Interesting and More Than A Bit Disturbing

A blogger does some research — easily replicated — and discovers a statistical oddity in the NH Primary.

In districts that use hand-counting of ballots, Obama ended up with a 7.5% advantage. In districts using Diebold’s notorious “Accuvote” machines, Clinton ended up with a 5.5% advantage. If you apply the hand-count rate to the entire state, Obama would have won with a lead near to what the polls, exit interviews and such were claiming.

Hanky panky? Or just wonky machines? Who knows — regardless of the reason, there’s certainly been enough evidence presented over the past 4 years to indicate that the Diebold voting machines are unreliable — not only prone to error, but also easily hacked. And yet, they’re still in use.

EDIT, FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T YET FIGURED IT OUT: The thesis statement of this post is the final paragraph. I’m not shouting “tampering!!” I think that if anything, this points (yet again) to the need to use only verifiable paper balloting.

21 Replies to “Interesting and More Than A Bit Disturbing”

  1. I’m almost to the point where I’d rather not vote than vote on a Diebold. Which is crap because I don’t want to not vote.

    This requires research to see if I can request a paper ballot.

  2. Devil’s Advocate

    If the Hacking Hypothesis is correct… Are only Clintonites smart, connected, and insidious enough enough to hack the machines? Have no other campaigns, of any stripe picked up on how to do this? Or was their bid not high enough? Gore and Kerry presumably got screwed this way too… So some feisty Demos got hold of the trick and gave it to the Clinton camp rather than Obama’s, or Eddie’s? Or is there another more insidious power lurking behind the scenes pulling the invisible strings of fate? And since when were pollsters That right about anything anyway? Could the statistical deviation reveal other cruel machinations like “Economic Insularity”?

  3. Re: Devil’s Advocate

    As I said — who knows? It’s a pretty odd variance, given how widely-spread those districts are.

    Here’s a tin-foil hat conspiracy theory for you:

    1) Diebold is a republican-owned corporation whose CEO was involved in the Bush campaign and once famously stated that he was looking forward to “delivering those votes for the President”, leading up to 2004.

    2) The Republicans are *already* using Hillary Clinton as the boogeyman for their fundraising efforts. If she’s not the Dem candidate, they don’t get as much of their base out.

    1+2 = …..

  4. Whatever the moment is, there should be a campaign to get rid of Diebold machines before the presidential elections or you are going to be looking at a continuation of what happened in Ohio during the last one.

  5. I totally agree that electronic voting machines in general, and especially Diebold voting machines, should be tossed out, and their manufacturers sued for negligence or worse. (And I say that as a techie and a software developer.)

    That said…. Man, I’m reluctant to call fraud if there’s another reasonable explanation (naive? Quite possibly). I’d be very interested to see if there was a different correlation between Obama counties and Clinton counties, ignoring voting mechanisms. For example (I’m not up on my NH primary statistics, so this is a made-up example), if wealthy people tended to vote Clinton even in Obama counties, and independently, wealthy counties also happened to be the ones which had electronic voting machines, the correlation between voting mechanism and reported results gets a lot weaker.

    Not knowing those correlations, I’d be inclined to (1) blame some kind of correlation like that, (2) blame faulty electronic machines, and only then (3) blame organized fraud. (Which then opens the question of who organized the fraud; I think I prefer your tin-foil hat conspiracy explanation.)

    Now, all that said, electronic (and especially Diebold) voting machines are known to be hackable. Just from a risk/reward standpoint, I think in some circumstances (mostly likely the presidential general election, perhaps not in a single small-though-influential state’s primary), the risks of being caught tampering are outweighed by the rewards of picking the president for the next four years.

  6. I completely agree. It’s strange that people (I’m not saying Gareth necessarily) would see the discrepancy, see the placement of the machines, and assume they had been hacked rather than wondering if there was a difference in the voter preferences in those particular counties or towns or cities. That seems the simplest explanation, really, that the machines are more prevelant in certain areas and that voters in those areas were more inclined toward Clinton.

    Which doesn’t mean those machines are a good thing. Just that this may not be a plot but simply a coincidence.

  7. Re: Devil’s Advocate

    DooD! Those machines read verifiable paper ballots. They are not touchscreen type hackmagnets. Could all of this divisiveness between Democrats about the peculiarities of their individual favorites be a Republican ploy as well? Could all of this in-fighting actually benefit someone else besides the in-fighters? It is important to gather real evidence, not semi-contextual statistical anomalies, if one is going to come to some sort of real conclusion. The real important goal here is that the Neo-Cons LOSE!

  8. On the other hand, there’s always this explanation, as communicated by :

    Olbermann pointed out last night that Obama actually ended up with approxiamtely the right percentage of votes that the polls said he’d get… They were just off on Clinton’s total.

    And the amounts that went to her (and McCain) were well within the “Undecided” Dem and Independent percentages.

  9. Yeah, I know — I’ve amended the original post to point out that I’m not claiming tampering, and that wasn’t the point of the post.

  10. Re: Devil’s Advocate

    Actually, the NH Secretary of State’s office states that all of the Accuvote machines in the state are optical scanners.

    I got the info from the link you posted.

    Also, this NYT article mentions that NH is one of the states still using paper ballots.

  11. Re: Devil’s Advocate

    I stand corrected, then. I wonder why the product page on the Diebold site shows only a touchscreen for that model.

  12. Re: Devil’s Advocate

    Did I say recognizing? I said in-fighting… are you an in-fighter? Are those differences a reason for rational discussion or are they an opening for unsupported attacks? or something in between? If internal squabbling actually benefited a political party they would be sure to win! I’m actually on your side here, (more so than I think you are) despite my variable mileage. I’m just pointing out the possible unintended benefits. What if Clinton wins the nomination? will you be writing in Alfred E Newman? (I assumed you were familiar with irony as a conversational gambit, or should We chalk that up to variable mileage too?)

  13. Cool.

    The sooner we either (a) get reliable electronic voting machines (open-source software, verifiable results, etc. — unlikely! A solution in search of a problem!) or (b) better, go back to nice, simple paper ballots, the better.

  14. I’m a cynical cranky bastard. I don’t trust any of ’em. If anyone still believes the machines were hacked to get Bush in for a second term, why would they not be hacked again?

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