November 18, 2004 8:45 PM PST

Report: Florida data suggests e-voting problems

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Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley published on Friday a statistical analysis of irregularities in Florida voter behavior that contends that the voting patterns favored President Bush to the tune of 130,000 to 260,000 votes.

The report, by four U.C. Berkeley researchers, analyzed the statistical relationships between Florida's Nov. 2 results of the election and a variety of factors, including historical trends in Florida, racial factors and county size. According to the analysis, people using electronic voting machines tended to favor President Bush in proportion to the number of registered Democrats in each county.

The group stressed that the results were not proof of any errors in counting the vote, but merely suggested that some link existed between the type of machine used to tally votes and the margin by which President Bush won.

"Without a paper trail, statistical comparisons of jurisdictions that used e-voting are the only tool available to diagnose problems with the new technology," the researchers stated in the report.

The paper was authored by Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, and three other researchers. The analysis found a statistical relationship between electronic voting machines and votes for President Bush, which seems to have accounted for anywhere from 130,000 votes to 260,000 votes. Hout was not immediately available for comment.

While some problems with election machines have surfaced after Nov. 2, none has been deemed a major issue that could affect the outcome of the election. According to the Web site of Florida's secretary of state, President Bush won that state by 380,000 votes.

That has not stopped liberal groups from taking issues with the results. Strange statistical anomalies in Florida's election results, for example, were initially highlighted by USTogether.org. That group's analysis of the Florida vote stated that optical-scan voting machines were used in polling places where Republicans tended to gain a much larger portion of the vote than expected from party registrations.

However, political science professors at Harvard University, Stanford University and Cornell University discounted the theories by pointing out that optical-scan systems are used mainly in rural counties of Florida and that those counties have had registered Democrats that have voted Republican in the past four presidential elections.

"We conclude that allegation is baseless," wrote Walter Mebane, professor of political science at Cornell University.

However, Samuel Wang, an assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton University who published extensive analysis of election data running up to the November primary, said he believed the latest analysis, unlike previous ones, does a credible job of explaining the statistically odd behavior of Florida voters.

"I am not prone to conspiracy theories," he said in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "For instance, I think allegations about Ohio are false, and theories based on exit polls are highly misguided. But the Berkeley group's evidence is more convincing to me."

The Berkeley analysis uses voting patterns by county from 2000 and 1996, income by county, total population, and Hispanic population to try to explain voting patterns in 2004, all factors used in an attempt to explain Florida voters' propensity to vote Republican far more frequently than voter registration records might otherwise indicate.

"Their analysis indicates that even when all these variables are accounted for, a significant difference remains between counties that used electronic voting and counties that used optical scanning or paper ballots," he said.

Wang's own analysis, using different methods, estimated that e-voting machines inexplicitly favored Bush by 270,000 votes, he said.

Neither analysis tries to explain what may account for the statistical departure from the expected results of the election. However, they do list several possibilities.

"Mechanisms that would produce this outcome include having votes electronically registered in the machine prior to any voters using the machine or after the last voter users it--through software errors or hacking--and other flaws that interfere with counting after some limit is reached," the report stated.

25 comments

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another stolen election
with every anomoly and error found that favors Bush, how can anyone think that the election results mirrored reality.

Now we get more deceits, more innocent lives lost and more rights stolen. Should we expect anything else from the Bushes?
Posted by (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
get over it...
When will you conspiracy theory whackos just move on.

Bush won by a huge margin. Your agenda is the wrong one and all of America just told you that.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Why do you think they are errors?
I'm a registered Democrat, but until the DNC can convince me they are more interested in the good of the country than covering their own miserable posteriors, I will continue to vote Republican.
Posted by mcombrink (3 comments )
Link Flag
Stolen?
Steal is what Al Gore was trying to do in the last election by only recounting in heavily democratic areas in Florida and not the whole state. It's what they were trying to do that same election near where I live by bribing homeless people to vote for Gore by giving them cigarettes. Or during this election, taking 11 year olds out of school during the day to compaign on behalf of moveon.org and calling it an educational experience. You think Republicans are pulling dirty tricks?!
Posted by bschmidt25 (81 comments )
Link Flag
Liberals...Give it up, Bush won!
Academia liberals at work. They just cannot seem to accept the fact that President Bush has won fair and square. Maybe they should actually talk to the people of Florida, and the rest of the country that went "all red" on election night. Maybe, statistically analyzed Americans might reveal to them their disgust at a nation that is condoning gay marriages, abortion, and every other moral cancer that has infected our society. One would be inclined to believe that these issues could be enough to motivate individuals to cross party lines to do the right thing.

President Bush isn't perfect, and may not reflect the views of every American, but most importantly and as the election showed, he represents the beliefs of MOST Americans.
Posted by atmnettech (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re-read the article
The article was not about a stolen election or some conspiracy... It was about the problems (and consequences) of studying voting patterns when there is no paper trail. The following is from the fourth paragraph of the article:

"Without a paper trail, statistical comparisons of jurisdictions that used e-voting are the only tool available to diagnose problems with the new technology".

As an aside, do you honestly think the next four years would be any different with Kerry at the helm? When you factor in that the (I believe... correct me if I'm wrong) Republicans hold a majority in Congress, I sincerely doubt it.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Fair and square?!
Regardless of whether the anomalies from electronic voting prove to be the result of tampering, Bush hardly won "fair and square." Minority voters were illegally dropped from the rolls, intimidated, or forced to wait for several hours to vote because urban precincts were deliberately given too few polling places, voting machines and poll workers. We know for a fact that in Nevada a company hired by the Republicans to register new voters tossed hundreds or thousands of Democratic registrations into a dumpster. In parts of New Mexico, Hispanics were given provisional ballots almost as a matter of course. The (Republican) Ohio Commissioner of Elections attempted to reject new voter registrations because they were on the wrong type of paper.

