Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Tweedledum, Tweedledee: A Statistical Correlation of Ballot Challenges in the MN Senate Recount

Bookmark and Share

The frivolousness of some of the ballot challenges issued by the Norm Coleman and Al Franken campaigns during the U.S. Senate race recount has been well documented – both through the media’s publication of many such ballot scans as well as critical public statements of the campaigns by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

The idea that either campaign was issuing challenges based on a particular set of standards throughout the recount was dismissed early in the process when, as each day passed, the number of challenges issued increased from each campaign in a pattern that can only suggest mimicry. (Rising from approximately 2.5 cumulative ballot challenges per 10,000 ballots on Day 1, to about 3 on Day 2, to about 7.5 on Day 3, to about 12.5 on Day 4 to about 18 on Day 5 to about 21.5 on Day 6 to about 36 on Day 7; ballot challenges increased by both campaigns on each day during this span).

The most likely reason for this mimicry – regardless of whether one campaign initiated the process of an elevated number of ballot challenges early on or not – is that neither campaign wanted to appear to have lost votes at the end of the recount. That would be viewed as momentum – even if an artificially concocted momentum – that might be leveraged in the media and public to influence the outcome at the margins in the Canvassing Board process (or at any future court challenges). An influx in Franken challenges of (legitimate) Coleman votes was thus met by a nearly proportional increase in Coleman challenges of (legitimate) Franken votes in kind (and vice-versa).

The net result was a total of 6,655 challenges that were almost evenly distributed between the two campaigns: 50.7 percent by Coleman and 49.3 percent by Franken. Is this a coincidence? Consider this:

Smart Politics conducted a bivariate correlation to measure the strength of the relationship between the number of Coleman challenges in each county and the number of Franken challenges. The results were nearly as close to 1:1 as you will find in statistics:

The correlation of Coleman challenges and Franken challenges in the 87 counties is .977, significant at the .001 level. This suggests an extremely strong and positive relationship: the more one candidate issued challenges in a particular county, the more the other candidate responded likewise.

On the one hand, it makes sense there would be a strong correlation: one would expect counties with larger vote totals to have a larger number of challenges by each campaign. But the degree of similarity was sometimes jaw dropping:

· In Sherburne County: 434 challenges for Coleman (49.7 percent), 440 for Franken (50.3 percent)
· In Ramsey County: 213 challenges for Coleman (51.4 percent), 201 for Franken (48.6 percent)
· In Dakota County: 356 challenges for Coleman (48.0 percent), 386 for Franken (52.0 percent)

Moreover, the two campaigns had the exact number of challenges in 11 of the state’s counties: Big Stone, Chisago, Lake of the Woods, Lincoln, Norman, Otter Trail, Polk, Red Lake, Redwood, Rice, and Wadena.

But the mimicry did not end with the recount.

After Ritchie’s plea to the two campaigns to withdraw frivolous challenges, Franken announced last Wednesday he was withdrawing 633 challenged ballots. The Coleman campaign then responded on Thursday with an announcement it was withdrawing 650 ballots – nearly an identical number as Franken’s (though, perhaps not surprisingly, just a slightly larger amount to project an image that his campaign is just a tad less frivolous than Franken’s).

For all the reasons stated above we should not read too much into the fact that Coleman’s post-recount, pre-Canvassing Board margin (192 votes) is nearly identical to his margin before the recount began (206 votes). That said, it should also not be surprising – barring some unusual developments in the Courts or by the Canvassing Board – that Coleman emerge the victor by a similar margin.

Previous post: Pawlenty vs. the DFL: The Battle Lines Are (Gently) Drawn
Next post: Smart Politics to Live Blog Health Care Conference Featuring Governor Pawlenty

1 Comment


  • Great post on this undecided seat. It sounds like it's politics as usual. The more one candidate pushed (in this case challenges votes) the more likely his opponent will push back. Classic.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

    Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

    Political Crumbs

    Mary Burke: English First?

    While multiculturalism and bilingualism are increasingly en vogue in some quarters as the world seemingly becomes a smaller place, one very high profile 2014 Democratic candidate does not shy away from the fact that she only speaks one language: English. In an attempt to highlight her private sector credentials working for Trek Bicycle, Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke boasts on her campaign bio page how she made great strides in international business dealings...while only speaking English: "Despite not speaking a single foreign language, she established sales and distribution operations in seven countries over just three years." Note: According to 2010 Census data, nearly half a million Wisconsinites over five years old speak a language other than English at home, or 8.7 percent, while 4.6 percent of Badger State residents do not speak English at all.


    Does My Key Still Work?

    Much has been made about Charlie Crist's political transformation from Republican to independent to Democrat en route to winning the Florida GOP and Democratic gubernatorial nominations over a span of eight years. Party-switching aside, Crist is also vying to become just the second Florida governor to serve two interrupted terms. Democrat William Bloxham was the first - serving four year terms from 1881 to 1885 and then 1897 to 1901. Florida did not permit governors serving consecutive terms for most of its 123 years prior to changes made in its 1968 constitution. Since then four have done so: Democrats Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles and Republican Jeb Bush.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting