Ted Stevens, walking the Bridge to Nowhere

Discuss

53 Responses to “Ted Stevens, walking the Bridge to Nowhere”

  1. Red Leatherman says:

    I am still wondering how a man that recently was convicted of felony corruption still has the balls to run for a public office

    You can’t get a job at Walmart if you have a felony conviction. duh

  2. bardfinn says:

    Deviant:

    I guarantee that human recounts are more accurate than first-run machine electoral counts, as the method used in a re-count is stringent, as to justify the expense of the re-count.

    Voting machines are a cost-savings measure.

    The paper you cited mentions a critical difference between its’ methods and actual methods, which completely demolishes your argument for its’ applicability:

    “The procedure was strictly derived from the actual counting procedures for VVPATs recommended by the VVSG and thus used by many election officials across the United States. Our procedure differs in one critical way: election audits or recounts often use teams of two or three counters to increase accuracy. This is an important safeguard; we did not do redundant counting because we wanted to examine the actual base rate of error, that is, we wanted to determine the extent of the problem against which the redundancy guards.

    Why, yes, indeed, I do have a problem with the WSJ /opinion/ page being used to confirm someone’s bias, and a cherry-picked appeal-to-scientific-authority strawman being used to confirm someone’s bias.

    Why do you ask?

  3. Spherical Time says:

    Talia @ 1:

    See, now, even though he’s not a convincted felon, I’ve thought that about the general election for the past few years.

  4. Anonymous says:

    it used to be that even when I disagreed with [Lieberman] I could at [least] say he’d gotten to his views honestly. Can’t say that anymore and now I just wonder why he’s still around.

    ‘Cause he’s a lion, a lion, a lion, a lion of Zion…

    –Charlie

  5. Menlo Bob says:

    The recount in Minnesota hasn’t even started and Franken is getting large vote changes from 2 counties. Neat trick when all votes are supposed to be transmitted wirelessly from optical scanning machines on election night. These same machines will not allow an undervote.

  6. Anonymous says:

    #51
    He’s got it spot on. There’s a difference between FILING for an appeal and actually appealing.

    His motion to file might be rejected outright by the court. If that’s the case, he’ll have to appeal to a higher court.

    So yes, he’s convicted. And yes, he’s a felon.

    By some of the posters’ logic here, people convicted on Death Row are entirely innocent – because they are appealing.

  7. Uncle Geo says:

    Menlo Bob,

    In Hennepin County (Mpls and western suburbs) the wireless thing was down. Election workers stayed very late counting machine tallies and hurriedly getting data of some sort to the Secretary of State.

    And the tricks you are referring to have been debunked, for example, the “suspicious” 246 vote gain for Franken was a mistake by an election worker who entered 27 instead of 273.

  8. grimc says:

    @EHIME

    Citation, please.

  9. bardfinn says:

    imipak: It does boggle the mind, doesn’t it?

    But for a single race in a single district, there might be 40,000 ballots cast, for a small district.

    If it takes fifteen seconds to examine and classify a ballot (and that’s like, speed-wizard timing there), at 40,000 ballots, that’s 166 man-hours of work. That’s four weeks for one person working alone.

    Most manual recounts use an important quality / redundancy mecahnism: Two or three people have to examine the ballot, and all must agree on whom the ballot is cast for. That takes, with an efficient team, about one minute per ballot.

    That’s 666 (le gasp!) hours, or sixteen weeks, (Four months) for three people working together. For a SMALL (40000 ballot in a race) DISTRICT. If you have four teams, it’s one month. If you have sixteen teams, it’s one week. But the man-hour cost is still intensely high.

    And it’s not like this can be farmed out to Amazon Turk, or used as a CAPTCHA on a form.

