By Joel Bleifuss was the 2004 election stolen?
DID the bush-cheney
campaign engage in electronic vote fraud to ensure that George W. Bush would be
president for another four years? That is a question
every small-d democrat should be asking.
Much has been written
on the Internet alleging that the election was stolen. Some writers
are members of the tin-foil hat brigade, but others provide sober analysis of the election results that
raise disturbing questions.
thanks to the herd instinct in our current media culture, anyone who publicly raises
this question is immediately labeled a conspiracy theorist. In the December 6 Nation, Alexander Cockburn dismissed such speculation, writing,
"As usual, the conspiracy nuts think plans of inconceivable complexity worked at 100
percent efficiency." Dan Thanh Dang of the Baltimore Sun put
it this way: "John F. Kerry barely had time to concede the presidential race before the conspiracy theory began circulating." The headline: "Election paranoia surfaces; Conspiracy
theorists call results rigged."
On November 14,
a New York Times editorial delivered the final verdict on
what is now the conventional wisdom:
There is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.... There is also no way to be sure that
the nightmare scenario of electronic voting critics did not occur: votes surreptitiously shifted from one candidate to another
inside the machines, by secret software. It's important to make it clear that there is no evidence such a thing happened,
but there will be concern and conspiracy theories until all software used in elections is made public.
buck conventional wisdom and suppose that "such a thing happened"—that the
Bush-Cheney campaign "won" the election through systematic electronic
Would the Bush-Cheney
campaign have any qualms about stealing an election? Of course not.
They did it in 2000. They
had the motive, and they had the will. But is there any evidence
that voting fraud was committed?
Among the most
compelling circumstantial evidence are the independent exit polls that predicted that John Kerry was destined to be the next president.
Why were the exit polls, historically so accurate, so wrong?
"Exit polls are
almost never wrong," wrote Republican pollster Dick Morris in the
November 4 issue of The Hill. "So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third
World countries.... To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six
of them is incredible. It boggles the imagination how pollsters
could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest erro was at play here.” So So perplexed was Morris by the data, he suspected a liberal media
conspiracy to fix the exit polls so that the networks would declare Kerry a winner and thereby discourage potential Bush voters in the
West from going to the polls.
Steven F. Freeman,
a statistical analysis professor at the University of Pennsylvania,
found some disturbing anomalies when he examined the discrepancies
between the predicted vote (exit polls) and the tallied results in 11 battleground
states—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The figures he used for the predicted vote came from the exit polls posted by CNN on its Web site. Due to an apparent computer glitch, CNN posted
"uncalibrated" data—exit poll data not yet "corrected" to conform
to the announced vote tallies—on its Web site until 1:30 a.m. (EST) election night. In all of these states except Wisconsin, writes Freeman,
the predicted margin of votes for each candidate differed from
the tallied margin of votes for each candidate, with all the differences going in favor of Bush.
For example, Ohio
exit polls predicted that Kerry would win 52.1 percent of the vote to Bush's 47.9
percent. But the tallied vote had Bush winning 51 percent of the vote to Kerry's 48.5 percent. The difference, then, between
Ohio exit poll projections and the actual tallied vote for Kerry comes
to 3.6 percent. Based on the size of the sample the exit polling firms were working with, the likelihood of this happening is less than i in 1000.
Doing a similar analysis with exit polls in Florida, Freeman found
a less than three in 1000 chance that the tallied results would
differ as much as they did from the exit poll projections. And while Kerry did carry Pennsylvania, the chance that he would receive only 50.8 percent of the
vote after exit polls indicated he would get 54.1 percent (a 3.3 percent
difference) is less than two in 1000. Finally, according to Freeman, the odds against all three of these statistical anomalies occurring
together are 250 million to one.
"As much as we
can say in social science that something is impossible," he writes, "it is impossible
that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election
could have been due to chance or random error."
What could account for
various explanations that have been made in the media for the discrepancy
between the exit polls and the tallied vote, and finds all of them lacking.
"Neither the pollsters nor their media clients have provided solid explanations to the public," Freeman writes. "Systematic fraud or mistabulation
is a premature conclusion, but the election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility
of the media, academia, polling agencies and the public to investigate."
election results from a different angle, a team of researchers at
the University of California, Berkeley analyzed the vote in
Florida and found that, mysteriously, "electronic voting raised
President Bush's advantage from the tiny edge he held in 2000 to a clearer margin of victory in 2004." The researchers calculate that electronic
voting machines may have given Bush up to 260,000 more votes than he should
have received. (Bush won Florida by 360,000 votes.) In the 15 Florida
counties using electronic touch-screen voting systems, the number of votes tallied
for Bush significantly exceeded the number of votes he should have received based on voter demographic and voter turnout data. This was especially
true in the large, heavily Democratic counties of Broward, Palm
Beach and Dade. In Florida counties that used other voting systems, Bush received
the same number of votes that the data predicted.
Michael Hout, the
chair of Berkeley's Sociology and Demography graduate program, told
Kim Zetter ofWired.com, "No matter how many factors and variable
we look into consideration, the significant correlation in the votes for President
Bush and electronic voting cannot be explained."
The Berkeley researchers
did a similar study in Ohio, but found no such correlation. Both Hout and
Freeman caution that their research has not yet undergone peer review. Freeman
writes,"! have tried to be as rigorous as possible in my data collection, review and analysis. ... To hold it to an academic standard of rigor, however,
requires extensive peer review."
Was it technically
possible to steal the election through electronic voting fraud? As the New
York Times editorial noted, there is "is no way to be sure
that the nightmare scenario of electronic voting critics did not occur."
How secure were
the electronic machines that were used to tabulate and count
the vote? Diebold, the country's largest voting machine company, made news in 2003 when leaked interoffice memos revealed that company
executives knew that their machines were poorly protected against hackers. And in July 2003, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Information Security
Institute reported that an examination of one Diebold voting system revealed "significant security flaws," noting that "voters can trivially cast multiple ballots with no build-in trace-ability, administrative
functions can be performed by regular voters, and the threats posed
by insiders such as poll workers, software developers, and janitors
is even greater."
In Ohio, more than 35 counties used Diebold machines and nationwide, according to the company company's Web site "over 75,000
Diebold electronic voting stations are being used."
So, somebody could have hacked the vote.
On November 5,
Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and
Robert Wexler (Fla.), noting widespread questions raised
about the accuracy of the results of the 2004 election, asked the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the "efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election." "The
essence of democracy," they wrote, "is the confidence of the electorate
in the accuracy of voting methods and the fairness of voting procedures. In
2000, that confidence suffered terribly, and we fear that
such a blow to our democracy may have occurred in 2004."
November 23, the GAO agreed to examine "the security and accuracy of voting
technologies, distribution and allocation of voting machines
and counting of provisional ballots."
That would be a good place to
is a word though ought to evoke a feel like that of "criminal, pervert, and religious fool". If it doesn't read and
evaluate honestly what I have presented on politics, on economics, and on utopia.