Tokaji [Ohio State]: Berkeley Report on Electronic Voting in Florida Commentary
Tokaji [Ohio State]: Berkeley Report on Electronic Voting in Florida

Dan Tokaji, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University:

"Last week's conspiracy theory was that the election had been stolen in Florida counties using optical scan voting equipment, a paper-based system that functions like standardized tests. This week's may turn out to be the precise opposite: that electronic voting caused Bush to receive more votes than he should have.

As discussed here, the allegation made by some activists last week was that counties using optical scan equipment showed more votes for Bush than one would expect based on the party affiliation. By contrast, voters using electronic voting (the other type of system in Florida) had about the Kerry/Bush breakdown you'd expect, as shown in this chart. The allegation of foul play with optical scans was quickly debunked as noted here, when it was pointed out that the optical scan counties were more likely to have Dixiecrat voters (i.e., registered Democrats who vote Republican) while the electronic voting counties tend to be more urban ones (in which Democrats mostly vote for Democrats).

Now, a working paper from researchers at U.C. Berkeley asserts that electronic voting caused an increase in votes for Bush this year. In particular, the paper asserts that electronic voting resulted in 130,733 extra votes for Bush, primarily in three large counties (Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward). The analysis is based on the increase in the number of votes for Bush in 2004, as compared with those he received in 2000 and those that Dole received in 2000. According to the paper, which can be found here:

Electronic voting raised Bush's advantage from the tiny edge he held in 2000 to a clearer margin of victory in 2004…. The state-wide impact of these disparities due to electronic voting amounts to 130,000 votes if we assume a "ghost vote" mechanism and twice that — 260,000 — if we assume that a vote misattributed to one candidate should have been accounted for the other.

To be sure, the working paper doesn't go so far as to allege any foul play, much less that the election was stolen. Still, it reaches a provocative conclusion, one that electronic voting critics and those who've been alleging a conspiracy to steal this election — and there's substantial overlap between these two groups — are sure to seize on.

The big question is whether the conclusion the paper makes is supported by the evidence. I've previously asserted that we should be skeptical of allegations that the election was stolen with optical scan equipment. In my view, the latest allegations warrant the same skepticism. While this working paper should be examined carefully, it's not at all clear that the data upon which the paper relies warrants the bold conclusion that electronic voting caused the increased vote for Bush in 2004…." [November 19, 2004: Equal Vote has more]

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.