### Wednesday, November 19, 2008

## Does the size of a typo matter? #mnrecount

John Lott has commented on the StarTribune article that I discussed earlier this week.

But John's opinion seems to be that changes in the hundreds column should count for more. I'm unclear how to model that or why it is so. It seems to me a typo distributes randomly across the places. But we also know that the at least a few of the people who write these numbers down care about the outcome, which I think is some of the claims being made here (not necessarily mine), so that treating their scribblings as random events is also probably a bad assumption.

And at that point I'm kind of stuck. If the typos are non-random, I'm not sure how to use statistics to solve them, and I'll let other people try to figure that out.

The fact that correcting typos increased Franken�s count by 459 votes (not counting Coleman�s lost votes) and Obama�s by 106 doesn�t prove fraud. Indeed, the Star Tribune might still be right in its claims that election officials made mistakes because they were tired.I also got this response from John to my earlier post in which I didn't think the typos were necessarily the result of fraud.

But my point was a simple one: Why did the �typo� corrections increase Franken�s total so much more than any other candidate�s? Indeed, so much more than all the other races for the presidency, Congress, and statehouse combined. The Star Tribune�s response was to deny the claim was true.

It is not simply the direction of the change, but also the size of the change that you might want to take into account in figuring out the odds. You are obviously right if you are looking at the direction of the change and the odds that they all go in the same direction, but if you looked at the odds that you would have changes of the sizes observed here going in the same direction, the odds of that are exceptionally small. That said, people do win the lottery sometimes and this might be one of those times for Franken.I've been puzzling about that for a day. Can one think about the 'probability of a typo'? I looked at a spreadsheet that measured changes in tallies by precinct from the Wednesday morning to the end of Monday Nov. 10 (pre-machine audit, but after all counties had checked their figures and reported in.) There are 4130 precincts in my sample. I got these counts:

- Barkley: 15 up changes, 5 down changes. Three of the up changes changed Barkley totals by 10 or more votes each, one of the down changes changed in double digits. Net change +82 votes.
- Coleman: 29 up changes, 10 down changes. Three of the up changes are more than 10, one of the down changes are -10 or less. Net change -60 votes; the one big down change was -124 in Coon Rapids W-2 P-1 that swamped everything else that changed for Coleman.
- Franken: 37 up changes, 11 down changes. Five of the up changes are more than ten, including the aforementioned three with changes in the hundreds. Only one of the down changes reduce Franken totals by more than ten votes. Total change +459 votes.

But John's opinion seems to be that changes in the hundreds column should count for more. I'm unclear how to model that or why it is so. It seems to me a typo distributes randomly across the places. But we also know that the at least a few of the people who write these numbers down care about the outcome, which I think is some of the claims being made here (not necessarily mine), so that treating their scribblings as random events is also probably a bad assumption.

And at that point I'm kind of stuck. If the typos are non-random, I'm not sure how to use statistics to solve them, and I'll let other people try to figure that out.

Labels: Coleman, elections, Franken