November 9, 2004  ·  Lessig

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The six news organizations at the left contracted with two polling organizations at the right to provide exit poll information one week ago today. Those data were inconsistent with the actual results — significantly so. Dick Morris says that “this was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play.” The aim of the evil doing in Morris’ judgment was to suppress Bush votes — which it apparently didn’t. But the same data are used by skeptics on the other side, to suggest that those who had a hand in tallying the vote — in particular, one company whose President had promised to deliver Ohio for the President — changed the votes that the exit poll surveyed.

I think both claims are bunk — I don’t think there was a conspiracy to suppress the Bush vote, nor do I think Diebold stole the election for Bush — but there are obvious puzzles that need to be resolved. First, there is Morris’ point — exit polls are just not that wrong. Second, there are the insanely inverted county votes in the many heavily Democratic counties in Florida that had their votes counted by optical scan (and tallied by Diebold machines among others). Why were the polls so bad? Why did Democrats in those counties overwhelmingly defect to the President while remaining “liberal” in their other votes?

These are questions of fact that can be answered, or at least understood, if the facts were known. The Exit Poll Consortium should enable that knowledge. It would be a relatively simple regression to map exit poll data against counties or precincts with suspect machines. More importantly, it would be relatively easy to isolate where, if anywhere, suspicion should be directed.

The Exit Polls have done enough damage to this election. My bet is that it was incompetence at Edison/Mitofsky. But those firms owe it to this Nation to release their data totally, so that a wide range of competent statisticians can evaluate whether and where the problem was.

And more importantly for the blog space: If blogs are going to be something more than the CB radios of journalism, we need an ethic to treat this sort of question ethically. Anyone who is surprised that a voting machine didn’t work has been living on Mars for the last 100 years: Always, and in every election, voting machines fail. That fact should force us to a sensible architecture for voting machines — one which we don’t have just now for electronic voting machines. But it isn’t, itself, evidence this election was “stolen.”

No one can, or should, utter such words without the data to back it up. Instead, we should demand what, in this context, should be our right: to have access to the data. There is irresponsibility somewhere. Let us not add to it here.

  • http://hardgrok.org Raefer Gabriel

    I am not sure that I believe that Diebold “stole” the election for Bush either, but there is more troubling news coming out every day about vote tallies.

    In the last 24 hours alone, these pages have come to my attention: Cuyahoga county inconsistencies shows, in one Ohio county, how a substantial number of precincts seemed to end up with more than 100% turnout (excluding provisional ballots, so this should be impossible). Then there’s the potentially troubling op scan results from Florida – this page doesn’t really prove anything of course (unlike the previous link), but it shows that perhaps further investigation is in order. My first thought was the op scan machines come from two separate companies, Diebold and ES&S, and as a businessman it’s very hard for me to believe that two competitors would collaborate in such a fraud, until I discovered that the two companies were founded and are run by two brothers, Todd Urosevich and Bob Urosevich respectively. So the remaining question there is whether the correlation is simply a spurious one created by the geography of Florida, and which counties happen to be using which machines.

    While some of this stuff may turn out to be far left paranoia, I think we ignore the potential evidence at our own peril. If there was no large scale malfeasance, then surely explanations for these results will come out. But let’s not dismiss the possibility out of hand when at the very least troubling numbers are just starting to pour out as detailed election results are released and analyzed.

  • raoul

    Below is another anecdotal story that really does not support a conspiracy but it does reflect scorn for the public�s right to know and it, at the very least, fosters an appearance of impropriety that is traditionally discouraged in public government.

    Warren’s vote tally walled off
    Alone in Ohio, officials cited homeland security

    By Erica Solvig
    Enquirer staff writer

    LEBANON (Ohio) – Citing concerns about potential terrorism, Warren County officials locked down the county administration building on election night and blocked anyone from observing the vote count as the nation awaited Ohio’s returns.

    County officials say they took the action Tuesday night for homeland security, although state elections officials said they didn’t know of any other Ohio county that closed off its elections board. Media organizations protested, saying it violated the law and the public’s rights. The Warren results, delayed for hours because of long lines that extended voting past the scheduled close of polls, were part of the last tallies that helped clinch President Bush’s re-election.

    “The media should have been permitted into the area where there was counting,” Enquirer attorney Jack Greiner said. “This is a process that should be done in complete transparency and it wasn’t.”

    Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young said he had recommended increased security based on information received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in recent weeks.

    Commissioners made the security decisions in a closed-door meeting last week, but didn’t publicize the restrictions that were made until after polls closed.

