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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Monday, November 21, 2005

cold water and the popular vote

I've been reading the 2004 Presidential election results on a state by state and county by county basis. In particular, I've been looking at 2000 v. 2004.

There's no direct online comparison of 2000 and 2004 that I can find. The one I'm using is the 2006 World Almanac and Book of Facts which breaks down every single county in the U.S. and compares 2000 and 2004...it's sobering and worthwhile.

2004 was a high turnout year. 105 million voters voted in 2000; 121.5 million voters voted in 2004...or 60.7% of those eligible.

Both Bush (62,040,606 votes) and Kerry (59,028,109 votes) improved on the Bush/Gore returns from 2000 when Bush won 50,459,211 votes and Gore 51,003,894.

Simply put, George Bush dramatically improved his totals over 2000 in almost every single county in the U.S., including many urban and largely Democratic counties. In the state of Illinois, a state Bush lost by 546,000 votes, the President still improved his total by 327,000 votes state-wide and improved his totals in every single county in the state. That was not true of John Kerry, who underperformed Al Gore in many rural counties in Illinois while winning 301,000 more votes that Gore did in 2000 statewide on the strength of his performance in big cities.

Why is this significant? First, it puts to rest the malarky that tampering with the actual votes determined the outcome of the 2004 election. Bush improved his standing in almost every last county in the United States...and by consistent percentages in those counties whether they were Democratic or Republican, urban or rural, in states with closely contested electoral outcomes or not. My home state of Minnesota saw the exact same trend...big improvements for Bush in the suburbs, smaller, but consistent improvements in every single rural county. And again, Kerry won in Minnesota, but he won like he did in most states where he won, on the strength of his very strong improvements in urban counties, and in the face of Bush's own improvements almost everywhere.

Even looking at cities, the results tell us something. Hennepin County, home of Minneapolis, was one the only urban counties in the country where Bush got fewer votes in 2004 than 2000. Most big cities saw big gains for George Bush. Bush picked up 20,000 more votes in St. Louis County, MO than in 2000, Bush picked up 29,000 more votes in Philadelphia County, PA than in 2000, Bush received 27,000 more votes in King County, WA than in 2000. Those results are similar in states as far afield as Washington, Missouri and Pennsylvania. It goes without saying, as well, that Democratic officials oversee the elections in big cities. The canard that Bush would not, and could not, improve on his performance of 2000 was a deception. Bush added GOP voters in cities across the country.

Truth be told, the 2004 election was sobering and needs to be examined in the clear light of day. It's a crying shame that fraudsters and hucksters obscured the real lessons of 2004. Our path to victory in 2006 passes through a throrough-going study of 2004, 2002, and 2000. Where is there room for improvement? What did we do well, and how can we capitalize on that? I know that some readers here may feel this last election was tampered with...that we should only look at the two states where some suspect it was stolen; I would argue the opposite.

A close reading of all the returns shows that the election was won, not stolen. A close reading of those returns nationwide represents our best hope at understanding the character of this electorate and our path to victory in 2006. The hard work is ahead of us.

(As an aside, these University of Michigan maps are really fascinating.)


  • Kid, you might be interested in Dave Leip's Atlas. He's got a lot of data there--have a look around. You can make graphs to compare state-level (one state at a time) data from year-to-year.

    Just remember that red is blue and blue is red.

    By Blogger &y, at 9:13 AM  

  • I think the thrust of this diary is really off base. Put simply, the evidence you adduce does not and cannot disprove the claims of those who think the election in 2004 was stolen. It's a simple matter of logic.

    Nobody has claimed that the election was stolen because Bush improved upon his results in 2000. Everyone recognizes that he got more people to vote for his second term. So when you seem to hold the contrary as the argument of the "fraudsters" you are simply creating a strawman.

    The real question is whether Bush legitimately received a majority of votes in those states whose electors he was awarded in the 2004 election.

    With all your sensitivity to urban Democrats, how you can discount the massive voter disenfranchisement and intimidation is beyond me.

    Second, suppose you made a strong statistical argument (which you have not in fact presented) that showed Bushes electoral gains in the disputed areas (e.g. various counties in Ohio) were in line with expectations. This still only provides countervailing evidence against the other type of statistical arguments based on the polling data.

    Also, your focus on percentage of voters by county will lead to skewed results because of the tremendous population differences from county to county. Bush carried a lot, I think the majority, of California counties. But those counties account for much less than half of the California population. So to say Bush's out-performed Kerry, except in urban counties, is pretty much to say that Bush outperformed Kerry in Republican counties. Big surprise there.

    Lastly, I find it ironic that at a time when even Kerry has come around suggesting the vote might have been stolen, you, on the "strength" of back of the envelope calculations, seem to think you can come out with a definitive analysis that proves it wasn't.

