Minnesota Recount: The myth of the “undervote”

posted at 12:30 pm on November 13, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Al Franken’s campaign now says that they intend on winning the election by pursuing the “undervote”:

An Associated Press analysis of votes in the tight, still-to-be decided race for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota shows that most ballots lacking a recorded choice in the election were cast in counties won by Democrat Barack Obama.

The finding could have implications for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, who are headed for a recount separated by the thinnest of margins — a couple of hundred votes, or about 0.01 percent.

About 25,000 ballots statewide carried votes for president but not for the Senate race. Although some voters might have intentionally bypassed the race, others might have mismarked their ballot, or optical scanning machines might have misread them.

We first heard about “undervotes” in the controversy over the election results in Florida in 2000.  In that context, it made a little more sense.  A significant number of ballots carried votes from down-ticket races but not for the presidential election.  This set off an effort to glean supposed voter intent through checking for “pregnant chads”, those punch card selections that didn’t dislodge the paper chip for the correct slot.  The operational theory was that the punch-card system somehow cheated the voter out of registering his/her vote, despite the decades of use that punch-card systems had and the clear instructions given to voters to punch all the way through the card and check their ballots when finished.

In this case, it makes no sense at all.  First, we use optical-scan systems, not punch-card ballots, which are far simpler to complete.  Second, the Senate race was not at the top of the ballot.  Obama voters didn’t necessarily support Franken, as the chart below makes clear:

We saw this dynamic all through the election season.  Franken consistently ran far behind Obama in Minnesota.  Some Obama voters supported Coleman, and some supported Dean Barkley as an alternative.  Some apparently decided not to support anyone at all.  The notion that a significant difference in support between Obama and Franken amounts to some sort of malfeasance or frustrated voter intent is sheer fantasy.

Voters have a right not to cast votes in a particular race, which is why the optical-scan tabulators do not check for “undervotes”.  In fact, “undervotes” do not exist; they’re a myth.  When voters choose not to support a candidate, they don’t cast votes for the candidate, and if they don’t vote at all in a race, that’s intentional.  If they intended to vote in a race, they had ample opportunity to do so.  We Minnesotans spent a fortune on a balloting system that captures voter intent in the best manner possible, and the recount effort must not involve the wholesale second-guessing of that clear statement.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

I just posted something that demolishes Franken’s undervote strategy. Franken’s strategy is utterly undercut with this information.

LFRGary on November 13, 2008 at 5:05 PM

Tom_Shipley on November 13, 2008 at 4:44 PM

As I’ve said before, this thing is a waste of HA space and it’s taking me too long to sift through the good stuff. Can we all agree to ignore the ignorant?

ABOUT 25,000 BALLOTS STATEWIDE CARRIED VOTES FOR PRESIDENT BUT NOT FOR THE SENATE RACE. ALTHOUGH SOME VOTERS MIGHT HAVE INTENTIONALLY BYPASSED THE RACE, OTHERS MIGHT HAVE MISMARKED THEIR BALLOT, OR OPTICAL SCANNING MACHINES MIGHT HAVE MISREAD THEM.

THREE COUNTIES — HENNEPIN, RAMSEY AND ST. LOUIS, WHICH CONTAIN THE POPULATION CENTERS OF MINNEAPOLIS, ST. PAUL AND DULUTH — ACCOUNT FOR 10,540 VOTES IN THE DROPOFF BETWEEN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE AND THE SENATE RACE. EACH SAW OBAMA WIN WITH 63 PERCENT OR MORE OF THE VOTE.

THE BALLOTS THAT SHOWED A PRESIDENTIAL VOTE BUT NO SENATE VOTE ARE CALLED THE “UNDERVOTE.” STATEWIDE, MORE THAN 18,000 OF THOSE BALLOTS CAME FROM COUNTIES WON BY OBAMA. ABOUT 6,100 WERE IN COUNTIES WON BY REPUBLICAN JOHN MCCAIN.

