Maybe you've seen this little tidbit floating around social media:
"Election Justice USA Study Finds That Without Election Fraud Bernie Sanders Wins In A Landslide."
A landslide, eh?
That's the sort of hyperbole you get from a bad liar, and I said so to my Facebook friends who posted the news article as it appeared in Daily Kos. Of course, Daily Kos also posted a contrary opinion article, and you can read that here. But I promised to research this anyway, and besides, it seems the Internet could use a more thorough investigation. Who the hell is "Election Justice USA" and what are they all about?
According to their website, which you can access here, Election Justice USA is "a non-partisan national organization of seasoned election integrity experts, statisticians, attorneys, journalists and activists." Sounds good in and of itself, but who specifically does that mean?
Mostly, the organization is comprised of a hodge-podge mix of people who have long been disenfranchised with how America's election process takes place. Some members are people of high integrity, but who likely have little time to vet this organization, and so simply belong to it on general principle. One such person is Lulu Fries'dat, a woman who did a remarkable documentary back in 2008 called, "Holler Back: Not voting in an American town," which explored the problems of non-participants among American voters. Or Fritz Scheuren, senior fellow and vice president of NORC (originally the National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago - a major think-tank for excellence in survey results. But there are others in the mix who are not people of integrity at all, and are mostly just Bernie-Bros who refuse, even now, to accept Hillary Clinton's clear-cut primary win. Tucked in among these are some true crackpots, and their handiwork can be seen in this latest publication.
Take, for example, the list of acknowledgements on the "Democracy Lost" report, which is the one that purports the alleged "Bernie Sanders landslide victory." In that list of names are a couple of people I spotted when I debunked the exit polling arguments months ago. Such as Nicolas Bauer, whose background I don't know well but was one of those who argued that the early exit polls gave more accurate results than the election itself. (An empirical falsehood, by the way.) Or Doug Johnson Hatlem, a former street preacher turned freelance journalist and filmmaker. Now, these two are merely misguided passionate advocates who have been caught up in the whirlwind of "Bern Outs" who refused to listen to what Bernie Sanders told them directly to do when he endorsed Hillary Clinton (proving that they were only fair-weather fans to begin with).
But then one other name stands out. Theodore de Macedo Soares.
Wait, Ted Soares?
Yes! Ted Soares! The very man who collaborated with that loony Richard Charnin, whose bullshit I debunked on this blog back in June, and then debunked it again, and then debunked it yet again after that! At the time, I thought Ted was just some well-meaning but misguided fool. Now I know that he's out to infect Richard Charnin's bullshit into lots of other organizations with integrity.
So much for the nice, misguided guy hypothesis.
According to the aforementioned acknowledgements, Ted Soares is responsible for providing the data having to do with exit polling. Well, that means its suspect right there. But I will deal with that at length later on. For now, let's deal with each of the segments in the report itself.
The report is fully named, Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries. The title alone says it all as far as the opinion of the authors is concerned. It is divided up into six sections:
- Section I is comprised of introductory material, and an executive summary.
- Section II is a summary of direct evidence for election fraud.
- Section III covers current and pending legal actions taken by Election Justice USA and other parties.
- Section IV covers documented types of voter tampering and election fraud in the 2016 primaries.
- Section V covers evidence for fraud or suppression in each primary, state-by-state.
- Section VI give conclusions and recommendations.
For the purposes of this blog, I will only need to deal with sections I and II. The introductory and summary material is all I really need to debunk this as nonsense, and the remaining material is exhaustive details covering the shit I already debunked. Also, any legal actions taken are irrelevant to whether the allegations are true or not. By the same token, any conclusions based on flawed allegations are moot. So, with the relevant areas sequestered, let's deal with each one it its turn. If you want to read the original source text as well, and compare it to my analysis, you can find it here.
Section I: Executive Summary.
A great deal of space is given to two of what the paper says are thousands of examples of vote tampering, that of Alba Guerrero and Chloe Pecorino, both from New York. Their cases are indeed worthy of attention, but by themselves do not establish any widespread impact. In a primary race where well over 16 million people voted for Hillary Clinton, roughly 3.5 million more for her than for Bernie Sanders, having "thousands" of votes tampered with would not have any significant impact on the outcome.
