Political Science 485-001: Election Forensics

Fall 2016
Monday, Wednesday 2:30-4 (1518 CCL)
Professor: Walter R. Mebane, Jr.
Office: 7735 Haven Hall; email wmebane@umich.edu
Office hours: Tue 1-3 or other times by appointment.
Course web page: in Canvass; syllabus also at http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/ps485.html

Assignment Due Dates
due date description weight
-- short papers 20%
Nov 16 fraud statistics exercise 10%
Nov 23 proposal for final paper 10%
Dec 16, 5pm final paper (see file fpaper.pdf) 30%
-- participation 10%
Dec 16, 1:30pm-3:30pm final exam 20%

The course incorporates many features of a seminar. Practically this means two things. First, for each of the first seven course topics (the topics up to fall break) students are responsible for instigating discussion with the assigned reading as a point of departure. The assignments of students to topics will be posted on Canvass. Second, pertaining to two of the first seven topics, every student must submit a paper that raises some analytically interesting point addressed or raised by the course readings. These papers may focus on either required or recommended reading. Additional reading may be drawn in but not substitute for some reference to reading listed on the syllabus. One of the topics must be the topic that student has been assigned as discussion instigator. The other may be freely chosen. These papers are due at the first class meeting encompassed by the topic. Grades for the papers will be counted separately from grades for the quality of discussion instigation. The instigatation grades will be part of ``participation.'' Students assigned to a topic need to coordinate among themselves how they will take responsibility for the various classes encompassed by their topics.

Reading Availability

Much of the course will refer to journal articles and papers posted on the Canvass course site. Other articles are easily found in JStor. I've requested that several books with recommended reading be placed on reserve in the library. In the following listing, required reading is preceded by a bullet. Other items are recommended.

Class meeting and reading schedule

  1. introduction (Sep 7)

  2. the US in 2000 (Sep 12-14)

    Hasen, Richard L. 2004. ``A Critical Guide to Bush v. Gore Scholarship,'' Annual Review of Political Science 7: 297-313.

    Toobin, Jeffrey. 2001. Too Close to Call. New York: Random House.

    Kirk Wolter, Diana Jergovic, Whitney Moore, Joe Murphy, Colm O'Muircheartaigh. 2003. ``Reliability of the uncertified ballots in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.'' The American Statistician 57 (1): 1-14.

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Jasjeet S. Sekhon. 2004. ``Robust Estimation and Outlier Detection for Overdispersed Multinomial Models of Count Data.'' American Journal of Political Science 48 (April): 392-411.

  3. the US in 2004 and 2012 (Sep 19-21)

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. ``The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Election Toolkit.'' (at https://www.supportthevoter.gov/).

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. ``The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Appendix.'' (at https://www.supportthevoter.gov/appendix/).

    Mark Lindeman. 2006. ``Beyond Exit Poll Fundamentalism: Surveying the 2004 Election Debate.'' Paper prepared for presentation at the 61st Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montreal, Canada, May 18-21, 2006. (at http://marklindeman.org/beyond-epf.pdf)

    Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. 2005. ``Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004.'' (in file EvaluationJan192005.pdf)

    House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff. 2005. Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio. (in file final_status_report.pdf).

    Mebane. 2005. ``Inferences from the DNC Provisional Ballot Voter Survey.'' Section V of Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio. Democratic National Committee, Voting Rights Institute, June 22, 2005.

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Michael C. Herron. 2005. ``Ohio 2004 Election: Turnout, Residual Votes and Votes in Precincts and Wards'' and ``Ohio 2004 Election: New Registrants, Provisional Ballots, Voting Machines, Turnout and Polls Open Elapsed Times in Franklin County Precincts.'' Section VI of Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio. Democratic National Committee, Voting Rights Institute, June 22, 2005.

    Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman. 2006. What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election.

    Mark Crispin Miller. 2008. Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000 - 2008.

