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Recount: How Lott misleads

A conservative stat maven cherrypicks Canvassing Board ballots, but doesn’t tell the whole truth — or in some cases, any truth.
By David Brauer

Conservative stat maven John R. Lott got a lot of traction early in the recount when he pronounced Al Franken’s early gains evidence of fraud. It turned out they were three simple tabulating errors that Norm Coleman’s camp doesn’t dispute.

Lott is back and bigger than ever. In this blog post, he presents evidence of state Canvassing Board “mischief” that doesn’t tell the whole truth — or in some cases, any truth.

First, he presents four ballots clearly marked for Coleman, noting, “Here is an example where the Minnesota Canvassing Board claims the vote is for no one.”

Outrageous? Nope. What you can’t see and what Lott doesn’t tell you (unless you click through to the Star Tribune’s website and look at an enlarged image) is that all four ballots have clearly identifying marks, such as signatures. By state law, they have to be tossed — but Lott doesn’t tell you that, either.

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Then comes the just plain wrong part. The next two ballots appear to be marked for Coleman; Lott writes the Canvassing Board judged them “clearly for Franken.”

Begin the Brooks Brothers riot!

But no. A cross-check of the Secretary of State’s extremely helpful spreadsheet (Excel file) indicates neither ballot was called for Franken. The first was tossed for — you guessed it — an identifying mark, and the second was ruled an undervote (for no one) because the Coleman oval was that voter’s only cross-out.

To be fairer to Lott than he is to the Canvassing Board, he presents a couple of ballots that went Coleman’s way. But that’s a fig leaf for his charge of “a systematic bias by the board in favor of Franken.”

Lott does a little CYA by calling his post “a rough glance” and pledges to examine things “more scientifically” —cherrypicking, anyone? But you know the game: any moment now, Fox or Ann Coulter, or some other retransmitter will link to this (I found it on Twitter), and the cycle of misinformation will rev up again.

Just because it’s typical doesn’t make Lott’s baseless sliming of Minnesota’s efforts any less disgusting.