- Why have exit polls historically matched election results?
How about this? It's all made up. It's a scam. A con. A fake. A fraud.
Since they first started "projecting" election night winners
in 1964, the major news networks have never provided any 'hard' evidence
that they actually conducted any exit polls, at all. Researchers and activists
who point to the disparity of the early exit polls and the 2004 election
results, have failed to consider the obviousóthat exit polls never
existed to begin with.
- That was the conclusion of the late-Collier brothers,
authors of the book, VoteScam: The Stealing of America. In 1970, Channel
7 in Miami projected with 100 percent accuracy (a virtual impossibility)
the final vote totals on Election Day. When the Colliers asked the networks
where they got their exit poll data, both Channel 3 and Channel 7 claimed
that the League of Women Voters sent it in from the precincts. But, the
League's local president tearfully denied it, saying, "I don't want
to get caught up in this thing." The broadcasters then told the Colliers
that a private contractor used the data from a single voting machine to
project the winners. But, the contractor said he got the data from a University
of Miami professor, who in turn denied it. In the end, the news broadcasters
appeared to have pulled the polling numbers out of thin air.
- Not much has changed since then. According to their website,
The National Election Pool (NEP) was created by ABC, AP (Associated Press),
CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC to provide tabulated vote counts and exit poll surveys
for the 2004 election. These six major news organization appointed Edison
Media Research and Mitofsky International as the sole provider of exit
polls for the most important political races of 2004. The AP collected
the vote tallies.
- But actually, the networks and Mitofsky have been collaborating
under different organizational titles, such as Voter News Service, since
1964. And the AP may be doing more than "collecting" vote tallies.
- Nothing about the 2004 election makes sense. The numbers
don't add up. The surveys don't match up. But, the networks have clammed
up. Despite mounting questions and controversy, the networks continue to
stonewall. Citing proprietary claims (something the voting machine companies
like to do), the NEP won't release the raw exit poll data. Okay. Maybe
they have a point. However, they also won't release any logistical information
either, particularly where and when the exit polling was conducted. And
that's definitely not cricket.
- John Zogby, president of Zogby International, a well-known
polling company, said that such complete non-transparency is a "violation
of polling ethics". Under the American Association for Public Opinion
Research code, Section III, Standard for Minimal Disclosure: "Good
professional practice imposes the obligation upon all public opinion researchers
to include, in any report of research results, or to make available when
that report is released, certain essential information about how the research
was conducted. At a minimum, the following items should be disclosed, Part
8óMethod, location, and dates of data collection."
- When looking at the data that the networks do provide,
things don't check out. According to the NEP website, 5,000 people were
hired for Election Day, 69,731 interviews were conducted at 1,480 exit
poll precincts. However, NEPs raw exit poll data has just been released
on the Internet by the alternative news magazine, Scoop. It seems legit.
It indicates that on November 2, the results of 16,085 exit poll interviews
were published by 3:59 pm, 21,250 interviews by 7:33 pm, and 26,309 by
1:24 pm on Nov 3 (which doesn't make sense, maybe they meant 1:24 am).
Anyway, that grand total comes to 63,664 interviews. But, that number may
not be right, either. Edie Emery, spokesperson for the NEP, wrote an email
to this journalist stating, "On Election Day, 113,885 voters filled
out questionnaires as they left the polling places." Where did that
number come from, I asked? No answer from Edie. She said that the networks
would make more information available in their "archives" sometime
in the first quarter of this year. That's not very timely. Perhaps, that's
- At any rate, it appears that nearly a third of the results
of the exit polls were not available until after midnight! Wow, Nellie!
What happened to the stampede to "project the winner" right after
the polls closed, like the networks used to do? What went wrong this time?
- And that's not the only mystery. It looks like Mitofsky/Edison
used two very different forms for their exit poll surveys. One survey is
about what you would expectóóaﾠdouble-sided single
sheet of paper that the voter is supposed to fill out. However, the other
form, which matches the Scoop data, is several pages long; it is huge.
It is impossible to believe that anyone would take the time or trouble
to answer all those questions on Election Day.
