Thursday, November 8, 2012

NEP, a Confidential News Consortium, Calls the Winners

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT: Question - What is the rationale for highly vulnerable electronic voting machines to rapidly count votes when elections are called based on projections and exit polling by the NEP?  And why is it so important to get such quick result in the first place?  Finally, if something did go wrong, how would we ever unravel this mess?  


by Bev Harris,

Perhaps one of the oddest moments of all during last night's live election coverage was what happened to Karl Rove on Fox Network News.

With Florida still too close to call and hundreds of thousands of votes still out in Ohio (including a large hunk of votes in Romney strongholds), and with a spread of about 100,000 votes separating the candidates in Ohio, Fox called Ohio for Obama. Karl Rove arranged to come on the Fox network to voice his rebuttal.

Now, whatever you think of Rove, I think most of us agree that he's a numbers guy. His numbers didn't support the calling of the state of Ohio at that point in time. When he explained his reasoning, the Fox anchor quickly shut him down. "It's a science" he was told.

Based not on actual votes, but on projections from a single private entity, the National Election Pool (NEP), we were all told what the election results were going to be. When Rove pulled out his notes and calculations, he was basically told "Shut up, this is a science."

But is that what your vote really is? A science project, to be viewed only by experts inside a nesting set of black boxes, completely out of public view?

If we are to have real self-governance, we need to be able to authenticate each essential step in our own elections -- without need for special expertise to explain to us what the result is. What more centralized, privatized form of declaring a result is there than to commission the NEP to provide a single set of statistics to ALL of the TV networks for a declaration of results without human eyes ever looking at a single ballot.

The media called the election in Tennessee just 11 minutes after the polls closed and by the way, exit polls had already been cancelled in Tennessee because, it was explained, everyone already knew who the winner was going to be so why bother with the expense. Even the voting machines, opaque and controlled by whatever their programmers put into them, had not yet issued results printouts. Is this the new, NEW method for pretending at democracy?

Washington State, where I live, is a forced absentee state, where 100% of the votes are now absentee ballots, which must be postmarked on Election Day. I placed my ballot in the post office at 2 pm. There are no exit polls, because there are no polling places. Apparently a few phone calls now substitute for actual exit polling (to people with land lines? That's an increasingly elderly demographic). Perhaps 40% of all ballots in Washington have not even been counted yet, but we've been told the results.

In California, typically 25% of the votes are counted after Election Day, yet results have been announced. That's a million uncounted ballots in Los Angeles alone. We have no clue what is on those ballots but we've been told not to worry about it. The stats guys have issued their verdict.

Forget voting machines, programmed by insiders to do whatever they do. Let's just skip counting the votes altogether and use statistics.

Creepy little way to run an election, if you ask me.

From Wikipedia: The National Election Pool (NEP) is a consortium of American news organizations formed in 2003 to provide "information on Election Night about the vote count, election analysis and election projections." See NEP's FAQ. Member companies consist of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. The organization relies on the Associated Press to perform vote tabulations and contracted with Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International to "make projections and provide exit pollanalysis." [see below]
The precursor was Voter News Service, which was disbanded in 2003, after controversies over the 2000 and 2002 election results. The NEP plan is largely the suggestion of CNN, which used Edison/Mitofsky as consultants in the past. Mitofsky headed the original pool that preceded VNS.
The organizers of the pool insist that the purpose of their quick collection of exit poll data is not to determine if an election is flawed, but rather to project winners of races. Despite past problems, they note that none of their members has incorrectly called a winner since the current system was put in place. [1] However, to avoid the premature leaking of data, collection is now done in a "Quarantine Room" at an undisclosed location in New York. All participants are stripped of outside communications devices until it's time for information to be released officially.

Warren Mitofsky (September 17, 1934 - September 1, 2006) was an American political pollster.
Mitofsky graduated in 1957 from Guilford College and was executive director of the CBS News election and survey unit from 1967 to 1990. He also previously served as an executive producer of CBS election night broadcasts.
Prior to CBS, Mitofsky worked with the Census Bureau where he designed a number of surveys. Along with Joseph Waksberg, Mitofsky is credited with developing an efficient method of sampling telephone numbers using random digit dialing, which has since been widely adopted as a sampling method. In 1999, the American Association for Public Opinion Research presented him with its lifetime achievement award for his "continuing concern for survey quality".
Mitofsky is credited with having invented the exit poll.[1]
In November 2004, Mitofsky was interviewed by PBS NewsHour regarding what went wrong with the accuracy of his exit polls for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Early poll results were leaked which showed John Kerry leading George W. Bush, conflicting with the final official outcome. Mitofsky said he suspected that the difference arose because "the Kerry voters were more anxious to participate in our exit polls than the Bush voters." He refused, consistently, to release precinct-level polling data from Ohio to researchers who maintained that the election results were fraudulent, and his own exit polls were a more accurate picture of the vote.
He died on September 1, 2006 in New York City of an aortic aneurysm, aged 71.[2]

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