  4. Sarasota 2006: electronic voting machines (Sep 26-28)

    Adam Aviv, Pavol Cerný, Sandy Clark, Eric Cronin, Gaurav Shah, Micah Sherr and Matt Blaze. 2008. ``Security Evaluation of ES&S Voting Machines and Election Management System.'' 2008 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology Workshop, San Jose, July 28-29. (in file aviv.pdf and at

    Niemi, Richard G., and Paul S. Herrnson. 2003. ``Beyond the Butterfly: The Complexity of U.S. Ballots.'' Perspectives on Politics, 1 (2 Jun.): 317-326.

    R. Michael Alvarez and Thad E. Hall. 2008. Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy.

    Marcia Lausen. 2007. Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr., and David L. Dill. 2007. ``Factors Associated with the Excessive CD-13 Undervote in the 2006 General Election in Sarasota County, Florida.'' MS.

    GAO. 2007. ``ELECTIONS: Further Testing Could Provide Increased but Not Absolute Assurance That Voting Systems Did Not Cause Undervotes in Florida's 13th Congressional District,'' Statement before the Task Force on Florida-13, Committee on House Administration, House of Representatives. (in file d0897t.pdf).

    Yasinsac, Alec, David Wagner, Matt Bishop, Ted Baker, Breno de Medeiros, Gary Tyson, Michael Shamos and Mike Burmester. 2007. ``Software Review and Security Analysis of the ES&S iVotronic Voting Machine Firmware.'' Report. Security and Assurance in Information Technology Laboratory, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, February 23, 2007. (in file FinalAudRepSAIT.pdf)

    GAO. 2008. ``ELECTIONS: Results of GAO's Testing of Voting Systems Used in Sarasota County in Florida's 13th Congressional District,'' Statement before the Task Force on Florida-13, Committee on House Administration, House of Representatives. (in file d08425t.pdf).

    D. A. Buell, E. Hare, F. Heindel, C. Moore and B. Zia. ``Auditing a DRE-Based Election in South Carolina.'' 2011 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections, San Francisco, August 8-9. (in file Buell.pdf and at

  5. voting technology (Oct 3)

    Wired. 2016. ``Zachary Quinto Explains How to Hack an Election.'' https://www.wired.com/video/zachary-quinto-explains-how-to-hack-an-election. September 14, 2016.

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. ``The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Appendix V. Voting Technology.''

    Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons. 2012. Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Paul S. Herrnson, Richard G. Niemi, Michael J. Hanmer, Benjamin B. Bederson, Frederick G. Conrad and Michael W. Traugott. 2008. Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot. Washington: Brookings.

    The Brennan Center for Justice Voting Technology Assessment Project. 2006. The Machinery of Democracy: Voting System Security, Accessibility, Usability, and Cost.

    Saltman, Roy G. 1988. ``Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying.'' NBS Special Publication 500-158.

    Michael C. Herron, Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Jonathan N. Wand. 2008 ``Voting Technology and the 2008 New Hampshire Primary.'' William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 17 (December): 351-374.

  6. post-election audits (Oct 5)

    Philip B. Stark. 2010. ``Super-Simple Simultaneous Single-Ballot Risk-Limiting Audits.'' 2010 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections, Washington, August 9-10. (in file Stark.pdf and at

  7. strategic voting (Oct 10-12)

    Alesina, Alberto, and Howard Rosenthal. 1995. Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy. New York: Cambridge UP.

    Alberto Alesina, John Londregan and Howard Rosenthal. 1993. A Model of the Political Economy of the United States American Political Science Review 87 (Mar): 12-33.

    Cox, Gary. 1996. Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral System. Cambridge.

    Riker, William H. 1986. The Art of Political Manipulation. Yale UP.

