President Bush. More and More Popular in Oregon.

That's right, BlueOregonians.

For the past two months, President Bush's approval rating has gone up here in Oregon - according to the state-by-state Survey USA poll.

Among blue states (those that voted for John Kerry), Washington and Oregon are #1 and #2 in approval rating for President Bush. Sure, he's still got only a 40% approval rating here - but he's less popular in Nevada, Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Ohio, and Iowa: all states that went GOP in 2004.

On the other hand, take heart in this new red/blue map of America - as seen on



(Hat tip to and carl ballard.)

  • L Brown (unverified)

    "Bush more popular in Oregon"? Sad to say that I had to leave beautiful Oregon recently. It looked so deceptively nice in my rear view mirror while driving up the gorge. When previously living in Washington, I thought I'd never been in a more boneheaded place...until I moved to Oregon. My experience of Portland was mostly good, but only minutes away on I-5 Let me know that Oregon's reputation for clear thinking is unjustified. Portland itself seemed to be on it's own peculiar brand of cool-aid but at least it was somewhat progressive in outcome. The rest of Oregon? I found it to be the meanest place I've been this side of Saudi Arabia. Good luck Portlanders, You'll need it.

  • (Show?)

    May be Oregonians have just tuned out lately. After all we have had more important things to be concerned about here when you read the 'O'. Kelly Wirth's problems, Nike lawsuits, will the governor run, Thanksgiving, etc. Now that the Civil War is over we can get back to thinking more about the world.

    I have my wife's family (Bush supporters) coming for Thanksgiving so I can let you know next week how they view the world and if it has changed. O joy.

    Seriously, keep in mind the margin of error in the Survey poll is 4% and it is more entertaining than useful at the state level.

  • dmrusso (unverified)

    I am not surprised that Bush's ratings are better in "blue" states and "red". In States like Oregon, where progressives dominate, conservatives feel threatened more consistantly and tend to be further to the right than they need to be in reaction. Conservatives in "red" states are from all over the sprectrum and feel more comfortable complaining about the President "among friends and allies". That is my view.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    As Lars Larson will tell y'all, beauty fades, but stupid is forever!

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    When you are dealing with a few percentage points, you are within a margin of error. Margin of errors are forced by many factors. So, a local bais for/against answering survey's could account for this. Perhaps Republicans who would normally refuse to answer the questions are now leaping to defend their boy. Perhaps some Democrats burned out by the continuing tale of scandel coming out of Washington DC are refusing to answer the survey questions.

    I don't see where this has any real significance.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    It is obvious why Shrub is less disliked in Oregon of late. Oregonians are compassionate people. Shrub looks so hapless, so dazed and confused, that folks here think of him as they would some unfortunate, mentally challenged person in need of community care and support.

  • (Show?)

    While there is an element of surprise in these findings, I wouldn't overstate them. In May, 42% of Oregonians approved of Bush, and it's 40% now. Bush received 48% of the vote in Oregon, which means his support has fallen by six points in a year. Hard to call him "more popular." Rather: "less aggressively hated."

    My suspician is that Oregonians are generally more informed voters, so we're seeing less volatility here than other states, where relatively uninformed voters cast a ballot for Bush.

  • JTT (unverified)

    Jeff- though I appreciate your statistical rebuttal, I take issue with your "informed voter" argument. Should we extend that line of argument to recent initiatives? Measure 37? 36? 30? People who don't vote how we want them to aren't uninformed, and people who vote how we want them to aren't informed. I think all too often people think that "if we just went out and told these people that they're wrong and explained to them why they're wrong, then maybe they'll see the light and join the force of good." I don't think that's how it works.

  • Tom Kepler (unverified)

    Are voters "informed?" When 55% of Americans believe God created us in our present form while only 13% believe He had nothing to do with it [NYT poll], yeah, I'd say most people are misinformed.

  • (Show?)

    My comparison wasn't between Oregon voters and a highly-educated ideal, but rather Oregon voters versus voters in other states. And despite blunders like M37, I think there's abundant evidence that Oregonians are politically more informed than their counterparts elsewhere. We've had a pretty good history of civic engagement and innovative public policy.

  • (Show?)

    Just to clarify: "Margin of error" is solely an artifact of the sample size. It doesn't have anything to do with people refusing to answer the questions, bias in the poll question, respondents lying about their answers, or anything else that might serve to make the results an inaccurate reflection of reality.

    Furthermore, a margin of error of 4 points on 40% doesn't mean that it's just as likely Bush's support is 36%, 40%, or 44%. The distribution is a bell curve, which means it's most likely the actual result if you polled all Oregonians would be near 40%. The further away from 40% you get, the more unlikely the actual result lies there.

    There are all kinds of reasons to question poll results, but margin of error is often overstated among them. My guess would be self-selection bias (people refusing to answer) would generally be a more significant creator of error.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    To Jeff Alworth,

    Based on your beliefs, unfounded in my view, how would you explain the fact the majority chose vote-by-mail here? It has not increased voter participation measurably and it is among the least secure voting systems one could possibly design: It is impossible to do a legitimate exit-poll, to prove that the person purported to have cast the vote actually marked the ballot, or to construct a credible audit of the final tabulation. In fact, in most other states, unrestricted accessing to mail-in voting has been rejected by those you condescendingly believe to be less well-informed for precisely such sound reasons.

