers curious
   about self-described
   vote fraud programmer

Dec. 13, 2004:
Ex-Congressman’s account of arrest
for speaking to Blackwell



Dec. 13, 2004:
Ohio vote fraud battle heats up
by Katherine Yurica, Axis of Logic


Dec. 13, 2004:
Startling new revelations highlight rare Congressional hearings on Ohio vote


Dec. 12, 2004:
20 amazing facts about voting in the USA


Dec. 12, 2004:
Ohio absentee vote inflated


Dec. 12, 2004:
Blackwell's "locked-down" Ohio
poll records left in unlocked building



Dec. 11, 2004:
Complete original exit polls from 2004 election


Dec. 11, 2004:
Diebold pays $2.6-million
to settle California lawsuit



Dec. 11, 2004:
Ohio election investigation thwarted
by surprise Blackwell order



Dec. 10, 2004:
Zogby insists polls were "very,
very good, extremely accurate"

. Professor says vote numbers don't add up
. Congressman wants 'raw' exit poll data
. Who did voters pick on Nov. 2?
  In some cases, we'll never know
. Former Congressman jailed
  for confronting Blackwell
. Ohio Supreme Court won’t block certification
. Some voters hold outhope for Kerry victory
. Ohio counties dealing differently
  with Kerry recount requests
. FBI, Congressional staffers curious about
  self-described vote fraud programmer

Dec. 10, 2004:
Blackwell locks out recount volunteers,
claims voter records not public documents



Dec. 10, 2004:
Uncounted votes in Ohio's Montgomery County


Earlier related reports from our archives:
Vote fraud: Quietly undermining democracy



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