Don't Rush To Call Close State Election Contests

Published: Mon 3 Nov 2008 01:43 PM
Provisional & Absentee Ballot Increases May Mean Close State Contests Cannot be Called on Election Night
Dear Press Members and Election Accuracy Advocates,
In states like CO and FL where strict matching rules have been used to purge voters, more eligible voters than ever before in history will cast provisional ballots that are *not* counted on Election Night.
Recent implementation of no-fault absentee voting in many states, together with the rational distrust of e-ballot voting machines, and election officials who have encouraged voters to vote absentee in order to reduce lines on Election Day have all combined to greatly increased the use of absentee ballots that are also *not* counted on Election Night.
The logical consequence is that the rate of absentee and provisional ballots may have overtaken the unofficial reported margin between candidates in several States.
It is therefore very likely that the press and candidates will *not* be able to call close elections in several states on Election Night - and must wait days or possibly weeks until sufficient absentee and provisional ballots are evaluated for eligibility and counted or even possibly contested by candidates.
To be sure to accurately call the winner of any close State election contest, press and candidates must do the following little numerical comparison first:
IF the total number absentee and provisional ballots cast in any election contest in any State
is greater than
the difference between the unofficial reported votes for a winner and the runner-up
THEN the candidate and the press will have *in*sufficient information to determine the winner.
This will be a uniquely new situation in the 2008 election as the rate of provisional and absentee voting overtakes the margins between candidates.
Unfortunately election officials do not customarily publicly report the number of provisional and absentee ballots.
Although election officials do not routinely report these numbers, election officials do have the number of uncounted provisional and absentee ballots at their finger-tips because the number of provisional ballots are counted and reported from each polling location to each county election office and county officials have a count of the absentee ballots.
Open records requests rather than simple requests may have to be made immediately on Wednesday a.m. or even now prior to Election Day in order to obtain this information (the number of uncounted provisional and absentee ballots) on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning from election officials.
IF the difference in unofficial reported votes between the top two candidates is less than the number of provisional and absentee ballots cast statewide in an election contest (any contest, not just presidential contests),
THEN the candidates and press should wait until after all provisional and absentee ballots are counted (and if the uncounted ballots are more than the margin investigate and contest the eligibility of those ballots) before naming the winning candidate.
This situation (more provisional and absentee ballots than the unofficial margin) could possibly occur in several swing states, including Ohio, Florida, and Colorado - in any state that is particularly close.
An estimate could be done now to determine which states are more likely to be impossible to call the winners on Election Night by doing open records requests to determine the number of voter roll purges and absentee ballots mailed out and received as compared to the opinion poll margins and expected turnout for each state. (I don't have the data or resources to do this estimate myself now, but it might be easy enough to do.)
The 2008 election is the first election since the passage of the 2002 Help America Vote Act where all States are now purging their e-voter rolls and in which more states than ever now allow no-fault absentee voting, so there *will be more absentee and provisional ballots than in any election in U.S. history*.
Candidates and press will want to determine whether or not the number of uncounted provisional and absentee ballots exceeds the reported margins state-wide for all close election contests before calling the winners.
This waiting period before calling the contests in some swing states would also provide time for election integrity advocates with the help of attorneys to make open records requests for detailed vote count data and election records that can be mathematically analyzed to detect any patterns that are consistent with possible machine vote miscount.
With the number of provisional and absentee ballots more likely to exceed margins of victory than at any time in U.S. history, and with the machine vote counts in virtually all states not being subjected to independent scientific post-election manual audits, it is vital for candidates and the press to wait for sufficient information before calling winners in any close State contests.
See for lists of news articles on the amount of e-voter roll purges and the use of provisional ballots.
Please forward this email to press and to candidates' campaigns for their consideration.
Thank you.
Kathy Dopp
The material expressed herein is the informed product of the author's fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a Mathematician, Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in exit poll discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at
P.O. Box 680192 Park City, UT 84068 phone 435-658-4657
How to Audit Election Outcome Accuracy
History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of Election Auditing Fundamentals
Voters Have Reason to Worry

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