But truthfully, we should ignore that. There should not be one vote tampered with, or one vote discounted. That goes without saying. But that having been said, there is no evidence presented in this summary that conclusively shows that vote tampering solely benefited Hillary Clinton. The truth of the matter is that some disenfranchised voters were Bernie Sanders supporters, and others were Hillary Clinton supporters. So long as a plurality of voters were affected, and there were, the net result on the election results would be a wash or a near-wash.
Here's a special paragraph in the executive summary that I recognized right away:
Exit polling has been used throughout the world as a means to verify election results. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stated in their 2015 booklet "Assessing and Verifying Election Results," [e]xit polls are powerful analytical tools... [a] discrepancy between the votes reported by voters and official results may suggest the votes have been manipulated." [sic]
This was lifted directly from Richard Charnin's blog, right down to the improper use of quotation marks at the end. It is a thumbprint which exposes the source material as conspiracy-theory laden bullshit, fed to a caring yet gullible public by the tin-foil-hat caucus.
The executive summary leans heavily upon the "evidence" which I have repeatedly debunked - that early exit polling data shows a significantly higher percentage of votes for Bernie Sanders than for Hillary Clinton.
Okay, for everyone who missed it the first four times, here it is again. Here's how exit polls actually work:
Say you're an exit poller. You stand outside a polling station, holding your clipboard, waiting for those people who are exiting to come and answer the survey you are pleading with them to fill out.
Now, there are two basic types of potential respondents in the 2016 primary. There's the younger, more enthusiastic Bernie supporter, who is empowered both with emotion and free time, and who is 180% more likely to answer some anonymous volunteer's survey.
Then there's the other type, who is older, wiser, and has been through this shit countless times before, and who looks at the exit-poller as only one of any number of distractions who want to destroy what little free time he or she has left. So of course he or she is unwilling to answer the questionnaire. They have a much-needed nap in their future.
So, bearing these two basic types in mind, you can imagine that the early exit polls would be totally biased in favor of the first type of voter. You know, the type who takes exit poll conspiracy theories far too seriously in the first place?
Adjustments are then made to the exit poll data. How? Why, by the exit poller counting and/or guesstimating the head counts of different demographics walking out of the poll station. The pollster is mentally noting how many elderly, black, latino, middle-aged and young people are walking out. They don't know how these people voted, but they have a good idea based upon earlier polling data. They will then note their "eyeball estimates" on a separate clipboard and use these to adjust the totals afterward.
This is an open process. Journalists know damned well exit pollers do this, and this is why the early results are shit, and the later results are more reliable.
You see, never before in the history of primary elections has there been such a high disparity between young vs. old, and enthusiastic vs. stoic, on the Democratic ticket. Comparisons with other primary scenarios are pointless. The Republican party has never had such a disparity in our lifetimes, nor was there such a divide even in the 2008 elections when Barack Obama faced off with Hillary Clinton. This is unique to the Democratic Party, right now.
That makes no difference to EJUSA, who try to make the comparison to past elections or other parties in their executive summary anyway. This flatly shows that the entire report is based upon the wishful thinking of disappointed Bernie Bros.
EJUSA makes three recommendations at the end of its executive summary which I find to be very helpful. These are meant to prevent any future vote fraud from taking place. They are:
1.) Exclusive use of hand-counted paper ballots in all future US elections.
2.) Automatic voter registration with same-day party affiliation switching as a mandatory condition for all elections publicly funded.
3.) Restoration of voting rights legislation which would ensure adequate access to polling sites.
I have no problem with any of these three items, and wholeheartedly endorse the last two. I think that the first one would be a major pain in the ass for all concerned, and would drive up the costs of running elections even as a rising population makes paper-only balloting more impractical. But if enough people insist on it, and the billions of tax dollars that will cost, who am I to stand in the way?
As for number two and three, I say bravo! It's especially interesting to note that the third recommendation is meant to restore voting rights that were taken away by Republicans, ostensibly to prevent "voter fraud!" Oh, the irony!
Section II: Evidence for Election Fraud?
We now go to the bulk of the "direct evidence for vote tampering, which is itself divided into six parts: A.) Voter Suppression, B.) Registration Tampering, C.) Illegal voter purging, D.) Evidence of Fraudulent or Erroneous Voting Machine Tallies, E.) Miscellaneous, and F.) Estimate of Pledged Delegates Affected. We will deal with these in order.
