Krakenbusting: Moving On After the Statistics Zombies

Election 2020 is finally over, and thankfully many of the wilder conspiracy theories about “the stolen election” (aka “The Big Lie”) are receding into zombie-dom. However, we’re still seeing some more persistent, shall we say, “concerns” about election results that “can’t be right” because “something’s wrong with these numbers” based on amateur statistical analysis and a complete misunderstanding of election night reporting.

So crazy are these “concerns” that we’re compelled to continue trying to quash the Kraken, so to speak. (The term, now an Internet meme, refers to the myriad conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being “stolen” for Biden.)  And of course, that inspired us to sing out…

When numbers don’t look right, tryin’ to wrap your brain ’round it all
and common sense seems light, then who you gonna call? “Krakenbusters!”

We’re not afraid of any Kraken, so let’s do this.

First, we note there are many versions of this “concern” still circulating from videos to faux news shows on OAN, but the common theme goes like this:

Over the course of an extended election result reporting period in November 2020, incrementally released vote tally “dumps” revealed such huge statistical anomalies that it would have been “one in a quadrillion” for those numbers to have randomly occurred.

And a common corollary to that is:

Something absolutely must be wrong with the election results.”

Except now the concerned person no longer tries to explain the supposed anomalies via recourse to theories about “evil election officials” or “evil software” that “stole the election.”

Well, there are two very simple reasons to stop paying attention to this stuff—seriously, ignore this Kraken.

  1. The first reason is that all of these amateur statistical analyses are flawed because of the false assumption that the election results reporting were in random order.

For this and other explanations of why amateurs and even MIT Ph.D level researchers (e.g., researchers from Rutgers) make these mistakes, please see the very readable complete and concise report especially under “Statistical Analysis.” (Source Note: in fairness of full disclosure, we chose RRH Elections, which analyzes elections from a Republican-leaning perspective.)

As that report summarily states, for the “one in a quadrillion” calculation to be correct, votes would have to be counted in random order, so that a vote counted late was no more likely to be for Biden than a vote counted early.  However, this is false, because in the four states in question, absentee votes were counted after Election Day votes.  We cannot make this more clear:

Absentee votes (e.g., ballots returned by mail or hand delivery) were counted after all of the votes cast during normal voting hours.

And the reality is that Biden did better in absentee votes than in Election Day votes.  Matt Parker offers an entertaining and engaging video of simple explanations about math to help sort this out, and it’s a “must see” when you have ~19 minutes to burn.  And Robert VerBruggen published an article in the conservative National Review “The Dumb Statistical Argument in Texas’s Election Lawsuit” that you can listen to or read. It is an equally helpful (and a bit less mathematical) explanation of why these statistics arguments are silliness. Make-believe. Kraken.

  1. The second reason is we now have the final election results to assess as a whole; thus, the reported slow drip results in mid-November are now irrelevant.

With the vote totals complete and certified for weeks now, anyone hungry for data analysis can dig into the final vote tally data in the state of your choice.

  • You can slice it and dice it by county, by precinct, by early vs. Election Day vs. absentee vs. provisional voting.
  • You can correlate with external data about “Republican-leaning” or “Democratic-leaning” or “cat-loving” or “dog-loving.”
  • You can decide for yourself about whether the final numbers smell funny to you, based on the whole enchilada or any slice you like.

However, now it just doesn’t matter what order the individual ballots were counted in, or what order they were reported in, back in mid-November. All of the ballots are there.

You can now toxin-purge yourself of the “where there is smoke there must be fire” feeling, because the “smoke” is mostly confusion, or outright propaganda or simply Kraken, compounded by well-meaning re-tweets.

And then you can finally ask yourself whether you really believe that those official certified vote total numbers were outright made up, despite the extensive and public procedures to double and triple check election results—including re-counts of paper ballots—or whether on balance, you just don’t believe in the “stolen election” stories that now, months later, are not supported by a single shred of actual evidence.

Truly, this has become a remarkable battle to kill the cray-cray conspiracy theories, but that’s why we’re compelled into duty as Krakenbusters.

I hope you join me in moving ahead into 2021 and onward.

Kraken aside, while the 2020 Election was not stolen, there is plenty of work to be done to make U.S. elections more verifiable, accurate, secure, and transparent. Current election technology and practices are far from perfect, and far from well understood let alone well trusted. However, we’re working on it, and hope you’ll continue to support that work.


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