Its not proof of voter fraud -- at least not yet -- but it seems that somebody has some explaining to do about the election results from Florida. In a report released this morning, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say that George W. Bush received 130,000 more votes in Florida in 2004 than he should have received, and that the only real explanation has something to do with electronic voting machines.
Through multiple-regression analysis, the Berkeley researchers examined the increase in Bushs support, on a county-by-county basis, between 2000 and 2004. Their conclusion: A countys use of electronic voting machines resulted in a "disproportionate increase" in votes for Bush which "cannot be explained away by other factors."
The disparity between the votes Bush received and the votes statistical models said he should have received was largest in those e-voting counties where Al Gore was strongest in 2000: Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. Michael Hout, the Berkeley sociology professor who presented the researchers' findings today, said that he could not explain why the disparity was so high in counties that favored Gore in 2000, nor could he explain how the electronic voting machines might have over-counted Bush votes. But he said that theres virtually no possibility -- a one in 1,000 chance that he called "trivial" -- that the voting disparities arose by chance.
"Our approach is like a smoke alarm, and its beeping," Hout said on a call with reporters this morning. "We're calling on officials in Florida to investigate to see if there's a fire."
Hout said the researchers applied their same tests to electronic voting in Ohio and discovered no such disparities. And even if the Berkeley researchers are right about Florida, their numbers don't change the overall result of the election there. As things stand now, Bush won Florida by about 311,000 votes. If the 130,000 "extra" votes the Berkeley researchers have found were "ghost votes" that is, votes that were never cast but simply added to Bushs total then Bush's margin would drop to about 181,000 votes. But if the 130,000 votes were Kerry votes that somehow got switched to Bush votes, then Bushs margin in Florida would drop to 51,000.