- And then there's the second half of NEP's role on Election
Day 2004. The NEP website states that vote totals were "collected"
from 2,995 "quick count precincts". I don't know what that means
either, because the NEP spokesperson refused to answer my questions. So,
I'll theorize. Does that mean that nearly 3,000 mainframe tabulating computers
were accessed directly by the AP? Although, the AP admits it was the sole
source of raw vote totals for the major news broadcasters on Election Night,
AP spokesmen Jack Stokes and John Jones refused to explain to this journalist
how the AP received that information. They refused to confirm or deny that
the AP received direct feed from central vote tabulating computers across
- Thankfully, American Free Press reporter, Christopher
Bollyn was in the right place at the right time on Election Night 2004.
He spotted an AP employee connecting her laptop to an ES&S computer
at the Cook County (IL) election headquarters. But, was she downloading
or uploading data? In an interview with this reporter, Bollyn said, "When
I asked the AP "reporter" if she had "direct access"
to the mainframe computer that was tallying the votes, she said yes and
then Burnham (a Cook County official) stepped in and re-asked my question
for me. Again the answer was, "Yes."
- I called Cook County this week and spoke with Cass Cliatt,
their spokesperson. She said that, after the polls close, any reporter
can use the county's "connector cables" that allow them to download
the latest vote totals. Cliatt said that this did not constitute a connection
to the mainframe computer. She did admit that AP employees were there on
Election Night and had cables dedicated to them specifically. But, she
again insisted that the AP cables were not connected to the mainframe computer.
- "Cook County had a complete press room set up in
the back room where there were about eight computer terminals hooked up
to the Internet. So why was this AP woman and her helper, a man, setting
up their laptop in the front room with wires that came across the counter
only for them? And the real question is why was Scott Burnham so dedicated
to defending this AP ëreporterí and not allowing me to talk
to her? He did not care if I talked with the Fox News guy or the CLTV people.
It was only the AP ëreporterí who was being protected. Scott
Burnham is David Orr's (county clerk) right hand man and PR person. What
was the county clerk's office trying to hide? I have never seen something
like that and Burnham was very firm about thatóI was not allowed
to talk to the AP reporter directly. As you recall, I saw she had more
important things to doóshe was in deep into the middle of a novel
as the first numbers came in from Cook County," wrote Bollyn in an
email to this journalist.
- I asked computer security specialist, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri,
a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University,
for her reaction. Was it a good idea to allow reporters to "hook up"
to a cable in order to access vote tabulation data? She didn't think so.
"It's not as if they are handing them a CD with the data on it. That
would be the safest thing to do and probably faster. Why would they allow
them to connect up?" she asked.
- So, what's really going on? Do we have an unholy alliance
between those who control the computerized voting machines (including election
officials) and the major news networks? State election officials across
the country have outsourced the tabulation of the vote to a handful of
Republican and foreign-owned corporations. There is no meaningful public
oversight of the count. No one knows if votes are being added, subtracted,
or switched. Meanwhile, the news networks publish exit polls numbers, but
refuse to offer any hard evidence that they have ever conduct any exit
polls at all.
- What if the polls are all a fake? What's the point? What
are the networks trying to accomplish? There are various possibilities.
But, I have my own theory. I think that the networks simply match their
bogus exit polls to extensive pre-election polling. Then, if someone wants
to rig an election and not raise red flags, the exit polls get tweaked.
That accounts for their great track record historically. Imagine the market
for that kind of service. Imagine the power the networks would have to
control legislation affecting their industryóand the industries
of their corporate parents. I must admit, until recently, I didn't factor
in the possibility that the networks had direct access to mainframe vote
tabulating computers, as well.
- On the other hand, what does it mean when the exit poll
system appears to break down, as it has recently? Maybe the networks are
not only engaged in selling a service, but executing a sort of "squeeze
play" to boot. For instance, in this past election it looked like
Kerry was going to win. Then everything changed. Maybe, deals were getting
cooked during the day. Mitofsky said that when all was said and done, everything
checked out fine; the exit polls matched the election results. Really?
Where's the proof?
- Over the years the Colliers tried in vain to pierce the
veil of secrecy surrounding the networks' Election Day operations. For
the 2002 and 2004 election, this journalist called the exit pollsters and
the networks and got the same stonewall. With the Justice Department intent
on burying its head in the sand, it will be up to all of us toóas
Reagan put itó"Tear down this wall".
- In the meantime, there's no good reason to believe exit
polls or election results. They're as fake as a $3 dollar bill and worth
about half as much.
- - Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists
on voting technology and democracy issues. Readers can find her articles
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