A Tale of Toms, Dicks, and Harrys

For new readers, I am discussing the analysis of Exit Poll Results for S.E. Kansas in 2016.  These exit polls were performed because official audits are not done and independent audits are not permitted.  It is therefore the best information that I, as a voter in Kansas, have been able to obtain to make an independent assessment of the accuracy of their official vote totals as certified by our elected officials.

My assessment is our voting equipment was rigged!  Not by enough to sway the outcome of the elections I had adequate data on, but the official results showed differences from our exit poll results by site that were too consistently in one  direction to be anything other than deliberate.

I recently received a harsh but relatively accurate and detailed review of my exit poll paper.  The overall judgement was that I need to take the passion and conviction out of my conclusions in order to make it acceptable for a peer reviewed publication.  I must admit, I have allowed my passion to seep through, which is generally frowned upon in scientific papers.  I will rewrite it.

It is difficult to be dispassionate because this is very personal for me.  I was born in Wichita Kansas.  I ran the exit poll booth at my personal voting station, as did all of the site managers.  We are not doing this for fun and glory; I was able to get the volunteers needed to run five locations because enough people agreed with me regarding my concern about the accuracy of our official counts and were willing to spend the time and energy necessary to accomplish it.  If I want to see these results published in an academic journal, and I do, I have to tone down the anger that has bled into my writing about it.

The “Liars, Idiots and Introverts” section received some particularly scathing comments.  The reviewer found it offensive.  I’m not surprised, it was designed to be offensive.  But he/she’s right that it’s inappropriate for an academic journal.  This section was written when I was feeling particularly frustrated by people disregarding my results by claiming sampling bias – i.e. people choosing not to participate or deliberately answering incorrectly.

There is also a possibility, that I did not discuss, of inadvertent error in ballot design causing a significant number of voters to err in the same way.  The Butterfly Ballot used in Florida during the 2000 election is an example of this type of error.

If I want to convince other people that other explanations are insufficient to explain the discrepancies, I need to do a better job of it.  In the end, it is a subjective evaluation of the relative probabilities of the possible explanations.  I cannot prove which one is correct.  No one can.  I think the probability of these results being due to sampling bias is too low to sway my assessment that our voting machines are rigged.  Here is another attempt to communicate my reasoning as to why I feel that way.

The Tale of Toms, Dicks and Harrys.

Tom is my name for folks that voted for Trump, but didn’t want the family member or neighbor, who was filling out their own survey standing next to him/her, to know that.  Or maybe Tom is a trickster who delights in giving pollsters wrong answers.  Or maybe he/she just dislikes taking exit polls.  To see the results we did, we had many Toms that either lied to us about it, claiming Hillary instead , or just refused to fill out our survey.

Dick is my name for folks that voted for the Libertarian Candidate in the Senate and 4th Congressional Races, but didn’t want the family member or neighbor, who was filling out their own survey standing next to him/her, to know that.  Or maybe Dick is a trickster who delights in giving pollsters wrong answers.  Or maybe he/she just dislikes exit polls.  Dick either lied to us about it or refused to fill out our survey.

Harry is my name for folks that voted for the Miranda Allen, independent candidate in the 4th Congressional Race on a voting machine but didn’t want family member or neighbor, who was filling out their own survey standing next to him/her, to know that.  Or maybe Harry is a trickster who delights in giving pollsters wrong answers.  Or maybe he/she just dislikes taking exit polls.  Harry either lied to us about it or refused to fill out our survey.

Finally, we get to the judges.  We need two more sets of voters to explain the results for the judges as due to sampling bias.  I’ll call them Johns  and Joans.  Johns voted against all the judges while lying or refusing to take our survey and live in Wichita and Winfield but not Wellington.  Joans only live in Wellington and wanted to keep the judges while lying or refusing to take our survey.   Apparently, we have nearly twice as many Johns and Joans as we have Toms Dicks and Harrys.

What is the probability that all the Toms, Dicks, Harrys, Johns and Joans in S.E. Kansas are responsible for the bias in our exit poll results, rather than deliberate machine manipulation or rigging of the machines?  This is a valid question to ask.  We can examine our data and see which explanation is a better fit to the data.

There’s a stereotype of Libertarians as anti-social jerks. If this were accurate, it might be a reasonable alternative for the Libertarian results – a lot of Libertarians are Dicks.  On the other hand, how likely is that in Southeast Kansas, home of Koch Industries, that a few libertarians independently (or possibly even in cahoots) successfully hacked the voting machines here?

Why is Wellington devoid of Tom’s?

Why are Harrys found only in Sedgwick County and why do they disdain the use of Paper Ballots?  Is it more likely that a statistically significant percentage of Miranda Allen’s voters in Sedgwick County, but not Sumner or Cowley are Harrys? This pattern does fit the explanation of a “butterfly ballot” type problem, as it shows up in only one county and on only one type of voting equipment. It is possible that Sedgwick County officials inadvertently programmed the voting machines to somehow cause voters to accidentally indicate Miranda Allan rather than leaving the 4th congressional district race blank as they reported to us.  Or maybe Miranda Allen has a fan in Wichita possessing the wherewithal to successfully hack the voting machines in Sedgwick County?

Now consider the relative probabilities of the two alternative hypotheses.  What is the probability of all the Toms, Dicks, Harrys, Johns and Joans existing in the numbers required to produce the discrepancies we found in our survey results versus the probability that some nefarious and technically competent people were able to access voting equipment or software and made unauthorized changes to the software?

Here’s a recent opinion piece on that topic published in  Scientific American.  “Nevertheless, it has become clear that our voting system is vulnerable to attack by foreign powers, criminal groups, campaigns and even motivated amateurs.”

I will say that the probability that Libertarians have more than their fair share of Dicks everywhere is harder for me to reject than the existence of all the Johns and Joans.  But accepting that as a viable explanation also embodies some assumptions about the character of Libertarians I am loath to accept.

Until I see evidence that Libertarians actually have these traits in greater numbers, I assume that the tricksters, introverts and idiots are randomly distributed among the various political parties.  Other people can and do differ in their willingness to accept that assumption.

Now, this Tom Dick and Harry story won’t go into my paper.  It’s not stuffy enough for an academic journal.  I found writing it to be helpful in getting to a concise statement of why I feel sampling bias doesn’t work as a reasonable explanation for the exit poll results.  I hope my readers find it helpful in understanding my thinking as well.

In fact, writing it has allowed me to add the last bullet to the set of arguments I’m working on for my revised paper.  In Bullet form, here are my reasons for concluding that my exit poll results prove deliberate fraud and that sampling bias and inadvertent ballot or survey errors are not sufficient to explain the data.