    People have spent months looking at election results. It's pretty well documented that the voting machine suck. A lot of rational people think this election was stolen, and they think so based on data that you cannot simply obviate by will.

    Again, I'm not certain that they are correct. But dismissing them as fraudsters and hucksters is beneath you. We know there has been systematic GOP conspiracies to make it hard for black people to vote. We know that the voting machines are hackable. I myself had a woman come out of the polling place and tell me that her voting machine wouldn't let her vote for Kerry, so it's not like people are imagining something technologically infeasible. Is it such a leap of illogic to entertain the idea that the GOP sought to cheat in the election? They lied us into a war, they print fake NAACP fliers to tell black people to vote on Wednesday, but they wouldn't try to steal the vote electronically if they could?

    Finally, where's your much-valued solidarity? When I read your piece I had to double-check that I was at the right site. It sounded like something Kos had written. You, Paul, absolutely know that it's wrong to dismiss the concerns of your allies by telling them that they're crazy to care about what motivates them. Disagree, choose not to invest energy, or whatever. But what you wrote here just sucks. Coming form you it really sucks. I like you and I respect you. But this is perhaps the worst-considered argument I've ever seen you make. It was deeply alienating for me to read you making it.

    By Blogger Matt, at 9:23 AM  

  • uhm, there wasn't a war in 2000.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:41 PM  

  • I sympathize a great deal with matt's perspective here k/o.

    I'm reminded of a moment in 2003 when my mother was in town and we were visiting the National Archives. We struck up a conversation with some people in line. I was wearing a Dean shirt or hat or something. Someone in the line high-fived and then gestured to his brother and said "But this guy's a Republican." (As is my mother, fwiw.) The Republican brother said words to the effect of: "Vote however you want; we own the voting machines."

    Chilling that he could be so casual about it. Even more painful while standing in line to see the Constitution.

    The flag picture that rotates into the top graphic at my site now and then was taken that day at the Archives. It reminds me that the Republicans have become a party cultivating a completely cavalier attitude about fundamental democratic principles. They. just. don't. care.

    I have a technical background, I know how easy it would be to tweak these machines. I wouldn't put anything past them and while I appreciate your exhortation to work hard on understanding the electorate and what Democrats (I am still not a Democrat, although I align with them for now and the foreseeable future) need to do, I submit that it's naive to assume there weren't serious and systematic attempts to rig and maliciously influence the election results.

    By Anonymous Medley, at 3:41 PM  

  • re: Medley

    Please read my response to Matt below. In a nutshell, though, I think the "I'm a scientist" response is BS. Sorry.

    The U.S. elections system is, like our entire system of federal, state, and local government, incredibly decentralized. There has ALWAYS been localized FUCKED UP shit in every single election. Read the history. It's there. In big cities, and in small towns.

    But, because of how decentralized we are, it is VERY HARD...not very easy...VERY HARD to commit fraud from one central place and control an election. You say Diebold could do it. My whole piece says...then the Diebold districts, a small minority of voting districts.. would have to show results that aren't seen in other counties across the country. They didn't. Ohio and Florida looked like Illinois and Pennsylvania and Oregon. Bush did well everywhere...even when he lost.

    Show me real evidence. Not Madsen and Harris. I haven't seen it...and I'm tired of debunking the same BS over and over again or, having someone tell that something would be easy, when it wouldn't be.

    With all due respect. I need to see links. If I could put up the nation wide county data, I would. It's very convincing if you don't already think the election was stolen in two predetermined states.
    re: andy

    I saw that, and, yeah, the red/blue switch was confusing and refreshing. Thanks!

    re: Matt

    There's no way for you to know that my blogging history runs through Bev Harris and Wayne Madsen...that it involved opposing their thinking before the election and after...and that researching this piece took me to their continuing presence online...try googling some of this material and you will see.

    In my view, they are fraudsters and hucksters and, as a matter of fact, it is as an urban democrat that I think their fraudster and hucksterism hurts our cause.

    #1: We in the cities did something amazing in 2000 and 2004. We carried more than our share of the load...we registered new voters and we got them to the polls. We showed up. How often do you hear that story? Not often. It's usually put upside down. That we didn't do enough, that we didn't vote in record numbers, that we failed at the polls. That's just not true. Kerry didn't lose this in the cities.

    #2: It's only when we understand and appreciate that, in the face of intimidation and outright manipulation on the part of the GOP, and, essential to mention, in the face of poor performance, planning and leadership of many Democratic election officials that so many urban voters got to the polls and successfully cast their vote that we can understand this election fully.

