Sunday, June 18, 2006

San Diego’s Run-Off Election Aggregate Results are Plausible

In a previous posts (see: ), I’ve claimed that the official returns for third party and independent candidates in the Run-Off Election and Primary for the 50thCongressional District in San Diego conducted on June 6 – the Busby / Bilbray race, are implausible.

Since these posts, readers with more detailed and accurate knowledge of California voting behavior and San Diego politics have raised a serious of explanations that I believe could serve as plausible explanations for the San Diego official returns.

These are as follows:

a) Independents in California don’t vote in Primaries.

I've been informed by several people that poll workers in California, in violation of the law, often do not inform voters of the "decline to state" Primary voting option and that many (or most?) Independents don't request Primary ballots. This could, at least partially, explain the discrepancy in total vote count between the Run-Off and the Primary.

b) Republican and AIP Social Conservatives Voted for Griffith in the Run-Off

Griffith was not just a “minuteman” candidate. He was also had "gays, guns, and abortion" appeal as a staunch Mormon Conservative, unlike Bilbray who was relatively liberal on social issues. Griffith got the endorsement of the "American Independent Party" (AIP), a hard right religious conservative third party, as well as the "Minutemen". Though he only got about 1,100 votes in the April Special Primary election and reportedly only spent about $2,000 of his own money on the June 6 Run-Off election, he may have picked up votes from socially conservative Republicans who supported Roach, a multimillionaire who barely lost to Bilbray in the April Primary. This all adds up to possibly a larger than normal third party vote for Griffith, most likely from disaffected Roach supporters (see:

c) Third Parties always get large “None of the Above” (NOTA) votes shares in General Elections.

Libertarians who strongly object to my analysis claim that historically Libertarians and other third parties have always received many more votes in General elections than in Primaries and that these are mostly "none of the above" (NOTA) votes. Especially given a), it is plausible that many Independent voters who cast an NOTA vote for Clark in the Run-Off may not have bothered, who cared, to vote in the Libertarian primary.


I apologize to my readers for “jumping the gun” on this one! I should have waited to get the more detailed institutional information before drawing conclusions based almost entirely on aggregate numbers. However, I felt it was necessary to raise any questions immediately because of the short political timeline involved in requesting a recount.

This should not in any way effect the struggle for real election reform. Without: a) real-time precinct-level data releases, b) routine random audits based on voter verified paper trails, ac) publicly funded exit-polls, and d) laws that allow citizens to legally challenge all election outcomes, it is going to be hard to trust “official results”, even if they look plausible.

In San Diego machines were sent home with poll workers for days and weeks prior to the election in direct contravention of both state and federal laws. The fact that the aggregate numbers are plausible does not mean that an election in which the most basic security procedures were violated in so gross a fashion should be certified as fair and accurate without a comprehensive investigation and recount - if for no other purpose than to assure the public that these results do indeed reflect their votes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Strange Case of San Diego’s: Lazy Independents, Self Destructive Minutemen, and Closet Libertarian, Voters

In a previous post (see: “Something Smells Fishy in San Diego”, June 10 post on ), I noted that the official returns for the Run-Off Election and Primary for the 50th Congressional District in San Diego conducted on June 6 – the Busby / Bilbray race, are very odd.

This was an election held on the same day, in the same polling places, in which voters could vote in a particular party Primary (Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Peace and Freedom) and vote for a candidate for the upcoming November 2006 general election for the seat, and also vote for the Special Run-Off election to fill that seat until November. I’ve been told that under California law, Voters can “Decline to State” a party preference and get a Democratic, Republican, American Independent Party, or Non-Partisan (with no Primary Candidates) ballot, but are required to register for other parties (Libertarian or Green for example) if they want to vote in one of these Primaries. Candidates for the Run-Off election had already nominated in a previous April 11th Special election.

According to the official returns ( All figures are from the San Diego Registrar of Voters website: as of from June 13, 2006 16:54:56 100% of precincts reporting) about 35% of the difference between total Primary and Run-Off votes (7,587 out of 21,698) went to Libertarian (1,858) and Independent (5,729) candidates. In the Primary the same Libertarian candidate received 579 votes (a Peace and Freedom candidate who was not in the Run-Off received 75). Total vote in the Primary was 131,072, which was 21,698 fewer votes (14% less) than the Run-Off total vote count of 152,770.

