Not too long ago, I boasted on Facebook that I had proof that claims of election fraud were dead wrong. (I reference that post later below.) In retrospect, that was a little bit hyperbolic. One can't prove a negative. Also, one can't prove that there is zero election fraud in any given election. There are probably more than a few shenanigans going on during any primary season, and I will be the last person to say that people weren't subjected to long lines, xeroxed ballots, fewer polling stations, closed primaries and voter I.D. laws. I will deal with all those and more in a later blog post. But in this post, I will simply say that I did find the specific source of the claim that exit polls were tampered with. And that source proved most interesting indeed!
Numerous times I've gotten into debates with my fellow liberals, some of whom are friends of mine I thought I'd known for years, about my support for Hillary vs. their support for Bernie. These debates often degenerated into outright arguments, and then shrieking matches. (Okay, I get it, Hillary is damaged goods. But the extent to which some Bernie supporters have guzzled down the Fox News Kool-Aid is truly staggering!) But repeatedly, I ran into the claim that exit polls were showing that Bernie won various states, including New York, and Ohio.
I found that claim bizarre. Exit polls are notorious for being wildly wrong, and so basing any claim on them must be equally strange. Nevertheless, I jotted the claim down and put it on my list of things to research. This week I got around to it, searching for "exit poll discrepancies" in my Google engine. There were numerous articles claiming this, the most prominent among them being a blog post by actor Tim Robbins. But interestingly, I found no major news articles making such a claim.
What I did find, is that all claims of exit polls showing huge discrepancies indicating wins for Bernie Sanders, all trace back to only ONE source!
That source turned out to be a blog written by a man named Richard Charnin, a mathematician who claims his math skills have helped uncover new revelations regarding the JFK assassination. Now, that's a pretty big red flag right there. Nevertheless, I'm a man of science and true skepticism, and so I will reserve my judgment of his JFK conspiracy theories until after I've read them. But one doesn't need to read them to explore his claims regarding exit poll variances. They are all available on his blog, and one doesn't need to read very far to know that this clown is a total crackpot.
His arguments basically go like this: Exit polls are published online throughout a given election night. But later on, those exit polls are deliberately changed to match the outcome so that it looks like the exit polls closely match the official tally of the vote. Most of these votes show a larger margin for Bernie Sanders at first, but later show more favorable numbers for Hillary Clinton. This is clear evidence, he says, of election fraud, as the exit polls are catching the book-cooking in the act.
At this point in his argument, I find myself asking why on earth CNN or any other news outlet would post exit polls online which are so divergent from the ones that end up being the final tally when everyone with screen capture or the ability to archive the .html file could simply do so? If there's a massive cover-up, why don't they at least try to cover it up?
Charnin doesn't bother to address this. Instead what he does is perform a mathematical analysis on the variance between the early poll numbers and the final vote. He has a friend of his record the earliest exit polls through screen-capture and tabulate them (the man's name is Ted Soares, who seems like a genuinely concerned citizen who just happens to have fallen in for Charnin's crap), then analyzes that data against the final reported vote. Here's an example of what he does, taken from his blog post, Five Democratic Primaries: Exit Poll Discrepancies And Win Probabilities (March 16, 2016):
Assuming a 30% cluster effect, the exit poll margin of error is:
MoE = 1.3*1.96 *sqrt [p*(1-p)/N], where p =2-party exit poll share, N = sample-size.
Sanders win probability is P = NORMDIST (V, 0.5, MoE/1.96, true)
V = his 2- party exit poll share. His win probability is 80% in MO and 74% in IL.
The probability of the 10% OH exit poll discrepancy is P= 0.00102 (1 in 976):
P = 1- NORMDIST(EP, VS, MoE/1.96,true), where EP=48.1% is Sanders’ 2-party exit poll share and VS=43.0% his 2-party recorded vote share.
Sanders’ exit poll share exceeded his recorded share in n= 15 of N= 16 polls.
P= 0.00026 = 1-BINOMDIST(n-1,N,0.5,true) or 1 in 3855.
