Posts Tagged ‘statistic’

Diebold and New Hampshire

January 9, 2008

At the completion of the New Hampshire primaries, certain elements are are claiming an “astonishing” discrepancy between the results tallied by hand and those tallied by Diebold machines. Naturally reddit jumped on the bandwagon as fast as possible. Here are the results as of 96% precincts reporting (NB: others include Biden, Gravel and Dodd, CNN didn’t provide info for the rest of the field when I collated the data. The rest accounted for about 1% of the vote):

  Hand Diebold Difference
Clinton 35.17% 40.71% 5.54%
Obama 39.20% 36.24% -2.96%
Edwards 17.71% 16.97% -0.74%
Richardson 5.64% 4.40% -1.24%
Kucinich 1.89% 1.25% -0.64%
Others 0.49% 0.44% -0.05%

At first glance, the results seem to backup the conspiracy theorists. Is it possible that Clinton’s vote could be so much greater in the Diebold Districts and every other candidate slightly less without foul play? Has Diebold rigged the count in Hillary’s favor? Or is there something else at play?

Whilst Hand Districts are more numerous than Diebold Districts, they tend to be in less populous areas and far fewer votes are hand-counted than tallied by machine. Note that this table currently excludes the 9 Hand Districts and 2 Diebold Districts that have yet to report results.

# of Districts Votes Cast Votes/Districts
Diebold 95 222,464 2341.73
Hand 131 56,812 433.68

The discrepency may just be a matter of demographics: urban voters may like Hillary more than rural voters. So what happens when we looks at similarly sized districts? Here are the results in districts where between 900 and 1200 votes were cast.

  Hand Diebold Difference
Clinton 35.90% 38.09% 2.19%
Obama 38.00% 37.47% -0.53%

The effect is far smaller when comparing similar districts, but probably not enough to arrest the fears of conspiracy theorists. In the end, Clinton won because she was more popular in the large precincts which happen to be tallied by Diebold machines. Correlation, not causation seems more likely to me.

  Votes Cast in Precinct
  Under 1000 1000-2000 Over 2000
Clinton 36.26% 39.20% 41.25%
Obama 38.02% 36.84% 36.29%
Difference -1.76% 2.36% 4.96%

There are so many variables in an election result that to put Hillary’s win down to jiggery-pokery without any real evidence is over the top. Demographics of the turnout and McCain siphoning Independents away from Obama at the last minute are infinitely more likely to have affected the than Diebold skullduggery.

For democracy to work, the system must be transparent and maintain the confidence of its participants. Proprietary voting machines fail both these tests. American, as far as I know, are still capable of counting, so should return exclusively to the paper ballot.