April 28, 2011

Wisconsin S. Ct. recount fun with numbers

Total number of counties in Wisconsin: 72

Number of counties where the difference between unofficial results reported to/by the AP and official, canvassed results was zero: 23

Number of counties where the difference was ten votes or less: 30

Between eleven and 20: 5

Between 21 and 100: 6

In other words, overwhelmingly conscientious and accurate.

Portage: 111 (0.55% of total)
Grant: 113 (1.13%)
Iowa: 184 (2.89%)
Kenosha: 204 (0.67%)
Eau Claire: 427 (1.56%)
Milwaukee: 807 (0.35%)
Winnebago: 1176 (2.97%) [reportedly a computer/input error]
Waukesha: 14434 (11.55%)

The recount was requested primarily because of that last number. It does not appear to be representative of a widespread phenomenon.

And who's to say any of those weren't keypunch errors by the AP.

Yesterday the Shepherd Express ran the following quote from JoAnne Kloppenburg's campaign manager in 72-point bold, red type, all caps:
"With a margin this small, the importance of every vote is magnified and the doubt about every vote is magnified."
Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is in a very real sense offensive, to have one's perfectly valid vote "doubted."

For example, what reason is there to doubt a vote cast in Racine County, where 50,722 Supreme Court votes were tabulated by election workers on the night of April 5 and the exact same number confirmed on canvassing? There is none, let alone doubt that is "magnified" by circumstances outside Racine County. Nor is the importance of those votes either magnified or diminished, period.

First time the Shepherd's Lisa Kaiser, who for my money is one of the best advocacy journalists* in SE Wisconsin, ever disappointed me.

It had better be the last!

* Scratch "advocacy" and it's still true.


Publius No. 9 said...

Actually, there's lots of reasons to doubt those counts. The first most simple fact is that the vote counting machines do not count the exact number of votes, they have a margin of error. Also, we've seen how easy it is for the vote totals from computers to be changed or inaccurate.

As far as I have been able to determine, we have no reason to believe the numbers from any county. Wisconsin doesn't provide us with secure vote-tallying equipment, and security experts agree.

The reason that votes are magnified now is because people are generally unwilling to look into voting issues unless they could potentially change the outcome. In a contest won by a huge majority, thousands of votes can't change the outcome. In this case, there's more than enough reason to think the results could change.

I'm not doubting people's votes, I'm doubting the accuracy and security of our election systems.

illusory tenant said...

Right, those are all reasons to "doubt" every single election in the last 50 years. None is exclusive to this one.

Publius No. 9 said...

Actually, I believe computer election systems have only been in such wide use for the past few decades. For example, I don't believe we primarily used computers to tally votes in the 1989 election that resulted in a recount. And even if their general use in Wisconsin goes back 50 years, the technology has only become easier to manipulate.

Also, I don't know how many elections in the last 50 years have been this close, but I gather very few.

Yet, here we actually have a chance to gain some confidence in our system and eliminate issues like GAB software for Waukesha County. We shouldn't have to have a recount every election to have some confidence in it. I'm hoping we can use this opportunity to fix the real issues with our elections, regardless of who won.

Publius No. 9 said...

You wouldn't let your bank be so inaccurate and insecure with your money. Why let them be so inaccurate and insecure with our votes?

illusory tenant said...

"50 years" was meant to encompass the introduction of automated voting systems -- e.g., punched cards and the attendant hanging chads -- not just the Diebold-themed nightmare scenarios.

I don't think it matters how close any election is, your concerns (which I share, btw: the whole shootin' match should at least be made uniform in equipment and procedure) apply every bit as equally to any of them. I just think this was a dreadful political decision on Kloppenburg's part.

I'm not opposed to the closer scrutiny per se.

Publius No. 9 said...

I completely agree with you that those concerns apply to every election. However, no one seems to care enough to do anything about it in other elections. This election opened many people's eyes, and because it was so close and we have issues with our equipment, we can actually get a hand recount in some places.

Unfortunately, they will be using the same equipment for the recount in most places. So we won't really know if there was an issue unless all of the machines are fully inspected. My concerns apply to all computer election equipment, not just Diebold branded. The only way we can ensure our votes are counted correctly is to have them counted by open software that Wisconsin owns.

This election does warrant more inspection than most, because the margin of victory may very well be within the aggregated margin of error of our vote-tallying machines. Most elections aren't this close, so this is an additional concern.

My hope is that people on both sides, JS has an article about conservatives believing there's fraud in Dane County, demand real solutions. If major discrepancies are uncovered in the recount, the chances of real change are even greater.

Publius No. 9 said...

You may be right this was a bad political decision on Kloppenburg's part, but I don't think we need a recount for political reasons. I believe that Kloppenburg chose to request a recount for these very same concerns, to help Wisconsin, not necessarily herself. The recount will give us some confidence, but we really need an impartial investigation.

It's my belief that is why Kloppenburg requested the recount, not for political reasons. The chance of the recount showing she won would be just icing on the cake.

illusory tenant said...

Those are great points and I'll even grant they're more convincing than my own (admittedly jaded) views. I'd be more inclined to sympathize with Kloppenburg had she not befouled her statements on the matter with ridiculous references to "conservative bloggers," alleged clandestine Prosser-Walker meetings, and so forth. Those betray an injudicious, shall we say, approach. (Mind you, so have a number of Prosser pronouncements been injudicious. These problems with general election voting procedures shouldn't even be an issue with selecting Supreme Court justices, IMHO.)

Publius No. 9 said...

We agree on many things. I admit, too, that Kloppenburg could have been a bit more careful in the issues she chose to highlight.

The Prosser-Walker thing was odd. I think the "conservative blogger" issue is relevant, because I believe they were the first to know. They knew even before the Democratic member of the canvass board. It's not necessarily relevant to a recount, but it is to an investigation. I want to know the motives behind the actions and why the canvasser wasn't one of the first to know. Though I could be wrong about how early they knew, because I haven't specifically looked into the issue in a while.

I guess my argument is that Kloppenburg shouldn't be the focus of the recount, it should be making sure we're counting votes correctly. After all, this is supposed to be a non-partisan race.

illusory tenant said...

Agreed, and there definitely needs to be an investigation into Nickolaus's policies and procedures and then whatever they are, they need to be be abolished and placed in the museum of how not to do things.

Publius No. 9 said...

There is an investigation going on by the GAB, but they definitely aren't the right people for the job. The GAB wrote the software that caused Nickolaus's error. That fact alone should require a different set of investigators.

The GAB declined Kloppenburg's request for independent control. I'm starting to have serious doubts that someone else will step in. What do you think are the chances we'll get a real investigation?

illusory tenant said...

Slim and none.

Publius No. 9 said...

Any ideas as to why or what could increase our chances?

illusory tenant said...

Maybe get the Republicans in power to take their minds off homosexuals and abortion for five minutes and concentrate on election reforms.

Publius No. 9 said...

Duly noted. Thanks for the great conversation!

illusory tenant said...