  10. imipak says:

    @bardfinn, #29:

    “there might be 40,000 ballots cast…”

    Yes, but none of those numbers are unique to the USA. UK parliamentary constituencies are of a comparable same size, use manually counted paper ballots, and the overwhelming majority of seats are declared overnight. Wikipedia says “the average constituency size is approximately 74,000 registered voters, but they vary in size from the smallest, Na h-Eileanan an Iar – 22,200 voters, to the largest – The Isle of Wight approx. 110,000 voters” which sounds about right to me.

  11. Agent 86 says:

    He may now be appealing, women seem to have a thing for convicted criminals.

  12. Deviant says:

    Bardfinn, all I’ve said all along is that all measurement has error. When you are in the reasonable expectations of that margin of error, it is a statistical tie. I’ve read your last post twice and I’m not sure what you think I’m arguing beyond what I’ve actually said.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “You sure about that? A Rice University study found that manual count was “prone to high error rates, with only 57.5% of participants’ counts providing the correct election results.””

    I can’t give that estimate much credence. Hand recounts are done quite regularly, and the error rates in practice are nowhere near that high.

    In that paper I find things like:
    “The procedure was strictly derived from the actual counting procedures for VVPATs recommended by the VVSG and thus used by many election officials across the United States. Our procedure differs in one critical way: election audits or recounts often use teams of two or three counters to increase accuracy. This is an important safeguard; we did not do redundant counting because we wanted to examine the actual base rate of error, that is, we wanted to determine the extent of the problem against which the redundancy guards.”

    So they skipped one of the most important safeguards in the accuracy of real hand counts. They did it because they weren’t actually attempting to measure the accuracy of real counts, they were attempting to analyze the human readability of those receipt spool type paper vote records.

    Their “training” consisted of giving the counter a paper with written instructions. Real poll workers are trained by real humans.

    They were testing a specific kind of count of a receipt style spool from one of those stupid all-electronic voting machines. Just looking at the spool it looks rather difficult to deal with physically. This would be a real problem afflicting any election where such awful machines are used, but it might be mitigated by the fact that in a real count there would be multiple people keeping an eye on the process rather than just the one doing it.

    They also seem to have been recounting two races on the ballot simultaneously, rather than just one race (as is the usual case in a recount).

    So just from the multiplicative factors I would expect their error rate to be at least the real error rate to the third or fourth power (they used one counter instead of two or three, and two races instead of one).

    They also weren’t really doing a “recount”.

    Real recounts have the advantage that some idea of the original count is known, so errors in either the original count or the new count tend to jump up for correction. If in your recount you find you are 128 lower than the original count, and one of the ten items you were supposed to be adding up was 128 you are likely to add again and find that you messed up and skipped the item, or find that the original count messed up and added it twice. It isn’t the case that the count is simply done again, it is done with extra information and extra effort.

    In fact the main way recount totals seem to change is through human interpretation of ballots flagged by machine and small numbers of ballots that were not counted at all in the first run (ie “hey, what’s that box in the corner!”). The counts of the same ballots the machines counted seem, in the real world, to be shockingly accurate. However some of this applies equally to machine recounts.

    In washington state when an election is close a machine recount is automatic and a hand recount can be requested after that. In the 2004 governor’s election the differences in the counts without new ballots being added was on the order of tens of votes out of 2.7 million cast. Those differences and the additional ballots found during the process swung the result by under 1000. Sorry I can’t find a link, all I find is republican’s complaining about the results (they ended up loosing). This, however answers some general questions: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002134636_webgovqna29.html

    This study:
    http://vote.caltech.edu/drupal/files/working_paper/vtp_wp2.pdf
    Found that hand counted paper ballots were the most accurate voting technology, however that could have more to do with people being able to mark them correctly than with the counting method.

    Recounts are also the main way to find problems in the voting system. If some kind of systematic error or fraud is discovered a recount can identify it. Not doing a recount can’t have any such positive result.

    The only upsides to not doing recounts is to satisfy our impatience by quickly providing results, and to save the money that they cost to do.

  14. Deviant says:

    Bardfinn,

    You managed to create a strawman that included the accusation of a strawman. That has to be a first! Anonymous made a very general statement about the superior accuracy of human hand counters vs. machines. I showed a study showing high baseline single human error rates. I never made any statements about the relative accuracy of anything.

