WSU statistician: New voting machines ‘step in the right direction’

Some news coverage of my efforts:

Clarkson said the only way to be absolutely sure of the count is to do it by hand and do it in public with observers.

While she acknowledges that kind of counting would take longer, she said it was done that way for decades before computers came on the scene and is still a common practice in European democracies.

In fact, the Netherlands announced last month that it would use hand-marked and hand-counted votes for its legislative elections, to prevent possible hacking by Russian government operatives.

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.


Update on Exit Poll Results

On Feb 11th, I spoke with the Women for Kansas Cowley County (W4K-CC) Meeting.  We discussed the results of the exit poll they had run on Nov. 8th.

I discovered that the Cowley County Paper Ballot Official Results are not a apples-to-apples comparison as they are in Sedgwick County.  Those results are not suitable for inclusion in my analysis.

They are not the only dataset found to be unsuitable for inclusion.  I have removed that dataset from my upcoming peer-reviewed publication.   I have decided to leave my original blog post unchanged while updating my post discussing excluded data.

I understand why people don’t pay attention to statistics.  They can easily be twisted to yield any result desired by management.  That happened in Flint Michigan.

On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons to eliminate data when it is found to be unreliable.  The Cowley County are such an instance. The numbers given include main in ballots cast in those precincts.

Another reason I have chosen to leave the original graphs up is that they nice demonstrate the difference in pattern between a randomly introduced source of variation and a consistent bias which is evidence of fraud.

Cowley County results had me scratching my head.  The machine results showed trends similar to Wichita.  The paper ballots showed only large errors, but benefiting a random scattering amongst the candidates and races.  If you are interested in this sort of analytical details, feel free to go through the charts and decide for yourself.  I can’t rule out fraud for that dataset, but I don’t know what caused the deviations.  If it was fraud, it was either mercenary selling votes to any candidate or multiple agents working at cross purposes purhaps?  But given that the data collection limitations imposes greater variability which would result in the pattern of errors we see in those graphs, fraud is not be the most probable cause for those deviations.

Datasets are sometimes tainted by problems that have nothing to do with the question being asked but due solely to constraints on the data available.  There are limitations imposed by the methods of both the official results  and the exit poll survey.  I’m publishing ALL of the raw data, as well as as detailing what data is excluded and why.  Anyone who cares to may look at what is being left out as well as decide for themselves if the reasoning for the exclusion is sound.  With the exception of the Cowley County data, the other excluded datasets tend to support the fraud hypothesis.

How can you be sure that the voting machines in southeast Kansas were rigged?

How can I be so sure? Couldn’t there be some other cause of the bias?  That was the most common inquiry at my presentation Saturday, when I explained my exit poll results to the people who helped collect the data and had a vested interest in understanding the results.  I may have come across as a bit defensive in regard to this question.  I’m sorry if I did.  It’s hard to articulate the depth of my certainty, but I’ll try.

I carefully set up these exit polls to compare the official vote count by machine type.  The only legitimate concern regarding the meaning of these results is a biased sample. Not everybody tells the truth.  Some people delight in giving false answers to surveys.  How are you going to account for that? It’s a fair concern.

While I cannot prove that didn’t happen (at least, not without access to the ballots, which isn’t permitted), this is part of the normal error I expect.  It always helps to state assumptions explicitly.

INTROVERTS, LIARS, AND IDIOTS ASSUMPTION : THESE TRAITS ARE RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED AMONG ALL CANDIDATES AND POLITICAL PARTIES.  I am assuming that that people who were less likely to participate (introverts) or more likely to fudge their answer (liars) or make mistakes (idiots) in filling out the survey did not differ in their response to our exit poll.

I received the following email that sums up this concern nicely and also suggests a couple of ways to check that hypothesis.

Hi Beth,

The observed discrepancies between official results and your poll results very clearly show that Clinton (D) voters were more strongly represented in those polled than in the official vote count; Trump (R) voters were less well represented.  There are  many possible explanations for this discrepancy.  One hypothesis is that a certain percentage of voters “held their nose and voted for X”  and would never have participated in the poll.  If these voters tended to be more of one party than the other, than that party would be less represented in the polls.   

Fortunately, your data provide a means to test this hypothesis about the “missing minority”, for it leads to this prediction:  
If a “missing minority” was biased towards X, then sites at which X had a greater percentage of the votes would be least affected by vote disparities.

A corollary prediction:  sites having the highest response rate would be least affected by vote disparities.

Have at it!