    For example, we can also critique some things that not too many people mention: like the fact that the non-partisan voter registration drives so many of us counted on to deliver new Democratic voters (ACT for one) did not yield the percentage of Democratic votes that people thought they would. I read reports after the election that said ACT's yield was often in then range of 55% for Kerry and 45% for Bush.

    That's something to think about and debate and it definitely affects urban voters...but if we insist on proving election fraud where none happened and we don't talk about those issues...who does that hurt?

    Matt you say I create a straw man and a false argument...and maybe I could have argued my case better... (I'm trying to write shorter pieces)...but your misuse of "percentages" makes me think that of how Wayne Madsen uses percentages falsely here:

    Fairfax County: Kerry 215,223 (52.58%); Bush 189,371 (45.61%), versus, in 2000: Gore 196,501 (47.49%); Bush 202,181 (48.86%).

    (Where is the huge Democratic turnout reflected in these numbers, considering a mere 5 percent rise for the Democrats from 2000 and a 3 percent drop for the Republicans).

    The "surge" for the Democrats is measured by comparing Gore's total to Kerry's: from 196,501 to the ACTUAL final numbers at 245,671 is a 25% increase in Democratic turnout. Bush's, when the REAL numbers are used increased his turnout was 4.8% from 202,181 to 211,980. So the Democrats went from losing by 5680 votes in 2000 to winning by 33,691 in Fairfax County, Virginia, no less. That is huge. Madsen's false comparisons...comparing relative margins of victory, using preliminary returns...muddied what was a clear cut Democratic success in Fairfax County...it makes our people think we failed, or were victims of fraud when that is simply unsupported by the evidence..

    I think that's wrong. Yet that's typical of fraudster logic, and evidence that, though you don't site any...that I SEE on the web. With all due respect, for SHAME.

    In fact, to argue you directly, I did not say that Bush outperformed Kerry in the rural areas and the suburbs. I said that Bush turned out people nationwide beating his 2000 totals in almost every county. Kerry did not. Bush neutralized some of Kerry's gains in the big cities by winning a surprising number of votes in big cities himself. When Kerry tried to do the same on "Bush's turf"...he often failed to match Bush's inroads. That's very different from how you characterize me, please consider that.

    You see, if that situation has something to do with ACT and other non-partisan new voter generating groups working in big cities, versus the GOP's more peer-to-peer approach. I'd like to know. It's a fair question, and may be the significant one.

    In my mind some of the false expectations generated by 'blind' non-partisan, 'can't talk to the campaign' GOTV efforts may be behind the activist netroots feelings that 'there must have been' fraud.

    Something may very well have been up in 2004. But it could have had something to do with US.

    As an urban Democrat I want to know. I definitely don't want Wayne Madsen and Bev Harris poisoning the well when urban voters did an AMAZING job in 2000 and 2004.

    We need, I hope we can all agree:

    a) a better GOTV machine. One that is more "peer to peer" and not "on a hope and prayer."

    b) to keep our gains in the cities and look to suburbs and rural areas where there is room for improvement in our GOTV.


    c) to push through election day reforms that guarantee that every citizen knows their vote counts...and can be checked...and that fraudsters, hypesters, hucksters and conspiracists can't dominate our discourse by poisoning the well of voting...and to make sure all our voters know that AS DEMOCRATS..we will make sure that the officials responsible for organizing election day are held accountable for makeing that experience swift, fair, transparent and of equal access.

    Matt, I feel your feelings of dissappointment are unfair. I guess I need to write a better piece someday soon.

    But I am not betraying my values or my community. And I still think Bush won this election...my goal is to focus on what to do next.

    re: anonymous.

    You are right. What's remarkable is that neither party had ever won that many votes before.

    It was the worst time for that result. It's what we do with it next that matters. I'm no for giving up.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 4:42 PM  

  • One thing that is never mentioned is that the republicans had strong GOTV. In my area, all the Dems were at the polls holding signs, only one or two Bush people were
    there. The Bush people were too busy knocking on doors.

    When the results came in for my ward, I was shocked how close the vote was. I live in a very blue ward. The republicans didn't talk much GOTV but they sure as hell walked it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 AM  

  • Look, I'm not claiming anything about Harris, who I understand to be pretty thoroughly discredited. I'm also not saying that "I'm a scientist" and therefore what could be done must have been done.

    I just fear that the actual hucksters (say, the Bev Harrises of the world) have made any discussion of the actual technical possibilities verboten. Your abrupt dismissal of any discussion along those lines reinforces that fear. Given that, as you point out and I agree with, there has been all sorts of corruption at all sorts of levels, why would we assume that this kind of fraud just isn't something to be concerned about?

    Now - a discussion about what to emphasize and where to place effort going forward is a different sort of discussion. But conflating everyone who's concerned about election fraud with Bev Harris is unfair and, well, BS.

