Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Thursday, November 11, 2004

Do ya have to let it linger?
Written by: Beck

The election is over, a winner has been decided, and the loser has conceded. But some people refuse to let it die. Many are of the moonbat DU fringe crowd. Others, such as David Anderson, take a more serious approach, desiring above all to make sure that the America's democratic system works as intended, that all the votes are counted, and that groups of Americans aren't being systematically disenfranchised.

Of the latter group, I'm inclined to support their efforts in principle. After all, if large-scale, wide-spread fraud is possible in an American election, then what kind of legitimacy can we have in our attempts to encourage democracy abroad. At the same time, the former group's efforts rankle to no end. Unfounded ranting and accusations that Bushitler and the Republikans "stole" the election only serve to undermine American legitimacy without shining any light on reality or serving to improve the system. Rather, they serve to alienate voters and to instill doubt in potential supporters abroad.

Now, with all that said, I'm inclined to believe that there was not, in fact, wide spread, systematic vote fraud. Indeed, while stories of Republican-benefiting irregularities have received a lot of press, stories of Democrat-benefiting irregularities have received virtually none. This is to be expected--after all, that which benefits the Democrats doesn't impact the election outcome. The victors in any contest are typically happy to savor their victory and move on to the next challenge, while the defeated wish with all their might that things might still come out differently.

I don't simply say that I'm disinclined to think there was fraud out of a hunch or a feeling or an instinct. I think that way after having read numerous articles and source material. The whole point of this post is to do a round-up of some of the highlights of what I've seen and read.

Perhaps most importantly, a joint project between Cal Tech and MIT was conducted to attempt to discover whether voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election. The PDF file is 8 pages long. Here is the conclusion:
There is no evidence that electronic voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election for George Bush. The "facts" that are being circulated on the Internet appear to be selectively chosen to make the point. Much of that analysis appears to rest on early exit poll results, which were bound to be highly volatile, given the nature of exit poll methodology.

This episode of trying to rely on the exit polls to verify the truthfulness of voting machines illustrates the weakness of this approach --- an approach that had gained currency among electronic voting opponents before the November election. Even when they work well, exit polls are too imprecise to lay against the official count, unless every voter is included in the exit poll.
Next up is a lengthy article in which asks the question, Was the election stolen? Their response is long and thorough. In it, they highlight the largest accusations of fraud currently receiving wide circulation on the internet and elsewhere. In each case, they conclude that the irregularities being highlighted are not indicative of deliberate fraud, manipulation, or pro-Bush cheating. As they put it,
There's little question that the American election process is a mess, and needs to be cleaned up. But even if this particular election wasn't perfect, it was still most likely good enough for us to have faith in the results. Salon has examined some of the most popular Kerry-actually-won theories currently making the rounds online, and none of them hold up under rigorous scrutiny.
Next, for those interested in instances of voting irregularities, this article in the Palm Beach Post summarizes a great deal of the anecdotal instances of things going wrong, though they conclude:
None of the conspiracy theorists has provided proof of a widespread error that might have changed the election outcome. Independent groups who monitored the voting found problems scattered around the country but nothing decisive, and election officials have generally dismissed the Internet chatter.
Finally, an article in the Modesto Bee sums things up nicely:
In the days since the election, disgruntled Democrats have taken to the blogosphere and other portions of the public forum to claim the presidential election was stolen this year. They are doing themselves and the country a grave disservice. Yes, there were isolated problems, some of them quite serious. One electronic polling machine in Ohio mistakenly recorded 3,893 extra votes for President Bush. Computer glitches weren't the the only problems. Reports of registration irregularities, long lines, dirty tricks and voter intimidation abound. But none of the problems uncovered thus far have been serious enough to significantly erode President Bush's 3.5 million vote margin of victory or change the outcome in the Electoral College.

That said, the 2004 presidential election did confirm the need for continuing election reforms and improvements. In too many jurisdictions, the voting systems Americans use are antiquated and mistake-prone. The country needs to redouble its efforts to upgrade the election system. That means getting money to local governments to buy new machines and train poll workers and voters. It also means creating a registration system that is uniform and fair.
If you're interested in more on the subject, you don't have to surf too much of the blogosphere to find out as much as you could possibly hope for. As for me, I'm already sick of the story, and I can only hope this is the first, last, and only post I'll feel compelled to do on the topic.

(Hat tips: Protein Wisdom, Equal Vote, Instapundit)

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