Three little words: Citizen Exit Polling. Let's call it CEP for short.
It is so simple I don't know why citizens in every precinct in every state in America don't do it. Think we ordinary citizens don't know how? (Like we don't know how to count our own votes any more?) But I digress.
I watched the lone exit "professional" pollster for Edison/Mitofsky doing an exit poll in a South Carolina precinct on Jan 26, 08 for the Dem Primary. Then I watched volunteer citizen exit pollsters do it in Florida on Jan. 29, for the Dem and Repub primaries. What were the differences?
Which brings us to difference number one. The purposes of the two polling groups are not the same. The professionals are paid by mainstream media, also known as corporate media-- CNN, ABC, those guys-- for what purpose? To give us entertaining TV coverage on election night. Note how these exit polls always seem to match the official election results. They are "adjusted" by some statistical mathematics not many understand and then seem magically to match the percentages of the candidates "winning" and "losing."
But this SC poll wasn't just about who you voted for; it also asked your gender, race, party, and religious preference. Oh and if you thought Bill was important to Hillary's campaign... and other exciting questions like that. This professional poll was clearly for our entertainment in the form of armchair politics.
The citizens' exit poll in Florida was paid for by, oh wait! nobody, except for people putting in volunteer time and spending money out of their pockets to run off survey forms and signs. What was on these surveys? Who you voted for, how you voted on the property tax issue, and your name and signature, even. Signature? Well, that gets to the purpose of the citizens' poll. The group wanted to do an actual check and balance on the machine counts. Use an exit poll to validate the election. Then they went one step further: if they managed to get more votes for any particular candidate than the official results showed, then the surveys would become affidavits of voters in a legal challenge of the election.
So what is the purpose of a citizens' exit poll? Several purposes that I can think of; here's the first: check on the accuracy of an election. One exit poll at one location might not match perfectly the official results, but 35 exit polls in different counties would be expected to be much closer to the official results, if, of course, the official results are not rigged. If Edison/Mitofsky reports their results are "spot on" the official results and they used the same techniques as the citizens pollsters did, then why wouldn't the citizens' poll be just as accurate? Especially if the CEP got 75% of all the voters to participate?
Note that the professional poll did not randomly pick voters coming out any more than the CEP did. The SC pollster asked everybody she could get to participate. The most common criticism against exit polls is that more of a particular party persuasion might be inclined to participate, or a gender, or a race. This is why pollsters should also ask these traits on the survey. It was not as important to ask party preference in these two elections since they were primaries; candidates were competing within one party. Gender bias would have been a good thing to ask and race also, especially in the current crop of Presidential candidates. Bias toward the pollsters' perceived political leanings, their gender, or race might also possibly skew the outcome.
But the higher the percentage of participants, the more any skewing will disappear.
The professional pollster also wrote down, or attempted to, the race, gender, and age group of every voter who refused to participate. That would have been a good idea for the citizen pollsters to have done also. That way analysis could have been done to show if more of a particular gender, or race, or age refused to participate, compared to a listing of all the voters who voted at that precinct.
Another side effect of citizens' polling is to force honest elections. If anyone was thinking of rigging the software in a voting machine, or already had, they should be scared that the polling would reveal the fraud. How does the rigger know that the citizens are not going to get more total votes for a candidate than what is left in the machine count after a few have been fraudulently siphoned off? This is why the citizens' polls should keep the locations secret until the last minute, forcing riggers to scramble to un-rig precincts where they might be discovered.
It is very sad that the professional pollsters no longer seem to take seriously their job of validating the honesty of an election, but who is paying them to do that? This important gap in our system of checks and balances, the guts of a Democracy, is being filled by ordinary citizens, working for free, hiding their political leanings in order to fulfill a higher patriotic duty: trying to force our country to have honest elections again, with counting of ballots, even
if facsimile ballots, in full view of the citizenry. Come to think of it, the facsimile ballots may turn out to be the real ballots.