A. Voter Suppression
The initial complaints are legit: Fewer polling stations in Arizona, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, etc. The study argues that this disproportionately affected Bernie Sanders vote share, because Hillary Clinton had larger vote shares for early/absentee ballots while Sanders fared best on election day.
The part that they leave out is that while Sanders fared best on election day, he did not necessarily fare better than Clinton did even then. Because while votes for Sanders peaked on election day, they were often not enough to overcome Clinton's support. If Sanders' peak performance didn't do better than Hillary's "valley" performance, then it's a pretty clear win for Hillary.
The rest of this portion of the survey is all "California, California, California." And here, we all understand why voters were upset. Unaffiliated or Independent voters were allowed to cross over to vote in the Democratic Primary, but not in the Republican one. Rather than be upset at the Republicans barring votes against Trump, all the angst came down upon the Democratic Party, because although Independents were allowed to vote, they had to proactively request a "crossover" ballot. In many cases, crossover ballots were not supplied to Independent voters, causing them to be upset that they could not vote for Bernie. In other cases, crossover ballots were asked for, but not supplied.
And sometimes I get a regular Coke at McDonald's when I specifically asked for a Diet Coke. No, I'm not equating the two, but high volume means that there will be mistakes. What matters is how we deal with them.
California is comparatively good at making up for mistakes and making sure late ballots get counted. Not perfect, no, and there were still mistakes made, but all in all, they did a pretty good job of cleaning up all the Independent voters who wanted to cast their ballot for Bernie Sanders.
A month after Hillary was declared the winner, how did she do? Well, Sanders cut into her lead, as expected. And as expected, he did better among young people and same-day registrants. But this was not as significant as the complainers expected. Sanders added 879,671 votes. But Clinton added 804,713. That means the margin added for Bernie was only about 75,000 votes. That's better than Hillary's victory declaration day, but not nearly enough to make a dent into the fact of her victory.
The "study" ignores all this, and deliberately overestimates the California outcome in favor of Sanders. Never mind that 49 other states had already sealed the deal for Hillary, California or not.
B. Registration Tampering and C. Illegal Voter Purging
The study recorded numerous accounts of registration tampering during the 2016 primary. In cases in New York, Arizona, California and others, voter registration was either purged or else switched without the voters' knowledge.
I agree with this sort of thing being disturbing. But I also recognize that this is the sort of thing that happens when voters are inactive for too long a time. The people making the complaints are, in large part, the same voters who abandoned our country to extremists in the Republican party back in 2014 and 2010. And now they're complaining that their registration has been tampered with? They would have never had any tampering done if state officials had seen any activity! And don't think some voter fraud doesn't happen by taking inactive registrants and switching affiliations, and then voting in their stead!
Yes, it is disturbing that such registration tampering took place. But voters beware! Vote, and do so every election, not just when Bernie-like candidates are running. That way, no one will dare tamper with your registration. Use it or lose it!
D. Evidence OF Fraudulent or Erroneous Voting Machine Tallies
The claim of inaccurate voting machine tallies is possibly the most interesting segment of this study. It makes the claim, not that the actual voting machines were shown to be in stark error, but rather that the population size of the precincts show favorably towards Clinton. In other words, larger precincts, which use more voting machines, showed more favorably towards Hillary.
*Sigh!* I should not have to say this, but correlation does not imply causation! It was already known that denser urban areas favored Clinton. Now, suddenly, that's a problem? Clearly, there was a well-established African-American correlation with denser population centers. There was also a correlation with Democratic party loyalism with major urban districts. Either or both of these could be the cause of the correlation before anything to do with voting machines comes into it!
I suppose the study could make an honest case that the machines were in error, and try to support this with evidence of machine tallies not matching hand-held counts. But instead, the case is again made that exit polls indicate an error in the machinery.
Okay, excuse me while I go head-slap my forehead until my hand hurts.
But it gets worse. Further down we find this little gem:
"Multiple studies, including one published recently by graduate students at Stanford University and the University of Tillburg, show that across all primary states Clinton performs best in counties with voting machines that don’t leave a papertrail, and that this difference is statistically significant."
Holy shit! Are they actually citing the fake Stanford study that I debunked, and which got laughed off the table as soon as it came out?! THEY ARE!
They have no integrity left at this point. Zero. Zilch.