The main reason I find this hypothesis implausible is that the discrepancies for the Supreme Court judges were twice as large and followed the same pattern as the Pres. race discrepancies. There’s no reason to think more people ‘held their nose’ for judges than president!

Regarding those two predictions:

  1.  The sites with the greatest discrepancies were machine counts for SE Wichita, Urban  Wichita and Cowley.  The sites with the highest %Trump voters were Cowley, SW Wichita and Sumner.  No correlation there.
  2. The site with the lowest response rate, Sumner with 25%, also had the lowest discrepancies between the exit poll and the official results for the Pres. race.

In short, we do not see the other data relationships we would expect if the introverts liars and idiots assumption were false.  There is no reason to assume these individuals were more likely to vote for one candidate than another resulting in the bias in our data.

Summary of the 2016 Citizens Exit Polls in Kansas


The exit poll results from  all five polling locations in Southeast Kansas show strong evidence of election fraud in both the patterns and size of the errors.

I had major concerns with the accuracy of our voting machines based on my previous analyses, which is why these exit polls were run. The results confirm those suspicions.

Exit Poll Errors for Kansas Supreme Court Judges with Pres. Race Errors
Exit Poll Errors for Kansas Supreme Court Judges and Pres. Race

I designed this exit poll to check whether or not our voting machines are giving us accurate counts.  I looked into our local election statistics in the past and found concerning indications of fraud in the data.   There is no public official reconciliation of the paper records with the official vote counts provided by machine nor are citizens allowed access to do it.  I have the credentials to do this; I have a Ph.D. in statistics and have been certified by the ASQ as a quality engineer since 1987. I was able to recruit enough concerned voters to man the exit polls from open to close on election day.

Voters were asked how they voted – by machine, a scanned paper ballot, or an uncounted provisional ballot.   Results from the polling location give us the breakdown by machine votes and scanned ballots, which can be directly compared. The electronic voting machines used in all three Kansas counties were ES&S Ivotronic.  The paper ballot scanning equipment varied, but was all from the same manufacturer: ES&S.

The results from these exit polls tell a consistent, albeit unpleasant, story:  Our electronic voting machines should not be trusted.  Scanned paper ballots have been impacted as well, but due to some technical issues regarding the data, results on that type of counting machinery are less compelling.  Scanned paper ballot results often continued the pattern of the voting machine results, which does add to the weight of evidence against the accuracy of the official results.

I have posted the data from our exit poll and the corresponding official vote counts at Exit Poll Data

These exit poll results clearly point to manipulation of the machine counts of our votes. These are not random errors. There is no other reasonable explanation for large and consistent errors in favor (or against) particular candidates in this situation.

  • pres-results-chart-1
    Exit Poll Errors for Presidential Race
    Exit Poll Errors for Senate Race
    Exit Poll Errors for Senate Race
    Exit Poll Errors for 4th Congressional Race
    Exit Poll Errors for 4th Congressional Race
    Exit Poll Errors for Kansas Supreme Court Judges by Judge
    Exit Poll Errors for Kansas Supreme Court Judges by Judge

    Presidential race results show votes shifted from Clinton to Trump in four of the five locations – all except Sumner County. 

  • Votes in the Senate and 4th district Rep races were skewed toward the Libertarians at all five exit poll locations.  
  • The data from the Supreme Court Judges show Yes votes stolen in four of the five locations – all except Sumner County, where they received extra Yes votes.    

The analysis details are posted at Analysis of 2016 Citizens Exit Poll in Southeast Kansas

There is one ray of sunshine in these results – while the size of the shifts are cause for grave concern about the accuracy of the vote count, they are not sufficient to have altered the outcome in any of the races mentioned above.  Kansas was Trump territory.  The Judges all retained their positions.  No Libertarians won.

This ‘ray of sunshine’ is limited to these results.  Races polled at only one or two polling locations look even worse. There was a more than 10% shift in votes from Norton to O’Donnell in the Sedgwick County Commissioner third district race, easily sufficient to alter the winner*.  The data from these local races may only affect a portion of the voters at the polling site. For that reason, the data from those races is not as solid.  The lower quantity and quality of data in those races reduces  confidence in any conclusions regarding the results.

Who’s doing this and How?  I don’t know. My analyses shows which candidates lost votes or benefited, but that’s not justification for assuming they are knowledgeable regarding the vote theft.  There’s only one conclusion about the perpetrators I can come to.

Multiple Agents – The profile of errors from Sumner County is so different from the other sites, I can conclude that more than one agent successfully altered voting machine counts in S.E. Kansas polling stations.