Friday, May 6, 2005

Fever Swamps: Take Note

It appears that a pet theory of the extreme left wing is coming undone. Specifically, I am referring to the theory that evil genius Karl Rove concocted and implemented a massive voting fraud gambit to steal the presidential election in Ohio. As certain members of the conspiracy theory left, who held on to this "theory" with the white knuckled tenacity that a crack addict has on his dime bag, are exposed to this analysis, will they be able to "move on"?

Buoyed by a Christopher Hitchens Vanity Fair article, that in my view was an uncharacteristically simplistic analysis at best, and some less than professional statistical analysis by U.S. Count Votes, new analysis now indicates that the idea that the discrepancy between the Ohio exit polls and the final election results was indicative of some large scale fraud, is wrong. In fact, analysis seems to indicate that the problem may exist in the exit polling methodology itself. I am particularly encouraged by this development as my question to the fraud theorists, which to this day remains unanswered, was "if the discrepancy indicates fraud, why can it not be indicative of fraud in the exit polls instead of the actual election results?" While I never believed that there was actually any exit polling fraud, the theorists inability to answer this question was a sign to me not to take them too seriously.

What is more interesting though, is that the debunking of this theory has come at the hands of members of the more responsible left. This is extremely commendable and one hopes that it is a sign that some degree of sanity remains in this important sector of our society. One of the key debunkers is Elisabeth Liddle. No doe eyed admirer of our electoral system, she writes:

"I believe your election was inexcusably riggable and may well have been rigged, writes Liddle. It was also inexcusably unauditable. I am convinced that there was real and massive voter suppression in Ohio, and that it was probably deliberate. I think the recount in Ohio was a sham, and the subversion of the recount is in itself suggestive of coverup of fraud. I think Kenneth Blackwell should be jailed."

Ok then, our friend isn't above making accusations for which she presents no evidence, but none-the-less goes on to say:

"However (and I'll come clean now in case you want to read no further) I don't believe the exit polls in themselves are evidence for fraud. I don't think they are inconsistent with fraud, but I don't think they support it either.........My analysis shows that the swing states were not in fact more wrong than the safe states,? writes Liddle. ?This evidence shows that the greatest bias was [actually] in the safest blue states... Moreover, the pattern of polling bias is the same as in the nearest comparable election, 1988, another two-horse race where there was also a large significant over-estimate of the Democratic vote and another losing Democratic candidate (Dukakis)."

Liddle goes on to explain that the discrepancies were most likely the result of over sampling of democrats, and varying degrees of exit poll cooperation between Democratic voters and Republican voters. Further debunking of the fraud theory was conducted by Rick Brady which can be found here, and even more analysis by the Mystery Pollster can be found here.

All this isn't to say that our electoral system cannot be improved. Surely it can be. As Liddle points out, just having an auditable system would seem to be the low bar test for a modern democratic state. Further, the fact that both parties have members that actively work to discourage the other side's voters, while doing everything in their power to encourage the most irresponsible voters to cast ballots for their side, is a stain on our system that must be removed.

However, fevered supporters of ill conceived theories do more to damage the argument for reform than support it. Their angry grasp of any idea that seems to support the dream that their candidate was more popular than he actually turned out to be, allows those who do not want reform to cast aside more credible calls for change as just more manical ramblings. Hopefully these important papers will put to rest the illegitimate Ohio Fraud Conspiracy, while also contributing to the effort to lead us to real reform. Posted by Hello

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