Was There Voting Fraud? How Would We Know?

I’m absolutely happy that the margin (for almost all the races) was wide enough that it was not only outside the margin of error, but outside the plausible margin of any kind of fraud.

All the same, I’m developing an idea about crowdsourcing some post-election audits to try and see if we can generate enough data to either confirm that there were irregularities – or make a convincing argument that there were not.
I’d love to toss out a challenge to the conservative bloggers who tried to raise the ACORN/registration fraud as a meaningful risk to the integrity of the election.

First of all, I think it’s likely that every state has a significant number of ‘zombie registrations’ – registrations from people who have died, have moved out of state, or registered illegally either deliberately or inadvertently.

Given a set of assumptions about the quality of the work that ACORN did, you can either assume that they did great audits of the cards turned in by their low-wage registration workers, and thus created very few zombies, or that they didn’t (either deliberately or through lack of resources, processes, or ability) and so created a lot of zombies.

So it’s reasonable to assert that there’s a ‘zombie issue’

Now the question is where there are exploits we can devise that use those zombies in a plausible way to commit voting fraud.

I’ll exclude from this list encouraging people who shouldn’t be registered but are from voting. That doesn’t rise to the level of systemic fraud on one hand, and to the extent that we accept Patterico’s argument that this represents a large number of illegal aliens who have registered and voted – it represents broader policy issues.

So how would you audit for voting fraud like this??

I’d like to throw down a challenge to the people who care about this to work with me in devising ways that we can do some proof tests to see if the problem exists, to try and sample it’s extent.

Lots of knowledgeable people have looked at this and made the flat statement that it isn’t an issue.

If you think it is – and I’m in the ‘it might be’ crowd – then let’s get some folks together and figure out how to demonstrate it.


So I’m at an airport again, headed to Florida to give another talk and have dinner with Ethan Murburg’s dad.

And after reading a bunch of papers, and talking to a bunch of friends, I want to set out some quick thoughts about our having elected Obama. Depending on how sober I am this weekend, I may have time to do some more in-depth writing. But quickly:

This isn’t about Obama’s policies, which the staffing rumors hint suggest may make me much happier than Ezra Klein.

It’s about the notion that, first of all, America has overwhelmingly elected a black man to be President. And how unremarkable that seems, and how absolutely remarkable that unremarkability is.

And about the fact that a young, ambitious man – with no family assets, no inherited connections nothing except the relationships he chose and created himself – managed to rise up over a period of 15 years and make himself President.

The Age of Voting Machines Ends


So we were lucky enough to go to Sacramento Tues night – TG, BG (who is home on leave for two weeks) and I – where we got to watch the election results at the Secretary of State’s office. The things you have to do when you don’t have TV at home…

…and I was looking forward to standing around watching as crises flew up and were swiftly dispatched; the intent buzz of seriousness filling the building as the creaky mechanics of electoral politics were brought to life.

Particularly this year. Because as a result of Secretary Bowen’s insight and courage, California was the first state to take a stand on the deeply flawed electronic voting technology which had become pervasive by 2006. And we pulled the plugs on them. She decertified the bad machines, came up with security measures for the not-so-bad ones, and the county election officials screamed bloody murder, saying that they wouldn’t be able to manage high-turnout elections without the systems.

So how was it?

An island of calm. Kind of boring. We wound up watching Comedy Central (funny!), because when we walked around, there was nothing exciting going on, except for lots of people working calmly. One of the help line workers took a call while we were there. A voter wondered how long the lines at her polling place would be. Seriously, that’s the kind of stuff that happened all night. I chatted up several lifers – people who had been in the office for years – and they were beaming at what a smooth election it had been.

Sadly, smooth running doesn’t make for great drama. But it does make for great elections. So hats off to all the workers – from the nice ladies in my neighborhood garage polling place to the county officials to the state staff to the Secretary herself, whose judgment in pushing back on the use of these machines was validated last night.

Now we need to get rid of them in the rest of the country. If you don’t live in California, reach out to your state legislators, your Secretary of State, your Governor and ask why you can’t have elections that run as smoothly as the one here just did.

Smoothly, accurately, transparently.

I’ll have more on elections tomorrow, including a (friendly) challenge to election conspiracy theorists on the right.

President Obama

It’s Obama, and by a bigger margin than I’d anticipated. Much bigger.

And the speeches – both McCain’s and the President-Elect’s – were magnificent.