There is a 99.9% probability that this anomaly was due to election fraud.
If you didn't understand any of that, don't worry. You're not meant to. You're meant to "Oooh!" and "Aaah!" at Charnin's mathematical expertise. In a nutshell, what he's doing is calculating what the odds would be on the before/after totals being so different. He finds that the odds are so small (in this case, 3,855 to 1) that he concludes there must be election fraud going on.
Now, I don't have a problem with his math. His calculations are just fine. But like a computer, it's garbage in, garbage out. He starts with a flawed premise, correctly calculates based on that flawed premise, and then comes up with a bogus solution upon which he builds his incorrect claim.
To see just how screwed up this clown is, we need to know how election polls are done. And fortunately, we have a recent news article from the Washington Post which explores just that. In it, one of the people in charge of doing the actual exit polls explains how the process takes place. Exit polls are done throughout the election day, but are not released at all until 5:00. That's when the early exit poll numbers get put online. Then the interviewee, a man named Joe Lenski, vice president of Edison Media Research, drops this golden nugget on us:
The news organizations have made a pledge to Congress that they will not use the exit poll data to characterize the outcome of a race until the polls in that state are scheduled to close.
That brings us to the third wave at the poll closing time. What we also have, in addition to the exit poll data, we also have sample precinct data. The samples are picked similarly. In a state like New York, we had 35 exit poll precincts and 50 sample precincts in the state. The sample precincts include the exit poll precinct. We have a reporter in each polling location in the sample, and as soon as the results are posted at that polling place, they will call those results in.
Shortly after poll closing, we can quickly compare what the exit poll of that precinct said the votes were and what the actual votes were. So that's when you'll see a fairly quick adjustment to the exit poll estimates after poll closing.
Like in New York, we were showing a four-point margin in the exit poll at 9 o'clock, but by 9:45 we were showing a 12-point margin. That's because we can quickly compare precinct-by-precinct what the exit poll results were and what the full results for that precinct were. So we're seeing precinct-by-precinct that the actual results were that Hillary Clinton was doing four points better than she did in the exit poll in that precinct, we will adjust the results [of the exit poll] accordingly.
There are two important uses of the exit poll. One is to project a winner. But the main use of the exit poll that night and historically is to have the most accurate representation of the demographics of voters. How each demographic voted, what the issues were, when people decided how to vote. To make those demographic results as accurate as possible, we want to match to the actual results by precinct, by region of the state, etc.
When you see those adjustments made shortly after poll closing, that's because we've gotten a whole lot more real information to tell us what the turnout is going to be by region, the overstatement and understatement for each candidate in the precinct was based on the actual results. We're making those adjustments as rapidly as we can.
That's when the interviewer, Philip Bump, asks: So the New York issue, I can't help but notice that you said that younger people are more likely to fill out the surveys and then also that Sanders was over-represented in the initial estimate. Do you think there's a link there?
Lenski replies: Oh, yes, there's definitely a link there.
We're adjusting for that throughout the day. As I said, we know the response rate in our 35 precincts. We know that younger voters are more likely to choose to fill out the questionnaire than older voters, and that's typically the case so we're already making those adjustments.
Obviously in this case, that was even more than normal. As soon as we started getting sample precinct returns, we made that adjustment even more so that we'd match the actual results.
But in Richard Charnin's world, he takes the earliest possible numbers and the latest possible numbers, does a calculation on them to find how far outside the margin of error (MoE) the result is, inevitably finds that the numbers are outside the margins (because he's cherry-picking the two most discordant numbers he can find), calculates the probability of such a huge drift occurring which, of course, is infinitesimally small, like 4000 to 1 or 99.9% unlikely, and then says, "See? Fraud!"
WRONG! Yes, the numbers fall outside the margin of error, but there are dozens of reasons this might happen. Yes, fraud is one of those reasons. But here's just a small list of some of the others:
1.) The enthusiasm gap. Bernie Sanders supporters are more enthusiastic than Hillary supporters, making it far more likely that Bernie supporters will answer exit polls while Hillary supporters will not.
