Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Post 2: The Fix Is In???

Hi folks,

This is a post I've been meaning to compose for weeks now, but I've been having trouble finding the right way of framing it. I feel like the context is still eluding me, but with only two weeks to go before November 2nd, I can't sit on it any longer. So bear with me.

First up, let me again praise Steve Soto of The Left Coaster for his continued, careful analysis of the numbers behind the numbers in Gallup's polling results. Despite his detailed breakdowns of the demographics of their samples, which diverge significantly -- and always in ways beneficial to Republicans -- from the actual turnout in the last few presidential elections, Gallup continues to be regarded as the "most respected" polling firm in the country by several media outlets, most notably CNN.

But Steve Soto's latest post leaves little doubt that Gallup's polling methods are deliberately unrepresentative, designed to give the GOP an edge. Read the post; it's important -- and damning.

I've discussed this at length with a few family members and friends, and they all seem to regard Gallup's distortions as an effort to sway public opinion; and with that in mind, several have asked me if I really thought polls could make a difference in the way the public (undecideds, really) will vote on November 2nd.

Yes, I do. People like to back a winner, like to feel like they're part of a positive trend. And let's face it, with such a stark choice this year, many undecideds must be looking for ANY reason to pick a candidate. In fact, I imagine the large number of undecideds this late in the day is in large part DUE to the closeness of the race throughout the year.

But I don't think that's the primary reason for Gallup's skewed polling samples.

Please have a look at this site: It's an exhaustive account of many (though probably not all) of the Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters and discourage turnout in this year's Presidential election.

Maybe you've heard about the ripped-up Democratic registration forms in Nevada. Or the Ohio Secretary of State's insistence that registration forms submitted on anything lighter than 80-weight paper stock would not be valid. Or a Fox News crew telling students in Arizona that they were "breaking the law" by registering fellow students to vote -- when they were, in fact, most assuredly within the law. But if you see this ever-growing list of Republican dirty tricks in total...

Well, I have to say, it's the first time all year that I've felt truly pessimistic about our chances. I do think Kerry will win handily -- if all the votes are properly counted. But the Republicans are stooping to new lows this year. And frankly, they don't care who knows it. Their voter registration effort in South Dakota was embroiled in scandal, forcing six staffers to resign. Even the former governor - a Republican himself -- condemned it. What happened to the staffers?

The Republican party in Ohio immediately snapped several of them up to help with their voter registration efforts in that all-important swing state...

By all accounts, the Kerry campaign has already amassed a truly impressive roster of lawyers -- I've heard the number 10,000 bandied about, when speaking nationally -- to help them defend against these underhanded, disenfranchising tactics. But I just don't know if it will be enough. I'm beginning to get the feeling that we're fighting on so many fronts that we can't possibly prevail.

And those polls? Here's my point: I see them as a way of inoculating Republican candidates against charges of vote fraud. If the race LOOKS tight in the final week or two of the campaign, then either candidate could claim a legitimate victory, right? But wait, isn't that what recounts are for...?

Welcome to the wonderful world of electronic voting. Why do you think the companies who make the devices and the software have been fighting tooth and claw to prevent states from introducing printouts -- a paper trail that could verify votes in the event of a recount?

When you buy something, don't you usually want a receipt? When you make a deposit at an ATM, don't you want a receipt? Yet these companies insist that their systems are so perfectly designed that a paper trail -- a voter receipt, essentially -- is unnecessary.

Maybe this sounds like "tinfoil hat" conspiracy theory stuff. But bear in mind: both Max Cleland and the Democratic governor of Georgia were favored to win their races in 2002. Both lost by remarkable last-minute upsets -- swings by as much as 16 percentage points according to some polls. And that was the first election in Georgia with widespread use of electronic voting machines. And the first time in more than 100 years that the state elected a Republican to govern it.

I should probably mention here that days before that election, a representative from the company (Diebold) that made the election devices "upgraded" the software on the machines without notifying the state, and the machines were not retested and recertified before the election.

Oh, and some enterprising online sleuths discovered an unprotected Diebold FTP site hosting a number of files with very curious names. Names like "robgeorgia."

Don't believe me? Go to and read about it for yourself.

The secretary of state of Florida -- Glenda Hood, the 2004 equivalent of Katherine Harris -- has actually made it illegal to do any kind of recount on electronic voting machines in that state, despite the fact that another state law (which came significantly into play in 2000) requires that a recount be done if the margin of victory is too narrow. Now you see why I wrote earlier that Kerry should have just written off Florida this year...?

Look: as long as the polls are close, the conventional wisdom will always be, "Anything can happen." And as long as it seems like "anything can happen," the Republicans will stop at nothing to ensure that their victory does "happen." I believe that's why we're seeing these heavily-GOP skewed voter samples in national polls, and why several "surprise" polls have sprung up in states like New Jersey and Maryland (which have invested heavily in electronic voting technology -- despite warnings about their flaws). Both seem to have fallen back into the Dems' column, which is where they belong, but I can certainly imagine Republicans' dredging up those outlier polls to justify their "win" if Bush suddenly and inexplicably comes out ahead on the 2nd.

Sorry to anyone who thinks this limb I'm going out on is just too thin or crazy. But again, check out and see for yourself the lengths that Republicans are going to this year to keep turnout low at the polls, especially in swing states. High turnout traditionally means more Democratic votes. So we need to make sure that no one is discouraged from voting because of doubtful polls, or any other reason -- especially intimidation.

If you live in a swing state, please consider becoming a poll monitor. Or volunteering for a GOTV campaign on November 2nd. Or if you live in a state that has early voting, encourage left-leaning friends to cast their vote ASAP. We have momentum on our side. And yes, we have a lot of lawyers in our corner. But we should consider them a last resort. The important thing is to make sure that our side turns out in unprecedented numbers, and to stop any efforts to disenfranchise voters ON NOVEMBER 2ND.

Sleep tight,


At October 23, 2004 at 12:01 AM, Blogger Ryan J said...

sounds like a bunch of talk with no substance. In a poll, as long as you have at least 30 but more around 400 sampled randomly demographics and all these other things mean little, but I'm sure you wouldn't know that because liberal arts majors don't take statistics class, they just believe everything their narrow minded professors tell them.

It's sad that you honestly believe the stuff you read in the NY Times, no one is trying to "disinfranchise" voters. What the hell is this "kerry will win if all the votes are counted" are you inferring they weren't in 2000? Are you really that dumb? And are you saying that if for some reason kerry loses its not because americans want a true leader but because we got cheated?? Using your logic it is impossible for Bush to win. Never in history has someone decided they were going to sue to become president (other than al gore).

You actually condone the use of lawyers to win an election? This is the kind of thing that will send us back into a recession. Trial lawyers shouldn't decide our elections and you are hypocritical for thinking so. Don't believe everything you read on the internet or see in a michael moore movie. Democracy works and you are a sad individual for thinking it doesnt. It amazes me how you just regurgitate everything you read in the NY Times and other liberal propagnada, yes even CNN.

Try understanding the issues not just the conspiracies.


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