John McCain is a helluva man, and he showed us why he deserved to be the Republican candidate, and why he deserved a better campaign.

Barack Obama’s speech hit the right notes for me – inclusive, hopeful, determined.

I am hopeful that that’s the keynote for his Administration. And watching, to see what my President will do.

Voting – Uh-Oh

So I have a Really Important Presentation this morning in Orange County, then a lunch, then have to fly to Sacramento to watch the results.

I had it all figured out- pick up the docs at the 24-hour Kinko’s down the street, get to the polls right at 7, vote, head to the meeting.

Glitch – found an error in the book, so work with the graphic artist on the East Coast and drop off the revised pdf at 5:30.

Home, shower, dress, wake TG, drive over to the neighbor’s house where we vote.

At 7:01 there were 42 people in line. Uh-Oh.

I can swing by on the way to the airport this afternoon…I hope.

Update: Made it!! The nice voting lady in her garage said that she was head-down until noon.

He’ll Be My President

Reposted from November 1, 2004

This was posted four years ago, but I want to make sure people today keep it in mind.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt the pressure to get off the fence and declare for one candidate or the other. Commenters here, and people in my personal life, have pushed me to ‘fess up that I’m a Bush supporter, or admit that I’m too much of a Democrat to cross the line.

Thinking about this feels kind of like having a chipped tooth. Every time your tongue curls over and touches it, you get a flash of pain, and yet you keep going back and doing it again.

And then, as I wrestled with it – with Kerry’s opportunistic failure to be honest about where we stand in foreign policy; with Bush’s stream of failures in post-invasion Iraq and domestic security – I realized that there’s a much bigger issue afoot.

I remember the bumper stickers disclaiming responsibility for the Nixon/Humphrey election – “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for McCarthy” which in today’s discourse have been replaced by bumper stickers saying “He’s Not My President” and trying to disclaim responsibility for a whole Administration.

Well, you can’t. And yes he is. And yes he will be, whoever he is.

And I think that the attitude that denies legitimacy to an opponent – which is not nearly the same thing as rolling over for that opponent on policy issues – is far more dangerous, and will do far more damage to my country than either candidate can possibly do if their opponents most feverish claims prove to be true.

Michael Totten has a good column over at TechCentralStation about why hawks like me shouldn’t hyperventilate over the prospect of a Kerry victory.

Former Lee Atwater staffer Pitney has a great column on partisanship up at SFGate.

OK, here goes: I doubt that all wisdom lies on my side of the political spectrum. I do not think that all the people who disagree with me are crazy, stupid or evil. Though I’m voting for President Bush, I hardly believe that the election of Sen. John Kerry would bring on the end-times.

Behind all this invective lies a sense of certainty that I don’t share. Political issues are largely about the future, and nobody can be sure what the future holds. Will Social Security go bust? Would a privatized system work better? We free-market conservatives answer yes to both questions. We make a strong case, but some smart people reach different conclusions. Until the future arrives, each side should ponder the possibility that the other side may have a point.

There are two powerful issues here.

The first is that, like it or not, we are all citizens of the same polity. As much as TG is committed to the issue of gay marriage, she shares the political space with Cathy Seipp, who opposes it with equal fervor. They can choose to define themselves by their differences or by what they share – which is actually a lot.

That sense of shared citizenship ought to be the root of our patriotism, which manifests itself in any number of small and unheroic ways – the taxes we willingly pay to keep open schools when we have no children, the traffic lights we don’t run because it would be wrong. Instead we narrow our focus on the small circle of people whose beliefs reinforce ours, and whose shared sense of powerlessness and entitlement – after all, in this system none of us entirely get our way – lead us down a path to rage and frustration.

And it leads us off a cliff as well.

The incredible strength of the West lies in the fact that Western culture, uniquely as far as I know, facilitates open clash of certainties.

Reality is far more complex than any of us know, than any of our ideologies can express, and than any of our policies can deliberately shape. Politics is the realm of the “wicked” problem.

In my daily life, much of what I do is deal with organizational failure.

The primary cause of organizational failure is the unwillingness of those in charge to listen, to look, at adapt to new facts or changing circumstance. We try many ideas, and some of them prove out – or prove out for a period of time. We have to be open to abandoning them if we are going to succeed.

Those who criticize the conduct of the war in Iraq have valuable things to say, as do those like me who support it. The tension and arguments between us are not a bad thing, they’re a good thing, because out of that kind of process we arrive at better policy and better answers.