    “If we were going to make a judgment, we wanted to err on the side of caution,” Commissioner Pat South said Thursday. “… Hindsight is 20-20. There was never any intent to exclude the press.

    “We were trying to protect security.”

    WCPO-TV (Channel 9) News Director Bob Morford said he’s “never seen anything like it.” When he first heard about Warren County’s building restrictions, he said he understood concerns that too many people could make the counting process “a circus.” But he said it’s never been a problem in the past, and that the county could have set up a security checkpoint and had people show identification.

    “Frankly, we consider that a red herring,” Morford said of the county’s “homeland security” reason. “That’s something that’s put up when you don’t know what else to put up to keep us out.”

    James Lee, spokesman with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office in Columbus, said Thursday he hasn’t heard of any situations similar to Warren County’s building restrictions. He said general security concerns are decided at the local levels.

    Other counties, such as Butler County, let people watch ballot checkers through a window.

    Typically, the Warren County commissioners’ room is set up as a gathering place for people to watch the votes come in. But that wasn’t done this year.

    And despite being told that there would be an area with telephones set up for the media, those who tried to get into the building on Justice Drive were stopped by a county employee who stood guard outside. After journalists challenged the restriction, reporters were allowed into the building’s lobby – two floors below the elections office.

    A representative of The Associated Press, which had stringers at every Ohio board of elections site, said no such election-night access problems were reported outside of Warren County.

    County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said commissioners “were within their rights” to restrict building access.

    Having reporters and photographers around could have interfered with the count, she said.

  • raoul

    Dick Morris is a partisan hack, and that�s being kind.

    � Indeed, one network hesitated to call Mississippi for Bush because of the uncertainty injected by the bogus exit polls. Dark minds will suspect that these polls were deliberately manipulated to dampen Bush turnout in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones by conveying the impression that the president�s candidacy was a lost cause.�

    A completely ludicrous hypothesis with so evidence to back it up. Has there evr been a study showing that this would be the effect. I�m not aware of one. Additionally, the theory seems counter intuitive. Wouldn�t the opposite effect make more sense. Don�t runners let up when they know they�ve won the race? Kerry voters would stay home b/c they had it in the bag and Bush supporters would be that more motivated to fight.

    � Next to the forged documents that sent CBS on a jihad against Bush�s National Guard service and the planned �60 Minutes� ambush over the so-called missing explosives two days before the polls opened, the possibility of biased exit polling, deliberately manipulated to try to chill the Bush turnout, must be seriously considered.�

    Please, Bush skipped out on his service and there�s really no serious debate about that. The only thing that could clear that up, because of the incomplete records, is Bush�s testimony, but he won�t talk.

    �the planned �60 Minutes� ambush over the so-called missing explosives two days before the polls opened� What a sorry spin. CBS waited to try and verify the story first. The biggest issue there is why did the story break on November 3rd that the GI�s sent to secure the Alqaqa [sic, I know] weapons storage facility, witnessed, first hand, wholesale looting becuase they were undermanned.

    �This was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play�

    I suspect that the Kerry supporters came out earlier in the day and that they were more vocal about who they voted for.

  • Max Lybbert

    Sorry, but incomplete polls with small sample sizes are often wrong. When complete, the polls were supposed to have a margin of error of 4%, but they weren’t even half done when the information was “leaked.” I’m not a statistician, but I understand that would have given the polls a margin of error so large that they would have been utterly useless and inaccurate. So, yes, they can be wrong, and as wrong as they were.

    I also understand that, as any poll, the biggest problem is getting a truly random cross-section of voters to respond to exit polls (not just take one). Since 58% of the respondents were women, and we know that more than 42% of the voters were men, this also implies that the incomplete polls weren’t likely to be accurate.

  • Max Lybbert

    Maybe not from the horse’s mouth, but from the Dick Morris article Lessig linked to:

    The exit pollsters plead that they oversampled women and that this led to their mistakes. But the very first thing a pollster does is weight or quota for gender. Once the female vote reaches 52 percent of the sample, one either refuses additional female respondents or weights down the ones one subsequently counted.

    I understand that the leaked data was “raw,” and not yet weighted (largely because the poll wasn’t done). Since it’s clear that such data must be massaged somehow, why is it amazing that an incomplete poll with a small sample size that hasn’t been massaged (or has been incorrectly massaged) turns out to be wrong?

  • http://brian.carnell.com Brian Carnell

    “Second, there are the insanely inverted county votes in the many heavily Democratic counties in Florida that had their votes counted by optical scan (and tallied by Diebold machines among others).”

    Typical Lessig BS. Voter registration correlates poorly to voter behavior in Florida since that state is an open primary state. So if you registered Dem 20 years ago, there’s no reason to bother to change today.

