11/22/2004

Exit Polls and Voter Fraud: A User-Friendly Explanation - Independent Media TV

Electronic voting machines were supposed to save us from the nightmare of hanging chads. The day after the election, a lot of Americans learned for the first time that most of these machines are owned by private companies who refuse to divulge exactly how they work; that computer security experts have been highly critical of them; that they’ve already experienced serious failures, and that many of them leave no paper trail for backup.(1) Since then, online forums have been jammed with claims that the vote was electronically hijacked. Right now, the mainstream media is looking the other way, but members of Congress have already launched an investigation. And it all started with exit polls, those pesky little interviews done with voters right after they cast their ballots.

Exit polls actually consist of a long list of questions about a voter’s choices and the various factors that influenced those choices. They provide a wealth of information for political strategists, and have long been considered an accurate gauge of the American electorate, as they poll actual voters, and are not influenced by assumptions or guesswork. And they have a good record of picking winners. In some countries, election monitors have even used them to help measure the validity of official election results.

In the U.S., exit polls are now done by an outfit called the National Election Pool, which is financed by a consortium of big media outlets. The media receive the numbers throughout the day, analyze them, and use the results to start calling election winners almost as soon as the polls close. Later, the data is made public.

But this year, a couple of remarkable things happened. One, the results were leaked early, and spread throughout the internet. Two, the exit polls said John Kerry won. In the wee hours of the morning, the poll numbers were revised to better match the official election results. (How and why is another story.) But by then the damage was done. Accusations flew that the polls were right, and the electronic voting systems had been compromised

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