    And it now seems likely that another misguided electoral "reform", non-partisan primaries, will make it to the ballot.

    So here is a test of political awareness: What is the reason of long-standing that an election system for Federal offices consisting of a non-partisan primary before November and a general election the first-Tuesday after the first-Monday in November is almost certainly illegal in these United States? (Which is not to say it wouldn't stand in this era when a right-wing court system is all too happy to let progressives nullify their own electoral power.)

    Hint 1: In case you didn't catch it in the question, it is NOT a "freedom of association" or similar constitutional argument. In Washington state, the courts cited the constitutional argument to strike down non-partisan primaries passed in 2004 with the help of "well-informed" progressives (but thankfully opposed by the Greens once the mostly negative ramifications for true progressive politics were explained). However, that is only because the courts are required by constitution and precedent to first consider constitutional arguments and not go to legal arguments if a matter fails on a constitutional basis.

    (BIG) Hint 2: A court has in fact ruled against a non-partisan primary system on this legal basis, and has actually dictated the election system of the loser must use in that case because the people and legislative body refused to comply with the court's ruling.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, I've heard stories to the contrary that show our voter turnout here in Oregon is higher than other states. I wish I could find the one I just read-- seems to me there was more than a 10 point difference between the national average and Oregon's turnout.

    And it's pretty easy to tell if the person who voted was indeed the person who voted. There are scanned copies of the person's signature on file from the voter registration card as well as from previous elections, petitions for ballot measures, etc. These are compared to the ballot. If it doesn't match (those checking go through a course on how to tell), they are pulled. They are checked again by a supervisor. If it still appears not to match, the voter is contacted.

    When voter registrations are entered into the computer, the software verifies that there is really a residential address there. If not, the registration is rejected.

    People who came in to pick up a ballot had to show identification before they could have the ballot. If they were picking it up for someone else, they had to have a written note with signature (which was checked to make sure it matched what was in the system).

    There are a lot of steps in the process to help verify that the person who marked the ballot was indeed the person who was supposed to have marked the ballot.

    I worked in the Multnomah County Elections office this past fall. I entered registrations, verified signatures, and more. While a few here and there may slip through, the numbers I hear are no higher than states where you vote at a polling place.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    I am always suspicious of the motives of those who feel a need to obfuscate an issue which they wish discussed, as has 'askquestions1st' (whoever that might be.)

    As reported in The Olympian in July, the U. S. District Court ruling which struck down the Washington state "Top Two" primary as unconstitutional, in that it stepped on the right of political parties to choose their nominees for elections, also ruled that system was not non-partisan.

  • LT (unverified)

    Ask questions first believes in the sanctity of exit polls?? Does this person also believe in the agenda?

    I am responding to this:

    To Jeff Alworth, Based on your beliefs, unfounded in my view, how would you explain the fact the majority chose vote-by-mail here? It has not increased voter participation measurably and it is among the least secure voting systems one could possibly design: It is impossible to do a legitimate exit-poll, There is no error rate in exit polls? Has anyone read Jeff Greenfield's book OH WAITER! ONE ORDER OF CROW about what went wrong with the reporting of the 2000 presidential elections? ALL of what went wrong was due to broadcasters making mistakes and NONE had to do with flawed exit polls??

    And as far as an audit of the results, has "ask questions" ever been a recount observer? I'll match Oregon's system (yes, I have been a recount observer) against the electronic voting machines without a paper trail any day. And no, I do not believe that an electronic voting machine system with the most perfect exit poll ever devised being done outside the polling place is a substitute--you can't force people to answer exit polls.

    I'll bet "ask questions" can't tell us the first Sec. of State to oversee a vote by mail election.

    Might I point out that we did not go in one step from 100% polling places to 100% vote by mail?

    As I recall, it was special elections first, followed by the Dec. primary and Jan. special elections in 1995-6 special election to replace Packwood (real concerns about reaching polls if there were a snow storm in a rural area).

    It was a real pain when there were many absentee ballots and a polling place election. The only reason I voted in the polling place back then is that so few did I thought the ladies at the local school would like to see someone come thru the door.

    In that sort of an election, the polling place votes must be counted, must go thru a process called "closing the polling books" (all those votes counted and the people who voted counted off) and only THEN are the absentee votes counted to make sure no one votes twice. A friend had to wait until Friday to know the results of such an election.

    As I recall, it was the Republicans maybe 20-25 years ago who started a big absentee vote recruitment. The some Democrats did it, as I recall. It was getting to the point over 50% (in some places over 75%)of the votes came in as absentee votes but they would still not be counted until after the polling place votes. And as I recall, the advocates of vote by mail were not fringe ideologues, but county clerks and maybe the families of some elected officials who knew the flaws of the system. And yes, I believe the signature verification is more sound than what happens in a polling place.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Thank you Ms. Simonis for providing such a clear object lesson why VBM Is such an insecure way of running elections in a representative democracy: Oregonians who have drunk the Keisling kool-aid are blind to the actual problems.

    We'll not take up the question of how accurate the signature verification process actually is, suffice it to say that there are reasonable questions whether numbers about accuracy have any scientific basis at all.