But that implies an openness to argument, as opposed to a struggle to simply upend the other, which is where we are today.

That implies that you think that we’re all part of one team.

I think we are. I think I’m not only on the same team as Totten and Simon, but as Atrios, Blackfive, Kevin Drum, Captain Ed, and even “Screw Them” Kos.

Whoever is elected in November will be President of all of us. I don’t know who it will be – and I’m not making this appeal because I secretly think it will be one or the other and I want to ‘bind the wounds’ – but I’ll have no problem saying “President Kerry” as I have no problem today saying “President Bush”.

Either man will be my President – and yours as well.

California Propositions – Roundup

Here’s a fast roundup on my take on the current crop of California propositions…1A – bonds for high-speed rail. NO. I like intercity rail, but not enough to take on this financial burden at this time. Smart people also suggest that it’s unlikely to be workable – see this series at the Antiplanner.

Far from being a success, Japanese bullet trains put the previously profitable, state-owned Japanese National Railways into virtual bankruptcy. This forced the government to privatize the railroad and absorb $200 billion in high-speed debt.

Nor did the bullet trains slow Japan’s adoption of automobiles. Instead, the growth of auto driving accelerated when the bullet trains were introduced, partly because the Japanese National Railways responded to their monetary losses by raising fares. Since the bullet trains were introduced, rails lost more than half their market share of travel to the automobile.

Europe’s high-speed rail story is no better. Since introducing high-speed rail, rail has slowly but steadily lost market share to autos and airlines. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars per year subsidizing rail, the only European countries where rail has more than a 9 percent share of passenger travel – including Hungary and Switzerland – don’t have high-speed rail.

2 – bans factory farming. NO. Emotionally, I support this. We buy cage-free chicken and eggs. But we pay more for it, and I’m not sure that everyone in California can or should. So based on that, I’m inclined to vote no and let the market push for better treatment of farm animals.

3 – children’s hospital bond act. NO. We need more and better hospitals. But we don’t need bond acts with this language in them:

  • Designates that 80 percent of bond proceeds go to hospitals that focus on children with illnesses such as leukemia, cancer, heart defects, diabetes, sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.
  • Designates that 20 percent of bond proceeds go to University of California general acute care hospitals.
  • I’m not saying that the UC lobbyists decided they needed $196 million in funding and decided to bury it in a larger proposal – no one would be that sleazy. But that’s the effect. And we’re in a financial crisis, so I’d be inclined against even a well-crafted bill. NO.

    4 – parental notification. NO. This was probably the hardest decision for me to make this cycle. Intuitively, as a parent, I’m very unhappy with the notion that my minor child could get healthcare without my consent. At the same time, I understand why issues around sexuality might be more difficult. And I’m in the ‘unhappily ambivalent’ category on abortion in general. This is one where TG swung my vote with her strong opposition; explaining that it was a vote for backalley abortions. So I’m holding my nose and voting NO.

    5 – decriminalizes various drug possession charges and moves them to a treatment track. I support drug legalization; I think it would have a worldwide positive impact if we took the lawlessness, crazy profit, and institutional damage that it does to law enforcement, etc. But this proposal strips the judicial system of too much power in dealing with drug offenders, and doesn’t place the kind of regulatory regime in place that would support legalization. So a big NO on this one.

    6 – sets aside almost a billion a year for law enforcement and prosecution. NO. I hate – that’s haich-aye-why-tee-eee – budgeting by initiative.

    7 – mandate an unrealistic level of renewable energy. NO. Renewable good – Mandates that more energy than can be generated from renewables soon be purchased, guaranteeing billions in green utility boondoggles and high utility rates with not much to show for it.

    8 – bans gay marriage. NO. Go read this and understand why.

    What it is that matters in a marriage? Commitment. Duration. Primacy. It is a commitment – which means that in the face of conflicting desires, you have to anyway. It has duration – meaning it gains in value over time. An old good relationship is better than a new one. My dream is to grow old with TG, and to have the span of our history together as a part of what we share. It means that I will take care of her, and be taken care of by her in turn, and that in the time where long shadows come over our lives, we won’t be alone in facing them. And it has primacy over your other relationships. The act of saying to this person “You are the most important person in my life. Not my children, not my boss, not my pastor or anyone else matters more to me than you do,” fundamentally changes both one’s life and one’s relationships to others.