2.) The youth gap. Younger voters, who heavily favor Sanders, are more likely to answer exit poll questionnaires than older, more jaded voters who favor Clinton.
3.) The absentee gap. Exit polls do not get to interview anyone who votes by absentee ballot.
4.) The racial gap. Pollsters, who are mostly white and possibly may even be volunteers or interns, find that it is difficult getting people in black districts, who heavily favor Clinton, to answer questionnaires.
5.) The timing gap. Younger, college-aged voters, who favor Sanders, tend to vote earlier in the day based on completion of their class schedule while older, more professional voters tend to vote later in the evening based on completion of their work schedule.
But instead of any of these perfectly rational possibilities, Charnin goes with fraud.
Does he say why? No. Does he attempt to rule out the other possibilities? No. Does he even fucking acknowledge said possibilities? For the most part, no!
After his calculations are done, his default setting is set to 'fraud' and that's that as far as he's concerned.
On his blog's comments, his dismissiveness is quite apparent. After his blog post on May 5, a commenter posted: "How do I rebut people who say exit polling does not account for early voting?"
Richard's response: "Nothing to rebut. Early absentee voting can also be rigged."
Of course! Because when something indicates his calculations are wrong, he simply says, "Oh, that's rigged too!"
The fallacy of Charnin's approach can be seen in the number of people polled, which he foolishly publishes. Take Ohio, for example. He performs his calculation based on early CNN exit poll numbers where 1,670 people have responded. But the final number of respondents published on CNN's website is actually 1,764!
Look, when you add more votes to the total later in the evening, of course the final vote tallies are going to change. DUH!
And when an exit poll is done, it is of course not done on everyone. Instead a small sample size is taken in order to determine a probable idea of the outcome. And this is fraught with potential inaccuracies. Why someone would base their whole argument on this is beyond me.
It should be pointed out that Charnin might have an argument if he presented evidence of FINAL exit poll numbers having been changed. But does he do this? No. That would make too much sense. And besides, he has no such evidence.
I did a spreadsheet analysis of all exit poll data available as well as Charnin's numbers. The interesting thing I found when doing that is that even if Charnin's claims were 100% true, there are only three primary elections where his purported "election fraud" would have made any difference, namely, Missouri, Illinois, and Massachusetts - three of the closest races. Charnin's early poll numbers give Bernie Sanders a slight edge over Hillary Clinton, but Clinton had a late surge that put her just barely over the top in all three. But this makes no material difference in the outcome. Even if Bernie won all three states, he would have gotten only a few more delegates - nowhere near the kind of margin he would have needed.
What's more, if one applies ALL of Charnin's numbers and applies them to the states in question (23 states that had exit polling), then proportionally allots Bernie Sanders all of the additional delegates he would get as a result, Bernie would only gain about 70 delegates or so. That would be nowhere near enough to overcome the 377 pledged delegate lead Hillary has finished with (not counting D.C. which has yet to vote as of this writing).
There's even more. My spreadsheet analysis incorporated pre-polling data provided by Real Clear Politics, and just as early exit polls seemed to favor Sanders, pre-election polls seemed to favor Hillary. For example, in Iowa, Hillary's RCP average polling numbers gave her a four-point edge over Bernie. Instead, she finished a mere hair's-breadth in the lead with three tenths of a percent. In New Hampshire, Bernie's margin of victory was more than 9% higher than the margin predicted by RCP. In Oklahoma, Hillary trailed Bernie by only three points, but finished behind Bernie by ten points. In Michigan - well, we all know what happened in Michigan, don't we? And in Oregon, the only pre-poll available gave Hillary a 60% to 40% lead over Sanders, but the final totals on election night were almost the exact opposite of that.
Now, if I were someone who thought like Richard Charnin, I would take these numbers, do a calculation that showed how far outside the margin of error they were, perform a probability calculation on how likely that was, and come up with some absurdly huge 5000 to 1 number against such a scenario. I would then scream "FRAUD!" to anyone who was willing to listen.
But I'm not such an asshole. I know perfectly well that pre-election polls are just as volatile as exit polls. More so, even.