    All you have to do is look at how these inverted counties — Baker, Franklin, etc. — voted in 2000. Baker is >69% Dem by registration but went for Bush by 69% in 2000 and 72% in 2004. You will find similar results for Franklin and the other counties that have been mentioned as being excessively inverted.

    The only mystery is why Democrats have their heads so far up their a—- they can’t take the time to compare voter registration to actual voter behavior over multiple presidential election cycles.

    And you just have to love the new “let every exit poll count” spin.

  • http://www.brianstucki.com/mfm/ mfm

    i know people think that video with bush flipping the bird is interesting to a lot of people but this middle finger man is a lot funnier though he doesn’t manage to piss off nearly as many people as bush.

    http://homepage.mac.com/brianstucki/iblog/index.html

    http://www.brianstucki.com/mfm/

  • http://www.alexa.com Geoffrey Mack

    Are the exit polls right? Are they wrong? Were they manipulated? Did the optical scanning machines fail or not? Were they tampered with? Did the electronic voting machines fail or not?

    Answer: We simply don’t know… but we should.

    I am deeply disappointed by the results of this election, but what scares me more is the possibility that, due to errors in the vote count, we’ve elected the wrong person… again. Where is the open and accountable process? And, where is the Press on this issue? The silence you hear is the death of our Democracy.

    We need the facts.

  • Don

    Typical Lessig BS. Voter registration correlates poorly to voter behavior in Florida since that state is an open primary state. So if you registered Dem 20 years ago, there�s no reason to bother to change today.

    I’d suggest for future reference that if you’re going to call someone else’s statements “BS” you might want to check your facts so you don’t sound like a fool in addition to rude.

    http://election.dos.state.fl.us/online/faq.shtml#Elections_and_Voting

    I want to vote in the primary. Do I have to be a Democrat or Republican?

    Since Florida is a closed primary state, only voters who are registered members of the two major political parties (Republicans and Democrats) may vote for their respective party’s candidates in a primary election.

  • Jellodyne

    Watching the Minnesota returns, almost every Republican the news crews talked to pooh-pooed exit polls, even after the polls were closed. It struck me at the time as kind of odd for so many of them to be on message when the message was a silly one that simply waiting for the votes to be counted would resolve. Maybe they were just hoping they were going to take the state despite poor exit poll numbers locally, or maybe there was a bigger story like there was a concerted effort to discredit exit polls because someone knew the exit polls in Ohio were not going to match the returns.

  • wtf

    � Indeed, one network hesitated to call Mississippi for Bush because of the uncertainty injected by the bogus exit polls. Dark minds will suspect that these polls were deliberately manipulated to dampen Bush turnout in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones by conveying the impression that the president�s candidacy was a lost cause.�

    A completely ludicrous hypothesis with so evidence to back it up. Has there evr been a study showing that this would be the effect. I�m not aware of one. Additionally, the theory seems counter intuitive. Wouldn�t the opposite effect make more sense. Don�t runners let up when they know they�ve won the race? Kerry voters would stay home b/c they had it in the bag and Bush supporters would be that more motivated to fight.

    No, totally wrong. You apparently live on the east coast. The reportage of exit polling numbers has, for a long time, been a serious issue for people in the Mountain and Pacific time zones (where, incidentally, I’ve lived all my life). Typically, the scenario goes like this: news networks begin reporting exit polling results before the polls have closed in the M/P time zones. If one candidate appears clearly to be winning, voters think, “There’s no point in my voting for his opponent, because the election’s already decided.” I’ve seen this happen so often. If the media want to continue to reap the benefits of freedom of speech, they should begin to live up to the responsibility involved by not reporting any election results until after ALL the polls in the country have closed.

  • http://brian.carnell.com/ Brian Carnell

    “I�d suggest for future reference that if you�re going to call someone else�s statements �BS� you might want to check your facts so you don�t sound like a fool in addition to rude.”

    Touche. At least I’m not such a dumbass that I didn’t bother to see if Bush won these counties in 2000.

    BTW, note that above I freely admit my error, unlike Lessig who lies and never feels a need to correct or apologize. Apparently it’s okay to bend the truth, but only in one way.

  • http://brian.carnell.com/ Brian Carnell

    oops..that post should have linked to his example of Lessig hypocrisy about truth telling.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    “And more importantly for the blog space: If blogs are going to be something more than the CB radios of journalism, we need an ethic to treat this sort of question ethically.”