    You also seem to be missing a very major point. No matter what you do to combat known error, you can do nothing about unknown sources of error, which are always present. In other words, even if you recount results 100 times, using redundant teams of counters, and consistently get a tiny lead for one candidate–it is still bogus if it is within a reasonable margin of error. What about this is unclear?

  15. Avram says:

    Deviant @38, what you’re missing is that the margins of error are not the same for all counting methods. Tallying machines have relatively high margins of error. (The machine vendors like to claim low error rates, but always have a footnote to the effect that those rates are for new machines, in optimal operating conditions.) Hand-counting has a small margin of error.

    Also, some ballots just read badly in the machines, due to having been folded, or smeared, or whatever. Such ballots will only be read correctly during a hand recount.

  16. mdh says:

    There will always be the unknown unknowns, but we muddle on anyhow.

    People climbed mountains long before REI existed.

  17. Talia says:

    What does it say about the populace that the guy’s a convicted felon and still has nigh half the vote.

    *shakes head*

    Alaska’s a beautiful state, for sure, but I’m a bit dubious about the human inhabitants. :p

  18. Deviant says:

    In the Al Franken case, the Republicans are right to be concerned. Almost all of the found and supposedly uncounted ballots increased Franken’s vote count while not affecting any other races. This is beside the point, though.

    Recounts in general are flat out dumb. There’s an unavoidable margin of error in the counting of votes, and if results are within a reasonable estimate of this margin, it is a tie. Period. A recount (or modified first count, as in both example cases) that gets significantly different results than the original count begs two questions:

    1) Is the recount more accurate than the first count?
    2) Will subsequent recounts confirm the recount results?

    These are largely unanswerable without massive effort (multiple times that of the recount itself), and you still can’t account for error that can’t be corrected via recount (primarily because you don’t know it existed in the first place).

    Efforts to try to guestimate or infer voter preference as part of the recount make me cringe. The Franken camp tried to argue that anyone who voted for Obama must be a Franken supporter as well, so non/unclear votes in that race should be given thusly. Fortunately, in this case, the court wasn’t that gullible. No inference technique should ever, ever, ever be considered.

    If you really want meaningful, reliable results, the only answer is series of run-off elections with clearly defined rules for breaking statistical ties.

    And Talia, the Alaska felon vote is no different than the Mel Carnihan dead guy vote several years back. The voters are primarily showing party preference.

  19. jimkirk says:

    Maybe we could farm out recounts to some off-shore company.

    Heh, just kidding.

  20. ravenword says:

    Don’t forget about the Georgia Senate race! There’s a runoff between Democratic candidate Jim Martin and the odious incumbent Saxby Chambliss on December 2. People who want a bluer Congress should consider donating to Martin’s campaign while there’s still time.

  21. Yamara says:

    Senator Stevens yesterday was heard to comment, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  22. Talia says:

    Which is just silly, when it comes to stuff like this. *shakes head*

  23. Deviant says:

    Maybe we could farm out recounts to some off-shore company.

    I love it. Maybe Cory will put that in his next novel.

  24. Pixel says:

    I’m from CT, don’t count Joe Lieberman as a Democrat, he’s somewhere between a Republican and a “self-serving-go-with-whoever-might-further-his-personal-aims” twit.

    Which is a shame, because it used to be that even when I disagreed with him (often) I could at say he’d gotten to his views honestly. Can’t say that anymore and now I just wonder why he’s still around.

  25. Talia says:

    #4 way to break the page format, very flashy :P

  26. Talia says:

    #6, I’m also in CT, and there has been some vague talk Dean will strip him of his.. whatever role he currently has in the Democratic party

    but yeah. I am sad Lamont didn’t win a couple years ago.

  27. Stefan Jones says:

    I heard he was considering a career supplying lubricants for the internet tubes industry.

