OK, so I’ve thought the suspicions of voting fraud were over the top, that actually it’s impressive the Democrats did as well as they did, and that it just basically sucked. But I just read a report that a voting machine in Ohio had a malfunction and reported 4258 votes for Bush in a precinct that only had 638 voters. Quite apart from the hidden motors of electronic voting machines run on proprietory software with no paper trail for auditing, there’s the spoilage issue. Did you know 3% of ballots are thrown out because the machines can’t read them? In theory electronic voting should solve that problem, but it obviously comes with its own set of concerns. Tom Paine has more about this, with many links for the curious. After people vote, they’re asked what they voted for – the exit polls – and according to these, Kerry should have won Ohio. Some are saying the exit polls were correct, the vote-counting was not. Black Box Voting calls for “consumer protection” for voting, Votergate has a 30 minute video Vika recommends. I thought blaming the loss on fraud was silly – after all, three million more votes were cast for Bush than for Kerry – but reading about that voting machine in Ohio, I’m not so sure. Ah well. Now I’m going to shut up about this election. I’m tired of it.

Oh, and I’m really happy with our voting system here. Separate slips of paper for each party, choose one, add candidates from other parties if you want, slip it in an envelope and then into the ballot box. There’s an audit trail and it’s hard to imagine getting much spoilage.

7 thoughts on “more votes cast than there were voters

  1. andrew

    From what I’ve read about the inconsistencies between the exit polls in Ohio and the actual vote count, it’s because the exit polls were not able to sample the population evenly; they may have concentrated too heavily in urban areas, and may have over-sampled female voters. According to the Washington Post, “[exit poll] estimates are untrustworthy because people who vote earlier in the day tend to be different from those who vote in the middle of the day or the evening. For instance, the early national sample Tuesday that was 59 percent female probably reflected that more women vote in the day than the evening.”

    But this 3% business is troublesome.

  2. andrew

    I did the math. Even with those discarded votes being counted in Ohio, it’s probably still not enough for Kerry to win Ohio.

    There were 155,000 provisional ballots in Ohio.
    Let’s imagine 75% are valid = 116,000
    Let’s imagine 75% go to Kerry = 87,000, and 25% for Bush = 29,000
    Kerry’s gain: 58,000

    Similarly, there were 92,672 discarded ballots in Ohio.
    Let’s imagine 75% are valid, hand-countable = 69,500
    Let’s imagine 75% for Kerry = 52,125, and 25% for Bush 17,375 for Bush
    Kerry’s gain: 34,750

    Kerry’s total gain in this 75% + 75% scenario: 92,750.
    Still not enough to overcome Bush’s lead of 136,483 votes.

    For these provisional and discarded ballots to have given Kerry the edge, it would take, for example, 85% of them to be valid, and 85% of those to go to Kerry.

    85% + 85% would give Kerry a gain of 147,365, enough to beat Bush in Ohio and win the election.

    Probably wouldn’t happen — probably why the Democrats aren’t fighting this.

  3. J. Nathan Matias

    It can go both ways. In Pennsylvania this year, Democrat poll workers were opening and counting provisional ballots. These sort of anomalies occur when you involve passionate people in a process, especially in such a large country as the United States, where we have to use many thousands of polling places.

  4. Radagast

    See my post here for links to reports of other voting problems.

    Also, as Andrew mentions, due to our electoral college system, even though Bush won by 3 million votes, a change of far fewer votes than that could have affected the outcome.

  5. Jill

    I don’t think there’s much point in thinking Kerry might have actually got more votes than Bush – I believe Bush won – but with Radagasts list of even more problems with electronic voting, I hope a real effort is made to audit this election properly and make damn sure a much more transparent system is in place for next time.

    Like that machine in Florida where the programmers had only figured on getting 32500 voters using the machhine, so after that, it started subtracting votes. Or the other machine in Palm Beach that registered 90000 more votes than there were voters. Or consider Hagel, the Nebraskan republican elected for senator by a landslide 84% – counted on voting machines made by his own company!

    Whether to believe this report from voters, I don’t know:

    Reports from voters in Florida and Ohio also indicated that some of them had problems voting for the candidate of their choice. When they tried to vote for John Kerry, they said, the machine either wouldn’t register the vote at all or would indicate on the review page that the vote was cast for Bush instead. (Wired, Nov 5: House Dems Seek Election Inquiry)

    And then there’s this graphic, and I don’t know whether it’s truthful or just representing a fraction of the truth or what, but it suggests that exit polls matched results perfectly where paper ballots were used, and not at all where electronic voting machines were used. If that’s true (and certainly, it could be verified or found to be false), well, that’s really, really not good.

    I sure hope they never get electronic voting in Norway.

    (If you’re asked for passwords following any of those links, try Bug Me Not)

  6. Ken

    Have a look at http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/roland2.html for an article on some of the anomalies in the election. With an evenly balanced election it would not take much to skew the results. (Perhaps the UN should oversee the US elections!)

  7. Jill

    Actually the OSCE oversaw these elections, but they weren’t let IN in many states and counties. They wrote a report based on what they were permitted to see, though. I haven’t read the whole report.

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