I find the following hard to understand:

a) Exceedingly Lazy Independents? As California has an “open Primary” system for the Republican and Democratic Primary, why would so many voters not bother to vote in Democratic or Republican Primary but vote for the Democrat Busby (12,684) or Republican Bilbray (1,427) in the Run-Off when all they had to do was request a Democratic or Republican ballot to vote in the Primary for the same candidates. They could continue to “Decline to State” and not be registered for either party thus maintaining their status as “Independents”. Since they were already at the polling place anyway, all that was required was to fill out another circle, or one more punch! Moreover, these folks obviously had a preference as they voted for Busby or Bilbray for the Run-Off. Why would 14,111 voters actively request to restrict themselves to one vote for their Candidate when they could vote twice for that candidate (in two separate elections) with virtually the same effort?

(Author's note: since writing this, I've been informed by several people that poll workers in California, in violation of the law, often do not inform voters of the "decline to state" Primary voting option and that many (or most?) Independents don't request Primary ballots. This could, at least partially, explain the discrepancy in total vote count between the Run-Off and the Primary.)

b) Self Destructive Minutemen? According to a June 7, 2006 article in the San Diego Union Tribune ( ) Republican candidate Bilbray said that:

“His long focus on Immigration would pay off in the race against Busby…”.

The article goes on to state that the U.S. Senate Bill on immigration that includes a path to citizenship along with stronger enforcement, supported by Busby, which is also supported by John McCain:

“…led to an awkward situation for Bilbray, who has said the bill would lead to “amnesty.” McCain and others dispute that characterization and McCain canceled a scheduled appearance at a Bilbray fundraiser last week, though he said he continued to support the Republican candidate.

Bilbray supports the harder-line House immigration bill, focused exclusively on enforcement, and has said he favors building a fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico

How much more hard-line on immigration can you get?

See also a May 30th New York Times article on this at:

Why would any anti-immigration voter want to potentially cause this guy to lose to Busby in an exceedingly tight race of such prominent national significance in order to cast a pretty meaningless (given that Bilbray already supported their issue) protest vote for an “even more anti-immigrant” candidate like Griffith? I can understand that there might be a small number of really irrational and virulently anti-immigrant voters, but 5,804 in one Congressional District seems extraordinarily high!

(Auther's note: Here again, I've heard from friends in San Diego (and subsequently have done more research confirming this) that Griffith had "gays, guns, and abortion" appeal as a staunch Mormon Conservative. He got the endorsement of the "American Independent Party" (AIP) as well as the "Minutemen". Though he only got about 1,100 votes in the April Special Primary election and reportedly only spent about $2,000 of his own money on the June 6 Run-Off election, he may have picked up votes from conservative Republicans who supported Roach, a mulimillionaire who barely lost to Bilbray in the April Primary. This all adds up to possibly a larger than normal third party vote for Griffith (see:

Griffith also probably picked up AIP votes (who appear to be socially conservative Libertarians - see their web site) which would make sense, as they endorsed him and did not run a Candidate in the Run-Off. )

c) Closet Libertarians? A similar question, why would so many Libertarians vote in the Run-Off (2,437) and not bother to vote in the Primary (where only 579 voted) when they're already at the election site to do so? It seems to me that one would, if anything, expect the opposite - why risk being a "spoiler" (if one has any preference among the major candidates) when you can register a no-risk protest vote in the Primary and you're already there to do it? At the very least, it seems to me, these numbers of votes should be roughly equivalent, as surely a Libertarian who would risk tipping such closely fought race to one or another of the major party candidates doesn’t care which of the major candidates wins! These would therefore be the strongest Libertarians who would also want to make a statement for their party in the Primary. The “Closet Libertarian” argument that massive numbers of Libertarians might “Decline to State” in the Primary but vote Libertarian in the Run-Off doesn’t fit my own personal experience with Libertarians at all. The Libertarians that I know are not at all shy about their views and want to publicize them wherever and whenever possible. There may be some who are worried about confidentiality and thus may decline to register as a Libertarian but it seems odd that more than 76% (1,858 out of 2,437) of the Libertarians in San Diego would be these kind of “closet Libertarians”! This argument might be muted by a counter scenario of a Libertarian “Declining to State” so that they could vote in the Democratic or Republican primary rather than the Libertarian Primary for the one Libertarian candidate. But again, it is hard to imagine a large number of Libertarians who would be this concerned about the Democratic or Republican primary, and then go and cast a potential “spoiler vote” for the Libertarian candidate in such a tight Run-Off election.

