Vic Rawl and the pros from Dover

I read in the paper this morning that the stunned Vic Rawl did not wish to comment yesterday.

But he was sending out this press release:

Statement by the Vic Rawl for US Senate Campaign

“South Carolinians would rather be 100% right than 90% uncertain.”

As we stated yesterday, our campaign began examining election data on early Wednesday morning. Over the course of the next 24 hours, our staff found several results that seemed unusual to us. We stress that, then and now, we very much hope that Tuesday’s primary was conducted fairly and that nothing untoward happened.

Expert Data Analysis

No one on our staff is a statistics expert or mathematician. As the unusual information began to accumulate, several unconnected people and teams who are far more expert in election forensics than our staff contacted the campaign and volunteered to look at results from Tuesday’s primary.

One of the teams was Dr. Walter Mebane of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Miller of Cornell University. Dr. Mebane is a professor of political science and statistics and a recognized expert in detecting election fraud. As of August 2010, Dr. Miller will be professor of political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and specializes in the analysis of election data.  Neither is affiliated with the Rawl campaign.

Dr. Mebane performed second-digit Benford’s law tests on the precinct returns from the Senate race.  The test compares the second digit of actual precinct vote totals to a known numeric distribution of data that results from election returns collected under normal conditions.  If votes are added or subtracted from a candidate’s total, possibly due to error or fraud, Mebane’s test will detect a deviation from this distribution.

Results from Mebane’s test showed that Rawl’s Election Day vote totals depart from the expected distribution at 90% confidence.  In other words, the observed vote pattern for Rawl could be expected to occur only about 10% of the time by chance.  “The results may reflect corrupted vote counts, but they may also reflect the way turnout in the election covaried with the geographic distribution of the candidates’ support,” Mebane said.

Dr. Miller performed additional tests to determine whether there was a significant difference in the percentage of absentee and Election Day votes that each candidate received.  The result in the Senate election is highly statistically significant: Rawl performs 11 percentage points better among absentee voters than he does among Election Day voters.  “This difference is a clear contrast to the other races.  Statistically speaking, the only other Democratic candidate who performed differently among the two voter groups was Robert Ford, who did better on Election Day than among absentees in the gubernatorial primary,” Miller said.

These findings concern the campaign, and should concern all of South Carolina. We do not know that anything was done by anyone to tamper with Tuesday’s election, or whether there may have been innocuous machine malfunctions, and we are promoting no theories about either possibility.

However, we do feel that further investigation is warranted.

Voting Machine Examination

With that in mind, another expert volunteer traveled today to the SC State Board of Elections in Columbia to conduct an examination of selected voting machines that were employed in Tuesday’s election. When we have the results, if any, of that examination, we will release them immediately.

Gathering of Anecdotal Accounts

While we believe, and urge others to note that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” our campaign is receiving calls and e-mails from people – voters and poll workers – who experienced significant problems with voting for whom they intended. We are looking into these reports and will release any information we find.

Judge Rawl and the campaign stress again that no one knows exactly what happened on Election Day. South Carolinians would rather be 100% right than 90% uncertain.

Well, of course, I said that all along. On the morning after the shocking vote, I was shouting, “Why doesn’t someone do a second-digit Benford’s law test? I mean, come ON!”

Sure I was. You just weren’t listening.

9 thoughts on “Vic Rawl and the pros from Dover

  1. Ralph Hightower

    Apparently, some people are now listening, primarily, the MSM are questioning themselves “How the frack did Alvin Greene win?”

  2. Greg Jones

    Of course there were problems….I had to vote in the freaking Democratic primary, and I’m a Republican! It’s time to make local races non-partisan. How many thousands of votes fell under that category?
    Two things are evident here:
    1. Judge Rawl is not black, and there were certainly “sample ballots” passed out showing which candidates to vote for.
    2. While I wouldn’t have done this, I’m sure some did. If you don’t know who the candidates are (and I blame the Rawl campaign and the SCDP), are you not more likely to vote for the first candidate on the ballot?
    Look, I’m fairly savvy (Hey, I read Brad, don’t I?), but I didn’t know who either of the candidates were. Conspiracy, Mr. Clyburn? I think not. Your people just didn’t do their job of educating your constituents. You managed to beat your supposedly “planted” opponent, didn’t you? Is there a citizen in your district who doesn’t know Jim Clyburn?
    The smoking gun is the SCDP’s failure to do their job.
    ‘Nuff said.
    Oh, Brad, I liked the “Pros From Dover” reference. I use that a lot, and though few people know it’s origin, it always sounds good.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    @Ralph– It’s all over the national media–Gail Collins, Salon, Slate….

    It’s fun, until you wonder who would ever choose to “locate” here? Knowledge employers and workers may be amused, but are they going to move to a place that seems to be right out of a black comedy? Do they want their children raised here?

  4. bud

    On the issue of election day voters differing from absentee voters was that analysis adjusted for race? Seems like African-American voters would probably be under-represented in the absentee population, hence both Greene and Ford would surge on election day. I greatly underestimated Ford’s vote. Didn’t think he’d do nearly as well as he did but he came very close to a second place finish.

  5. Michael Rodgers

    Here’s the Gail Collins piece.

    “The candidate who was supposed to win the nomination was Vic Rawl, a well-spoken former judge who vastly overestimated the number of people around the state who recognized his name.

    ““Voters seem less and less well informed,” said Carol Fowler, the Democratic state party chairwoman.

    “Or at least we’re demanding more and more of them. When Greene came in to file his candidacy papers, Fowler recognized that there was something wrong. But she didn’t feel it was her responsibility to get the word out.”

  6. Karen McLeod

    Greg–Those “sample ballots” had Rawl’s name checked. If you’re saying they influenced anyone–well apparently not enough.

  7. Michael Rodgers

    From reading his papers, I think that Prof. Mebane’s investigation is about whether or not the election counts indicate if (local or widespread) voter fraud occurred.

    This is a different question than why did people who had absolutely no idea who either Vic Rawl or Alvin Greene were decide to vote for Alvin Greene.

    Anyway, here’s a .pdf link to Prof. Mebane’s paper on his analysis of this primary election. His conclusion is as follows: “Bottom Line: the digit test results are compatible with normal political processes….”

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