A More Thorough Analysis of Tin Foil Hats
In the post below, I partially debunk Keith Olbermann's claims about counties in Florida that have 2-1 Democratic to Republican registrations going for Bush (or Bush outperforming significantly there relative to registrations).
Here is a PDF file of a table I compiled of the counties with what seem to me to be the biggest disparities between votes for Bush in 2004 and Republican Party registrations along with their 1996 and 2000 vote totals totals. I don't think that Olbermann's claim of fraud holds up.
The 28 counties I analyzed all voted for the same party's candidate as they had voted for in 2000. Of the 28 counties I looked at, only two voted for Gore in 2000 (the same ones went for Kerry in 2004). It is certainly true that in most of them, Bush increased his totals over 2000. But that is likely due to the fact that Gore was a Southerner (having been a Senator from Tennessee) while Kerry is a New Englander through and through or to the fact that this time terrorism was on the table. (UPDATE: On a second reading of the data, it looks like in 21 of the 26 counties Bush won this time, Kerry actually increased his vote totals. It's just that Bush increased his more, likely the result of a better Get Out The Vote effort by the Republicans. This is completely in line with Ken Mehlman's strategy of focusing on suburban and rural voters - which most of these are since the counties have tiny populations).
Also, in 1996, in an election that was largely a landslide for Clinton and with Perot in the race, Dole won 12 of those counties. Of the 16 Clinton won, he won 5 by less than 2%. And let me remind you that 1996 was a three-way race with about 8-15% of the vote going for Perot, that ended up being a landslide for the Southerner, Bill Clinton. So, it seems that party registrations played very little role. Just as an example, Liberty County has 10-to-1 Democrat to Republican registration. But, it went for Dole in 1996. Similarly, Calhoun County has 7-to-1 Democrat to Republican registration, but only went for Clinton by less than 2%. I think that this concludes that Olbermann's analysis is bunk.
One interesting bit: all of these are small counties, likely rural. Is it possible that maybe a local Democratic official like the County Sheriff or County Commissioner endorsed Bush? Does anyone have that information? If so, I'd appreciate it if you could share it with me.
UPDATE: I have been reading the comments on various hard Left discussion boards and noticed that when my analysis is brought up to debunk the myth, someone always says that this doesn't prove that fraud didn't happen (see the Democratic Underground discussion I linked to below). But in a similar fashion, I cannot disprove that we're all brains in a vat, that reality is a Cartesian dream, that there are pink elephants who fly and give birth to unicorns. The point is that voter registration was proposed by Olbermann and other conspiracy theorists as a good predictor of who people will vote for. They then looked at the data and said, "wait, the people actually voted for someone different than what our model predicts." Instead of making sure that their model predicts even past data, they decide to claim that some kind of fraud had occurred. I am merely saying that their model is clearly flawed since it can't even accurately predict the outcome of the election of 1996. Unless they are willing to claim that there was fraud even then too. But we must recall that many of these counties who voted for Dole in 1996, voted for Carter in 1980. So, the claim then has to become that sometime between 1980 and 1996, some organ was installed in the local county government that has defrauded every single election. I think this is starting to get into the pink flying elephants category of epistemology.
Another reason why any kind of "statistical" techniques for analyzing the election seem problematic is that statistical techniques assume that you have independent trials with essentially the same variables. But from election to election, you have all kinds of different issues on the table, different personalities running, etc. For example, here is an argument that claims to justify this conspiracy theory by saying that the fact that these counties were rural can't explain the disparity. Because if you compare it to rural counties in Pennsylvania, you get different results. Right, but that's why those counties are in Pennsylvania and these are in Florida. Pennsylvania is not a Southern state. Florida is. There are too many variables to list. But I am just saying that this is terrible methodology since it doesn't even attempt to control for the relevant factors involved. As for the argument that the only variable in common with all of these counties is optical scanning machines, I am not sure how this is relevant. What other characteristics do these counties have? Without extensive demographic information there is no way to conclude that there isn't a lurking variable in there somewhere. Look, I'm a Ph.D. student in math. I like numbers and statistics and boo-ya's. But, certain methodologies are just not suitable for election analysis because no two elections are even remotely similar. Period.
UPDATE: The discussion in the comments section in the earlier post requires me to stress this point. NO ONE CLAIMS THAT VOTER FRAUD DOESN'T OCCUR. By God, any Republican from Chicago can attest the falsity of that claim. But, to claim that Republicans do it more than the Democrats is disingenuous. I've seen no evidence that this is the case. Both parties seem to do it about as much as the other. Furthermore, it seems that if you really do care about voter fraud (rather than just making the other side look bad), it's rather imprudent and ineffective to yell "voter fraud!" without thoroughly researching what happened first. The Keith Olberman claim I discuss here is the prime example. The reason is that if you make wild accusations of voter fraud without a reasonable understanding of what is going on, then no one will ever take claims of voter fraud seriously. People will just shrug and say, "Well, both sides do it. I don't know which claim is true and which isn't and I don't have the energy to investigate." If anyone had just looked at the results from the previous two, three, four, etc elections and thought about these counties (all of which are tiny in population), they would have realized that this isn't all that weird. Where is people's common sense? I think voter fraud is very serious and undermines our democracy. But that does not mean that people ought be making spurious claims of fraud before thoroughly researching the subject.
UPDATE: Many people have objected here in the comments and elsewhere about the fact that the counties where this surge occured most (in support for Bush) were all using opti-scan technology rather than e-voting technology. In case you can't see the post I made later, addressing this exact issue, here it is. I hope that this answers your questions. I am now officially done updating this thread. I have a life outside of debunking false claims of fraud/irregularities, you know. So, hopefully others will take up the mantle, as Mickey Kaus said and either debunk the irregularities theories/stories or provide *proof* that something bad did occur on a significant scale that helped one party more than another. I would like to caution people against only posting stories on irregularities that hurt Kerry. I'm sure there were some that hurt Bush. It's just for some reason in no one's interest to investigate them. Ok, I've said my bit.
UPDATE: The transcript for Olbermann's Monday night show is here.