02 June, 2006


I don't know if I ever got around to writing up my recanting of my stance on election fraud in the 2004 presidential race - at the time I was quite disparaging of the idea, and I wrote to a number of friends and mailing lists that they should give it a rest and concentrate on more important things (like why half the country still thought it was a good idea to vote for Bush).

Sometime back I read a nice refutation of the argument made against exit polls, based on simple statistical arguments. Essentially the claim made by Edison/Mitofsky (the exit polling organisation) was that there was a substantial skew caused by the (unexplained) tendency of Bush voters to be more reluctant to respond to exit polls, compared to Kerry voters. In fact, the opposite turns out to be the case; in strong Kerry districts the response rate was 53%, while in Bush districts it was 56%. There were a number of other similar arguments which demolished the weak thesis put forward by Edison/Mitofsky to explain the fact that the exit polls failed so dramatically.

But you should all read the long article Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote on the subject for Rolling Stone - here. It's astoundingly comprehensive, and contains some pretty shocking details. What's most depressing is that I expect absolutely nothing at all to come of it.


counterpoint , from salon 

Posted by hibiscus

here is another counterpoint  to RFKjr (forwarded by same friend as link above). fun quote:

That there are fundamental problems with the American voting system is undeniable, and for proof you only need look at the proliferation of unprovable fantasies. A working voting system would be transparent and would produce verifiable, repeatable results. A working voting system would be able to unambiguously disprove any alleged wrongdoing.  

Posted by hibiscus

On your recommendation I finally read the whole thing. A lot of the factoids in there have been previously considered and dismissed, and he sometimes pushes his case too far, like by saying that a 7% turnout was "impossible." But overall, it's a good message. So now, given that he's in Congress and we're not, what does he propose to do about it?

Here in California, it looks like we'll allocate our electoral votes according to the popular vote. It would be nice if the electoral system had anything like the level of cross-checking and auditing and verification that the financial system has. The U.S. has the most sophisticated financial system in the world and one of the least sophisticated voting systems. I honestly don't understand why that is. 

Posted by hedgehog

maybe there's no clear material benefit to questioning the honor of the system. maybe people see elections like weather reports. 

Posted by hibiscus

The U.S. has the most sophisticated financial system in the world and one of the least sophisticated voting systems. I honestly don't understand why that is. 

For real? It's the same reason why the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have excellend news sections but most of the U.S. news media is fairly mediocre. People who make money need both :) 

Posted by saurav

Hedgehog, I don't think he's in Congress---he works with Riverkeeper and various other environmental groups, and on Air America. People who've met him have told me it's a damn shame his voice is so rough (apparently he sufferes from a speaking disorder?) because he is even smarter and more idealistic than his father (the one Kennedy I truly admire), and charismatic once you get beyond the voice. Hence no political career. You might be thinking of his cousin Patrick who has the problems with Ambien.  

Posted by Saheli

Sorry, Saheli, I am idiot. Thank you.

In any case, I stand by my notion that at this point, affirmative suggestions are more useful than critique. I think there is an overwhelming fatalism in the U.S. among people at all points on the political spectrum, one that can lead to good things only if people with public profiles suggest good things and those of us at the bottom organize good things. Fatalism can easily transform into fascism, an outcome I would prefer not to experience. 

Posted by hedgehog

I stand by my notion that at this point, affirmative suggestions are more useful than critique. 

Well, I don't think this is an either/or. There is more effective and interesting work coming fromt he bottomg at the same time that a few (though not nearly enough) members of the elite are actually willing to divorce themselves from the political process and talk about these kinds of things. What would disturb me about Kennedy's approach, if it's true what the Salon article alleges, is that it's highly partisan and inadequately analyzed but posed in the guise of a thoroughly researched nonpartisan takedown (though it's still written by kennedy). That, in effect, is propaganada. 

Posted by Saurav

A Democratic pollster has been writing extensively on this for the past 18 months. You can find part 1 of his response  to the Rolling Stone article on his website. He does a point-by-point refutation of quite a few of RFK, Jr.'s claims.

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