Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Analysis: Clinton, Obama, and New Hampshire by the numbers

Here is a large cut-and-paste from arstechnica, but I wanted to give an idea of how on-target this article is. Nothing much has improved since the Gorites and Kerryistas protested the last two elections. They go silent 30 days after the election is over, leaving it to incompetent bureaucrats to throw the babies out with the bathwater. Next election cycle rinse and repeat (curious mixed metaphor). Anyway the whole article is worth a read, complete with gory details (pun purely coincidental).

I want to draw a few general lessons from the story of the symmetrical percentages, and specifically from the amount of attention that these percentages got from traditional press outlets, blogs, and online news sources.

* Lesson 1: The Internet is full of people who have four things that make them dangerous, both to would-be election fraudsters and (paradoxically) to the larger cause of election integrity: computers, intermediate math skills, a mix of patriotic and entrepreneurial zeal, and the ability to publish in the blink of an eye. When you add a stream of evolving vote tallies to this mix and shake vigorously, the resulting concoction will produce lots and lots of foam. (Some of that foam may look just like the Virgin Mary for a bit, so you can get on the evening news with it if you're quick enough. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)

* Lesson 2: The larger the cloud of numbers and statistical analyses grows, the less inclined reporters will be to actually download a spreadsheet and tackle the data themselves. They're just going to report what this or that group has uncovered, especially if it's juicy.

* Lesson 3: The e-voting activism world is an odd mix of patriotism, territorialism, and old-fashioned entrepreneurism. Basically, everyone is racing to find that remarkable scoop that's going to get them quoted on CNN.

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