    Let's start with your statement: "Actually, I've heard stories to the contrary that show our voter turnout here in Oregon is higher than other states." Whether turnout is higher here than elsewhere is irrelevant, and not the point I made: Namely, that VBM is not responsible for any significant fraction of that turnout differential. In 2003, the state commissioned the study "Five Years Later: A Re-Assessment of Oregon's Vote By Mail Electoral Process" by Dr. Southwell, Political Science professor at UO. There are various caveats you can read for yourself, but here is the key quote (p. 7): "A clear majority indicated that their level of participation stayed at the same level under vote by mail as it had been when elections were held at the polling place."

    Now, let's turn to your statement "It's pretty easy to tell if the person who voted was indeed the person who voted." Too bad the rest of your post rather uncritically repeats Keisling's and Bradbury's misleading speechifying and writings. If we generously assume that signature verification really is reliable (and that is not a scientific fact), that does not at all prove "the person who voted was indeed the person who voted". All signature verification proves is that the person who signed the envelope is the registered voter. Unless you are ominiscient, you have no way of knowing that the person who VOTED, meaning the person who actually marked the ballot, is the one who signed the envelope. I won't go into the various ways or reasons someone might mark the ballots of another, with or without their consent, It suffices to say that there is are good arguments to be made that the incidence is non-trivial, and that there is no scientifically sound way to investigate the level of such fraud since it requires one or more persons to provide evidence sufficient to convict them of a felony. At the polling place, the certainty approaches 100% that ballots of the same physical type as a VBM ballot will be marked to reflect the voter's desires. (Ignoring of course, comparable mis-marking error rates for both VBM and polling place elections using the same physical ballot style.) And even if a ballot marked by another reflects the voter's desires, this kind of "ends-justifies-the-means" defense of VBM is hardly compatible with a healthy democracy.

    The really major source of insecurity, however, is the fact that it is all but scientifically impossible to prove that every vote "cast" by VBM is counted. This is because with VBM, "cast" simply means rendering the vote to a delivery process which has no audit trail. When you vote at a polling place, you sign the roll and that becames an audit record against which the actual number of votes tabulated is (supposed to be) checked. No such audit record exists with VBM - the envelopes are not an equivalent audit record of ballots actually cast (rendered by the voter) because they don't arrive if the ballot doesn't arrive. A voter can later determine if the elections officers reflect a returned envelope for the voter to be sure. But there is no legal recourse to challenge an election even if elections officials show no returned ballot for 4%-5% voters who claim they voted, which typically is the margin of victory. By contrast, with a polling place election it is at least possible to construct a process which minimizes opportunities for ballot losses, and which affords front to back auditing procedures for detecting problems with ballot processing due to irregularities in handling or tabulation.

    Finally, as mentioned before there is no way to construct a credible exit poll with VBMs. Such polling is in fact a scientifically sound way to validate an election if the political will exists to do it correctly. Not surprisingly, Democrats and progressives have marched right along with the media and the whacked-out right in the stupid parade to undermine the validity of exit polling rather than insisting that we have improved and valid exit polling as another audit check on the actual tabulation.

    As the Southwell report shows (p. 7), "neither of the two major parties have much to lose or gain from vote by mail". At the bottom line, the minority of people who self-report as voting more often do so only because they find it "more covenient to vote under a system that does not require them to be physically present on 'the first Tuesday after the first Monday", the academic way of politely saying "lazy" at least with regard to electoral duties. (Due to the much smaller numbers, a legitimate and secure absentee voting system could easily accomodate those who genuinely cannot go to a polling place due to infirmity or out-of-state absence).

    No matter how politicians like Keisling, Kulongoski, and Bradbury shovel it for their own political ends, chosing convenience over secure elections is hardly an expression of true Democratic or progressive values. Nor is the way for us to take back our democracy from the radical right.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    To LT:

    Yes, I voted in the elections you cite and elections before and after. Also, over the years I have been a poll watcher, a count observer, and even worked in a campaign that contemplated calling for a recount. I am well aware of the mechanics of running and counting elections, so much so that at the time my overwhelming reaction was how poorly run the absentee system was in Oregon, and that it was axiomatic that Oregonians would insure that such a poor system became the norm by making the whole system vote-by-mail. (It's safe to predict that those who make bad decisions will generally continue to make bad decisions).

    Citing a journalist such as Jeff Greenfield who evidences no particular technical expertise, or even any particular intellectual depth in his analyses, as a source to rebut the soundness of properly done exit polling hardly does you any credit L.T. But if it makes you feel good, do it.

    Contrary to the bloviating of innumerate journalists and apparently people like LT who prefer fiction to fact, properly done exit polling is one of the few practical, scientifically sound way to independently audit an election. There are serious unanswered scientific questions about both the 2000 and 2004 election counts. Contrary to popular belief, the private company that did the 2004 exit polling DID NOT provide any explanation of why their work was wrong. Rather they deceptively offered several unproven (and later disproved) hypothesis and most of the media and public simply lacked the intellectual skills to understand the difference.

    For readable and intelligent discussion of the facts and science of why the exit polls served their audit function in those elections, (meaning they highlighted an illegitimate discrepancy between the votes actually cast and the reported counts), see


  • LT (unverified)

    Sarcasm seldom changes minds. But if someone thinks they can win an argument with a crack like "Oregonians who have drunk the Keisling kool-aid are blind to the actual problems." more power to them.

    My county clerk supported Vote By Mail. He was a recognized expert by the time he retired.

    But I guess there are some people who think blogging and exit polling are the answer to everything.

  • Askquestions1st (unverified)

    To E. B.,

    Well shucks E.B., you really got the upper hand in the debate over non-partisan primaries with that one.

