“South Carolinians would rather be 100% right than 90% uncertain.”
As we stated yesterday, our campaign began examining election data on early Wednesday morning. Over the course of the next 24 hours, our staff found several results that seemed unusual to us. We stress that, then and now, we very much hope that Tuesday’s primary was conducted fairly and that nothing untoward happened.
Expert Data Analysis
No one on our staff is a statistics expert or mathematician. As the unusual information began to accumulate, several unconnected people and teams who are far more expert in election forensics than our staff contacted the campaign and volunteered to look at results from Tuesday’s primary.
One of the teams was Dr. Walter Mebane of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Miller of Cornell University. Dr. Mebane is a professor of political science and statistics and a recognized expert in detecting election fraud. As of August 2010, Dr. Miller will be professor of political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and specializes in the analysis of election data. Neither is affiliated with the Rawl campaign.
Dr. Mebane performed second-digit Benford's law tests on the precinct returns from the Senate race. The test compares the second digit of actual precinct vote totals to a known numeric distribution of data that results from election returns collected under normal conditions. If votes are added or subtracted from a candidate’s total, possibly due to error or fraud, Mebane’s test will detect a deviation from this distribution.
Results from Mebane’s test showed that Rawl’s Election Day vote totals depart from the expected distribution at 90% confidence. In other words, the observed vote pattern for Rawl could be expected to occur only about 10% of the time by chance. “The results may reflect corrupted vote counts, but they may also reflect the way turnout in the election covaried with the geographic distribution of the candidates' support,” Mebane said.
Dr. Miller performed additional tests to determine whether there was a significant difference in the percentage of absentee and Election Day votes that each candidate received. The result in the Senate election is highly statistically significant: Rawl performs 11 percentage points better among absentee voters than he does among Election Day voters. “This difference is a clear contrast to the other races. Statistically speaking, the only other Democratic candidate who performed differently among the two voter groups was Robert Ford, who did better on Election Day than among absentees in the gubernatorial primary,” Miller said.
These findings concern the campaign, and should concern all of South Carolina. We do not know that anything was done by anyone to tamper with Tuesday’s election, or whether there may have been innocuous machine malfunctions, and we are promoting no theories about either possibility.
However, we do feel that further investigation is warranted.
Voting Machine Examination
With that in mind, another expert volunteer traveled today to the SC State Board of Elections in Columbia to conduct an examination of selected voting machines that were employed in Tuesday’s election. When we have the results, if any, of that examination, we will release them immediately.
Gathering of Anecdotal Accounts
While we believe, and urge others to note that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” our campaign is receiving calls and e-mails from people – voters and poll workers – who experienced significant problems with voting for whom they intended. We are looking into these reports and will release any information we find.
Judge Rawl and the campaign stress again that no one knows exactly what happened on Election Day. South Carolinians would rather be 100% right than 90% uncertain.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) began an investigation on Friday afternoon into the election. Likely it will center on the statistical anomolies details in the Rawl press release.
People keep asking why would someone bother to knock Vic Rawl out of the race? An internal poll for the Raw campaign showed a DeMint-Rawl match-up at 50%-43%, which is pretty good considering Rawl is a virtual unknown outside of political circle. (Or was, it's likely he's much better known in South Carolina now.) Even according to PPP, DeMint wasn't a shoe-in against Rawl.
What chance does Greene have? Well, it's now a sure thing for DeMint if Greene stays the challenger. He's going to have a lot of trouble proving where that $10,000 filing fee came from. He SAVED it over 2 years? That would mean that he saved about $100/week consistently for two years. The max you can make in South Carolina on unemployment is $326/week. Seems tough. There will be bank records: when he filed, he used a personal check, there are records of deposits. There is an issue of him never filing with the FEC. Plus that pesky morals charge. Amazingly, a sex conviction won't keep you out of Congress, but it's a no-no for any South Carolina state elected office. Plus, he's created a lot of bad blood amoungst the Democrats: it will be hard for him to garner any logistics or financial help. Greene's candidacy made sure that DeMint would win re-election: he is at best a spoiler.
I have always contended that US Senator is not an entry-level position, and I still hold to that. There are rare, exceptional people, who have spent their lives related to politics in some way, but they are the exception. I'm thinking of Al Franken, with his polisci degree from Harvard, and a life dedicated to a lot of political comedy, which actually DOES require understanding politics. Not some young man who just "feels like it".