A new analysis of independent exit polls conducted in L.A. County at the November 2008 election indicates significant likelihood that the official vote counts are incorrect. It is indeed possible that the California state constitution was amended to strip marriage rights of some of the state's people as a result of vote counts that were incorrect and possibly even fraudulent.
A "no" vote for Prop 8 meant that you wanted marriage equality. In some places in Los Angeles, the difference between the official vote totals and this study were a not so alarming 2%, but in other places they approached a shocking 18%. Just to clarify, this study is saying that in some places the actual votes that people cast differed from what was recorded by the state by nearly 18%. And Prop 8 passed by a margin of less than 5% of the vote.
The study (which you can read for yourself here) was conducted through exit polls in Los Angeles. Although exit polls are used mainly to predict winners and can be unreliable, this one is different, as Brad Friedman explains:
The Election Verification Exit Poll (EVEP) itself was designed to address the propensity of voters to lie to exit pollsters, as has been suggested of late when official exit polls failed to match up with official results in recent elections. The EVEP was conducted anonymously. As voters exited the polling place, they were asked to fill out a simplified ballot echoing the votes they had just cast, and to place it into a locked box. Therefore, the ballots did not include any identifying information, and thus, those overseeing the poll --- at either the polling place, or later when the EVEP ballots were counted by hand --- would have no way to tie votes to voters. That process is in contrast with official media exit polling where pollsters directly ask voters to reveal how they voted.
The press release announcing the study explains why this is significant in the context of Prop 8 (if you can't already tell that serious doubts about an election's integrity that took away thousands of peoples' rights is a big deal):
The study reveals discrepancies between official results and exit poll results as high as 17.7%, with an average "within precinct disparity" of 7.75%, far outside the poll's margin of error. The study indicates that the vote against Proposition 8--and in favor of marriage equality--may have been vastly underreported in L.A. County. "There is no reason to assume the statewide results to be more accurate," said Judith Alter, whose group Protect California Ballots, carried out the polling in LA County, "given that the election systems used throughout the state are no less vulnerable to manipulation."
Phillips's analysis addresses four reasons the vote counts and the exit polling results could be mismatched: a basic flaw in exit poll methodology; many voters lying on the questionnaire; a non-representative sample of voters responding; or the official results being erroneous or fraudulent. He then thoroughly addresses the first three, leaving only erroneous or fraudulent results to account for the remaining outcome-altering discrepancy.
Even when compared to another controversial ballot measure, Prop 4, the numbers behind Prop 8 don't add up. From the study (their emphasis, not mine, this time):
Even with the data so normalized, the disparities remain too large to dismiss as random. The overall Proposition 8 disparity remains 5.74% (as opposed to 0.64% for Proposition 4 when normalized.)
This is an issue of both civil rights and the fundamentals of our democracy. From one perspective, the rights of many people were possibly stripped away completely illegitimately - not only were they taken away, but they were taken away through fraud, without the real consent of the people. Also, this is just another nail in the coffin of free and fair elections in the United States. If you needed any further, major proof other than the 2000 and 2004 "elections" that there are serious problems with election integrity in this country, this is it. Brad Friedman quotes the conclusions of the study on his blog, and they are more than appropriate here:
It is too late to change the official results of Proposition 8 but it is not too late to recognize the current vulnerabilities of computerized voting throughout the United States. Our election officials who have been entrusted with the responsibility to run transparent elections are not doing so; counting votes inside black boxes renders observation of the tabulation process impossible. Even the computer log books and the like are strictly off limits to examination. The candidates and the citizens cannot know that official election results are reliable.
Electronic election equipment remains in use despite persistent evidence of computer failures, election rigging and hacking, despite the control of our elections by equipment vendors with established partisan proclivities...Because verification by observation has been precluded by computerization, only indirect or statistical methods of verification are available.
The evidence, in this paper and elsewhere, is strong that computerized vote-counting cannot be trusted to support our democracy. Not only is further investigation warranted but a return to a fully observable vote-counting process is imperative. Our democracy will not survive if we cannot know that our election results are accurate and honest.
If you want proof that this is worrisome for our entire republic, just look to Massachusetts. Next week, there is a special US Senate election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. Polls have been varied, ranging from very close to a sure Democratic victory. If the Democrat loses, the Democrats will no longer have 60 votes in the Senate. But Diebold machines that the company itself has admitted don't meet federal standards are being used there. As Brad Friedman said, "more on that election soon, no doubt."
This is a pretty desperate situation. The good news is that there are things you can do about it.
- With regards to Prop 8, you can tell the California Secretary of State to investigate the election results here.
- Become a poll worker and make sure you know what you're doing and you know what to look for. If you live in Massachusetts, now is a perfect time to start getting involved! For more info on how to be an effective poll worker, you can start with this page. Signing up for it differs from county to county, so I can't link to any specific page, but it is very important and something that everyone who is able to do should do.
- Inform yourself. You can start by signing up for WasProp8Straight.or's email list, and from there you check out any number of great resources. The BRAD BLOG is an incredible election integrity news source, and so is Voters Unite!. The Velvet Revolution has a plethora of information on this, as does the Election Defense Alliance. And those are just a few places to start.
Thanks for reading and getting involved!