    This is one reason that many claims of blog triumphalism are way overblown. The basic problem is that reputation-points and links and echoes are easily gained by saying something popular and appealing, not something accurate. Now, of course, there’s a lot of complexity in any communication. But, for example, Matt Drudge makes his living exactly on being a rumormonger rather than a fact-checker.

  • Max Lybbert

    OK, now I need to know where Brian got his information to make the statement “All you have to do is look at how these inverted counties � Baker, Franklin, etc. � voted in 2000. Baker is >69% Dem by registration but went for Bush by 69% in 2000 and 72% in 2004. You will find similar results for Franklin and the other counties that have been mentioned as being excessively inverted.”

    I saw this exact information yesterday, but couldn’t remember where when I made my post. People in other parts of the US may not believe it, but in the South, it is common to vote for Democrats for state offices, and Republicans for national ones. I voted for Easley (Democrat NC Governor) and Cooper (Democrat NC Attorney General), although my national votes were straight Republican (President, Senator, Congressman). Election results from North Carolina showed that quite a large number of my neighbors did the same exact thing.

  • http://www.charlesstarrett.com/ Charles

    To weave together a couple of comments:

    raoul: Dick Morris is a partisan hack, and that�s being kind.
    Yeah, I was thinking “big blowhard” myself, but the guy’s got a point. Poll results do influence later voters and so they need to be treated with care. The poll results from this past election need to be examined, but to do so we need to have the results. I think this was the real point of LL’s post that we’re commenting on here. To Morris’s point, I think it’s also worth discussing how poll numbers are released during election day.

    G. Mack: We need the facts.

    Aint that the truth. I hear a lot of fruitless blame and conspiracy theories from the left and a lot of “nyah nyah” from the right and neither is getting the country anywhere. Those of us in the center, whether we are left-leaning or right-leaning, who want to do something useful for the country could be working on these questions:

    (1) Where are the biggest flaws in our election-day process?
    (2) What impact does polling have on how free and fair our elections are?

    I don’t have any answers myself, but if we’re going to get any, we need data — about the polls, and about the voting machines, to ensure that our electoral process is fair.

    Voting errors cut both ways and whether it’s deliberate manipulation or a quality assurance problem, it’s degrading our democracy. The best-case scenerio is that the problems are negligible. If that’s true, American voters need to be assured of that most of all.

  • Jo

    Lessig,
    You said, “Anyone who is surprised that a voting machine didn�t work has been living on Mars for the last 100 years”

    The suprise isn’t the failures. It’s the way the failures always seem to magically hurt the democratic party that’s of concern.

  • Joe

    Lessig,
    One more thing:
    You’re telling us to be responsible with our allegations. Based on the experience of 2000, why should we be? They stole an American election, Professor. They stole it. Time is of the essense. Before this ass is sworn in again, I want the American people to know what his party and their powerful interests have done to this country. The longer we wait, the less interest people have in the topic. They’ll be back to 100% Lacy Peterson mode!

  • jon

    If 30-some-odd-percent of this year’s voters used electronic voting machines, am I wrong in thinking that these Americans cast inauditable votes? Isn’t it the separate act of human beings tallying a tangible record that guarantees a trustworthy audit? When in American history have 30 percent of votes cast been unreviewable by human eyes?

    Can we say a voter has been disenfranchised when we cannot separate one’s voting intent from an intangible electronic tally?

    When this typpo becomes a statistic, how can you discern my intent?

  • http://lonewacko.com The Lonewacko Blog

    Many embarrasments could be avoid if you would check out this category.

    I looked at the data from 1980 to 2004. There’s a strong dixiecrat trend in those FL counties. Most of them voted for Reagan in even higher percentages.

    However, it’s important to realize how much and how little that analysis shows.

    On a slightly related note, see Why Kerry won. Yes, I realize a lot of “liberals” were upset with Kerry’s swing to the “right” (or at least to the side of 75% of Americans), but that’s what enabled him to win the election.

  • http://lonewacko.com The Lonewacko Blog

    P.S. The form says type “human”. Then, it failed to post until I typed “AGREE”.

  • raoul

    “Poll results do influence later voters and so they need to be treated with care.”

    Maybe, but I’m not convinced. Where’s the empirical study?

  • http://www.mysociety.org Tom Steinberg

    Chris Lightfoot has already done the analysis you suggest – check his post:

    http://ex-parrot.com/~chris/wwwitter/20041104-the_problem_with_conspiracy_theories.html

  • Alex in Los Angeles

    “Sorry, but incomplete polls with small sample sizes are often wrong. When complete, the polls were supposed to have a margin of error of 4%, but they weren�t even half done when the information was �leaked.� I�m not a statistician, but I understand that would have given the polls a margin of error so large that they would have been utterly useless and inaccurate. So, yes, they can be wrong, and as wrong as they were.”