(Author's note: I've been contacted by Libertarians who strongly object to my analysis. They claim that historically Libertarians and third parties have always received many more votes in General elections than in Primaries and that these are mostly "none of the above" (NOTA) votes. I have no question that this has been true for many (mostly uncontested) general elections for Congress in the 50th that did not also include Primary elections. Only highly committed Libertarians would bother showing up to vote for the single Libertarian candidate in a Primary. The difference here of course that you don't have to make a special trip to vote in the Primary, and if you're voting for King in the Run-Off, why not vote for him again in the Primary? On the other hand, if these are NOTA voters who are "Libertarian Independents" - weak Libertarians who just don't bother, or don't care to, vote in a Libertarian Primary, this could make sense.)

My views are colored by the fact that in Ohio and elsewhere one of the scams was to reorder the counting so that votes were shifted to third parties. This makes vote fraud harder to detect as total counts remain the same. In this case this might have included shifting Busby votes from the primary to the Run-Off so that the “surge” in third party vote in the Run-Off would not look too outlandish. Maybe Griffith was even in on the deal – this would certainly be rational for a “minuteman” candidate given Bilbray’s positions. Who knows? Anything is possible these days. (I’m just speculating here, I have no evidence for any of these hypotheses.)

In fact, based on numbers alone, the third party and Independent vote share in 2006 Run-Off of 5.39% is roughly equivalent to the third party vote for the 50th CD General Election in 2004 of 5.0%. The difference is that in 2004 there was no real chance of a Busby victory and no national spotlight. Cunningham won by 58.5% to Busby’s 36.5%. Moreover, a good share of the third Party vote was for a left leaning party that did not run in the 2006 Run-Off (Green 2.2%), probably because they did not want to be “spoilers” in such an important election. This begs the question of where did the 5,804 militant - to the point of being willing to "shoot them selves in their own foot" - Griffith voters come from?

I thank blogger Michael Daniels and fellow election analyst Richard Hayes Phillips for continuing to push me to recognize the importance of the “Lazy Independents” issue. I also thank an anonymous blogger for making me rethink the case of the "closet Libertarians".

These kinds of results don’t pass the “smell test” for me. They may be accurate and there may be an explanation for them (I’m not a expert on San Diego politics), but given all the other problems of illegal procedure and inexplicably varying absentee/provisional ballot numbers (see ), I strongly urge a recount of this election!

(Author's note: I have to admit that given the explanations that I have received since posting this, there are plausible explanations for the San Diego official overall Run-Off election results.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Something Smells Fishy in San Diego!

Unless San Diego is a veritable “hot bed” of third party and independent candidate activism (something that I wasn’t aware of), I find it hard to understand how a full 35% of voters (6,914 out of 19,739 votes) in the Busby/Bilbray 50th Congressional District run-off election who did not vote in the primary (in the same election) would vote for Libertarian and Independent candidates.

This represents an increase in third party and independent vote of 1,143% in the Run-Off relative to these votes in the primary! From 605 (69 for Clark of the Peace and Freedom Party and 535 for King of the Libertarian Party) to 6,914. Clark was replaced by Griffith, an Independent candidate, in the Run-Off. This is more than an 11 fold increase. Where did this huge increase in “militant – I will vote third party or independent no matter what the consequences in terms of who actually gets elected” voters come from?

