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UC Berkeley Research Team Sounds 'Smoke Alarm' for Florida E-Vote Count

Statistical Analysis - the Sole Method for Tracking E-Voting - Shows Irregularities May Have Awarded 130,000 - 260,000 or More Excess Votes to Bush in Florida
Research Team Calls for Investigation
BERKELEY, CA -- November 18 -- Today the University of California's Berkeley Quantitative Methods Research Team released a statistical study - the sole method available to monitor the accuracy of e- voting - reporting irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000-260,000 or more excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004 presidential election. The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used versus counties using traditional voting methods - what the team says can be deemed a "smoke alarm." Discrepancies this large or larger rarely arise by chance - the probability is less than 0.1 percent. The research team formally disclosed results of the study at a press conference today at the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center, where they called on Florida voting officials to investigate.
The three counties where the voting anomalies were most prevalent were also the most heavily Democratic: Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, respectively. Statistical patterns in counties that did not have e-touch voting machines predict a 28,000 vote decrease in President Bush's support in Broward County; machines tallied an increase of 51,000 votes - a net gain of 81,000 for the incumbent. President Bush should have lost 8,900 votes in Palm Beach County, but instead gained 41,000 - a difference of 49,900. He should have gained only 18,400 votes in Miami-Dade County but saw a gain of 37,000 - a difference of 19,300 votes.

"For the sake of all future elections involving electronic voting - someone must investigate and explain the statistical anomalies in Florida," says Professor Michael Hout. "We're calling on voting officials in Florida to take action."

The research team is comprised of doctoral students and faculty in the UC Berkeley sociology department, and led by Sociology Professor Michael Hout, a nationally-known expert on statistical methods and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center.

For its research, the team used multiple-regression analysis, a statistical method widely used in the social and physical sciences to distinguish the individual effects of many variables on quantitative outcomes like vote totals. This multiple-regression analysis takes into account of the following variables by county:

Number of voters
Median income
Hispanic/Latino population
Change in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004
Support for Senator Dole in the 1996 election
Support for President Bush in the 2000 election.
Use of electronic voting or paper ballots
"No matter how many factors and variables we took into consideration, the significant correlation in the votes for President Bush and electronic voting cannot be explained," said Hout. "The study shows, that a county's use of electronic voting resulted in a disproportionate increase in votes for President Bush. There is just a trivial probability of evidence like this appearing in a population where the true difference is zero - less than once in a thousand chances."

The data used in this study came from public sources including CNN.com, the 2000 US Census, and the Verified Voting Foundation.
For a copy of the working paper, raw data and other information used in the study can be found at:  http://ucdata.berkeley.edu .

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homepage: homepage: http://www.commondreams.org/news2004/1118-14.htm

The press conference 18.Nov.2004 14:59

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NOVEMBER 18, 2004 - A University of California at Berkeley research team told a press conference today that a study they have done of the e-voting in Florida shows there is a statistical anomaly in 3 heavily Democratic leaning counties which gave President Bush between 130,000 and 250,000 more votes than he should have received.

"Someone must investigate and explain these anomalies," said Professor Michael Hout, a Sociology professor and head of the UC Berkeley research team that issued the report.

At issue are Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade counties, listed "in order of magnitude" of the discrepancy.

The report indicates that, "In Broward County alone, President Bush appears to have received approximately 72,000 excess votes."

Asked if there was any chance people in these counties simply decided to vote for President Bush in these excess numbers, Hout said there is "less than 1 in 1000" chance.

What happened in these counties, said Holt, "was out of pattern with what occurred in the other 64 counties in Florida."

Even in other counties that used e-voting, but in which Bush support was stronger, there were not statistical anomalies found like the ones in the three large, heavily Democratic-leaning counties cited.

Hout described himself as a skeptic, and noted he has been acting to explain the "Dixiecrat" issue that caused a number of counties in Florida which have a higher number of Democrats to vote more heavily for Bush. He noted that these counties did not present as anomalies in this study.

But in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade, the results of the analysis showed so dramatically a problem that, "that's why I'm not a skeptic now," he said.

"Something went awry with the voting in Florida," he said plainly.

What exactly the issue is Hout and his team left for others, repeatedly responding to questions on the topic by saying, "I am not an engineer or a programmer." He said the errant vote counts could be due to embedded software glitches, smudged screens, or, in one case, to a reported count in which at some point the tallying reversed and started counting downwards. But he was clear to say that this list was not definitive as this was not his area of specialty.

"All I know is that the smoke alarm's gone off, it's up to the Fire Department now," to figure out exactly what occurred, by which he meant election officials in the three mentioned counties.

Due to the "significant departure" from what vote count should have occurred in these counties, President Bush received a total of 1,157,435 votes while he should have received between 900,000 and 1,020,000.

The team said they studied both Florida and Ohio, but only spoke about the Florida results at this press conference. There is a possibility that they could also look into e-voting in other states, but, as one of the researchers noted, "We are busy grad students," and so that might not happen immediately.

The purpose of this study was deal with the issue that there were not statistics evaluating potential e-voting problems. "Just rumors in the blogosphere," said Hout. And so the team sought to both "shoot down false claims," which Hout said they have done, as in the case of the Dixiecrat Florida counties, as well as confirm actual problems, such as the ones found in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade.

"We are not a political action committee, not a lobby, we are just a bunch of researchers who have something we think is important," said Hout.

Exit polling data was not used for this project, as they would present a whole new group of statistical issues into the mix.

Again Hout repeated, "The smoke alarm is beeping, people need to see if there's a fire."

"We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to chance," the report says. "Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect cannot be explained by differences between counties in income, number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size Hispanic/Latino population."

"The data show with 99.0% certainty that a county's use of electronic voting is associated with a disproportionate increase in votes for President Bush," according to the report.

The entire report is available at UC DATA .