    Max,

    You are attacking a straw man. Prof. Lessig is calling for the complete Final Exit Polls, not the incomplete early exit polls. MysteryPollster explains that the complete Final Exit Polls are released after the close of polls, and are normalized by turnout, gender, etc.
    http://www.mysterypollster.com/main/2004/11/exit_polls_what_1.html#comments

    Final Exit Polls differed from the vote count significantly, but less so than the incomplete early exit polls. MysteryPollster also repeats the call for the owners of the exit poll data to conduct an analysis to debunk, or not, errors/fraud in the vote count:
    http://www.mysterypollster.com/main/2004/11/vote_fraud_.html

    See also Mickey Kaus’ call:
    http://www.kausfiles.com

    And Keith Olbermann:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6210240/

    Note, most of us expect to find Exit Poll Bias, not fraud. But Exit Poll bias would be a big deal and unprecedented.
    See, again, Mystery Blogger:
    http://www.mysterypollster.com/main/2004/11/exit_polls_mito.html

    Hope that helps clear up some questions.

    Alex

  • J.B. Nicholson-Owens

    Bev Harris is going about it the right way–she’s calling for important data by launching a series of Freedom of Information Act requests. I’m willing to see what fruit comes from this.

    Why did Democrats in those counties overwhelmingly defect to the President while remaining �liberal� in their other votes?

    I can’t address the second part of that question, but in 2000, many thousands of Florida Democrats voted for Bush. In fact, there were so many of them they dwarfed the number of Nader voters. I don’t know why Democrats in Florida voted that way then either.

  • Max Lybbert

    Alex, thank you for pointing out my mistake. I took another look, and the original post doesn’t ask “why were the leaked exit poll numbers wrong?” like I thought it did. Instead it asked (as you pointed out) “why were the complete exit polls wrong?” Since I haven’t yet seen the exit polls, I don’t know.

    I know that nationwide, Bush had a 2% lead, and that would be within the margin of error of just about any poll I’ve ever seen. But, since each state must be looked at separately, this isn’t relevant.

  • Max Lybbert

    Joe wrote (to Lessig):

    /*
    You�re telling us to be responsible with our allegations. Based on the experience of 2000, why should we be? They stole an American election, Professor. They stole it.
    */

    So, in the presence of true legal scholars, I would like somebody to understand why a partial recount is Constitutionally valid.

    That is, if I were running for school board, and lost by 50 votes, would it be valid for me to ask for a recount of all white votes, without counting votes cast by Blacks? What about asking for recounts of predominantly-white neighborhoods? What about asking for recounts of predominantly-Republican neighborhoods?

    What if I were named Gore, running for President, and asked for recounts of predominantly-liberal counties, while intentionally ignoring predominantly-conservative counties? What if I were to get on TV to nobly declare “every vote should be counted” while I worked very hard to have only certain votes counted?

    On top of that, why should I put any more stock in manual recounts that have incompatible standards, that one county didn’t actually finish, and where the same county twice changed the standard of a legal vote during the recount?

    A good essay about this can be enlightening.

    For the record, the same place hosts several essays about Bush v. Gore that I haven’t read (type “bush gore” in the Quick Search box). I’m getting them now to see if anybody actually answers these questions.

  • Anon

    I’m sure all the lefties have a subscription to Salon, so go read this. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/11/10/voting/index_np.html

    “Salon has examined some of the most popular Kerry-actually-won theories currently making the rounds online, and none of them hold up under rigorous scrutiny.”

  • James (incredulous in Canada)

    “…nor do I think Diebold stole the election for Bush”

    I see this sentiment everywhere these questionable results are discussed. I don’t understand it. When will Americans wake up and realize that their govt. is in the hands of thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

    I realize Prof. Lessig is a lawyer, and due process is his bag, and I respect that. But they (the administration) do not. Not a bit.

    I appreciate that the professor is at least doing his bit to draw attention to this debacle, but the US, and the rest of the world, are running out of time for polite demands for inquiries, and dark intimations of that old bugaboo “incompetence.” Always with the incompetence. I am so sick of that word and it’s synonyms being so consistently used to explain away actions of obvious ill-intent.

    Election 2004 was a consolidation of the 2000/01 coup d’etat. This seems obvious to me. When will it be obvious to you?