    Hint 3: The case in question is from 1997-1998 and Sam Reed, Phil Keisling's latest best bud, demeaned critics who warned him his psycho system would be struck down on this statutory basis as soon as it was passed even if it survived constitutional challenge.

    Since E.B. doesn't like to be challenged in this way, that will be the end of it and folks will have to hit Westlaw and the internet if they care.

    A truly non-partisan primary (whatever that means) for a partisan federal office should be struck down as just being a deceit to evade constitutional protections. (Again not that it will because the right wing courts would certainly be happy to standby and let "Blue Oregon" self-destroy our own political effectiveness). The winning candidate apparently would have to defraud the voters by not declaring a party affiliation until after the election. Now that's a good system for solving the problems we have with voters not trusting politicians, don't you agree?

    For those who didn't follow the Washington fiasco, the reason that Reid pushed it was that the right-wing populist Grange wanted to rebuild it's vanished political power, and Reid saw a chance to hitch his dead-end political career to that wagon. Not surprising then that Keisling would try to pull the same trick here given his current political status. And sadly it wouldn't be too suprising if "progressives" drank the right-wing kool-aid here like they did in Washington so that we have to waste resources in the courts to undue the mess that would be better spent on good causes like health care and civil rights.

  • LT (unverified)

    Ask Questions provides a link which is supposed to prove a point. The link is to a blog which does not have an "about" section ( such as the "What is Blue Oregon" at the top of the home page).

    So, a blogger who expects us to believe a source we cannot identify. Interesting. Perhaps the first question we should ask is who is behind the blog quoted. Or is that a secret?

  • askquestions1st (unverified)


    You have gained the upper hand on this subject with the sarcasm parry.

    And citing the support of a purported "expert" like you County Clerk, rather than the expert's arguments, is a logical argumentation fallacy known as argumentum ad verecundiam or "Appeal to Authority".

    But what is really interesting is that you think this is about trying to change someone's mind. The fact is, in politics and particularly on emotive issues such as VBM, people make up their mind very quickly for irrational (and not in the pejorative sense) reasons. In most cases, no amount of sound logical argumentation is going to change their minds. The best one can hope for is that those who haven't already made up their minds might appreciate sharp debate as helping them find out things they didn't know.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)


    The Yurica report is well known in progressive circles. But once again, you also apprently don't read. What that page has is links to the major academic studies that are completely sourced and as such is just a convenient bridge page to the substance.

    Happy now for the explicit instructions on how to use links?

  • Duh! (unverified)

    Dear LT: I was amused by your insecurity about quoting blogs. This should help ease your troubled mind:

  • jrw (unverified)

    askquestions1st writes: Finally, as mentioned before there is no way to construct a credible exit poll with VBMs. Such polling is in fact a scientifically sound way to validate an election if the political will exists to do it correctly. Not surprisingly, Democrats and progressives have marched right along with the media and the whacked-out right in the stupid parade to undermine the validity of exit polling rather than insisting that we have improved and valid exit polling as another audit check on the actual tabulation.

    Clearly, despite askquestions1st much-vaunted experience, said person's never heard about the problems caused by people lying to exit polls.

    I don't trust exit polls, and I think they're nothing more than a media hype to work around limitations on announcing results before voting polls have closed. There is also nothing to stop people from running a campaign to skew exit poll results by encouraging people to lie to the exit pollers about their votes--way back in 1992, a fellow campaign worker and I concluded, based on our observations and actual results, that people were lying to us in our phone polls.

    No form of voting is completely perfect or without coercive elements. Anyone who makes any other claims is simply whistling in the dark.

    And another hoot:

    For those who didn't follow the Washington fiasco, the reason that Reid pushed it was that the right-wing populist Grange

    Boy oh boy, either the Grange has changed character pretty drastically from when I knew it, or else we've got someone on the investor-owned-power side of things trying to paint with stuff that looks an awful lot like mud. The Grangers I've known have been public power (as in PUDs) oriented and progressive Dems. Very few of the public power proponents I've known would qualify as right-wing sorts, and, while they're populists, not all populism runs to the right-wing side of things.

    Hmm. What's the real agenda here?

  • gay video (unverified)


  • JTT (unverified)

    Just wondering why Askquestions thinks (s)he needs to be a condescending and presumptuous a**hole in order to "win" an argument. It just makes you sound like a teenager who isn't getting what he wants. Didn't your mother ever slap you if you used that tone? You have some good things to say, just feel free next time to get off your horse and speak to others as though they were actual human beings. Thanks.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    The more 'askquestions1st' bloviates, the more obvious is his overriding motive to inflate his ego. Who cares what they write, whoever they are?

    I care deeply about election mechanics, but will not take in such bilious ranting for any end.

  • LT (unverified)

    Dear DUH!

    So, a mother and daughter write the blog. They hate the animosity of Rush Limbaugh and describe themselves as "She'd like you to know that we're just plain ordinary born again Christians!" I wonder which "progressive circles" read that on blog on a daily basis--don't recall it being quoted here before.

    Ask questions doesn't seem to proofread (or really believes that it should read "you county clerk" rather than your county clerk).

    I do know how to use links, just choose not to believe something just because it is an academic study on a website. Take a class sometime on evaluating academic studies on websites, as I did, and maybe you will change your mind.