  28. Brainspore says:

    Spherical Time @45:

    Just because he’s appealing the verdict does not mean Stevens is not a convicted felon.

  29. Deviant says:

    Antinous,

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122644940271419147.html

    This is where I got the info regarding the Franken situation.

  30. Anonymous says:

    “1) Is the recount more accurate than the first count?
    2) Will subsequent recounts confirm the recount results?”

    Luckily we do know the answers to these questions.

    The answer to the first is yes in the common case for US elections where the first count is usually a machine count. Human hand counters are better at reading ballots than machines, so they are more accurate. They are also considerably more costly, so if the margin of victory in most cases is sufficient to be decided accurately by a machine count a two phase system where votes are first machine counted to see if the result can be quickly and cheaply determined in that way then if the result is too close to be discerned by machine count a hand recount is performed is entirely reasonable.

    The answer to the second is also yes, provided the process is good. Obviously it is something that could vary case by case, however they keep track of things like how many ballots are switched in each batch of ballots, not just the total so they can see random fluctuations. The recount process also involves checking the vote tabulation process, and a few mistakes are usually found there. Good election systems will perform a certain amount of recounting after the election with the sole goal of verifying the processes. That seems to be disturbingly rare, however. In my opinion all elections should involve a statistical sampling recount before results are certified, and further recounts later on just to look for emerging problems should also be done.

    “Efforts to try to guestimate or infer voter preference as part of the recount make me cringe.”

    States with good election law specify such things in advance, and as far as I am aware all have standards of either “clear intent” or “must mark the ballot according to instructions”. The former would find new votes in a hand recount where the voter did something like circle the names of their choices rather than fill in bubbles, while the second would only find new votes where the bubble filling was somehow insufficient, when an extraneous mark confused the machine, when the machine simply malfunctioned, etc. Partisans sometimes argue that we ought to guess or look at other votes to decide, but I have never heard of them winning the point in any dispute, and I have heard of them loosing at least twice. The worst problems arise in a place like Florida in 2000, which had vague election laws and extremely partisan election officials (Kathrine Harris was their top election official and co-chair of GW Bush’s Florida campaign) who interfere with various parts of the election process hoping to determine the result. Stopping something like a recount is, however, far less obviously election fraud than the active measures necessary to change the results of a recount.

  31. Uncle Geo says:

    Deviant,

    Recounts are not dumb. I live in Minnesota and put a good deal of effort into Al’s campaign. I want to know who won. If it’s Norm, I’ll barf, accept it and move on.

    As of 5PM CST today, out of 2.88 million votes cast the totals were: Coleman 1211565; Franken 1211359 -the diff between Al and Norm is now 206. By any measure that is very, very close.

    A recount is a matter of state law. The MN Sec of State website notes that if the “margin between the two candidates receiving the most votes is less than one half of 1 percent” the recount is automatic.

    Yet curiously Norm Coleman and his GOP party chair have claimed victory and, with that face GOPers get when they just can’t seem to understand why their point of view is not universally understood as God’s truth, wonder out loud why Franken has not simply conceded. This is no surprise to us here in MN as Norm is full of tricks -he often sues his opponent days before an election to cast doubt on him and then withdraws the suit afterwards. (Yep he did it this time too)

    imipak,

    Prepare for more boggling -what is happening now is not the recount. What is happening now is what happens every year -first the results are reported election night by phone from figures election judges tally on the machine’s printouts. It is not uncommon for the tallies by election workers, who just put in 14 or more hours, to be off a tad. The votes are then tallied more carefully in the following days and an official report is given to the Secretary of State. That is what is happening as we speak. The Sec State will then convenes the canvassing board who, unless they have a compelling reason not to, will certify the results.

    It is expected that the results will easily be within the margin that triggers the automatic hand recount. That will begin around the 17th of November and continue to about the 17th of December with results reported on Dec 18th (that’s the plan anyway).

