Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

How about Hout?

Olbermann rightly asks why the media hasn't been covering the Hout Report. He says that part of the reason is that the scholarly report from Berkeley, suggesting that Bush may have received up to 260,000 more votes in fifteen Florida counties than he should have due to touch-screen voting systems, is not receiving a ton of press in the mainstream media is just because it's a tough report to read. Hmm.

I can tell you this: I was at a wedding this weekend in NYC, and I was surprised that a prominent cable network political analyst in attendance there had not even heard about the Hout/Berkeley study. Not that he debunked. Not that he waved it aside. But that he did not even know that it existed. The exact same thing with a prominent weekly newsmagazine columnist who was also in attendance, and who had just gotten back from a trip out of the country. Smart guys. Old friends of the family. And when I asked them about the Berkeley Report on Florida, the response was little more than Blink Blink. (And yes, we just edited this paragraph a bit to bring it more into the anonymous, Guess Who/Don't Sue model.)

Olbermann in this post describes the press conference phonecall with Professor Hout. Keith explains that the Berkeley researchers have compensated for "all the bugaboos that hampered the usefulness of previous studies of the county voting results in Florida": "they’ve weighted the thing to allow for an individual county’s voting record in both the 2000 and 1996 elections (throwing out the ‘Dixiecrat’ effect), to wash out issues like the varying Hispanic populations, median income, voter turnout change, and the different numbers of people voting in each county."

The result? "When you calculate all that, you are forced to conclude that compared to the Florida counties that used paper ballots, the ones that used electronic voting machines were much more likely to show “excessive votes” for Mr. Bush, and that the statistical odds of this happening organically are less than one in 1,000."

They also say that these “excessives” occurred most prominently in counties where Senator Kerry beat the President most handily. In the Democratic bastion of Broward, where Kerry won by roughly 105,000, they suggest the touch-screens “gave” the President 72,000 more votes than statistical consistency should have allowed. In Miami-Dade (Kerry by 55,000) they saw 19,300 more votes for Bush than expected. In Palm Beach (Kerry by 115,000) they claim Bush got 50,000 more votes than possible.

Hout and his research team consistently insisted they were not alleging that voting was rigged, nor even that what they’ve found actually affected the direction of Florida’s 27 Electoral Votes. They point out that in a worst-case scenario, they see 260,000 “excessives” - and Bush took the state by 350,000 votes. But they insist that based on Florida’s voting patterns in 1996 and 2000, the margin cannot be explained by successful get-out-the-vote campaigns, or income variables, or anything but something rotten in the touch screens.

The Hout Report also says that they "ran a similar examination on the voting patterns in Ohio, comparing its paper ballot and electronic results, and found absolutely nothing to suggest either candidate got any “bump” that couldn’t otherwise be explained by past voting patterns, income, turnout, or any other commonplace factor." You'd think that the Hout Report would then be embraced by the media -- only to discourage any idea of funny business in Ohio. (Remember, though, that Ohio did not use touchscreen voting machines. Florida did.)