  • garcia oliver

    Lawrence Lessig says, �Always, and in every election, voting machines fail. That fact should force us to a sensible architecture for voting machines � one which we don�t have just now for electronic voting machines. But it isn�t, itself, evidence this election was �stolen.� �

    Of course not. There is no �smoking gun�. At least not yet. But there is some circumstantial evidence, e.g.:

    (1) �While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios largely matched the Kerry/Bush vote, in Florida�s counties using results from optically scanned paper ballots – fed into a central tabulator PC and thus vulnerable to hacking � the results seem to contain substantial anomalies.

    �In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.

    �In Dixie County, with 9,676 registered voters, 77.5% of them Democrats and a mere 15% registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

    �The pattern repeats over and over again – but only in the counties where optical scanners were used. Franklin County, 77.3% registered Democrats, went 58.5% for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7% registered Democrats, went 77.25% for Bush.� [http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1106-30.htm]

    While there are possible innocent explanations, they are addressed in the commondreams article.

    (2) Kerry Margins: Paper-ballot and Non-paper ballot states show big differences. If accurate and not cherry-picked, these data are damning. However, I don�t know the selection criteria used, so don�t accept this study uncritically. [http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=homepage_archives&page=2]

    (3) Many (most?) States that use e-voting have refused to include paper audit trail/backup despite nearly unanimous recommendation to the contrary by computer experts concerned about hacking or manipulation of results. This is a recipe for fraud.

    �[T]hree separate reports issued by computer security experts have determined that electronic voting is a risky business. In fact, the most recent report issued in Maryland showed that the leading touch screen voting system offered by Ohio-based Diebold Corp. was vulnerable to tampering.

    �We were genuinely surprised at the basic level of the exploits that allowed tampering,� said Dr. Wertheimer, a former employee for the National Security Agency now working as a director at Raba Technologies LLC, a Maryland-based security consulting firm.

    Raba teams apparently found it easy to hack into the Maryland Touch Screen voting system built by Diebold. Raba�s report on hacking the Diebold voting machines noted that the system was insecure and required some basic changes before it could be reliable enough for a general election.

    �The State of Maryland election system, as configured at the time of this report, contains considerable security risks that can cause moderate to severe disruption in an election,� noted the report.

    �Further steps could be taken to ensure a safe general election in November. � Ultimately, we feel there will be a need for paper receipts, at least in a limited fashion,� stated the report.� [http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/2/5/164440.shtml]

    (4) And, speaking of Diebold, �Walden �Wally� O�Dell, [is] the chairman of the board and chief executive of Diebold. For years, O�Dell has given generously to Republican candidates. Last September, he held a packed $1,000-per-head GOP fundraiser at his 10,800-square-foot mansion. He has been feted as a guest at President Bush�s Texas ranch, joining a cadre of �Pioneers and Rangers� who have pledged to raise more than $100,000 for the Bush reelection campaign. Most memorably, O�Dell last fall penned a letter pledging his commitment �to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President.� � [http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2004/03/03_200.html]

    Is this who you want in control of unaudited electronic voting machines?

    Is this conclusive? No. But there is sufficient evidence to be highly suspicious of the official results. And reason to keep digging.

  • Max Lybbert

    Well, MIT and Caltech have been digging (PDF).

    To twist Lessig’s words, “Anyone who is surprised that an exit poll didn�t work has been living on Mars for the last 100 years.” By “didn’t work,” I mean, “didn’t accurately predict a 3% spread when the margin of error is 4%.”

  • Ygor Valerio

    On the electronic voting machines issue, the Brazilian experience has been a role model to some countries. In the recent municipal elections, which happened throughout the whole country, we had 0,01 percent of errors in machines. All of them were immediately replaced.

  • Max Lybbert

    For what it’s worth, I’ve seen the Brazilian voting machines, and they look pretty cool. Here in NC, about half of the precincts use electronic machines that have gray-and-black LCDs and push buttons. In Brazil, they have touch-screen machines that include the name, party, and picture of each candidate.

    The issue, of course, isn’t the “wow” factor — it’s whether the machine has a way to verify that the vote total is accurate.

  • Ygor Valerio

    Well, they actually do. And, a plus: voting in Brazil remains one person = one vote, also in presidential elections. It certainly makes our job easier.

  • Max Lybbert

    My only hang-up is the tradition of casting a blank vote,” meaning you vote for the winner — whoever that turns out to be. It’s part of the reason there are nearly always landslides in Brazilian elections. That, and PSDB is the single (large) conservative party opposed by about a million leftist parties, including PT (the party of the current President). It’s very similar to Mexico and PRI vs the world + PAN.

    Anyhow, Brazil goes for a simple majority vote for President, and every 50 years has a referendum determining if the country should remain a republic, go parliamentarian, or become a monarchy again. International politics can get interesting.

