Election 2016: What do the numbers tell us

When it comes to numerical analysis, many people over the past two centuries have made variations of the observation that there are “lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.” Yet, at least up until this election, statistical analysis has proven reasonably successful in predicting the outcome of Presidential elections.

So how did all of the pollsters and pundits fail so miserably? There were a number of circumstances which helped sweep the Drumpf into office. According to Noam Chomsky, traditional political polling based on demographic data overlooked what is most important in elections: Values! One’s sense of right and wrong, and those omissions were crucial in this election.

Other background “circumstances” contributed to this perfect shit storm of an election; starting with numerous voter suppression efforts in Republican controlled states, followed by unremitting propaganda designed to promote fear of others, manifested by; rampant xenophobia-racism-sexism and misogyny. This election also saw an unprecedented surge in 3rd party and undecided voters.

Voter suppression has long been one of the Republicans favorite tactics, and has remained safely out of the public’s eye for decades. Starting with voter caging  a long standing and illegal practice which has now reached national proportions thanks to the efforts of Kris Kobach, former Kansas GOP chair and now current Kansas Secretary of State and member of Drumpf’s transition team

In addition to inspiring Republican voter caging efforts across the country, Kobach is responsible for launching the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck  program, which purportedly compares voter registration data to ferret out evidence of double voting. Since its inception in Kansas over a decade ago, the program has expanded to 29 Republican controlled states including Virginia.

Kobach also tried to take advantage of a Supreme Court ruling on an Arizona law which required police to check the immigration status of people stopped for other reasons if officers have a reasonable suspicion they’re in the U.S. illegally to introduce similar legislation in Kansas  working behind the scenes to get this voter suppression measure introduced and passed in other Republican controlled states.

This year, the Republican Party has taken their vote suppression measures even further. With Republican controlled Southern States closing down 868 polling places after a Supreme Court decision limited federal oversight of their election.

And in North Carolina, local Republican controlled elections boards in 18 counties went out of their way to suppress early voting. State election officials are claiming that that they have no record of people registering to vote the DMV offices in those counties, a likely violation of the “Motor Voter” Law, or National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

In response, a federal court ordered those North Carolina’s counties to give provisional ballots to every voter who affirmed that they registered at the DMV. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory, who lost a close contest to his Democratic opponent, Roy Cooper, where it is commonly assumed that the provisional ballots would lean more heavily in Cooper’s favor, and eliminate the need for an automatic recount.

So far during the count, a number of ‘protesters’ have appeared before the county BOE’s with allegations of voter fraud by individuals who they said were ineligible due to felonies and other matters. In every case, the county BOE’s rejected these challenges because they weren’t factual or they were quickly proven to be untrue.

More than two weeks later, McCrory still refuses to concede. Instead, he and his legal team are alleging that the results were tainted by fraud, petitioning election boards to review the results and determine their validity.  His strategy appears to be to delay the formal declaration of a winner—delegitimizing the voting process—in order to let the Republican-dominated legislature vote to re-install McCrory as governor for another four years.

Meanwhile, one of the most important “swing” states in this election Florida with 29 electoral votes also happens to be one of three states which permanently denies anyone with a felony conviction the right to vote. There is no automatic process for former felons to regain their voting rights, and people have to travel to the state capital and proactively request that the governor grant them clemency on an individual basis.

A process which became even more difficult since Lord Voldemort … I mean Republican Gov. Rick Scott was elected in 2011. During Governor Charlie Crist’s four years in office, more than 150,000 people had their rights restored. Voting advocates claimed that even that number did not go far enough, given the long backlog of applications.

But when Scott took office, the clemency board changed its rules and progress slowed to a crawl. In his first term as governor, fewer than 1,600 people have had their rights restored. During this election, this archaic legacy of Jim Crow will deny more than 6 million people the right to vote.

Along with these developments, comes the passage of restrictive voter ID laws in Republican controlled states. And this election, it’s no coincidence that three important swing states, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida have all become case studies for the effectiveness of voting restrictions in this election.

More disturbing are allegations that voter databases may have been hacked. In the states of Florida and North Carolina databases managed by the same contractor were hacked. The FBI warned election officials in these and other states; such as AZ, IL about this more than 2 months before the election.

One state, Georgia after being notified that their ancient database had been hacked, went so far to say they don’t need or want any help from the “federal gov’ment.” In any other election, news like this and the NSA chief saying that Russia hacked the 2016 election, along with the Washington Post claiming that Russia  used over 200 websites to push “fake news” to gullible Americans would read like something out of one of Tom Clancy’s novels.


But it’s not — these are stories which have been mostly ignored by our incurious media, and with the exception of Senators John McCain, and Lindsey Graham ignored by the Republican dominated Congress.

Now the political forecasting site, 538 is claiming their “statistics” prove that this election was not hacked and that demographics explain the results. Perhaps, but given how badly 538 screwed up the fundamentals of predicting this election, and that folks like Lakoff have come up with  some plausible explanations of how they were measuring the wrong things its clear that something doesn’t add up .

So it might be worth investigating whether some combination of voter suppression and  manipulation of the election actually happened.

Developments which have prompted a group of prominent election experts at MIT and UC Berkeley to call for a presidential election audit, along with a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers privately urging Hillary Clinton to call for a recount in three swing states won by the Drumpf.

Meanwhile, the Green Party’s fund raising drive for Presidential recounts in WI, PA and MI have raised over $ 4.5 million in less than 48 hours, and now have enough funds for Wisconsin’s, Pennsylvania’s and Michigan’s filing fees before their deadlines. And the recount is currently underway in Wisconsin.

With Jill Stein’s campaign, saying that “The costs associated with recounts are a function of state law, and attorney’s fees are likely to be another $2-3 million, then there are the costs of the statewide recount observers in all three states. The total cost is likely to be $6-7 million.

Thus far, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri has not responded to any requests for comments on this matter. But some Clinton allies are intent on pushing the issue. And complicating matters, a senior Clinton adviser said, that the White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result.

Jon Taylor

Next: What the numbers can’t tell us