    If someone wants to believe academic studies over the people who actually do the work to put on elections, that is fine with me.

    And I am free to agree with Ed Bickford rather than Ask Questions.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    My, my, some Oregon progressives here have really thin skins. (Although I'm dubious some of the folks posting are really progressives.)

    The facts stand, if anyone has alternate information that can be tested for logical coherence and scientific validity, feel free to put it out for everyone to investigate for themselves.

    Y'all are certainly are free to put you fingers in your ears and your cover your eyes to ignore the science of properly done exit polling and election security. And you can ridicule the messenger who points you to the facts. But that doesn't leave you much on which to defend your position beyond some variant of that old bumpersticker: "God (substitute your choice here) said it, I believe it, that settles it".

    Now that is an effective political strategy. Oh yeah, I forgot, it is. And the fact that that approach to the world hasn't lost ground in Oregon was the premise that started this thread. Apparently at least a vocal segment of the "progressive" community is every bit as fundamentalist as those other types of fundamentalists. They are just our fundamentalists, eh?

    There is nothing inherently noble about populism. Sometimes populist instincts lead the body politic to act wisely, and sometimes they lead it to act like a dumb mob. Recognizing the difference is what progressives should be all about. The unrebutted facts cited suggest that VBM and non-partisan elections, at least in the form they have taken, are in the "dumb mob" category. What and why the Grange was as it was in the past is irrelevant to what the Grange is today in Washington. (Anybody know if the Grange is working with Keisling here?)

    P.S. Katherine Yurica is most noted for her discussions about the Christian Dominionist movement, also known as the "Constitution in Exile" movement. Those fundamentalists have been moving legislation through the U.S. House which says judges must conform their rulings to the Bible (they didn't specify which translation.) The fact she hasn't been mentioned here may have more to do with limits on the knowledge of posters here rather than the validity of the information she gathers and disseminates.

  • LT (unverified)

    For all we know, "ask questions" is a southerner and perhaps someone who works for an exit pollster or maybe Diebold?

    Doubting people are progressives is not the way to win friends and influence people, but perhaps that is not the goal of someone who would say

    Y'all are certainly are free to put you fingers in your ears and your cover your eyes to ignore the science of properly done exit polling and election security.

    Or maybe "ask questions" and Bailie are friends.

  • Duh! (unverified)

    LT, Wow! Are your true colors are beginning to show? Or am I imagining your intolerance of Southerners, born-again Christians, and mother-daughter blog teams? I don't know many progressives who would consider themselves to be bigots. Maybe you should re-evaluate your self-identification as a "progressive".

    P.S. I don't know about "askquestions", but it is never my goal to ingratiate myself to bigots.

  • LT (unverified)

    This is supposed to be a "gather around the water cooler" blog.

    Somehow, I don't think refusing to give unconditional acceptance to a blog I never heard of before makes me a bigot in the dictionary definition of a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices

    But then, maybe some people are more interested in insults than in winning over people ask questions.

    Somehow, I don't think questioning the wisdom of exit polls (which I have been doing since before this or any other blog existed) qualifies as bigotry.

    But then, I think for myself--what a concept!

  • (Show?)


    You do indeed ask a lot of questions, though I have a hard time thinking they're neutral inquiries. I'd trust your opinion more if you didn't hide it behind a bunch of questions. Way upthread you addressed a post to me that had nothing to do with my comment on this thread. Nor, it seems by cursory scanning, have any of your subsequent comments.

    Care to take a whack at the post itself?

  • Duh! (unverified)

    LT, I was using a colloquial definition of "bigot":

    a person who is obstinately devoted to his or her prejudices even when these prejudices are challenged or proven to be false, often engaging these prejudices in a rude and intolerant manner.

    1)You revealed your prejudices, and 2)passive aggression is rude.

    Also, you stated:

    "This is supposed to be a "gather around the water cooler" blog."

    You may like to think you can control the way other people communicate, but, get can't. (BTW, that's part of what makes you come off as passive aggressive.)

  • Duh! (unverified)

    At any rate, back to some substance. Maybe I can get some real "schooling" on exit polling. My question is this (and I'm being sincere): Without exit polls, how can we trust the vote count? I tend to think of exit polls as sort of a public audit. If the exit polls are too far off the count, then that makes people take a closer look at the process. Up the thread, someone mentioned that they don't trust exit polls because they think people lie (and presumably that's why the count is significantly off of the vote). But what if they are telling the truth and the count is wrong? People are so afraid of being called conspiracy nuts, but in truth, conspiracies happen every day. It only takes two people to commit a conspiracy. Some thoughts here?

  • LT (unverified)

    From an actual voter:

    Someone I know who lives in California had this on their blog about the recent California election:

    We had electronic voting for the first time. It was easy to use and fast. A roll of paper tape, sort of like a cash register tape but with better printing, left a paper trail that rolled back up into the machine after giving me a chance to verify that it recorded my vote accurately. It was a good system. But if it hadn't been for the paper roll, I would have asked for a paper ballot as the only way to assure an accurate record of my vote.

    ~~~~~~~~~ As for an audit of voting, we have paper ballots in Oregon. The signatures are checked before the votes are counted. We have gotten rid of punch card ballots. We have a better recount system in this state (my friends and I have participated) than Florida,Ohio, lots of other states. If someone doesn't like the way their election officials (county/state) run elections, they should campaign for a replacement at the next election.