In contrast Busby, the Democratic candidate in the run-off received only 59% of these 19,739 voters who voted in the Run-Off but not in the primary.

The 6,914 third party and independent vote (5.35% of total votes cast) is more than the 6,128 (4.36% of total votes cast) vote margin by which Bilbray reported beat Busby in the Run-Off.

What's really strange about the huge increase in third party and independent votes in the Run-Off is that you'd expect this to go in the opposite direction in such a high profile contested election. Voting for a third party in the primary gives an opportunity to register a protest vote without being a "spoiler". Here its as though the newly appearing 6,914 third party voters in the Run-Off positively went out of their way to risk the defeat of Busby or Bilbray by voting in the Run-Off for an Independent or Libertarian, and not voting in the Primary where they could have registered their protest without the risk of contributing to the defeat of one of the major party candidates!

Especially after what happen in Florida in 2000 with the Green party vote, you'd think their would be a great deal of awareness about the possibly of being a "spoiler", and a corresponding effort to avoid contributing to such a possibility!

I thank Brad Freidman of "Bradblog" for asking me to review the San Diego data and Bradblog respondents Michael Daniels and “Calinpendence” for pointing me toward this comparison of the Primary and Run-Off San Diego election data.

Data source: San Diego Registrar of Voters website (as of from June 9, 2006 16:59:21 100% of precincts reporting):

Detailed Calculations (Microsoft Excel Format):


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More Manjoo Fallacies and Lack of Comprehension

This was posted June 7, 2006 on Salon.

In his June 7, 2006 reply to Kennedy’s rebuttal of his earlier critique Farhad Manjoo citing Mark Blumenthal, claims that:

a) The exit poll margins of error for Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio were between 5% to 7%. This is preposterous. Rather than relying on Mark Blumenthal (an unreliable source for quantitative analysis), I urge Manjoo to download the National Election Pool a “Methods Statement” for the Edison Mitofsky (EM) exit polls (produced on Nov. 2 2006) at:

The second page of this statement sets 95% confidence intervals for these polls (for a “characteristic” held by roughly 50% of those polled, for example a Presidential candidate preference for which there is a close to even split) squarely at 4% for sample sizes of 951-2350 – the range of reported sample sizes for these states. However, as Blumenthal knows, the reported sample sizes (also in the methods statements) are about half of what they really are (see Mitofsky correspondence in Baiman June 5 Free Press AAPOR report). For these true doubled sample sizes of 2351-5250, NEP’s own estimated confidence interval falls to 3%. This clearly puts the Ohio discrepancy of about 4% outside of the margin of error - even using NEP's inflated margins of error.

My margin of error calculations (and I believe Freeman’s) find a 2% margin of error with a 30% cluster adjustment factor. As I have stated in my earlier response to Manjoo, this puts Ohio well outside the margin of sampling error with odds of less than 1,900 that Kerry’s reported result is true given the exit poll result. This is not “slight” evidence but rather highly statistically significant, especially one considered with the inexplicable pro-Bush exit poll discrepancies in the two other key battle ground states of Florida and Pennsylvania. As Freeman and I have stated, the odds that these “sampling errors” (in the same direction and of these magnitudes) would occur for these three states simultaneously in less than one in 182,000,000 (i.e virtually impossible - this number is based on doubled sample sizes). Moreover, when one looks at precinct level exit poll data , and not just aggregate state polls, the evidence in even more striking and inexplicable. A fact that Manjoo has not addressed at all.

The question that has to be asked is why are Manjoo (and Blumenthal) trying to dismiss the statistical significance of the exit poll discrepancies when even Mitofsky (in his January report) concedes that they were the largest on record and highly statistically significant?

b) Manjoo’s efforts to dismiss what he calls the “purported rural vote shift” is even more outlandish. As Kennedy points out he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a popular incumbent who earned more votes statewide than Gore in 2000 and a former Republican judge from Cincinnati who got a “favored son” boost in that region; and an unknown, under funded, very liberal judge from Cleveland, who got 24% less votes than Kerry statewide, inexplicably getting more votes that Kerry in 12 of the most conservative counties (judging by their Bush vote shares) in Ohio!