  • http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/sepp/ Sepp Hasslberger

    According to a News Update from Citizens for Legitimate Government
    ( November 10, 2004 )
    http://www.legitgov.org/index.html#breaking_news :

    Diebold Source Code!!! –by ouranos (dailykos.com) “Dr. Avi Rubin is currently Professor of Computer Science at John Hopkins University. He ‘accidentally’ got his hands on a copy of the Diebold software program–Diebold’s source code–which runs their e-voting machines. Dr. Rubin’s students pored over 48,609 lines of code that make up this software. One line in particular stood out over all the rest: #defineDESKEY((des_KEY8F2654hd4″ All commercial programs have provisions to be encrypted so as to protect them from having their contents read or changed by anyone not having the key… The line that staggered the Hopkins team was that the method used to encrypt the Diebold machines was a method called Digital Encryption Standard (DES), a code that was broken in 1997 and is NO LONGER USED by anyone to secure programs. F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption. Moreover, because the KEY was IN the source code, all Diebold machines would respond to the same key. Unlock one, you have then ALL
    unlocked. I can’t believe there is a person alive who wouldn’t understand the reason this was allowed to happen. This wasn’t a mistake by any stretch of the imagination.”

  • http://legalfarm.com H�r�ur Helgi Helgason

    Excuse me, but has nobody answered the latter part of Mr. Carnell’s colorful commentary, e.g. “All you have to do is look at how these inverted counties � Baker, Franklin, etc. � voted in 2000. Baker is >69% Dem by registration but went for Bush by 69% in 2000 and 72% in 2004. You will find similar results for Franklin and the other counties that have been mentioned as being excessively inverted.”?

    I did see the exchange between Mr. Carnell and Mr. Don (Whiteside?), about the correlation of voter registration to voter behavior, but that exchange does not address the really interesting point in this thread: Did many Florida counties break away from past presidential election trends in severe ways, i.e. did counties that have traditionally gone for presidential candidates of one of the two largest parties, by a large margin, suddenly now go for the candidate of the other one of these large parties, also by a decisive margin?

  • Beth

    Why not simply count the ballots in those questionable counties? That would show conclusively whether the inconsistencies were the fault was of the polls, the machines, or some of both.

  • http://futurehi.net/ Paul Hughes

    Larry,

    I’ve come to respect you tremendously over the last year, but your telling us that you that these claims are bunk is equally bunk. Why? Because neither you, nor any of us have any idea what the actual vote count was, or if it was manipulated or not. Unless you are psychic, and you have never claimed to be, then you can’t claim these suspicions are unfounded. Nobody knows, and that is the problem. If you do the math, these numbers don’t add up. There IS definitely a SIGNIFICANT statistical descrepancy here. To deny this is silly. So any wise and judicial person would want to investigate this descrepancy and get to the bottom of it at all costs. This is our democracy that is at stake. Playing it down as you do, only furthers the problem.

    Right now we should all be fighting to have open-source elections and accountability (and re-countability) at every level of the electorate. Anything less and it’s a stab our democracy.

  • Alex in Los Angeles

    About the Caltech/MIT study:

    They use exit polls that have been revised to MATCH the election results. They seem not to realize that per standard exit poll methodology, CNN.com, their exit poll source, is now reporting exit polls that have been reweighed to match election results.

    It is quite surprising, and I imagine will be somewhat embarrasing once they realize their error. Obviously, if they want to compare exit polls to election results, they would need to analyze exit polls that are not revised to match the election results.

    Explanation of exit poll methodology:
    http://www.mysterypollster.com/main/2004/11/exit_polls_what.html

    Exit poll study that recognizes exit poll methodologies:
    http://www.buzzflash.com/alerts/04/11/The_unexplained_exit_poll_discrepancy_v00k.pdf

  • http://www.flcv.com/ohiov04.html Bernie

    Does anyone know anything about the effort to get access to the exit poll data by county?? That is what is missing in much of the discussion.

  • Max Lybbert

    Alex, I’m finding your comments and corrections very insightful.

    In fact, I now agree with Lessig that the raw exit poll data should be released so that intelligent”>intelligent”>http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/04/10/wo_muller101504.asp”>intelligent statisticians can take a look at it. I don’t expect anything to be found, but I do understand the concept of auditing even without proof of dishonesty or fraud. I signed a Moveon.org petition for an independent investigation of Abu Ghraib for the same reason. And while I’m not holding my breath, I’m interested in BlackBox Voting’s FOIA requests and the Green Ohio recount request.

    Can the electronic voting machines be compromised? I believe so. Is there a better way? Yes. Should we take it? Yes. Were the machines compromised on a wide scale on Nov 2? I doubt it.