    I went to a meeting once where a video was shown. It had little relationship to the experience my friends and I have had as recount observers. But the people presenting the video and running the meeting were of the opinion "distrust your election results unless there is proof to the contrary". There were people at the meeting who told the people running the meeting the details of how elections are run locally, and the safeguards in place, their personal experience. There was an honest difference of opinion at the meeting. I don't think that makes anyone at that meeting a bigot.

    But I have known too many exit polls to be wrong to put my unquestioning faith in them. How do we know that a representative sample answers the exit poll rather than saying "go away and quit bothering me"? If being skeptical of exit polls (and trusting actual election workers who I know) makes me a bigot, then I plead guilty.

    But I doubt the people who have been pollwatchers and recount observers (I was a volunteer on a recount which came out a 330 vote margin statewide, our side lost, but we all had faith in the final result) over the decades would consider me a bigot just because I have absolute faith in very few things, and exit polls ain't on that list.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    To Jeff Alworth:

    Thanks for your invitation to address your post again. My main point at the time was that personally I just don't find Oregonians or Washingtonians to be more informed than people elsewhere. I do find them to hold a different set of views than people in other parts of the country, and with a degree of critical analysis that is no more than on a par with people elsewhere.

    Although the South westward to Texas and the Northwest are both quite accurately described as "populist", the populism Bush appealed to just reflects different localisms. (From here on for expository convenience I'll lump Texas into the "South" even though true Southerners and Texans would be enraged). And I should note Bush clearly is not a populist, he just understands how to appeal to populist instincts that more often than not are just reflexive.

    That Bush's numbers haven't declined as much here as elsewhere arguably demonstrates that people actually are more informed in those places in this sense: The change demonstrates that the information which has come out directly relates to the values by which people in those places chose candidates, and clearly they are paying attention to the news. Here, people could either support Bush for different reasons, or relatively speaking they have actually paid less attention or the numbers would have dropped proportionally here. There is not enough information to judge.

    The support for VBM and non-partisan primaries strongly suggests a significant lack of critical thinking when it comes to politics here: The limited available evidence shows people chose and like VBM almost solely because it is convenient. This is regardless of the facts that VBM has not significantly increased turnout (which is how Keisling peddled it), and that properly conducted VBM elections are less secure than properly conducted polling-place elections. And as I noted, VBM is arguably fatally insecure. There is no legal recourse for overturning a VBM election even if a large number of voters later find out the registrar has no record of their ballot being received, and there is no way to build a credible audit system for a VBM election because such a system must start with scientific exit polling and continues with ballot capture and handling mechanisms which separate the act of casting a ballot from the ballot itself. Not to be repetitious, but trading convenience for a secure election hardly can be argued as evidence of being politically aware.

    Early evidence is that non-partisan primaries will also pass unless a very different dialog happens here than happened in Washington, because they seem to embody an essentially Northwestern populism that misatakenly views political parties as somehow thwarting the will of the people. The fact is, however, that any group of people in a populist act can form a political party. (The Republican party itself was a populist reaction to slavery.) In both Washington and Oregon a new party can get on the general election ballot exceedingly easily. Furthermore, if people want to make it even easier for a new party to get on the general election ballot, they can even use the populist mechanism of referendum to make it so rather than pass Keisling's deceptive initiative to disenfranchise organized parties. So if a populist majority truly believes that the two major parties and cast of minor parties (Greens, Libertarians, etc.) on the ballot in a typical election are the problem, they face no obstacle in forming a new majority party and getting their parties candidates elected. In view of this, the extent to which people support non-partisan primaries here once again cannot be argued to be evidence of political awareness.

    I will wrap this up with the answer to the question I posed with three hints: The state is Lousiana, the cases are Foster v. Love, Love v. Foster, and the U.S. Election Code makes it illegal for any state to declare a winner in an election for Federal office before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Although the Lousiana top-two "open" primary for Federal offices was struck down because they declared a winner for the office if a candidate received sufficient votes in the primary, the court cited the legislative intent of the law as being to prevent voters in other states from being influenced by the knowledge that a party will in fact win a Federal office in some state before the appointed day in November. So any system which makes it possible for two candidates from the same party to advance to the general election would be illegal.

    Reed and Keisling are trying to get around this by claiming to concoct a truly non-partisan election in which there are no political parties. Reed failed. Aside from the fact it is a bad idea for the reasons cited earlier, if Oregonians did put such a system into place it would at least be a fundamental deceit against the voters. All Federal offices are unavoidably partisan, and are so by formal rules in both chambers of the Congress. For Oregon's Presidential electors to cast Oregon's electoral votes, they must declare which partisan candidate they support on the ballot. Similarly, for Oregon's legislators to even get seated on committees they must make it known to which party they pledge allegiance. So officeholders would have to swear party allegiance to everyone in the country except Oregonians, and they would be prevented by election law from doing so to Oregonians. Now that sounds like a brilliant system doesn't it? (Hopefully if Keisling is successful, the court would simply strike down such a primary as being nothing more than a fraud and a deceit to circumvent the election law.)

    And by the way, because Louisana voters in a populist act refused to obey the court and establish a legal election system, the court took control of their elections for Federal offices and established the November "general" election as top-two "primary" for those Federal offices. If no one wins a majority in November, they have a runoff in December. This is why we never know who wins in La. on general election night. Observers all agree this fiasco further undermines the power of Lousiana federal officeholders. In the Washington election, Lousiana officials were quoted repeatedly as asking why Washington would even think about choosing their abysmal system in view of the law and consequences.