    The optical scanning machines do not count ovals they cannot read, yet a human can, in most cases, easily determine the intention of the voter. The ovals are far apart, there are no chads, dimpled or otherwise, so there should be little ambiguity and since we actually have a paper record we can do this.

    Volunteers are being recruited on both sides to monitor the hand recounting all over Minnesota -many of us will travel to observe and challenge any mistakes or shenanigans. (Luckily we have one of the best Secretary of State’s in the nation in Mark Ritchie -the process will be fair and to the letter of the law.)

    While all this is going on Coleman is likely to try every legal trick to derail the process; it would not surprise me in the least if he challenged the law itself. This may mean a lot of lawyers for Norm as he is also enmeshed in a Ted Stevens like legal melee regarding alleged unreported funneling of money.

    No one really knows how this will turn out but I do know that Norm has no say in the recount -it will happen no matter how many times he declares victory. And after 2000 and 2004 it is the farthest thing from dumb to know if our votes are being counted accurately.

  32. phillamb168 says:

    *Notes that Deviant’s source is firmly in the “Opinion” section of the WSJ.

    Not that the editorials don’t contain good data, but IMHO the WSJ opinion section contains its fare share of wackos.

  33. slgalt says:

    HA! Wall Street Journal is the citation? That paper is now part of the Faux News empire.

    It used to be reputable, but no longer.

    Many more democrats voted early and absentee this year. That’s why these counts are ending up in the democratic column.

  34. mdh says:

    Oh look, he’s going down a series of tubes.

  35. Talia says:

    Yeah, there was a big Democratic push for early voting, for some reason.

  36. bardfinn says:

    Deviant:

    Uh, DUDE. Seriously. Show me the “strawman” I supposedly made.

    “I never made any statements about the relative accuracy of anything.”

    Really?

    “Recounts in general are flat out dumb.”

    “A recount (or modified first count, as in both example cases) that gets significantly different results than the original count begs two questions:

    1) Is the recount more accurate than the first count? …”

    “These are largely unanswerable without massive effort …”

    “If you really want meaningful, reliable results, the only answer is series of run-off elections with clearly defined rules for breaking statistical ties.”

    Human hand counters are better at reading ballots than machines, so they are more accurate.

    You sure about that? A Rice University study found that manual count was “prone to high error rates, with only 57.5% of participants’ counts providing the correct election results.””

    – Your Statements.

    Tell me again how you’re not making claims about the relative accuracy of one method versus another, and then while you’re at it, pull the other one: It has bells on.

    YOU made claims about the accuracy of hand counting versus machine counting -independently- of your advocacy of run-off elections. I didn’t talk about your advocacy of run-off elections. I didn’t make any statement whatsoever about those statements.

    Thus:

    “I guarantee that human recounts are more accurate than first-run machine electoral counts …”

    Your posts evidenced a bias against the accuracy of hand-count polling versus machine-count polling, and I called you on it specifically.

    BUT SINCE YOU WANT TO MAKE IT ABOUT RUN-OFFS:

    Run-off elections are not fair. There is an inherent cost to each individual voter in any election, any polling procedure. This is not a trivial amount of resources. The collective cost to society is LARGE. If none of the issues change between a close original election and a run-off election, and every voter who could make it to the original election makes it to the run-off election (a fictional Free-Lunch of an election), then the same margin is likely and the same margin of error is likely; This makes your concerns about run-off elections and margins of error RED HERRINGS.

    In REALITY, Run-Off Elections are a regressive tax upon the electorate, by favouring those who can spare the resources to register their vote twice, three times, four times. They are unfair in that way.

    Secondly, there is a well-known and well-documented human bias towards voting for one of two choices which is seen, by them, to be /ahead/ – whether they realise it or not, people want to feel that they are on the “winning side”. So, in a run-off election, whomsoever is reported by the press as having a lead – no matter how slim – receives an unfair advantage in a run-off election.

    For all the talking you’re doing about statistical analysis of elections, you evidence a /massive/ ignorance – or willingness to deceive by withholding – regarding the inherent drawbacks of run-off elections VERSUS an ACCURATE COUNT of an inherently FAIRER instant election.