Meanwhile, a majority of Bush voters were simply misinformed. They believed Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, that weapons of mass destruction WERE found in Iraq and even that most people the world over think highly of Mr. Bush. (I can't blame these people. It shouldn't be a mistake for Americans to trust their President. But under Bush that's exactly what it is.)

I don't know if the Bush team rigged actual voting machines, but they definitely rigged the election.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Answer is simple
The Kerry-Edwards ticket was the 'Indecisive leading the
Incompetent'. And many Democrats decided that Bush-Cheney
was a lesser evil. Statisticians who conduct 'analyses' like those
quoted should have a better handle on reality before making
asinine pronouncements.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dems screw up again
The article states that most of the issues are in largely democratic counties that got lots more Bush votes. It looks like the Dems in charge tried to rig the machines, but got it backwards.
Ha Ha. L
L
L
LLLL iberal, Losers
Posted by swwg69 (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or Reps did a very good job
It makes sense to screw up elections results in a county that heavily favors the opponent.

There are more votes you can change over.

What steps of logic did you take to infer a Democrat screwed with the voting machines?
Posted by empraptor (5 comments )
Link Flag
The answer is quite simple
This is easily explaniable by Human behavior, I fall into this category although the opposite of what I'm suggesting. Simply, voter registration is not updated frequently in many states (Ohio being one of them). You only register when you move and you declare a party when you register. I think it's quite possibly and probable that many people who previously registered as democrats are voting republican. It's not a given that all registered voters vote with their registered party. I am a registered republican and I voted democrat in the past 3 elections, so I skew the statistics when they are based on registered voter party affiliation.
Posted by (1 comment )
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voting republican
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/isuzu_oasis_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/isuzu_oasis_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
It's Over. You lost! Move on & try again.
What in the name of God are the idiots of the earth rambling about now!!???? Havn't any of these incredulous twits ever heard of "Cross-Party Platform voting"??!!!?? The truth of it is that some of the more itelligent Independents and Registered Dem's got smart somewhere in the voting
process.
To The rest of you - Your Guy Lost!! Suck it up! Live with it! Move on and better luck next time?
We spend WAYYY TOO much time catering to the PITA Whiners of the world. Is this the new 4-leter word "Tolerance"??
Get over it!
Posted by (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Over and done
UC Berkley - there's an independant investigation...

Most people are over it and moving on. Bush won fair and square - by over 3.5 million votes. I find it extremely hard to believe that they would pick up 130,000 votes for Kerry, but apparently none for Bush! I gotta give Kerry alot of credit for doing the classy thing and conceding instead of taking it to the courts and filing lawsuits.

As for the Democrats, maybe they should re-evaluate their platform and the candidates they elect. Kerry needed to take a much firmer stance on defense and social issues instead of not taking a position so it looked like he was open to debate for everything. Everyone saw right through him. Whether you like him or not, Bush shoots it straight and doesn't back away from something he said. Kerry was a classic BSer. In a time of war, people are going to go with who they are comfortable with to defend the country. With Kerry, you never knew what you were going to get.
Posted by bschmidt25 (81 comments )
Link Flag
CNET is part of the problem...
Whoever made the decision to create the title to this article is guilty of "Sensationalizing"... So, a big "Shame on You" goes out to CNET!

When will TRUTH be valued more than political gain? (Dem's or Rep's included).
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
How so? I see no sensationalism here.
What part of the title do you have a problem with?

Because it's exactly what the research suggests. That there are problems with paperless voting.

Would you rather have a long, bland title that describes the statistical analysis used?

I think CNet's title is much less sensational than some of the other articles...

University researchers challenge Bush win in Florida
Berkeley: President comes up short
Study Finds Excess Votes For Bush In Florida
UC Berkeley Research Team Sounds 'Smoke Alarm' for Florida E-Vote Count

So many more examples. So a reply to explain how you find this article's title sensational would be great.
Posted by empraptor (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Less about correcting results. More about flaws of paperless voting.
I think you missed the point of the article.

Regardless of whether the errors projected in the analysis change the results of the election, the study strongly suggests there are problems with the paperless voting system.

If you have kept up with the issues that have been raised over paperless voting far before the 2004 elections, you would know that there is no accountability for any errors the voting machines might cause.

Paperless voting does not leave a paper trail. So how do you verify that every vote was counted? That the machine didn't screw up by itself? That someone didn't temper with the machine or its software? You can't.

And the companies making these machines don't help either. Their public relations reps keep repeating the same lines about how their machines are perfectly secure while just days before their machines were hacked into on TV. They claim trade secrets in order to avoid examination of their machines or the software contained within.

Do the machines and software get certified to be accurate and safe from hacking? Sure. From a company hired by the voting machine manufacturers. If you read the reports produced during the certification processes, known security problems are not tested.

So, yeah. The bigger picture is very non-partisan. This is a problem that affects all voters.
Posted by empraptor (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe the PAST was WRONG
Has anybody ever thought that the counts in past elections were wrong? Maybe what you're seeing now is the TRUE vote. Maybe the e-vote is more accurate?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Read up on paperless voting
If you understand the problems of paperless voting, you'll get a better perspective on why all these data are troubling.

To think that a computer systems that have been shown to be unsecure and inaccurate somehow magically became perfect the night before elections is wishful thinking.

Even if you wanted to prove that the machines were doing a better job of counting the votes, how would you go about it? You certainly can't count the votes manually. There is no paper trail. Are you going to blindly trust companies that make money selling these machines? Do you think they will tell you their machines screwed up?
Posted by empraptor (5 comments )
Link Flag
Could be
Maybe the new equipment makes it harder for the Democrats to cheat?
Posted by (402 comments )
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