    More than 'nuff said.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    To L.T. and Duh:

    First, please re-read why our VBM audit system is not an audit system despite what LT and a previous poster says. All our VBM system does is audit there is some (unknown) probability that the person who signed the envelope is on the voter rolls: It DOES NOT even presume to audit that the person who marked the ballot is on the voter rolls because it is a fact that there is no way to prove or even infer that the person who marked the ballot is the one who signed the envelope. Why is that critical distinction so hard to grasp? (We can defer the separate argument about the validity of signature verification until another time since it in fact is all but irrelevant as to whether VBM elections are secure.) Because of that, counts and recounts in Oregon VBM truly are just the illusion of a credible and secure election system. Whether people want to believe the results for whatever reason they choose is another matter entirely, it is just a fact that their belief is not well-founded.

    With regard to scientific exit polling. It is a mathematical fact that a properly done exit poll accurately reflects the actual vote count, and it is also a fact that is easy to do proper exit polling. Properly done exit polling both choses the precincts where the polling takes place such that the mathematics guarantees the final adjusted sample is representative, and includes mechanisms that proceed from mathematical fact for identifying invalid sampling. The cited academic reports goes into these mathematical issues with regard to the 2000 and 2004 elections and the conclusions cannot be rebutted except by pointing out the problems in those scientific analyses. The populist tendency to implicit regard such scientific analyses as being "elitist" and reject them is also an unfortunate fact as this thread demonstrates.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    It's amazing how so many opinions can spring from so little information. AQ1st's supports his contention that mail balloting does not effect turnout with:

    "Five Years Later: A Re-Assessment of Oregon's Vote By Mail Electoral Process" by Dr. Southwell, Political Science professor at UO. There are various caveats you can read for yourself, but here is the key quote (p. 7): "A clear majority indicated that their level of participation stayed at the same level under vote by mail as it had been when elections were held at the polling place."

    It is quite silly to rely on self reporting of behavior when accurate statistical data exists on an issue. Look to this analysis, more recent, which is based on voting data, not opinion polling:

    Vote by mail increases turnout, perhaps by as much as 10%. However, the turnout increases result from the retention of existing voters and not from the recruitment of new voters into the system, and the increase is noticeable only in low profile contests. There is no evidence that it provides any partisan advantage. In summary, there is some evidence that VBM results in a small increase in the size of the electorate, and no evidence that it changes the composition of the electorate.

    The evidence on ballot integrity is more positive. Analyses of VBM by two separate academic teams concluded that VBM (and absentee balloting systems more generally) result in a more accurate count. Despite having moved to an all by mail voting system in 1998 and having been a battleground state in the last two presidential elections, Oregon has been relatively free from the controversies that have dogged some absentee ballot systems.

    from Voting Integrity and voting by Mail: The Oregon Experience

    So, it seems that mail balloting increases turnout in some cases and is more secure than other vote counting systems in use. It is cetainly not perfect, but at a time when election validity is seriously questioned by tens of millions of Americans, Oregon's system looks pretty good.

  • (Show?)

    Ask, that's a huge amount of speculation you're using to refute my sole instance of speculation. Are Oregon voters really more informed? Maybe not. I'd argue that voters are always more well informed in states where there is a healthy debate going on, and Oregon certainly qualifies. Much of Red America has been in dittohead mode for five years and is just now considering the reality that Bush may have lied. It's hard to imagine Oregonians not being aware of that argument.

    But I admit that's speculation. My main objection to the data in the initial post is that Bush's approval has slipped six points since the election, and it's hard to call that an improvement. It's just relatively low slippage.

  • (Show?)

    hmm... should I weigh in? I wrote the report cited by Jeff. Thanks for the cite, by the way.

    Point 1: we have very little evidence of widespread election fraud in this country. Casting a false ballot is a Class C felony, and you are in serious jeopardy of being put into the slammer if caught.

    While it is true that there is no good reason not to have as secure an election system as possible, we also have to consider other issues, such as ballot access, race ethnic and class equity, cost, and efficiency (you don't want a system that takes forever to return a result).

    Yes, I know there have been high profile cases that will undoubtedly be cited here, but it is their very exceptional quality that needs to be noted.

    Re: VBM. The security of the VBM ballot has concerned me; however, note that the ballot as currently constituted is about as secure as ballots everywhere else. Yes, in most localities you show up in person, but you do not show an ID, you sign a book but no one checks your signature. At least in Oregon, each signature is checked.

    My report makes clear that the security of the ballot is not the main issue I raise with VBM--instead, it is the damage that VBM (and other convenience voting systems) do to the community act of an election, with attendant damage to a society's stock of social capital.

    Re: exit polls. There are increasing numbers of voters who do not cast ballots at the precinct. In Washington State, over 75% cast absentee. In CA, it is over 30%. In many other states, it is well above 20% (see the map at Unless we rein this in, exit polls cannot serve as scientifically valid checks on precinct results.

    It is not "easy" nor cheap to conduct a good exit poll. Up to now, exit polls have been conducted by commercial entities whose main interest is in seeing a quick story for the evening news. To rely on these as some sort of check on the democratic election system strikes me as bizarre.