    These are good things. They are not only good for people, they are good for society. They bind people to each other, and bind them to a future. They create the kind of ‘units’ of people that can successfully build societies and raise children.

    The kind of sexual equipment that the people involved have, and what they do with that sexual equipment, has nothing to do with these core values. You’d hope that they were sexually compatible and satisfied, since seeking out other sexual outlets tends to conflict with the core values. But for crying out loud, what difference does their sexual behavior make to what really matters?

    9 – criminal justice reforms. NO. Look, even prosecutor Patterico isn’t even supporting this. I’ve got problems with the language, and – again – think that we’re better off letting our legislators, you know, legislate.

    10 – give T Boone Pickens all the spare cash in your checking account. NO.

    11 – take redistricting out of the control of those redistricted. YES YES YES.

    12 – CalVet bonds. YES. Safe, well-run program that helps California veterans buy homes.

    I’l be voting at 7am tomorrow…

    Obama And Coal

    There’s a lot of heated words on Memeorandum on Obama’s taped conversation with the SF Chronicle about coal, and I think they are unfair.

    Here are some headlines:

    Hidden Audio: Obama Tells SF Chronicle He Will Bankrupt Coal Industry

    EXPLOSIVE NEW AUDIO– Obama Promises San Francisco Audience He Will Bankrupt Coal Industry!!


    …and so on.

    They’re kind of full of it.

    First of all, he’s talking about making it difficult to build new coal plants. not shutting down existing ones. No one gets “bankrupted” in that scenario.

    I’m not sure that’s a wise approach, given new clean-coal technologies, and I don’t see how it fits into a broader energy policy that revolves around replacing oil imports, but I absolutely don’t think it merits the level of hysteria and hyperbole that’s presented.

    Here’s what Obama’s latest policy paper on energy (pdf) has to say about coal:

  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology. Carbon capture and storage technologies hold enormous potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as we power our economy with
    domestically produced and secure energy. As a U.S. Senator, Obama has worked tirelessly to ensure that clean coal technology becomes commercialized. An Obama administration will
    provide incentives to accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale zero-carbon coal facilities. In order to maximize the speed with which we advance this critical technology, Barack
    Obama and Joe Biden will instruct DOE to enter into public private partnerships to develop 5 “first-of-a-kind” commercial scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration.
  • So under cap-and-trade, you can build a “clean coal” plant – one with extremely low carbon outputs – but if you build a “dirty-coal” plant, the cost of the carbon output will be uneconomical.

    I really don’t see this as exceptional; in the mid-term, natural gas, nuclear, and renewables are far more important.

    having said that, I think his policy on nukes is hypocritical.

    Of All The F**ked-Up S**t I’ve Read In My Life. Nir Rosen Used His Passport To Help The Taliban

    I think this takes the cake – God, I certainly hope it does.

    I sat down this evening to hand out candy and do a quick post on journalism – in the light of the Nir Rosen Rolling Stone piece – bringing up my usual “journalist vs. citizen” point, and ragging, in a pipe-smoking philosophical way, on Rosen’s detachment and belief that he’s somehow “more” than a citizen – he’s a journalist.

    Then I sat down to reread Bing West’s attack on Rosen and the comment thread under it, and went ballistic.

    Because Rosen didn’t just embed with the Taliban on an operation – he used his journalistic credentials to help them get past an Afghan army guard.

    i did not say i deceived the afghan soldier. on the contrary, both i and the taliban commanders i was with told the afghan soldiers that i was a journalist and in fact i showed him my passport. of course there is nothing wrong with deceiving anybody if its going to protect you, but it wasnt necessary in this case, and i did not claim to deceive them. i in fact had to persuade them that i was a journalist and not a suicide bomber, which is what they suspected at first.

    I’d like to be speechless; instead what comes to mind is a string of invective that will get the blog blocked in corporate firewalls for quite some time.

    If I, or the parent of another American soldier, ever meet Mr. Rosen, he’ll be lucky to only get the contents of my drink in his face.

    Mr. Rosen enjoys the protections of a US passport; he was born in New York City.

    I’ll let a better man than I have the final word.In the colloquium on journalistic ethics that I frequently cite, after the two leading journalists explained that they would stand by and roll tape as an American force was ambushed, an American soldier stood up. Col. George M. Connell said:

    “I feel utter . . . contempt. ” Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces–and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn’t be “just journalists” any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. “We’ll do it!” Connell said. “And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get … a couple of journalists.” The last few words dripped with disgust.