    Riker, William H. 1982. Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

    Saari, Donald. 2001. Decisions and elections : explaining the unexpected. Cambridge.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr. 2000. ``Coordination, Moderation, and Institutional Balancing in American Presidential and House Elections.'' American Political Science Review 94 (March): 37-57. MS version available at

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr., and Jasjeet S. Sekhon. 2002. ``Coordination and Policy Moderation at Midterm.'' American Political Science Review 96 (March): 141-157. MS version available at http://www.umich.edu/~mebane/midterm.pdf

  8. Election Forensics Toolkit (Oct 19-24)

  9. testing for and measuring ``frauds'' (Oct 26-Nov 7)

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Joe Klaver. 2015. ``Election Forensics: Strategies versus Election Frauds in Germany.'' Presented at the 2015 Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association, Vienna, Austria, June 25-27. http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/epsa15.pdf

  10. second-digit tests (Nov 9-16)

    Wendy K. Tam Cho and Brian J. Gaines. 2007. ``Breaking the (Benford) Law: Statistical Fraud Detection in Campaign Finance.'' The American Statistician, 61 (August): 218-223.

    Mebane. 2008. ``Election Forensics: The Second-digit Benford's Law Test and Recent American Presidential Elections.'' In R. Michael Alvarez, Thad E. Hall and Susan D. Hyde, eds., Election Fraud: Detecting and Deterring Electoral Manipulation. Washington, DC: Brookings Press, 2008, pp. 162-181.

    Mebane. 2006. ``Election Forensics: Vote Counts and Benford's Law,'' Presented at at the 2006 Summer Meeting of the Political Methodology Society, UC-Davis, July 20-22.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr. 2007. ``Evaluating Voting Systems To Improve and Verify Accuracy.'' Prepared for presentation at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, San Francisco, CA, February 16, 2007, and at the Bay Area Methods Meeting, Berkeley, March 1, 2007.

    European Union. 2001. ``Preliminary Statement--2 October 2001.'' European Union-Election Observation Mission in Bangladesh 2001.

    Mebane. 2007. ``Election Forensics: Statistical Interventions in Election Controversies,'' Presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Aug 30-Sept 2.


  12. digit tests and ``election'' manipulation in Iran and Russia (Nov 21-23)

    Kirill Kalinin and Walter R. Mebane, Jr. n.d. ``Signaling, Election Frauds and Transfer Payments.'' Working paper.

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Kirill Kalinin. 2009. ``Comparative Election Fraud Detection.'' Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April 2-5, 2009.

    Francisco Cantu and Sebastian M. Saleigh. 2011. ``Fraudulent Democracy? An Analysis of Argentina's Infamous Decade using Supervised Machine Learning.'' Political Analysis 19 (4): 409-433. (in file Political Analysis-2011-Cantú-409-33.pdf)

  13. other statistical methods to try to detect election fraud (Nov 28-30)

    Peter Ordeshook, Mikhail Myagkov and Dmitry Shakin. 2009. The Forensics of Election Fraud.

    Susan D. Hyde and Nikolay Marinov. 2012. ``Which Elections Can Be Lost?'' Political Analysis 20 (2): 191-210. (in file Political Analysis-2012-Hyde-191-210.pdf)

    Susan D. Hyde. 2011. The Pseudo-Democrat's Dilemma: Why Election Observation Became an International Norm. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.

    Bjornlund, Eric C. 2004. Beyond Free and Fair: Monitoring Elections and Building Democracy. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

    Judith G. Kelley. 2012. Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Oftern Fails. Princeton UP.

    election monitoring organizations (examples).

    Pippa Norris. 2014. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. Cambridge.

    Ali Ansari, Daniel Berman and Thomas Rintoul. 2009. Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran's 2009 Presidential Election. Chatham House, London. June 21, 2009. (in file 14234_iranelection0609.pdf)

    Reza Esfandiari and Yousef Bozorgmehr. 2009. ``A Rejoinder to the Chatham House report on Iran's 2009 presidential election offering a new analysis on the results.'' (in file Iranian election.pdf)

  14. more second-digit tests (Dec 5-12)

    European Union Election Observation Mission. ``Mexico Final Report, Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, 2 July 2006.'' November 23, 2006.
    (in file 2006_24_11_final_report_mexico.pdf)

    Francisco Cantú. 2015. ``Groceries for Votes? The Electoral Returns of Vote-buying in Mexico.'' Working paper (in file VoteBuyingV3.pdf)

Walter Mebane 2016-10-19