At least they try to make some sort of an actual case with one piece of evidence from Chicago, in which a voting tally machine did produce results which were in error when compared with the paper ballots. But the outcome of the election still matched pre-election polling almost perfectly. One faulty machine or not, the results matched the projections.
Various caucus irregularities are here cited, focusing on Iowa and Nevada. I needn't waste time with these, as other news outlets have covered this extensively. But I do want to focus on another claim made in this section, which is that the DNC worked against Sanders' campaign, and colluded with the media to undermine it.
Essentially, this is the same old griping about superdelegates supporting Hillary. Never mind that Bernie Sanders going back to being an Independent pretty much made the case regarding that for us. Bernie was never truly a Democrat. So why should the Democratic Party insiders have sided with him when he didn't have anywhere near the votes on the ground to sway them? Why should they have sided with a man who hadn't paid his dues by fighting with them in the trenches for 40 years the way Hillary had? Why should they have supported a man who raised no money for the party down-ticket, not only this year, but ever?
But I digress.The "study" claims that the AP colluded with the Clinton campaign by declaring her the winner the day before the California primary. But this is just sour grapes. There is no evidence that this was a conspiracy theory between the media and the Clinton campaign. And if there were such a conspiracy, where is it now? At a time when Donald Trump seems to have closed the polling gap between himself and Hillary, where is this so-called alliance between HRC and Reuters? Because she could surely use it about now!
The paper goes on to claim that "the most damning evidence" comes from the DNC email leak showing collusion between the party and journalists to smear Sanders or plant stories.
Except that didn't happen! As I already reported on this blog, the emails clearly show the DNC officials talking about smearing Sanders, and then doing nothing about it! Talk is not only cheap, it's just talk without actions to back it up.
F. Estimate of Pledged Delegates Affected.
This gets really interesting. Watch this.
The "study" states:
Our Upper estimate of delegates affected, spelled out in more detail in section three of the report, is at least +184 for Sanders, at least -184 for Clinton for a 368 delegate switch in delegate margin.
Did you see it? If not, let me highlight it for you: "The upper estimate... is at least..."
Well? Which is it? An upper estimate, or a lower estimate?!
This is not just a grammar error. It reveals the mindset of the authors. They clearly began the sentance with an upper estimate. We know, because they said so. Then, they wanted to set that maximum upper estimate as some sort of floor which established Bernie Sanders fake margin of victory. That's why they immediately hedged with "at least."
Well, it's not "at least." I ran the numbers through my trusty spreadsheet analysis, still warm from the last time I used it to debunk this shit. If one takes ALL of the estimated voter fraud numbers quoted in this section of the "study," and then applies it to the final vote tally, you might barely get it up to 184 pledged delegates. But keep in mind, that's every single one of the disenfranchised voters casting their ballot for Bernie Sanders, something which is mathematically impossible. A plurality of voters were disenfranchised! And even if you grant that Bernie won the vast majority of these votes, some votes would still have gone for Hillary, and some for Trump.
A shift of 184 pledged delegates is ludicrous! And even if it somehow weren't, this wouldn't give Bernie a victory. It would give him a mere lead over Hillary of 10 pledge delegate votes. He would then need to persuade a majority of superdelegates to come over to his side in order to win, and we all know how likely that would be.
Hillary would still have won handily, even with a +184 delegate shift in Bernie's favor.
Don't like it? Too bad. The numbers don't lie, even when you fudge them into Bernie's column this blatantly.
This piece of unprofessional shit is no serious "study," but rather a hash of previously debunked bullshit claims, all rolled together like sushi, and cut into neat portions to make it seem more scholarly. It hides behind the coattails of more respectable statisticians and polling scientists, all of whom should be on high alert that crackpots have infiltrated an organization they are affiliated with. They should move swiftly to disavow anything to do with this animal house coalition of mad-hatters, and I expect some have already done so as of this writing.
The only thing I don't find at fault is the recommendations for reform. But these are commonsense items that anyone on either side of the political spectrum should endorse. Suggesting simple fixes does not excuse irresponsible accusations of fraud which, in the final analysis, are nothing more than arguing over the ingredients after the cake has been baked.
We've got Hillary. Yes, we're stuck with her, but she's a good candidate, in spite of what the media, and the poor lemmings who belong to Election Justice USA, have to say about her. She's a ruthless bitch, but she's our ruthless bitch!
Now let's get her elected!