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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Politics: The 2004 Exit Poll Discrepancy

Note: This posting has had some significant updates appended to it.

All over the world, when democracy is put to the test in an election, one of the ways to verify that the election is fair is with exit polls. Exit polls aren't meant to replace voting, but help to support its legitimacy. As you probably know by know, there are troubling discrepancies between the exit polls and the actual vote results in our last election.

What's troubling is not that there are discrepancies. That is to be expected. What is troubling is the exact nature of the differential, and the seeming lack of official response to its existence.

What is somewhat troubling is that the discrepancies are large in the battleground states, and small in the non-battleground states. And not a small difference, in many non-battleground states, the exit polls are off the final results by less than a single percentage point, in some battleground states, the exit polls are off by almost 10%. This suggests that something unknown and unprecendented is happening. Since all of the battleground state discrepencies favor President Bush, the blogosphere is running rampant with cries of "fraud". I'm not ready to make that claim yet, however...

What is very very troubling is that this isn't getting the official or journalistic attention it seems to deserve. These numbers are way off base, and the explanations put forth so far don't seem to hold water. I remain hopeful that a full investigation will be conducted, and that a real explanation will come forth, but until then, I'm am not at all surprised that there are those who question the legitimacy of the election results. In other countries, exit polls discrepancies of this sort have been cause for the U.S. to so strongly question the validity of the election results that we have pressured the winner of the election to step down.

We need to demand, if we want to keep our democracy, that this be investigated and satisfactorily explained.

For more detail, here is an excellent paper on the subject, by Dr. Steven Freeman, which covers the data I have cited above in more detail.

Update: The situation is worse than I thought. One by one, the results of the election in each state are going to be certified. As soon as that happens, the computer memories will be cleared and the paper records of the votes and ballots will be destroyed. In many states, this will start happening as soon as tomorrow. While there are people asking for a recount, there are in many cases large mandatory filing fees.

So, in what I consider a truly bizarre turn of events, if you're as concerned about the integrity of our elections as I am, I suggest you contribute some money to the Green Party's presidential campaign, now that it is over. The Green Party and the Libretarian Party have joined together to ask for recounts, starting in Ohio, since the Democratic campaign seems unwilling to do so.

Update #2: The first official overturning of results due to faulty electronic voting machines has occured. Apparentlly anyone in this Indiana county who voted a straight Democratic ticket got all their votes cast for the Libretarian candidates instead. I'm wondering what will happen if it's found that this is a nation-wide problem, because this might well be the glitch that accounts for the exit poll differential.


At 2:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CNN just put up an article on the effect of blogging on politics that mentions blogs publishing exit polls all day while the major news outlets sat on the story.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

A Captial Times article that essentially parallels my thoughts here. So, at least a little media attention. Even if it is only a Madison newspaper, that's still good.

The Greens and Libretarians have raised the necessary money to pay for a recount in Ohio. Nader has paid for a recount in New Hampshire. I think it will be humorous if the "spoiler" parties for the Democrats end up being instrumental in salvaging the Democrats from their current wreckage.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Bill D91 said...

The picture accompanying the article shows a Diebold machine, but do we know that's the machine used for the voting? The fact that they did a hand recount suggests that this particular machine had some kind of paper output. I thought that was a problem with a lot of the Diebold machines out there... no output to use for an alternative recount.
I think that electronic voting really is inevitable but that safeguards must be in place including publically release source code and paper trails.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

Good point. For now I've removed the "from Diebold" from the post since that might just be a stock photo.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

More mainstream news takes:
Another Cap Times Editorial says about the same things.
Time's mention in the last few paragraphs of an article about 2004 election myths is pretty dismissive of concerns that the election might have been tampered with.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

More exit poll analysis, this time from overseas. The recounts in NH and OH are underway, I'm curious what they'll show.


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