Moreover, these same 12 counties just happen to be among the only 14 (out of 88 counties) where Bush’s vote is larger than Moyer’s (the incumbent conservative judge) by more than 43%. Moreover, the amount of “excess Bush” vote (more than Bush’s state average of 21% more than Moyer) just happens to roughly match both by county and for entire state the “lost Kerry” vote (what Kerry would have gotten if he had received his state average of 32% more votes than Connally in these counties) without any overall substitution from Moyer to Connally (Moyer’s vote is larger than the state average and Connally’s is smaller than the state average in all but one of these 12 counties).

Farhad, do you understand how absolutely remarkable such a series of “coincidences” is?!!

I challenge you or anyone else to provide a plausible non-vote shifting explanation for these patterns.

Note that the Bush to Moyer ratio is independent of the Kerry to Connally ratio when there is no substitution between Moyer and Connally. It is simply impossible to understand why, out of all the 88 counties, 9 out of 14 cases where Bush does extraordinarily well relative to Moyer, just happen to be in the same counties where Connally does extraordinarily well relative to Kerry?!!!! And it is even more impossible to understand why the relative magnitudes of these impossible undercounts for Kerry and over counts for Bush should so closely match!!!!

I would take this evidence to a trial. Clearly a crime was committed in Ohio. There is simply no other explanation for these patterns other than vote shifting. The only thing we don’t know is who did it and how. And exactly this kind of information is necessary to get serious electoral reform - that you claim to support.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Manjoo Critique in Salon is Superficial and Erroneous Nonsense

In his June 2, 2006 Salon article “Was the 2004 Election Stolen? No”, Farhad Manjoo claims to have “thoroughly debunked” a June 15, 2006 article in Rolling Stone by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”.

As one of the (applied) statisticians cited in Kennedy’s article, I find that Manjoo’s “debunking” is either superficial spin that is easily refuted by adding more detail to Kennedy’s already very long piece, or simply factually erroneous. I will focus on the Manjoo points that relate to official return and exit poll data - my particular area of expertise.

a) Making the point that voters sometimes do vote more often for a “down ticket” candidate is hardly a “rebuttal” of the 12 County Ellen Connally “anomaly”. First of all this was not a normal election but rather one of the hardest fought Presidential races in recent history in a key battleground state. Moreover, Connally was an under-funded and largely unknown African American, liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-death penalty, woman from Cleveland, and all of these counties are far from Cleveland. But even if we disregard this, anybody who wishes to check the numbers posted on the Secretary of State of Ohio’s official website will find that: a) nine out of only 14 counties (out of a total of 88 counties in Ohio) where Bush did abnormally well (over 43% better) relative to Moyer (the Republican Supreme Court nominee) just happen to be part of the same 12 counties where Kerry inexplicably did worse than Connally, b) this was not a result of voters in these counties switching from Moyer to Connally as Connally’s vote is worse than the Ohio county average in all but one of these counties and Moyer’s vote is better than the county average in all but one of the 12, c) the “lost Kerry” vote of 81,599 (relative to the average Kerry/Connally ratio) just happens to be just about equal to the “excess Bush” vote of 75,766 (relative to the average Bush/Moyer average in the 12 counties), and d) when one looks at the county by county pattern of “lost” Kerry votes to “excess” Bush votes, they match almost perfectly in their orders of magnitude – see the table below:

As Kennedy notes such an approximately 80,000 vote shift from Kerry to Bush would have given Bush an additional 160,000 votes, more than enough to steal an election which Bush won by about 119,000 votes. In other words, just this one “anomaly” is enough to support a “stolen election” hypothesis and I challenge anyone to come up with a plausible explanation of this set a)-d) of remarkable statistical “coincidences” as reflecting anything other than a pattern of vote shifting!

b) Manjoo’s claims that exit polls are not always accurate and that Mitfosky has an “explanation” for the large discrepancies (that he acknowledges were both highly significant statistically and the largest since 1988 in the January report) are both irrelevant when one considers the pattern of the exit poll discrepancy in Ohio – see graph below:

These are “within-precinct discrepancies” or ((Kerry -Bush Official Vote) minus (Kerry – Bush Exit Poll shares)) for each of the 49 precincts for which exit polls were taken in Ohio based on data released by the Election Science Institute in a report in which Mitofsky is listed as an “assisting author”. (Note that there are not 49 bars as someprecincts have the same official Kerry vote share so that the bar is an average WPD.) Negative WPD reflects large Kerry exit poll “overstatements” relative to official vote counts. Note that almost all of the discrepancies are negative (against Kerry). In fact, as Kennedy reports, 20 of the 22 statistically significant discrepancies (large enough so that they could not plausibly be the result of random sampling error) are against Kerry. But even more striking is the pattern. On the right side in “high Kerry” precincts (above 57% official vote count – right of the red vertical line) there is a more or less random pattern of Bush (positive) and Kerry (negative) discrepancies, whereas on the left side (below 57% official Kerry vote – left of red line) almost all of the discrepancies (and all of the statistically significant discrepancies) go against Kerry. Moreover the precincts on the left are densely clustered whereas they are more dispersed on the right.

This strikingly non-uniform pattern cannot be explained by either large but “unbiased” (not one-sided) exit poll discrepancies – the pattern on the right, or by a “reluctant Bush voter response to the exit Poll” (“rBr” - Mitofsky’s hypothetical explanation) as this would not even produce the pattern on the left, not to mention the un-biased discrepancy on the right. Those who have been following the 2004 exit poll debate know that rBr would produce a “U” shaped pattern of discrepancies that are larger in more competitive precincts and taper off to nearly zero in highly partisan precincts. There is no such pattern on the left of the graph. But the pattern displayed is perfectly consistent with “vote shifting” from Kerry to Bush that would “move” precincts by their official vote count to the left thus producing large negative Kerry WPD and much smaller Bush WPD, and a clustering of precincts on the left. In fact Manjoo’s (or Lindeman’s) calculations of overall exit poll response averages are simply mathematically wrong, as they don’t take into account the larger proportion of Kerry or Bush voters in the “high Kerry” or “high Bush” precincts respectively – for accurate exit poll response rate estimates, and an explanation of why Mitofsky’s data contradicts his own “rBr” hypothetical see NEDA reports.

c) Manjoo’s claim that Mitofsky’s “rBr” hypothetical has not been decisively disproved is bunk. We applied an “optimal” (in the sense that this explained the WPD in more precincts than any other level of “rBr”) 59% to 50% excess Kerry to Bush voter completion rate to the Ohio data and found that 30% of Ohio’s exit polled precincts still had significant discrepancy, that these were still overwhelmingly against Kerry (11 out of 15) resulting in a 4.3% WPD against Kerry that was still more than double Bush’s 2.1% margin of victory in Ohio – see NEDA January report.

d) Finally, Manjoo’s claim that WPD’s in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico were “not outside the margin of error” depends on how one calculates the “margin of error”. In particular, based upon a very liberal 30% “cluster factor” increase in the margin of error proposed (after the election) by Mitfosky, (and a doubling of the publicly posted sample size recently revealed by Mitofsky – see Baiman June 5, 2006 AAPOR presentation Free Press 6/5/06 posting) there was only about a 1 in 1,929 chance for the approximately 6.8% (weighted statewide) WPD in Ohio. This is well over any reasonable margin of error (typically set at about 1 in 20). Moreover, even using this very liberal margin of error, the odds of the Kerry exit poll discrepancies being as large as they were in the three key battle ground states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania simultaneously (and not just any random three states) is less than 1 in 182,600,000 (because of sample size doubling these "virtually impossible" odds are even lower than have been previously reported).

In short Manjoo’s “debunking” of the official vote and exit poll analysis parts of he Kennedy article is superficial and erroneous nonsense. Moreover, we have been through this with Manjoo and many of the people that he cites before. He and they either do not understand the relevant statistics and mathematics of rigorous exit poll analysis and should not be reporting or prognosticating on this topic, or they simply refuse to accept their errors of interpretation and understanding.