    Please practice what you preach: A full knowledge of the relevant facts regarding the issues. And pull a little less FUD while you’re at it.

  37. Anonymous says:

    How did almost half of Alaska still vote for this guy? Alaska, I need some answers!

    Just picking nits here, but half of Alaska did not vote for this guy (Stevens)’ half of those that bothered to vote voted for Stevens…

    As others pointed out, they likely voted for the party, not the person. If I were his opponent, I’d be pissed – I mean, he ran against a convict and may lose…

  38. Kid Geezer says:

    The Wall Street Journal editorial page has never been reputable. It’s a completely different paper that gets included with the WSJ every day. Fitting that it is now wholly owned by Murdoch. Unfortunately, we can expect the actual reporting side of things to go downhill over time.

  39. Deviant says:

    Anonymous,

    Human hand counters are better at reading ballots than machines, so they are more accurate.

    You sure about that? A Rice University study found that manual count was “prone to high error rates, with only 57.5% of participants’ counts providing the correct election results.

    http://www.usenix.org/event/evt07/tech/full_papers/goggin/goggin_html/

    All measurement has error.

    As for the knee-jerk anti-WSJ-as-a-source responses, keep in mind that the information presented in that editorial is quantifiable and easily validated.

  40. Boba Fett Diop says:

    Either way, I still want to see Stevens do time. Healthy enough to run for Senate, healthy enough to go to jail.

  41. mdh says:

    deviant – What about this is unclear?

    Based on the reactions I’ve seen?

    Your good faith, and ability to concede a point, in this argument are both unclear.

  42. Ehime says:

    While some may question the editorial section of the WSJ, there is no doubt that the DailyKos is a crackpot run and hate filled web site. I hardly call them an impartial source of information unless you mean mis-information.

    • Antinous says:

      While some may question the editorial section of the WSJ, there is no doubt that the DailyKos is a crackpot run and hate filled web site

      When I use the term ‘credible citation’, I mean a recognized news source. Not a blog. Not the opinion page. Not Wikipedia. The news section of a newspaper (tree or online), television news, etc. Of course, you can cite anything, but readers will only take it as seriously as it deserves.

  43. mdh says:

    Spherical at 45

    He very definitely IS a convicted felon.

    He HAS been found guilty.

    He just isn’t out of appeals, but he has been fairly judged, and found guilty, and is appealing.

  44. Deviant says:

    Avram et al.,

    This Stanford study explains my point extremely well, and it empirically tests my margin-of-error arguments.

    In very close elections, the margin of error for the system of collecting and counting votes may be greater than the margin of victory for a candidate, such that recounts are unable to determine winners.

    [I]n very close races the voting process cannot reveal electoral intent.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1294838

    I agree that recounts could be disproportionately costly to the poor. I also agree that recounts may find fraud and other problems that may not have been identified any other way. However, that doesn’t mean close recount results are meaningful.

  45. Takuan says:

    so that makes Alaskan voters prison bitches? Have they been told?

  46. mdh says:

    My Senator Ted hails from Mass
    His agenda has been stalled, could not pass
    Because of a pork-minded
    Ted from state forty-nine
    Who has just been handed, his ass.

  47. mdh says:

    Ehime, I know what you’re saying, but there are diamonds in those coal mines too.

  48. imipak says:

    There’s something I’m not getting here; the election was a week ago, yes? seven days? Are you guys seriously suggesting that there are recounts still going on?! I mean… I know it’s a big country and all, but really? That really boggles the mind.

  49. Cool Products says:

    I am still wondering how a man that recently was convicted of felony corruption still has the balls to run for a public office, state senate nonetheless? How did almost half of Alaska still vote for this guy? Alaska, I need some answers!

  50. mdh says:

    actuyally, he is not appealing.

    Stevens is filing an appeal.

  51. Talia says:

    Pfft. Kos may be biased, but not hate filled.

Leave a Reply