Friday, March 23, 2012

The Election Suppression Conundrum - All That Is Really Certain...


....Is That Everything Is Uncertain.


And, as long as you are willing to go along with one big assumption, it is possible to agree with the following conclusion because the subsequent data analysis look impeccable to me (athough this is most definitely not my field):

“Ridings where voters were allegedly targeted by robo-calls — meaning they were possibly discouraged from voting or directed to the wrong polls — experienced an estimated decline in voter turnout of three percentage points on average. This reduction in turnout translates into roughly 2,500 fewer eligible (registered) voters going to the polls.”

Which, if it were really the case, would would mean that 6 of the 27 ridings that professor Kessler included in her cohort that she assumed received misleading robocalls may have had different results without those calls, given that the margin of victory in that magical 'group of six' was less than 2,500 votes.

And following on from Kessler's conclusion you could then agree with the extrapolation made by blogger Brian-Michel Larue that he used to generate the now famous graph of a suppression-unassisted minority Harper government.


He is where the uncertainty in the certainty comes conundrumming in.

And it has to do with the 'assumption' that underpins Prof. Kessler's analysis...

Which is that the 27 ridings she chose as being 'robo-called' based on the fact that complaints surfaced 'early into the probe' were the correct ones to use as the 'affected' cohort.

And therein lies the rub.

Because it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more and more and more ridings have very likely been affected, including, just today, Comox Valley way out on Vancouver Island, which is just a couple of hundred scenic kilometres north of 2008's ground zero, Saanich-Gulf Islands.

And if that is really the case, as Dr. Kessler actually mentions in the discussion of her analysis, it greatly decreases the validity of her analytical approach.


Well, think of it this way...

If a gazillion ridings were, indeed, affected, how can you possibly compare affected with unaffected to see if anything happened that was 'caused' by the suppression tactics themselves?

In other words, if every riding that matters was whacked up the side of the head, it is impossible to tell if the whacking really worked because there are no non-whacked ridings with which to generate a scorecard.



Here's the only really certain thing....

Which is that none of this matters in the really, really big sense of the thing*.

Instead, what really matters is the fact that the evidence is now unassailable that attempts at voter suppression suppression did occur.

And the evidence is mounting that those attempts at suppression were systemic.

Which means that, regardless whether or not the attempts at suppression affected the outcome with certainty, the democratic process has been perverted by fraud, apparently committed with malice aforethought.

And that means we must have a full, open, and complete inquiry.

And then, all the wrongdoers who are identified must be brought to full justice.

Otherwise, in 2015 we will be doomed, because....

What party operative (and I'm talking about operatives from all parties here) will not at least consider that they may have to take a step or three over the line, if only to give their horse a chance to stay in a fixed race?

And don't get me wrong.... I do not disagree with either the Sixth Estate or Dave about 'likelihoods' and 'intents'. I just want to make it clear that you don't need to nail down an 'affect' certainty to chase down who did what, when, to whom which, when fraudulent, is a crime regardless...OK?



Holly Stick said...

Back on March 12 I asked Kessler what if she considered the 77 ridings then listed by Sixth Estate and she thought it would no longer be statistically significant - too much noise:!/askessler/status/179315967741014016

RossK said...

Thanks Holly--

Yes, she essentially says as much in the paper.

But she does not necessarily put it down to a shrinking control group, but rather more noise in the larger sample.

To be fair, I am arguing for the former here, but her point, which is still based on an assumption that has not been rigorously tested, is not an unreasonable one.

Thanks again - didn't know you all had had that conversation.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean that if you try to suppress a vote, but don't succeed; then no crime has been committed?
Maybe I'll try to rob a bank and if I don't succeed, no crime has been committed.

RossK said...



I think what it likely really means is the following:

If you rob a bank and the bills were not marked, well....

You can spend your ill-gotten 'capital' to destroy whatever the heck you want for the next four or five years or so...


Holly Stick said...

Well I don't know much about handling statistics (except how they can be misused, from following the climate arguments). But she seemed quite open to answering tweets about it back then. I'm not sure, she may have been travelling since.

RossK said...

Thanks Holly.


Saskboy said...

You can't rob a bank, that's taking money from the powerful.
You can steal an election, that's taking power from the people, and the people are too busy watching Big Brother to know what to do.

RossK said...


Excellent points oh bike-seatless, northern-lighted Saskboy one.