Thursday, November 11, 2004

Election Fraud for Fun & Profit: The New Mexico Connection

Say the words "New Mexico" and I automatically think of turquoise jewelry, new age grooviness, and nuclear bombs. But now, having perused a spreadsheet of election results from that one-time swing state, I am beginning to think of NM as Florida with a Southwestern twist.

It appears that, just like in Florida, an astounding number of registered Democrats in New Mexico crossed over to the Dark Side. In some counties, particularly the small ones, Bush received from 100% to 180% of the registered Republican vote -- in other words, he captured all of the Republicans, plus a hefty percentage of Independents and Democrats. Mighty strange in a state where the registration splits 50% Demo, 33% Repub, and 17% Other.

Some academics have pooh-poohed the notion that Florida's optical scan voting machines were rigged, saying that what we were looking at was simply the revenge of the Dixiecrats. But what's the explanation here - Mexicrats?

As in Florida, the urban centers (Albuquerque, Santa Fe) skewed toward Kerry while the less populated areas went strongly for Bush. Is there some deeply felt resentment of Democrats festering in the country, but not so deep that people are willing to change their registration status? Are there really that many evangelicals hidden away in the desert?

I looked at the 11 counties that use optical scan equipment (according to the records at Verified Voting), seeing if there was a discernible pattern among them. All were relatively small; a total of 71,000 votes were cast, with the largest county at around 20,000. The average gain for the republicans was 127% -- meaning that if all registered Republicans showed up and voted for Bush he also drew 27% of the remaining voters. Average turnout for Democrats in these counties was 50% -- or 13 points below the statewide turnout. (Bush "won" by 6,939 votes, or less than 1% -- so these small counties could well have carried the day for him.)

Nearly all the voting machines in these counties were Optech III-P or Optech III-P Eagles built by Election Systems and Software, which as many folks have noted has strong ties to the Christian fundamentalist movement.

ES&S also made many of the optical scanners used in Florida -- all of which produced results heavily in favor of GWB, according to this analysis. Votes cast on ES&S machines in Florida went for Bush by 60% to 40%, and accounted for 10% of all machine votes in the state.

This page also goes on to note several major "glitches" with ES&S machines in previous elections:

ES&S has had problems with their machines in the past. I managed to find some thorough voting machine documentation here (PDF). Among ES&S's slipups, these stood out as most relevant to me:

  • September 2002, Union County, Florida. A programming error caused ES&S Model 100 machines to read 2,642 Democratic and Republican votes as entirely Republican in the September 2002 election. The ballots program in the memory packs read the ballots incorrectly. The vendor, ES&S, accepted responsibility for the programming error and paid for a hand recount.
  • November 2002, Scurry County, Texas. A landslide victory for two commissioner candidates caused poll workers to question the results. The chip in the ES&S 650 contained an incorrect ballot program. ES&S sent a new chip, and the county officials also counted the votes by hand. The opposing candidates actually won by large margins.
  • November 2002, Taos, New Mexico. A software programming error caused the Sequoia Optech optical scanner to assign votes to the wrong candidates. Just 25 votes separated the candidates in one race; another race had a 79-vote margin. After noticing that the computer was counting votes under the wrong names, Taos County Clerk Jeannette Rael contacted the programmer of the optical machine and was told it was a programming error.

Union County, the county named in the September 2002 incident, returned a 73/27 Bush victory this year, on ES&S Model 100s. Only 9 of Florida's 67 counties were more decidely in favor of the President.

There is no smoking gun in the Florida elections, but the results still have their pecularities. It's true that if optical scan votes were not counted, Kerry would have won with about the same margin that Bush did. It's true that rural counties tended to use optical scan machines more, and the wideheld view is that rural voters prefer Bush. It's true that machines manufactured by ES&S, a company that has had problems on the past, gave a higher percentage of votes to President Bush than did other machines.

Can we concluded definitively that ES&S has rigged its machines? No. Can we conclude definitively that fraud has occurred in Florida, New Mexico, and God Only Knows Where Else? Not yet. Would a shift in NM's 5 electoral votes do squat to the final results in Fiasco 2004? Not unless it's evidence of a deep and sinister cabal that reaches beyond that state's borders.

Even I am not that paranoid....yet. But this issue deserves much closer scrutiny, and not the cursory treatment it has so far received from the major media. For more information on how to get involved in this investigation, visit Blackboxvoting.org (if you can get on the site--I've been locked out of it all morning) and send a letter to your elected representatives, courtesy of Working Assets.

We got screwed in 2000; the American people deserve nothing less than a full accounting now.


4 Comments:

Blogger Dogboy said...

You may be on to something, but then again maybe not.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/11/11/MNG2P9PJ5M1.DTL

The only mystery I would like to see answered is why the DNC sat on it's hands while the Publican's conned millions to switch sides.

10:04 PM  
Blogger dt said...

Yes, the SF Gate story does mention the logical explanations that would account for some of the electoral oddities. My point is that we deserve more than a rationale for suspicious results--we need to verify them. If we are able to have a manual recount of voting samples in Ohio and Florida, and it turns out the original tally was accurate (or close enough), then great, let's move on. But let's not dismiss the issue based on rationales.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Standard deviation is the "new hanging chad."

Charlie Strauss looks at Dopp's data and finds an interesting correlation between precinct size and votes for Bush...the smaller the precinct, the greater the percentage of votes went to Bush.

I suppose one possible explanation would be a market segmentation approach to campaigning by Karl "Direct Mail" Rove. Supposedly the Reds targeted rural voters. This could possibly account for discrepancies between exit polls and the actual vote--small precincts were undersampled by the exit pollsters. And if this is all true, then Rove is (as my UK friends would say) "fooking brilliant." Who would think the rural vote would nullify urban and suburban GOTV?

I wish I could remember more of the statistics I studied in college. Stauss' analysis still shows greater deviation for opti-scan votes than for eVotes...all the way up the line. Does this effect get magnified in the smaller samples? Can it be explained by the higher degree of vote "spoilage" that is inherent in the opti-scan counting process? If so, why does it favor the Reds? And from my own reading of Dopp's figures, why does the percentage of Red vote increase so dramatically in precincts where over 50% of the voters are registered Dems...is that simply an effect of the math?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Oh yeah...the link to Strauss' plots is
http://ustogether.org/election04/florida_vote_patt.htm

4:10 PM  

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