I could end my argument here. But, I'm a fastidious gadfly, and so, just to make sure I had all the data I needed. I wrote to Richard Charnin hoping to get a good look at the original source material for his spreadsheets. I found no email address, so I attempted to contact him by commenting on his blog. The comment was posted at around 11:00 a.m., and I saw no update to the comments list for several hours. Now, it's not uncommon for bloggers to approve posts first before others can see them, but I had good reason to believe I accidentally made a mistake when posting, and that therefore the comment wouldn't appear. So I commented again, this time being very careful to include my email address, and sent my comment off. By late in the evening, still nothing.
Then, I found that he had a Facebook account. "Perfect!" I thought. And I went to it to put in a friend request.
That's when I discovered that one of my dearest friends, a fierce Bernie supporter, a fulcrum of the freethought community's social circle, and a true battleaxe for justice, was also friends with him.
Aha! So that's where so many of my friends had gotten the idea into their heads that there was massive election fraud going on! Charnin had needlessly driven a wedge between myself and those dearest to me, and had done this same sort of thing with circles of leftist friends all over this nation. People who had been best friends for years suddenly found themselves bitter enemies, all because some favored Bernie while others favored Hillary. Millions of friendships destroyed, all to buy this hack a little bit of undeserved fame.
Asshole! Now, it was personal!
Nevertheless, I decided to keep things cordial. By the following morning, I saw that Richard had accepted my friend request, so I repeated my question to him. Here's what I sent him by FB Messenger:
Hi, Richard. I'm intrigued by your blog and spreadsheet. I'm an accountant who also studied biological sciences and physics, so I can follow the math. Impressive work.
I have a question about the original numbers for the exit polls. The numbers your blog shows are not the ones CNN has on its website now. You say they changed them. That's very disturbing. If you can verify those original numbers, you have a real bombshell to drop on the establishment. So my question is, can you show where those original exit polls come from? Maybe you saved the .html file from CNN? Or did a screen capture? Is the original Internet page from CNN cached somewhere? Please let me know. I'm anxious to catch this fraud red-handed.
Now, I hadn't quite learned how exit polls work at this point, and so I was a little bit naive in my question. I should have asked if he had any evidence showing final poll numbers had changed. But in the end, that proved irrelevant. He didn't have such information anyway, or he would have blogged about it. But he finally did reply:
I answered you on my blog yesterday.
Okay, surprise. I guess he answers his blog posts in the wee hours of the night. I answered,
I'll take a look. Thanks.
I did. His response on the blog read...
The data source is described in the post. View the table. Thee data was captured by Ted Soares. His e-mail is indicated below the table.
Did you see the table? Why don’t you contact him if you have questions?
I did contact him. I prepared to send him an email asking what original data he had. Ted seemed a genuinely concerned citizen with a keen interest in doing the right thing. But before the e-mail could be sent, this happened on Facebook Messenger:
Why don't you call the exit pollsters? Or call CNN. I gave you my info. Contact Ted Soares. You have his e-mail in the table you are questioning. That's it. No more questions.
Apparently, he was upset that I'd asked the same question multiple times in multiple forums. I wasn't trying to do that to him on purpose. I just didn't get a response within the course of a normal business day. It's not my fault he doesn't answer his blog posts until after midnight Central Standard Time. But then he continued:
Are you down with that, Mr. Agenda? You turn out to be just what I thought you are. Expect nothing from me. We are done. You are exposed.
Now, I made no attempt to hide my affiliations or views expressed on Facebook. (In fact, I have one alter-ego Facebook profile I use to infiltrate certain religious groups, and I could have used that to conceal my identity. But I didn't.) I simply sent him a friend request, and asked him a question, that's all. But he apparently saw one of my pro-Hillary Facebook posts and assumed that I was out to get him. In truth, I was seriously considering going after him at that particular time, but if he'd presented compelling evidence, I would have changed my mind, as all good people of science and skepticism must. As per usual, he assumed far too much.