  • Max Lybbert

    Well, my linking abilities seem to have been degraded. That should be:

    “In fact, I now agree with Lessig that the raw exit poll data should be released so that intelligent statisticians can take a look at it. …”

    Teach me to skip the Preview stage. …

  • Jon Spitz

    Mr. Lessig,

    Your analysis of the discrepencies between Exit Polls and the actual vote count fails to address the most relevent points of the controversy. Although I agree with you that the polling data should be made public to discount your theory that it was incompetence that caused the disecrepencies, other facts that we already do know make this possability highly unlikely. First, Edison/Mitofsky has a long track record of polling results that are dead on; they know what they are doing. Second, in non-swing states, their polling was within the expected margin of error .5%. Third, it is not in their interest to falsify the data since their business depends on their polling results proving accurate. Fourth, they have no record of partinship to suggest that they would falsify the data. Fifth, Bush not only has a strong motive to commit election fraud (to stay in power), he also has a proven history of commiting voter fraud (Florida in 2000). Sixth, with computerized vote tallying (not the voting machines but the vote counting machines themselves) it is now very easily possible to commit voter fraud on a massive scale. For your analysis to be convincing, you must address these issues.

    Sincerely,
    Jon Spitz
    Laytonville, CA

  • Max Lybbert

    Sorry, Jon, Bush doesn’t have a “proven record” of voter fraud. I’m amazed how people still believe Bush stole the 2000 election. Here’s a quick rundown:

    • the initial count of ballots said Bush won Florida, so did the automated recount;
    • Gore asked for a manual recount in only the four most liberal counties of Florida (out of 60+ counties), intentionally ignoring the votes of nearly all Floridians, he then started talking about counting every vote (some votes are more equal than others?);
    • Gore failed to convince a court that the butterfly ballot was illegal — disarming the only legal argument for a recount in a single county (compared to a statewide recount);
    • Gore failed to explain why he hadn’t asked for a statewide recount, when the election was essentially statewide, he also never explained how a manual recount could be more acurate than an automated recount (think thousands of different people in different counties with different standards);
    • the US Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that Gore’s recount requests in only four out of 60+ counties were unconstitutional, the Court sent the case back to the Floridian Supreme Court;
    • a different aspect of the case reached the US Supreme Court, this time five justices decided that the recount requests were unconstitutional;
    • the 5-4 majority refused to give the Floridian Supreme Court another bite at the apple;
    • five members of the court explained that the Constitution prohibits anything less than a statewide recount for a statewide election;
    • three of those same members of the court also claimed that the Floridian Supreme Court had “interpreted” the law to mean something that wasn’t ever in the law;
    • the remaining justices of the Supreme Court wrote opinions about how the Supreme Court shouldn’t get involved in politics, etc. but never explained how a “partial recount” in a statewide election could be Constitutional;
    • people started claiming that Bush stole the election, even though Gore was the one who requested an error-prone manual recount that intentionally would not count votes in conservative counties.
  • Max Lybbert

    For the record, a partial recount would be fine if there were some credible reason (such as fraud or illegal activity) for one county to be recounted above all others.

    Gore’s claim that Palm Beach (with the butterfly ballot) needed a recount was credible, but thrown out in court. His claim that punch-card ballots were error-prone, however, was a pretty transparent excuse. If he were truly concerned about punch-card ballots, why didn’t he ask for a recount of all counties that used punch-card ballots? Really, he asked for the recount, and found an excuse later.

  • Ron Ulan

    I strongly suspect that the exit-poll actual differential is merely
    a reflection of voters who are happy to run away from all pollsters, and that such people would more likely be skewed toward the
    right then the left in this country, especially amongst the new voters who turned out for 2004. I was raised liberal. I worked for McGovern in 72 when I was in college. I grew conservative over the years. Once in my life, an exit pollster apporached me as I left the polling place In Whitestone, Queens County, where I reside.
    I saw him and ran from him as if he was a disease. I regretted this later, but my instant reaction was that this Exit Pollster was a walking disease that needed to be avoided as if he were a contagion. If voters for Bush in 2004, more so then voters for
    Kerry reacted as I did, it would be impossible for exit polls NOT
    to be skewed from the actuals. And as for Florida, land of
    retirees from the North, I would not be surprised at all if many
    lifelong Democrats voted for Bush at the top, and then Democratic the rest of the way….and then ran from Exit Pollsters. Bush haters cannot, will not, even try to imagione this
    as possible. It is so possible, I would be surprised if it were not the case.

  • abhi

    please vote