Benford’s Law and the Florida and Mexican elections

July 27, 2006


While it
does not deal with Venezuela, maybe some readers would be
interested in a paper on Benfords Law and elections
written by Prof.
Mebane of the Department of Government at Cornell University.

The paper looks
at Benfords law in the context of elections and the detection of fraud. It
looks at the effects of manipulations of data on the results and shows that
various simulated manipulations can have a strong impact on the expected results
from Benfords Law.

The author
then looks at data from the 2004 Florida
election and the recent Mexican election. He concludes that the second digit
Benford test worked well in Dade, Broward and Pascon counties, although there
were some exceptions where questionable results were obtained.

In
contrast, the results from the Mexican election imply that there are problems
in many Mexican states with the results although not in most of them. Prof. Mebane
suggests that a manual recount of the vote would clarify these discrepancies. And
based on a recount with sampling, one could decide whether to carry out or not
a complete recount.

By the
way, the Mexican election shows a lot of cynicism on the part of both the
Venezuelan Government and the opposition. The Venezuelan Government because
while suggesting that they thought there had been fraud in the election, they
never came out and said that there should be a recount. This would be exactly the opposite of their position in local elections. The opposition, because
their apparent sympathy towards Calderon or antipathy towards Lopez Obrador,
stopped them from calling for a full recount in Mexico, which would have been completely
consistent with their positions on the Venezuelan elections. Shame on both
groups!

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