He quoted my FB post back at me, as if it were some sort of a "gotcha!" moment. I was rather forceful with that particular post, but I also have nothing to hide, so here is the post that got Mr. Charnin's hackles up:
Okay, I promised to stay quiet until June 7. Now that it's in our rear-view mirror, I need to say something to all those Hillary-haters who insisted to me that Bernie would run the table and win the nomination:
I. Told. You. SO!
There, I said it. And now all those who said its not over until California are telling me that it isn't over until July 28. Olay, fine. I get it. Hillary's not that good. But you know what? SHE'S ALSO NOT THAT BAD! And I'll go to the mat against anyone who says otherwise.
Now our focus should be on securing a high-ranking office for Bernie within the DNC. But some of you will focus instead on various claims of voter fraud and vote suppression. I'm very nearly done with my investigations into such claims, and what I've found is amazing! Let me tell you!
So if you say "fraud" or "rigged," prepare to have your illusions shattered. I now have PROOF to the contrary! So be warned, and make no mistake about it...
The proof I refer to in this post involved a laundry-list of items, and yes, the possibility of Charnin's belfry-bats was potentially one of them at the time. But Charnin must have assumed that it was 100% about him (as all conspiracy nuts who see themselves as one-knight-against-an-army are wont to do). After finding this not-so-secret post of mine, Mr. Charnin tells me, "You are exposed."
Wow. Hold the damned phone. We've got ourselves a real Sherlock Holmes, here.
When I received his Messenger text, I was at work, and so I couldn't really expend much brain power in a reply. So I simply typed,
If you are at all righteous, you have nothing to fear from me.
I do not fear you. I feel sorry for you. You are going to prove my analysis is wrong? That Hillary is winning fairly. Go right ahead. Make a name for yourself. Mr. Accountant.
And don't lecture me about being righteous. TRUTH IS ALL!
Well, he got that last part right, at least. But after all he's done to obfuscate the truth, he has no right whatsoever to that banner call.
He goes on:
I can spot trolls like you in a minute. Sending me the same message over and over again. Trying to wear me out. I know your king. You and Josh Holland should get together. So long, poseur...
Touchy, isn't he? And at this point, I'm more impressed that this guy knows the definition of 'poseur' than anything else about him.
"Trolls?" If I'd really wanted to troll a guy who's this hyper-sensitive, I could have had him in tears. And he didn't spot me in a minute. It took him several hours. And I wasn't even hiding!
The "king" he refers to, and suggests I should get together with (I assume), Josh Holland, is a reporter for The Nation who did a brilliant exposure of phony vote fraud claims. You can read it here. He also did a very good analysis of the Tim Robbins connection with Richard Charnin's hoax on Raw Story, which you can read about here. But I never met Josh Holland, and I don't believe in kings.
I don't doubt that Mr. Charnin is sincere. He truly believes that the bullshit he's spewing is real. I also don't fault his friend Ted Soares, or the admirable actor Tim Robbins, or anyone else fooled by this bullshitter. It's easy to get dazzled by the equations and not realize that what's being calculated was incorrect to begin with. What I do fault Charnin for, is being so thick-headed about it. His genuinely left-leaning sense of justice has convinced him that voter fraud has been going on for decades. (He seems to have began this conspiracy-theory out of hatred and disbelief over the election results in 2004, and who can blame him?) His passion for defending left-leaning politics has driven him into this insanity, and now it's had a direct influence on the sort of irrationality that has infected the entire "Bernie or Bust" mindset, one which has now consumed every anti-Hillary conspiracy whack-job notion with such gusto that hardly anything rational is left. With his heart in the right place, he's driven everybody and everything else to the wrong place. He's convinced himself that he's on a crusade, and he doesn't give a shit how many lives he has to ruin to do it, or that his unwitting hoax could lead to the travesty of having a President Trump. He probably sees some glimmer of this reality, but presses on anyway, destroying reason and common sense while leaving hysteria and anger in his noxious wake.
Well I say FUCK THAT!
Fuck this guy! So long as I'm around, I'll do everything I can to make sure that this loony-tune has his work flushed down the toilet bowl of history!