Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there was election fraud

Before the election, many observers were predicting Democratic gains in the House of 35-40 seats, possibly more. The media, channeling the Republican line, sought to downplay the actual poll numbers that were coming out in the weeks before the election, claiming that, oh, that can't be right! There's no way America hates the GOP that much. There was never any evidence offered to back up these claims other than simply pronouncing the polls as "biased." Well, in one sense they were biased, but the bias was not in the polls, which appeared to be entirely accurate. They were biased in the sense that they all heavily favoured Democrats and portrayed a deep, deep dissatisfaction with George Bush and the Republican party in general.

We all expected shenanigans at the polling booths. Fudging of the exit polls was going to be par for the course, just as it has been since 2000, the first year wherein previously extremely accurate exit polling was suddenly wrong, wrong, wrong. With electronic black box vote counting in charge, exit polling is now the only tool by which to check the validity of the vote count. And since 2000, especially in 2004, exit polls have routinely exposed incorrect vote totals and, therefore, have necessarily been disparaged by partisan hacks and guileless media dullards (Salon's Scott Rosenberg was a particularly annoying example of this after the 2004 election). Exit polls were proving to be a problem for an establishment that wished to uphold that myth that elections in America were still relatively unblemished by vote rigging and so, exit polls would need to be kept under wraps.

This year, they were. Wasn't it curious, for example, that discussion of exit polls was non-existent during election night. I remember seeing the Senate race in Maryland on the MSNBC screen, showing 0% for Cardin, 0% for Steele with 0% votes counted when all of a sudden, Cardin was being declared the winner. Huh? When did that happen? ...what the...? The answer to that unfinished question was that exit polls were being reviewed in backrooms and not being discussed on screen. Yes, the American media was now taking its cue from actions seen during the Mexican elections, when elections officials there requested that the television networks keep their exit poll data from the public.

The good folks at Election Defense Alliance did manage to capture raw exit poll data, which CNN curiously made available on its website, though never discussed in front of the camera. These data show that, once again, exit polls disagreed with the vote totals across the board and votes appear to have been trimmed. Pre-election polls were indicating a rout of the GOP by 11.5% in a generic race, which is exactly what these exit poll data show. The final tally, however, was 7.6% in favour of Democrats, which indicates that some 3 million votes for Democrats disappeared. Curiously, this number is roughly equal in magnitude to the 3.6 million ballots that were never counted in 2004.

But the exit polls were quickly "adjusted" to bring them inline with the vote total. Just like we saw happen in 2004.
As you can see, the unadjusted exit polls matched exactly with opinion polls prior to the election. The vote total did not match these and the exit polls were then maladjusted to match the vote total. Without the suspicious performance of nebulous voters, EDA estimates that the Democrats would have indeed taken the predicted 35-45 seats and maybe more.

The failings of these efforts merely indicate that the rigging effort was insufficient to overcome the general distaste the public had for the party in power. Without casting too much attention on the matter, an election must be fairly close for the rigging to be both effective and plausibly deniable, that the adjustments usually must occur within the "margin of error." This hasn't always been the case, as Max Cleland's defeat demonstrated, but it is generally true. This is why pre-election efforts are made to downplay or cast doubt upon polls that showed the Democrats had a gap that was truly insurmountable. This time, though, disaffection was so broad and deep, no amount of poll pooh-poohing would be sufficient to dissuade most people that the GOP was going to be trounced. But there was enough obvious vote trimming still in place that it prevented an even more devastating trouncing than was actually wrought.

This doesn't bode well for any future elections. The only reason there was not wide-spread doubt and confusion about results in most places was because the Democratic wins were so pronounced. But as long as we continue to have a media machine that happily entertains this electioneering behaviour by adjusting polls to suit suspicious outcomes, it won't go away any time soon.

[via OpEd News]


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