More Evidence That RFK Jr. Is Full Of It

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Jaskeet Sekhon, one of the Democrats' statistical experts who put together the DNC report that RFK Jr. largely based his article on said in another article (from May 2006, a week before the RFK Jr. article as published):

... unlike Florida in 2000, there is no scientific evidence that any of the reported irregularities in Ohio [in 2004] rose to the level of changing the outcome.

So that would mean, in answer to RFK Jr.'s question, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?," the DNC's own expert is saying: as far as the science tells us to this point ... No. No, it was not stolen.

The article is primarily about exit polling. Remeber this gem from RFK Jr.:

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable.

When I read that, I was incredulous. Could he really think that? Sekhon doesn't buy it:

Exit polls have always been as much art as science and their problems have been getting worse just as presidential elections have been getting closer.

No kidding. And:

Given what we know, it appears to be the case that the official vote count for all of its difficulties was more reliable than the exit poll.

Not much more to say about that.

Anyway, I was looking all this up because Sekhon's name in the DNC report was the only reference to causation. RFK Jr. claimed scarcity of voting machines caused long lines which "forced people to leave" the polling place, and the DNC report didn't back that up. But I wanted to dig a little deeper.

From Sekhon's work I was led over to a paper by his colleagues, Walter Mebane and Michael Herron, also experts who produced the DNC report. This paper delves deeper into the data the DNC report references. They restate the primary claim:

Not providing a sufficient number of voting machines in each precinct was associated with roughly a two to three percent reduction in voter turnout presumably due to delays that deterred many people from voting.

Note that they do not say there was any provable causation. "Was associated with" is another way to say "correlation." They continue:

The key [statistical] result here supports the claim that a scarcity of voting machines caused delays (i.e., long lines) that deterred many people from voting.

Slam dunk for RFK Jr., eh? Weeeeeell ... no. They are not saying it proves the claim, only that it supports it. They continue:

The results are also compatible with an alternative explanation, however, which is that [Boards of Elections] allocated machines to precincts in relationship to their expectations regarding voter turnout and those expectations tended to be accurate at least in terms of the differences in turnout between precincts.

Obviously, we know from anecdotal evidence that long lines did exist. And we know that this would have been alleviated to a large degree with more working machines available. But what we do not know is whether, and to what extent, this actually caused low voter turnout, and how much other factors may have contributed.

Their data and analysis cannot prove that voter turnout discrepancies were caused by anything in particular; that is why they used the word "presumably," both in this paper, and in the DNC report. They can only support claims, not prove them. But RFK Jr. turned a low voter turnout "presumably due to delays" into an invented notion that voters "were forced to leave" because of delays.

Apart from him ignoring the fact that the data does not prove causation, RFK Jr. goes further and lies by saying these people showed up and left (the data just says they didn't vote, not that they ever came to the polls in the first place), and that they were forced to leave, rather than assuming that perhaps at least some of them left (or didn't show up) merely because they really didn't care all that much about voting; the lines may have discouraged more than forced, or, indeed, may have had a completely negligible impact altogether.

And then there's also the fact that the data suggests only a "roughly two to three percent reduction," and RFK Jr. takes "three percent" and treats it as a fact. So when RFK Jr. says, "[Because of long lines] three percent of all Ohio voters who showed up to vote on Election Day were forced to leave without casting a ballot," he is making up "three percent," "who showed up to vote," "were forced to leave," and "because of long lines."

Other than that, he's right on the money!

He could have said this more accurately, but it would have been far less sensational. Consider: "It is likely that long lines helped cause a two to three percent drop in voter turnout, with some people deciding to not show up to vote at all, and some leaving before getting a chance to vote." That in itself is fairly damning, and accurate. But it doesn't support his thesis statement -- that the Republicans stole Ohio -- so he lied.

The pair also offers evidence against more of RFK Jr.'s claims, especially on vote shifting, based on analysis of voting patterns between 2000 and 2004:

Strong similarities at the precinct level between the vote for Kerry (instead of Bush) in 2004 and the vote for the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002 (Hagan) present strong evidence against the claim that widespread fraud systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush.

Remember, these are the DNC's experts, the people who wrote the report RFK Jr. heavily borrowed from (and misrepresented).

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