Post three: voting and vote counting issues. We lost, but issues remain

Yes, we’ve heard this before. In 2004, the exit polls were off by beyond the margin of error, and we heard cries that the “election was stolen”. Now I am hearing it again after another loss.

I’ve talked about these issues after other elections, and I’ve had some conversations on the social media about these issues (Twitter and Facebook). So, while in an ideal world, my credentials and beliefs should not matter when it comes to the arguments that I present, they in fact do. So, I’ll state the following:

1. I am a mathematician and not a statistician, and I have no special expertise on political polling and ballot counting. I do understand statistics well enough to competently teach the math major probability and statistics courses though; I’ve taught this two semester sequence a number of times.

2. I believe, in fact, have little reason to doubt, that Trump just flat won the election, period. So any of my thoughts are aimed at making elections more fair and transparent and NOT overturning the results of this election; I consider such efforts to be a fool’s errand. And yes, I voted for Hillary Clinton and was sickened that Donald Trump won. And it burns me that it appears that the “loser” of this election got somewhere around 2 million more votes than the “winner”. But yes, both campaigns knew the rules and..I would assume, campaigned that way. There is evidence that Trump campaigned that way anyway…not so sure about the Clinton campaign…don’t get me started. Grrrr….

Now there are issues concerning this election, and frankly, most all elections in the United States.

We have the issue of voter disenfranchisement. We sometimes hear of long voting lines discouraging voters, or early voting hours being restricted.

Yes, those are serious issues which should be resolved.

But, what about the actual voted and the counting of those votes?

The polls and models being off
Yes, most of the models I saw forecast a Clinton victory, but her lead was far from safe.
Of the models I followed, only one said “no way Trump could win” and one said “unlikely”; even Upshot likened Trump’s chances of winning to those of an NFL kicker shanking a medium range field goal.


And after the fact: yes, Trump overperformed the polls…but he overperformed them the most in the red states! (states he was expected to win).

What about the exit polls?
The exit polls, as conducted in the United States, are more designed to study voter motives and things like “when did you decide on your choice” than they are to predict; in fact, their track record of prediction of close elections isn’t so hot. The article I linked to has quite a bit to study, especially if one follows the article’s links.

What about election vote tampering?

Yes, the Clinton campaign has been urged to seek recounts in some key states though the activists admitted that there is no evidence that hacking occurred. Yes, there were some irregularities in a Wisconsin county but no evidence than this was a mere outlier error.

Yes, there was a way to do such hacking; I can recommend this article by a computer science professor who is urging recounts for the purpose of auditing the election process. From this article:

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.

Others are saying similar things: a recount won’t change the outcome of the election, but it might be a confidence boosting audit..or perhaps a problem resolving audit.

The best explanation of the data we say is that, well, Trump won.

What about foreign influence of our election process?

This is a catch-all, but a nice collection of credible scholars is urging a Congressional investigation. They say, among other things:

We emphasize that nothing in our collective call for an investigation is meant to question the outcome of the November election. We simply know that turning a blind eye to such involvement would send a global green light to hackers and others intent on undermining our democratic institutions.

Nor do we prejudge the outcome of an investigation. As scholars, we give priority to evidence. The evidence made available in an investigation might show that foreign powers have played an important role, and it might show that such a role was negligible. At this juncture, we can only say that existing reports are plausible enough and publicly expressed concerns are significant enough to warrant Congress’s full attention and swift action.


November 23, 2016 - Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, poll, social/political | , , ,

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