Monday, June 22, 2009

The One Thing Worse Than Low Voter Turnout

Iran's Guardian Council has admitted that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of those eligible to cast ballot in those areas.

The council's Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who was speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Sunday, made the remarks in response to complaints filed by Mohsen Rezaei -- a defeated candidate in the June 12 Presidential election.

"Statistics provided by Mohsen Rezaei in which he claims more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 170 cities are not accurate -- the incident has happened in only 50 cities," Kadkhodaei said.

The spokesman, however, said that although the vote tally affected by such an irregularity is over 3 million, "it has yet to be determined whether the amount is decisive in the election results," reported Khabaronline.

I'll admit I haven't been following this story as closely as I should, what with it being overshadowed by Laureen Harper's daring turtle rescue, both in Canada and in the international press.

But, by now, it's abundantly obvious that the fraud was widespread enough to warrant a re-vote - one monitored by international agencies.


  • I disagree. 3 million votes is not enough to overturn Ahmadinejad's margin, and it isn't even clear to me that - if those are funny numbers, that the likely source is Iran.

    You get >100% voter turnout from old-style ballot-stuffing (eg. people voting twice, dead people voting for Daley in Chicago, etc.). Why use that approach, when the government can just make up numbers?

    However, if you are going to make up numbers, why make up numbers that are so obviously false? Also, why is it Karroubi that does mysteriously poorly, (even though he would have tanked anyway). Clearly Mousavi was the main threat to Ahmadinejad.

    What we have from most analysts are correlations that imply the results were implausible, usually based on the (unsupported) assumption that 2009 would look a lot like the first round of 2005 (a multi-candidate clusterf*). If you apply that kind of analysis to say, the 1984 Canadian federal election, you actually find similar "fishy" results to those being discussed.

    I have been appalled at the reluctance of media to reference actual Iranian politics specialists (preferring baseball statisticians), and the overwhelming normative slant that underlines most of these claims (which - and I hate to plug for my blog - but I do go through some of the more damning ones from Chatham house:

    The blogosphere has become a tool for mob justice, not one of honest discussion of the facts.

    Well forgive me, but I have a little empathy for Ahmadinejad because I went as him for Halloween... the moustache was really itchy though, so I became Lincoln instead.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 7:51 p.m.  

  • hosertohoosier:

    Your suspicions strike a chord with me. I am very uncomfortable with the ease with which absolutely everyone seems to have accepted this narrative about the Iranian elections.

    I'm no fan of Ahmadinejad, and my political radar still tells me fraud by the establishment (or some subset of it) is the best explanation for what is happening in Iran. And the few fringe voices I have found defending the electoral results all seem to have agendas of their own (typically, habitually anti-American ones).

    But I find the uniformity of Western opinion weird and disturbing. On what other issue can you imagine that everyone from Free Republic to Democracy Now has ever been telling the same story?

    By Blogger saphorr, at 10:46 p.m.  

  • Looks like an old fashion example of ballot box stuffing. Obviously, not done by sophisticated people. But, what can you expect from right-wing nuts.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 5:35 a.m.  

  • hosertohoosier and saphorr:

    It's true that there is no "smoking gun" to prove the election was stolen, but the evidence that has been building up has been increasingly damning (including the analysis of the blogosphere's favourite baseball statistician). There is also Khamenei's rush to endorse the results on the same day of the election, despite reports of irregularities, which stinks of a cover-up, and the brutal measures which have been used against the protesters. If it looks like an election thief and acts like an election thief ...

    I agree with the Grit: there should be a full, internationally-monitored recount. But we may be past that point. Khamenei, whose title is supreme leader and is supposed to be religiously infallible, has now publicly endorsed the election results at least twice, and the Guardian Council, which is a higher authority in Iran than the parliament and the president, has already declared that there will be no recount.

    They've set themselves (their power and authority, that is) firmly and deliberately on the tracks. The question now is how much momentum the train will have if and when it reaches them.

    By Blogger - K, at 8:54 a.m.  

  • I will agree that the margin of victory is so big, that the fraud may not have tangibly changed the election outcome (even if you take intimidation/etc into account).

    But it certainly appears that the fraud was widespread enough that a re-vote is in order, if only to clear the air.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:29 a.m.  

  • This also reminds me of voter irregularities in Tornto-Danforth in 2004 and Trinity-Spadina in 2006... both NDP victories.

    By Anonymous Gene, at 10:40 a.m.  

  • It would help if the media posted more complete information about the over 100 per cent phenomenon.
    Voters can vote in any area not just the one where they are eligible. In a given area many voters may not be registered there and if there are enough this can easily add up to over 100 percent. As the Guardian Council claims the situation is normal. Of course if it occurs in many areas it suggests ballot stuffing.
    Read a more or less official account at:

    or the account plust discussion at:

    cheers k hanly

    By Blogger ken, at 10:45 a.m.  

  • It should be noted that both sides agree there was very high turnout and this would make it probably that there would be more areas where the votes were more than 100 percent of those eligible.
    Another fact lost in the shuffle is that an independent western funded poll showed Ahmadinejad leading by even more than the official count a few weeks before the election:

    This poll is not widely reported on even though it is independent and appears in a US newspaper! I wonder why?
    It could be that the regime cheated to some degree just to make sure of a win for Ahmadinejad.

    By Blogger ken, at 11:16 a.m.  

  • "Another fact lost in the shuffle is that an independent western funded poll showed Ahmadinejad leading by even more than the official count a few weeks before the election:"

    That poll also had over 50% of voters undecided. I don't think it is evidence of an Ahmadinejad landslide, but it does suggest that a lot of the assumptions underlying the claims are problematic.

    Nate Silver's approach seems to be to ask "what stuff is happening in Iran that would be weird in a US election." Here are some of the claims that he, and others (eg. Chatham house) have made, and my quick hit answers.

    1. Votes came in too fast
    -Canadians know this one is crap. Paper ballots can be counted quickly.

    2. How could Ahmadinejad have won 44% of Reformists? That only happened in one province, Lorestan, where Karroubi's ethnically-motivated support from 2005 crashed.

    3. There is high precinct level variation in the data even in the same cities. Helps rule out national-level rigging. Unclear to me that this is a sign of rigging (how might Montreal look).

    4. Mousavi lost among Azeris! Actually it was one of his strongest regions. Ahmadinejad was surely helped by a dumb joke by Khatami; by Ali Khamenei's endorsement; by his vote-buying schemes and by his own mastery of the Azeri dialect.

    5. Karroubi did badly. Karroubi also did badly in every pre-election poll I saw.

    6. Conservatives did too well among rural voters. Are Iranian elections reformist<--->conservative? Look at the 2005 second round, votes must have swung from reformists to Ahmadinejad then, though his opponent was a centrist. Karroubi's collapse also helps explain this.

    7. Over 100% turnout in some areas. Most probable sign of shenanigans. There may have been some lax screening as well. Moreover, if we are talking about ballot-stuffing, it isn't clear Ahmadinejad is the culprit.

    8. If there was ballot-stuffing type tactics in play, you would need hard proof (soft statistical proof is really only useful if you could divine how a central agency picked the election numbers), and would need to show that Ahmaedinejad got 11 million votes he shouldn't have. A quarter of the votes in the election would have to be fake for that to work out.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 11:56 a.m.  

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