So, you see, by this a$$wipes statistical expertise, 18,000 undervotes in the Obama polling places where Obama won 63% of the vote, will get Frankenstein 18,000 of the undervotes. He can’t understand how you can come to the conclusion that if this ACTUALLY happens, we would say that is a statistical improbability. Why? Because that’s statistical accuracy in the mind of a Liberal. Everyone in a Liberal area will vote for a Liberal even when they only vote 63% for Obama overall because Liberals are all sheeple and have no mind of their own. They drink from the Kool Aid. I could extrapolate a whole lot more from this quoted information but why bother?

See, this game is boring and such a fraking waste of time. Why? Again, because this lemming is mathematically and statistically challenged like all Liberals on top of the fact that they KNOW their side are filled with a bunch of morons who can’t work a simple balloting machine.

Sultry Beauty on November 13, 2008 at 5:12 PM

So, you see, by this a$$wipes statistical expertise, 18,000 undervotes in the Obama polling places where Obama won 63% of the vote, will get Frankenstein 18,000 of the undervotes.

Who said this? I don’t think anyone concluded that Franken will get 18,000 of the votes. If anyone said this, they would be wrong, but I don’t think anyone did.

I believe people have said that he’s likely to get more than 50% of any incorrectly uncounted votes.

tneloms on November 13, 2008 at 6:04 PM

From the total of the counted votes, ignoring crossovers, we find that 77% of Obama voters voted for Franken, while 95% of McCain voters voted for Coleman.

For those three counties mentioned above, if there were 10,540 undervotes in counties where Obama got 63% of the vote, that would be 6,640 votes for Obama and 3,900 votes for McCain. If 77% of the Obama voters voted for Franken, that’s a pickup of 5,113 votes for Franken, and if 95% of the McCain voters voted for Coleman, that would give Coleman 3,705 votes, for a net gain of 1,408 votes for Franken.

If we have 6,100 votes in McCain-favored counties, meaning at least 3,050 votes for McCain, we would get at LEAST 3,050 x 0.95 = 2,898 votes for Coleman, and at MOST 3,050 x 0.77 = 2,349 votes for Franken, or a net gain of 549 votes for Coleman. Assuming all the “undervoters” voted the way counted voters did, this would be a net gain AT MOST of 1,408 – 549 = 859 votes for Franken, since I assumed a 50-50 split in the McCain-favored counties.

But this assumes that all of the “undervotes” were people who actually marked their ballots. Hand counts of Broward County in 2000 in Florida showed that only about 6% of “undervotes” rejected by the machine showed any indication of a vote for President–the others simply didn’t vote! If only 6% of the “undervotes” were actually marked, Franken would pick up a maximum of 859 x 0.06 = 52 votes, not enough to swing the election.

This is why Republican surveillance of the recount process is critical, so that Democrats can’t “vote” for Franken AFTER the election by tampering with ballots that the real voters left blank for the Senate race.

Steve Z on November 13, 2008 at 6:28 PM

Tinian on November 13, 2008 at 3:41 PM

It’s amazing how HotAir can produce such a steady stream of idiots.

Tom_Shipley on November 13, 2008 at 3:47 PM

That’s quite a point-by-point rebuttal. Truly impressive.

Let me translate your reply into Lolcat:

Oweez! Muh butzhole rly hurtz wen Iz talks to Tinian. Srsly!

Tinian on November 13, 2008 at 7:49 PM

Let’s see, all the new votes are for Franken at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than Obama in 3 Democratic predominent districts. The possibilities:
1. The Democratic election people are stupid
2. Voter fraud
I find option 1 insulting and degrading. Option 2 is the only one that makes sense.

DL13 on November 13, 2008 at 9:45 PM

I think by “undervote” the Democrats mean those votes cast by the DDF – Democrat Dwarves for Franken – which is funded by the DFL which is funded by Acorn which is…all right, I’m boring myself now.

mr1216 on November 14, 2008 at 9:26 AM

Although some voters might have intentionally bypassed the race, others might have mismarked their ballot, or optical scanning machines might have misread them.

Or, they knew that Franken is a far-left loon and couldn’t bring themselves to check the spot next to his name.

Sterling Holobyte on November 14, 2008 at 9:27 AM

Darn it! I thought people liked him.

44Magnum on November 14, 2008 at 11:47 AM

The guy is so sleazy. Unfortunately, he will probably find a way to steal enough votes to win.

RJGatorEsq. on November 14, 2008 at 1:43 PM

Comment pages: 1 2