Star Tribune's Critique of My Work on Minnesota's Recount
Earlier today we posted an editorial from this morning's Wall Street Journal, which suggested that Minnesota Democrats might be "stealing a Senate seat for left-wing joker Al Franken." The WSJ editorial, headlined "Mischief in Minnesota?", includes a paragraph that relies on a "conservative statistician," John Lott, to lend an air of mathematical authority to the charge. It drew the attention of the newsroom's editor for computer-assisted reporting, Glenn Howatt, who sent this note over the news/editorial firewall: "I see that you posted the John Lott thing. His numbers are simply wrong." . . .
8 precincts changed their Obama totals for a net gain of 1,121 votes (46 precincts added another 1,268 votes for Obama, 12 precincts took away 147 votes)
48 precincts changed their Franken totals for a net gain of 459 votes (37 precincts added 569 votes for Franken; 11 precincts took away 110 votes)
Joe Conason makes the same mistake at Salon.com.
If they had contacted me, I would have been happy to discuss the question with them. My piece makes it very clear that I was writing about corrections of typos, not slightly late reported results. The point of these numbers was to measure the corrections made that could possibly have been due to fraud. That does not include counties that simply reported their results very slightly after the time you set as the cut off. Obviously, comparing an unreported precinct with zero votes to the final certified number is a lot different than comparing the initially reported number with the final certified number.
For example, RICHFIELD W-3 P-01 went from 0 to 908 votes for Obama. For McCain, it went from 0 to 474. It is obvious that there was not an incorrect number that was entered that was latter corrected, but simply that no numbers were entered for either Obama or McCain -- there had not been 100 percent of the precincts reporting the Obama/McCain results.
It turns out that I accidentally included ALEXANDRIA W-1 P-2 where the Obama vote count went from 0 to 107 (thus I also added too many votes to Obama's change). That precinct also had zero votes for McCain at the same time it had zero for Obama, so again it is clear that precinct had not yet reported its totals for the presidential race.
My son, who is working at Fox News this fall, called the auditor of Douglass county, where the Alexandria precinct is located. The auditor said that there had been a network malfunction and so the numbers were not sent until Wednesday morning. The auditor said he thought this change was very different from those that other counties had in correcting typos.
What I think that this shows is that one must go through and look at the data before simply plugging it into an spreadsheet and cranking out the results. We at least caught the RICHFIELD W-3 P-01 precinct.
Among precincts that were reporting at the time we have data for, there were 71 votes added for Obama between then and Sunday (the period studied in my piece for Fox News). There were an additional 35 votes added between Sunday and Monday. (These updated numbers were reported in my NY Post piece on Thursday.)
107+908+71+35 = 1,121 is exactly the number that the Star Tribune was reporting in its piece. So if they took out the precincts that weren't actually reporting their presidential results on election night, that number goes down to 106.