Part Four of “The War for History”: yes, the exit poll discriminated against dead voters

Had I known before late afternoon on election day, 27 December, that “the whole reason” for the USAID-IRI exit poll was “early intelligence for the Ambassador” rather than as a tool to deter and detect potential fraud (as our consultant from UCSD and I were explicitly told some weeks before) I might have made more note of the fact that the exit poll by design generally excluded non-living voters as it was based on live interviews of people who had personally come to the polling place and cast ballots.

Admittedly if the purpose of the exit poll was to predict who the ECK would determine to be the winner, as opposed to simply how living Kenyans voted, this was a serious limitation.

One specific idiosyncrasy that afternoon that was immediately salient was the issue of release to the Ambassador of preliminary numbers reported and collated as of two hours before the polls were to generally close.  I have no statistical reference or otherwise scientific and peer reviewed material to cite for this observation, but it would have been my seat-of-the-pants judgment as the “person on the ground” with some practical experience in campaigns and elections and even with “machine politics” that deceased voters have a pronounced tendency to vote last in sequence among the various voting blocs.

For those wishing to observe the voting process rather than influence it, there are two related reasons why you will not want exit poll numbers to “get out” to actors in the process before the polls close.  One is that potential voters supporting the candidate who is “behind” are perceived to be subject to being discouraged.  Even if this is not a big enough factor to “matter” in the primary race at issue, it has been seen to impact the outcome of other races on the same ballot.  Another is that some voters who might not otherwise elect to turn out may be spurred to action by the perception that their candidate is trailing.  The dead voters are one identifiable bloc that may be particularly susceptible to an appeal of this type.

At the time, I didn’t have any numbers or details to go on that would support a specific adjustment for dead voters in the exit poll.  Some months later the Kreigler Commission estimated a figure of 1.2M decedents who were registered to vote on election day; in January 2010 as discussed in a previous post, Undersecretary of State Maria Otero was headlined in the Kenyan press on a visit saying “we are aware that more than two million dead people voted in 2007”. 

Had these types of numbers been available to me on election day I would have understood the stakes that much better.  Even though this type of voting in the United States peaked before I was born, we can easily see empirical evidence in history of a pronounced tendency of the dead voter bloc to support the party which controls the electoral mechanism, in this case in Nairobi, the ECK.  With the kinds of numbers on the voting role, if ODM/Odinga had roughly six percent more live votes as reflected in the exit poll, the percentage of the deceased who needed to be inspired to cast ballots would be much lower than the overall turnout figures.

In corresponding with a diplomat from an allied country (one with which the U.S. has a mutual defense treaty) before the ECK decision I was told that his expectation was that Odinga would win by roughly five percent.  I replied that this was interesting as I had decided that roughly five percent was probably the minimum threshold for a margin for Odinga that would result in him being accepted as the winner by the ECK.  In hindsight I was probably “drinking the KoolAid” of democratization a bit myself.

 

 

Video from yesterday’s CSIS program on USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program–James Long discusses election monitoring work

Featuring:

Maura O’ Neil, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator, USAID

Thomas A. Khalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation, National Economic Council

James Long, PhD candidate in Political Science, University of California San Diego (UCSD), and from September 2012 Academy Scholar at Harvard University and an Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Washington

Moderated by

Daniel F. Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Economist’s Boabob Blog features UCSD work on “smart” election monitoring

More great work to fight election fraud from my former colleagues on the USAID/UCSD/IRI Kenya exit poll, Clark Gibson and James Long:

“African elections:  How to save votes”

COULD smartphones help reduce electoral fraud in Africa and in other regions? At a recent forum hosted by the Brookings Institution on the ways that wireless technologies are affecting politics in various countries, Clark Gibson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego (USCD), presented findings from experiments in Afghanistan and Uganda which suggest that they can. Local researchers were deployed to polling stations armed with digital cameras and smartphones to take photographs of the publicly posted election tallies. The research found that this alone can cut electoral fraud by up to 60%.

The experiment was first developed during the 2010 Afghan elections by James Long and Michael Callen, then UCSD graduate students, with funding from the Development Innovation Ventures section at the United States Agency for International Development. . . . The research concluded that as a result electoral rigging was cut by 25% in the polling stations in the treatment group and the theft of ballot boxes and other election materials was reduced by 60%.

Mr Gibson replicated the experiment during the Ugandan presidential election last year, using a bigger sample of 1,000 polling stations scattered all around the country.  .  .  . using a special app developed by engineers at Qualcomm, a big technology company based in San Diego, the researchers this time were able immediately to send their data back to a server at UCSD. Academics there could then check to see if the voting numbers had been falsified by looking for give away number-patterns. They found again that vote tampering and ballot-box theft were much lower among polling stations that had received warning that a photo would be taken of their tally than among those that did not.

The technology is relatively cheap—smartphones cost around $250—and allows  more locals to get involved in monitoring elections. There is a great hunger for democracy in Africa and elsewhere, says, Mr Gibson, you can tell just by looking at the queues of voters who turn out on election day. Nothing is more dispiriting than to learn that their vote has been manipulated.

Unfortunately we didn’t have funding for separate electronic verification efforts in Kenya in 2007, but this should be that much cheaper and more readily feasible in Kenya for 2012/13. Knowing what happened last time there is no excuse not to have digital image verification this time.

“Electoral Fraud and the Erosion of Democratic Gains in Kenya” — James Long of UCSD Center for Study of African Political Economy presents new draft paper on Kenyan election

James Long with whom I worked on the USAID/IRI/UCSD/Strategic exit poll has more detailed study of fraud in the 2007 Kenya elections along with further discussion of the exit poll and its handling.

Read Long’s working paper as presented May 1 to the Working Group in African Political Economy meeting at Pomona College.