Kerry Beat Dean in New Hampshire by Only 1.5% When Computers Were Not Doing the Counting
In the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, exit polls, which are seldom far wrong, indicated a very close race. The final vote was not close. A close race would have constituted a win for Dean, given expectations. There is serious reason to be dubious of computerized vote counting systems (see Verified Voting or Black Box Voting for details). Such systems were used in New Hampshire, especially those of Diebold, the company that has attracted the most controversy, so I decided to analyze the New Hampshire Democratic primary vote in terms of who was doing the tabulation. According to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office there are three possibilities:
- Some ballots are counted by Diebold machines.
- Some ballots are counted by ES&S machines.
- Some ballots are counted by hand.
Let me note that neither the Diebold nor the ES&S ballots lack a paper trail in this case. These are optical-scan systems, where the voter marks a paper ballot that is subsequently counted by computer. There is, then, the possibility of a recount, but only if the issue is forced, since the election was not considered close enough to mandate an automatic recount. Given the problems demonstrated with Diebold systems and the serious allegations made against ES&S, perhaps such a recount should be pursued. In any case, here are the vote totals and percentages for the big five candidates, grouped by vote tallying method (percentages are percentages of the big five vote, i.e., it does not include the minor candidates)).
To bring the matter into sharper focus, here are the percentages by which Kerry’s vote exceeded Dean’s, grouped by tallying method.
Given that Kerry won by all accounts, does this matter? Yes it does. Had Dean gotten close to winning, as low as he had been the week before, he would have gotten the momentum to remain competitive, but instead New Hampshire seems to have doomed him. This may therefore go down as the pivotal election of this primary. Also, the election is not winner-take-all; delegates are assigned proportionally.
Is there any other explanation for the discrepancy? Well, the computerized systems are mostly used in the larger towns in New Hampshire. Can this be attributed to a rural preference for Dean? If the sample is limited to towns with fewer than 20,000 voters, the results are but slightly different.
A dramatic rural preference for Dean would be odd, given that his primary demographic is youth, but odd or not, such is not present in the figures, at least not to the extent necessary to explain the data.
The Dean campaign has cause for a recount, in my opinion. Whether they have a legal case, I don’t know. I think it would be better if a suit demanding recount were brought by a third party, however,rather than the Dean campaign, even though they are the (possibly) offended party.
At the very least, the possibility should be investigated. Someone with access to lawyers should inquire whether the ballots are still available for recount and how long they should remain available, according to law.