    The reports cited above, which claim that the discrepancy between the exit polls (particularly in Ohio) and the official results are evidence that the election was tainted or stolen, have been refuted. See the website for the best review (follow links to Mebane, Sekhon, Stewart, CalTech/MIT Voting project, and others). An upcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly deals with the same question.

  • Duh! (unverified)

    Regarding Paul's statement:

    "It is not "easy" nor cheap to conduct a good exit poll. Up to now, exit polls have been conducted by commercial entities whose main interest is in seeing a quick story for the evening news. To rely on these as some sort of check on the democratic election system strikes me as bizarre."

    Why does it strike you as bizarre that the Fourth Estate would act in a role of keeping the democratic election system in check?

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    I was going to answer the previous posters, but since Dr. Gronke weighed in, and I mostly agree with his points, I will simply respond to his post.

    My point about VBM first and foremost was in fact precisely what he argues in his post: He is most concerned with "the damage that VBM (and other convenience voting systems) do to the community act of an election, with attendant damage to a society's stock of social capital. The "community act of voting" is a vague concept, however, which requires explanation as to why that even matters. That these systems undermine the salutary social effect of focusing the nation's attention for one day on the most important duty of citizens in a representative democracy, and make it all but impossible for candidates to conduct a serious campaign which comes to a natural coda on election day, is something that I agree with but feel should go without saying to an audience that views itself as progressive, civic-minded, and of above-average intelligence. Demonstrating why such systems cause those obvious things is the work that takes guts, because that requires demonstrating that the facts contradict the stated motive of proponents who defend their support as being civic-minded. More specifically, this requires showing that the acceptance of such systems is overwhelmingly due to convenience, and that arguments they are secure are deceptive. The arguments and evidence I cited speak to both those points and Gronke seems to agree. I also agree that there are other issues which must be addressed in building a fair and secure election process, but my point here is that there is no a priori reason to believe those who vehemently advocate the superiority of a terminally flawed system like VBM are capable of addressing the even more difficult issues Gronke properly raises.

    Gronke also notes the security of VBM does concern him. Indeed he concludes his paper by noting "The Commission expressed concern, however, over the potential for fraud and coercion under systems which lack the 'fundamental privacy of the voting booth'.” I would just add that it strains credulity to assume that someone who allowed someone else to actually mark their ballot, say a family member or someone else who has convinced them to 'vote' a certain way, is going to lodge a charge and testify in court - especially since that would also expose the person who allowed another to mark their ballot to a criminal penalty. And no secured ballot submission process or amount of signature verification can insure and prove that the person who marked the ballot is the person who signed the envelope. I commend the last two paragraphs on page 4 of his paper to the reader who wants to gain a fuller appreciation of the reasons to be concerned about ballot security in VBM elections.

    Finally, though, I do have to take issue with Gronke's framing of and assertions about exit polls. First, to the extent his assertions are directed at me, and I admit his phraseology is ambiguous, it is not an accurate reflection of the position I have unambiguously stated here. My previous posts all asserted the usefulness and validity of "properly done exit polling", not exit polling in general. Far from being bizarre, such exit polling is recognized to be an important check on the democratic election process. From his comments, it is not clear whether Gronke is arguing against the fact that in the hands of competent statistician sometimes even a poorly done exit poll can still be irrefutable evidence that there is a problem with the final tabulation. The cited academic studies largely fall into that category. They don't purport to prove what the spread should have been between two candidates, and therefore who was the winner in a close election, only that the reported spread is so mathematically improbable that it should not be accepted without further investigation.

    It is unclear which studies by the authors Gronke cites that he is actually referring to. The most probable ones do not in fact refute the main studies referenced in the Yurica report. Mebane is well known for rebutting Dopp's analysis of the 2004 Florida results on the Dixiecrat counties, but Dopp's work is not amongst those academic studies cited in the Yurica Report. Sekhon's work uses different methodologies than the Berkeley work on the 2004 Florida results cited in the Yurica Report, and as such is not a refutation but a competing hypothesis. Even so, the lead author Hout on the Berkeley paper pointed out that Sekhon did not in fact look at Broward and Palm Beach counties where the Berkeley team found the serious unexplained discrepancies.

    Stewart is with the Cal Tech/MIT Voter Project and that project is another matter entirely. The component Stewart is with is most frequently represented in public and publications by Ted Selker of MIT. By no coincidence, since both are engineering schools, the stated objective of the project with regard to election security issues is to develop and advocate for purely electronic voting systems (they are no fans of paper ballot based VBM), and to "educate" a non-technical lay public that these purely electronic systems should be trusted. Their argument is rebutted by a large number of technically qualified Computer Science and Electrical Engineering professionals, most notably Professors David Dill and Rebecca Mercuri, and specifically not embraced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers nor the Association for Computing Machinery. They are vehemently opposed to paper trails as being retrogressive, and assail critics who have pointed out in public debates that paper trails and recounts in disputed elections are in fact the ceremonial way that we as a society settle these matters --- not by trusting technocrats. None of their work I have reviewed even deigns to address the work of their mathematical and technical equals on these issues.

    Gronke has us all at a disadvantage by alleging that an upcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly also refutes the particular studies or others cited at this link:

    which deal specifically with the question whether the discrepancies between exit polls in Ohio or Florida and the reported tabulations are mathematically improbable. However, since the strong assertions he makes about the other four entities are questionable, prudence demands that we at least remain skeptical of his claim about POQ.

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