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Byron York Headshot

To Jim Lampley and the Ohio skeptics

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Enough about the bookies. [See previous posts in this argument here and here and here.] Your faith in the exit pollsters is greater than the exit pollsters' faith in themselves -- just take a look at head pollster Warren Mitofsky's apology/explanation [pdf] for his skewed results. This is how the Washington Post reported it in January:

Interviewing for the 2004 exit polls was the most inaccurate of any in the past five presidential elections as procedural problems compounded by the refusal of large numbers of Republican voters to be surveyed led to inflated estimates of support for John F. Kerry, according to a report released yesterday by the research firms responsible for the flawed surveys.

The exit pollsters emphasized that the flaws did not produce a single incorrect projection of the winner in a state on election night. But "there were 26 states in which the estimates produced by the exit poll data overstated the vote for John Kerry...and there were four states in which the exit poll estimates overstated the vote for George W. Bush," said Joe Lenski of Edison Media Research and Warren Mitofsky of Mitofsky International.

And this is how Chris Bury of ABC's Nightline reported it at the same time:

CHRIS BURY
(Voice Over) The die-hards point again and again to the sterling record of Warren Mitofsky, the man considered the father of the exit poll and whose company supervised the November data.

WARREN MITOFSKY, POLLSTER
Well, I've seen some of those reports on the web and I don't find them very convincing. The numbers they're looking at and the sampling errors they're talking about are not correct.

CHRIS BURY
(Voice Over) In a report released today, Mitofsky and Company conclude that the exit poll was flawed. And the explanation is simple. Kerry voters participated in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters.

WARREN MITOFSKY
Our analysis of the exit polls suggests that we had slightly better cooperation from the Kerry voters than from the Bush voters. In other words, the non-response was not even. There was some unevenness to it. And it favored Kerry.

CHRIS BURY
(Voice Over) Even Democratic pollsters such as Mark Blumenthal are satisfied with that.

MARK BLUMENTHAL, POLLSTER
There is a bit of a statistical food fight here if you go on the Internet, between those who really want to find that the exit polls are evidence of some fraud, and some of us who are more skeptical. And what I've said before is I think it's a lot of sound and fury signifying not very much. Because - at the end of the day, Warren Mitofsky agrees, I agree, everyone agrees that there was a small and probably significant error across the whole country.

You also asked whether Rep. Conyers' "hearings" on Ohio ballot irregularities truly failed to turn up useful evidence of tampering. Well, yes, they did fail. I couldn't find a transcript available for free on the Web, but one is available on Nexis, and the video is available on the C-Span website. My favorite witness was the producer for Air America radio who came to Washington to say that the election results were really, really important to his listeners. Why was he called to speak? Who knows?Another one of the witnesses was the author of the now-withdrawn lawsuits challenging the Ohio results. Lacking evidence that anyone tampered with the results, the suit attempted to prove that "the confederate of defendants-contestees Bush, Cheney and Rove who was actually changing the vote totals did not need physical access to a computer" in order to doctor the electronic voting results. Just exactly how that happened was never clear. The lawsuit also charged that White House chief of staff Andrew Card furthered the conspiracy by...claiming victory. Here is the section on that -- as in the previous example, the writing is a little bumpy, but this is the quote:

Knowing that the evidence of the election fraud (the exit polls) would be in plain view for a short period of time, there was a further part of the plan to steal the election which plan was designed and/or implemented by defendants-contestees Bush, Cheney, and Rove acting through as-yet unidentified agents...That part of the plan was to reduce or eliminate the amount of time the fraudulent results would be subjected to serious scrutiny by a well-funded adversary. Accordingly, Andrew Card, an associate of
defendants-contestees Bush, Cheney and Rove appeared on national television in the very early morning hours of November 3, 2004 to make a very nervous and shaky claim to victory in Ohio."

Amazingly enough, the national Democratic party didn't want to have anything to do with the suit. A few months ago, I asked Robert Fitrakis, one of the lawyers involved in the suit -- he also testified before Conyers -- whether the DNC played a role in the case. "Yeah," he laughed. "To essentially do nothing. Quite frankly, they were really spineless."

Now, why is it that Democrats -- not the press, but seasoned Democratic operatives -- were not interested in pursuing these theories which, if true, would benefit the Democratic candidate and their party?

Because they saw there was nothing there.

By the way, if you are concerned about voter fraud and corruption, you might better spend your time examining the voting in Wisconsin, where Kerry won by just 11,384 votes, a margin far smaller than Bush's 118,599-vote victory in Ohio. In Milwaukee, five Democratic workers were charged -- not rumored to be involved with, but actually charged with felonies -- for the early-morning Election Day slashing of the tires of 25 Republican get-out-the-vote vans. According to the criminal complaint, they put on black outfits and knit caps, left Democratic headquarters, headed over to the GOP building and disabled the vans, which were out of service for all of Election Day and were thus not able to bring voters to the polls. "They won't go anywhere now, man, we got 'em, we got 'em," one suspect said as the group celebrated after returning to Democratic headquarters (the quote comes from the criminal complaint). The rest then imitated the
hissing sound of air rushing out of slashed tires.

There are also claims that there are the thousands of votes in Wisconsin that can't be matched to voters -- claims detailed in a series of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel articles. Now, I don't believe there is enough evidence of problems in Wisconsin to change the results. But the results were far, far closer than those in Ohio, and true election irregularity aficionados might want to take a look.

Finally, one question -- and this is not directed just at Jim Lampley, who refers to my "typical neocon disingenuity." Why is it that some people routinely refer to conservatives these days as "neoconservatives?" Is there a neoconservative position on the Ohio vote count that differs from the conservative position? If you know, please tell me. And now, I have to get back to work.