    By Anonymous Medley, at 4:15 AM  

  • Technical question: Does anyone have a link to available numbers of the total vote for Democrats and Republicans in House races? In other words, if you aggregate all the House races, how many people cast votes for a Republican (whether winning or losing) and how many for a Democrat? Given the hypothesis that Democrats tend to win more frequently in 70/30 or 80/20 districts, I'm curious if the total numbers skew Democratic -- just as it's widely noted that more people have voted for the current Democratic senators than for the Republicans, even though Republicans have a 55-45 majority.

    By Blogger awol, at 4:48 AM  

  • This is to second "anonymous" on the quality of the Republican GOTV as compared to ours.

    I worked the 2004 election in Albuquerque because I very much wanted to see it play out in a battleground state. Because the place I was staying didn't have broadband, I spent every evening in a cafe with wireless. Usually the place was overrun with mostly young people, clearly out-of-towners, working with various Democratic 527 committees. They were loud, excited and happy.

    Quietly in the corners there were other tables filled middle aged, very comfortably dressed adults, quietly talking over their days. I was able to over hear enough to realize they were Christian conservatives who had come to town to reach very targetted lists of voters from conservative churches.

    Frankly I was scared as soon as I saw this. Our 527 work was too much like a children's crusade -- trying to make up for confusion and imprecision with sheer redundancy of effort. Good GOTV is highly targeted and needs to be very tightly focussed. Enthusiasm alone won't cut it.

    About the low yield of Democratic registration drives: are you familiar with the Shearer and Doppelt study, "Nonvoters"? They suggest that people who don't vote would break politically very similarly to people who do vote, a notion that certainly goes against my preconceptions. I have a lot of quibbles with the book, but think they are on to something here.

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 8:27 AM  

  • re: medley

    I hear you. Thanks for responding even when you disagree. And I agree that my conflating is unfair. I apologize. However, Bev and Wayne, or their ideas, is what tends to be available online...and that's why I feel the need to critique it even though I know many folks who have more nuanced critiques and questions...and as I think you're conveying very strong opinions of you own.

    This Wikipedia article on Florida irregularities is one example of what I see as a problem. Like so many election fraud articles, it simply does not prove what it purports to prove. In the section on Voting Machines under a headline "Optical Scanners" we read this:

    "Optical scanners, unusual voting pattern

    Although nearly three-quarters of registered voters in Holmes County are Democrats, Bush wiped out Kerry, 6,410 to 1,810. This same phenomena happened in many other counties that used optical scanning machines.

    This claim has been explained and refuted hundreds of times. The fact that rural Florida registered "Democrats" vote Republican for President is unsurprising and old news. It has nothing to do with what machines they use. Yet this is an article on Wikipedia. That's just wrong.

    I respect that we need to reform our election process and that there are perils to electronic voting. But the specious claims about "fraud" in the 2004 election have monopolized the debate. Truth is, there IS NO reputable, well sourced article that proves election fraud.

    Medley, I respect you and Matt, and nothing in my original piece was directed at you. I wrote that piece because I had a chance, for the first time, to go over the final national data. I spent hours doing so, and shared my honest opinion with you all.

    We got beat. And those, like Bev and Wayne, who accused fraud (and were prepared to do so well before the elction) with poor evidence, did, imho, prevent us from analysing HOW we got beat. I think that stinks. No offense intended.

    Re: Jan and anonymous

    Thanks for the comment, that confirms what I read and heard. And it doesn't denigrate what we accomplished...it just contextualizes it.

    re: awol

    I sat with Joshua of Progressive Punch one night in Berkeley and went over ten states and their Congressional breakdowns.

    It's not the the GOP nationally doesn't have it's own "very GOP" districts...(so, the national totals might even out.) But, in key states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Colorado and Minnesota...the GOP has redistricted in ways that favor the creation of "lean Republican" districts where GOP candidates almost always win...and Democrats most certainly would have more seats in all those states with different lines.

    thanks for the comment!

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 10:02 AM  

  • What worries me is this:
    In January, Bush adopts Murtha's plan and starts moving the troops out, so that by August, there are about 30,000 left. So there goes the Democrat's anti-war issue. Then, carefully targeting just the key races, Rove implements under-the-national-radar Swiftie attacks, plus designs specific vote initiatives to draw out the "christian" voters in these races -- gay marriage again, maybe, or teaching of intellegent design or, say, how about a referendum on whether "under God" should be included in the Pledge of Allegience? That oughtta do it! Result -- republican majorities continue.
    I hope Dean is sly enough to anticipate this kind of stuff.

    By Blogger CathiefromCanada, at 10:50 PM  

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