Another article in the "Best Country in the World" Series
Wichita State mathematician sues Kris Kobach, Sedgwick County elections commissioner seeking to audit voting machines
Woman wants to investigate machines for voter fraud or demographic trend
Posted: April 1, 2015 - By Roxana Hegeman | The Associated Press
WICHITA A Wichita State University mathematician sued the top Kansas election official Wednesday seeking paper tapes from electronic voting machines, an effort to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country.
Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for the university's National Institute for Aviation Research, filed the open records lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court as part of her personal quest to find the answer to an unexplained pattern that transcends elections and states. The lawsuit was amended Wednesday to name Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Sedgwick County Elections Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.
Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate a statistically significant pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct.
While it is well-recognized that smaller, rural precincts tend to lean Republican, statisticians have been unable to explain the consistent pattern favoring the Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up. In primaries, the favored candidate appears to always be the Republican establishment candidate, above a tea party challenger. And the upward trend for Republicans occurs once a voting unit reaches roughly 500 votes.
This is not just an anomaly that occurred in one place, Clarkson said. It is a pattern that has occurred repeatedly in elections across the United States.
The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling, she said.
I do not know why this trend is there, but I know that the pattern is there and one way to establish that it is or is not election fraud is to go and do a physical audit of paper records of voting machines, she said.
Clarkson wants the hard-copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model.
A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office said in an email that the office has not received a copy of the lawsuit and is therefore unable to comment on it. A phone message left at the Sedgwick County elections office for Lehman was not immediately returned.
Clarkson became more interested in the issue after reading a paper written by statisticians Francois Choquette and James Johnson in 2012 of the Republican primary results showing strong statistical evidence of election manipulation in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Clarkson said she couldn't believe their findings, so she checked their math and found it was correct and checked their model selection and found it appropriate. And then she pulled additional data from other elections they hadn't analyzes and found the same pattern.
Scott Poor, an elections attorney who does not represent her, said Clarkson wants to get access to public records so she can do a statistical model.
This is a statistics professor, Poor said. She has no motivation for anything political; she just wants to write a paper that will be published in some academic journal nobody in politics is going to see or read.