*** UPDATED x1 *** Bending the laws of statistics
Thursday, Jun 19, 2014
* All emphasis added. From a June 5, 2014 Chicago Tribune editorial…
* From a June 17, 2014 Tribune editorial, “Illinois elections board is rushing to kill a people power amendment”…
* From a June 19, 2014 Tribune editorial…
* As I explained to subscribers yesterday, this is clearly not a “red flag.” And any sane, rational person without a not so hidden agenda would easily understand this.
If you click here and download the spreadsheet provided to media outlets, including the Tribune, you’ll see a very easy explanation for those two examples that the Tribune keeps harping on.
Examiners looked at 25,000 petition entries, selected at random via computer. They struck 13,807 as invalid, for a failure rate of 55 percent.
* If you can’t download the spreadsheet, here are the numbers. The first column is the examiner number, the second is the total number of petition entries examined by each examiner, the third column is the total valid petition entries by that examiner and the fourth is total invalid entries found by each examiner…
Toss out Examiner 38 because s/he only looked at one petition entry. You get an average of 676 entries examined and a median of 711.
* Now, onto the Trib’s goofiness. The Board of Elections staffer who “disqualified only 17 percent” (or 16 percent, depending on which day you read the Trib) examined just 92 petition entries. The staffer who “disqualified 86 percent” looked at just 183 entries. Both of those people looked at far, far less petition entries than the average or median.
Statistics seems like a difficult topic, but let’s put it in a political way to make it easy to understand in our world. If you have 37 people making phone calls for a poll, would you publish only the results from two workers who made 0.7 percent and 0.4 percent of the total phone calls?
Of course you wouldn’t. What matters is the overall number, not cherry-picked results from a couple of people who looked at a tiny amount of petition entries.
Those two examiners darkly singled out by the Tribune were the most serious deviations, but deviations are naturally expected among all examiners, particularly considering they weren’t just matching up signatures, but also looking to see if people were registered to vote (subscribers know more about that and I’ll get into it in due time here).
Different randomly selected stacks are just gonna have different results. Plain and simple. Not all circulators were equal. Not all regions covered were equally managed (and some regions were checked in bunches on certain days). Not all signers were honest. You’re just naturally gonna see differences when looking at any individual samples, and particularly so when you single out some of the tiniest samples.
And, heck, even if there is a real problem with those two, toss them out and the remap folks are still a very, very long way from making it onto the ballot.
* The bottom line here is that the Tribune, out of either ignorance or malice, has repeatedly used an easily disprovable statistic to claim that the Illinois State Board of Elections has corruptly stacked the deck against the remap reformers. It needs to stop.
*** UPDATE *** OneMan in comments…