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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ohio oddity

Yesterday, Keith Olbermann (of MSNBC's "Countdown") reported an odd Ohio election result noted recently by Jesse Jackson. Concerning the four southwestern-most counties, which is basically Cincinnati and its surrounding suburbs, Reverend Jackson specifically said:
“We don’t want to be presumptuous, but these numbers in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties are suspicious.”
Something's rotten in the state of Denmark pointed me to Olbermann's post, and I emailed the Anonmyous RD blogger about what my research into the claim had turned up. Below, I've basically reproduced that email, though I've added some detail, reformatted it, and corrected a few minor errors.

Note also that Bob Fertik raised the issue on on November 22. He even has a link to a spreadsheet, though I didn't open it. Michael Froomkin links to another partisan blogger who has addressed the issue as well.

Specifically, the controversy concerns the vote totals earned by C. Ellen Connally in the four SW Ohio counties. Connally was running as a Democrat for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice. In some counties, she did much better versus her Republican incumbent opponent than did Senator John Kerry against his.

Connally is an African American woman from Cleveland who was running against Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. I found a website apparently dedicated to impeaching Moyer, but it seems to be a dead link. The complaint can found on a broader court watch website, but the charges are marshalled by a single individual from Columbus. I couldn't really find any other reason for Moyer's relative weakness as a candidate.

In any event, Moyer won the race fairly handily, 53.4% to 46.6%. Bush, by contrast, won by only 51% to 48.5% over Kerry. Well, those are the totals until the provisional and absentee ballots are added to the totals, apparently tomorrow.

The Moyer-Connally results were reported as 2.3 million to 2 million as reently as November 17.

For some time, the Presidential contest in Ohio has been reported as 2,796,000 Bush to 2,660,000 Kerry. Note that Bush beat Moyer by nearly half a million votes and Kerry outpolled Connally by 660,000 votes. In other words, as per usual, the presidential candidates received many more votes -- and Kerry did better relative to his Republican incumbent foe than did Connally.

So what was Jackson talking about?

To get the latest data, I looked at the Butler County, Warren County, and Clermont County websites. In these suburban Cincy counties, the Dem candidate for Chief Justice polled better than Kerry did, even as the Rep candidate for Chief Justice got significantly fewer votes than Bush did. Put simply, Connally actually got more votes than Kerry in one of the most Republican areas of the state -- far from her Cleveland geographic base:
Butler results (with rounding):
Bush 109,900, Kerry 56,200
Moyer 68,400 Connally 61,600

Warren County results (with rounding):
Bush 68,000 Kerry 26,000
Moyer 45,000 Connally 28,500

Clermont County results (with rounding):
Bush 62,900 Kerry 25,900.
Moyer 43,600 Connally 30,000.
These are true anamolies. Look at the rest of Ohio's results and you cannot readily find similar oddities.

Warren, by the way, was the security "lockdown" county. Election officials cited terrorism concerns and closed the count to the media on election night.

How did Moyer lose 40K Republican votes in Butler County while Connally gained 5K over Kerry? Strange.

In Warren, Moyer lost 23K Republican votes, Connally gained 2.5K votes.

In Clermont, Moyer lost nearly 20K votes compared to Bush, Connally gained over 4K.

It seems very odd to me (and to the various observers noted above) that Connally did substantially better than Kerry in terms of absolute votes in these three Republican counties.

In "net" win-loss terms, tens of thousands of Republican voters in these heavily Republican counties apparently ignored their judicial candidate (on a night when gay marriage and judicial activism was apparently on their minds), while thousands of Democrats actually liked their top judicial candidate more than they liked Kerry.

On paper, it looks like many tens of thousands of votes might have been attributed to the wrong person. Remember how the Indiana voting machine gave straight Democratic votes to the Libertarians? Something like that might have been at work.

It's the kind of oddity, when paired with the weird exit poll results, suggest a need to recount the Ohio votes. If a vote for one candidate is accidentally given to his or her opponent, then that's a two vote swing. A margin of, say, 136,000 votes could be reversed if merely 68,000 votes statewide were misallocated.

Hamilton County has not yet updated its election night results. The "old" early November data for Hamilton shows a somewhat similar oddity, though Connally didn't get more votes than Kerry. She did, however, do much better relative to Moyer than Kerry did against Bush. Thousands of "net" votes better...

In Hamilton County, Moyer lost 5 Bush votes to every 3 Kerry votes Connally lost. Bush won Hamilton County over Kerry 215,600 to 191,000; Moyer won over Connally by 168,300 to 160,000. This one seems more plausible to me than the suburban results, but they do seem a bit mystifying. In the other two Supreme Court races, the R outpolled the D in Hamilton by an average of about 80,000 votes. The Rs got roughly 200,000 votes to the D's 120,000. The same trends were apparent in Butler County, where the R justice candidates won nearly 2-1, and in both Clermont and Warren counties, where the Rs won by about 70-30 margins.

Why was Connally so apparently strong in Republican areas far from her geographic base?

Statewide, Kerry not only outpolled Connally by 660,000, he also won a substantially higher percent of the vote. Why would Connally do so much better, relative to Kerry, in the heavily Republican area of the state...and so much better than the other Dem judicial candidates?

In Cuyahoga County, which Kerry won by about 2-1 (66% to 32%), Connally won by only 60-40. That's her geographic base and she did not do as well as Kerry. Indeed, she received 145,000 fewer votes there while Moyer got only 16,000 fewer than Bush.

Republicans might be interested in these results, of course, because it could be that votes for Moyer were actually given to Connally.

Something seems to be odd.

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