Research updates: political methodology summer conference

Later this week there is a conference at the University of California, Davis: the Society for Political Methodology Conference. The conference program lists two papers that might be of interest to readers of Election Updates.

The first, by Henry Brady and Iris Hui (UC-Berkeley) is titled “Is it worth going the extra mile to improve causal inference?” At this point in time, the Brady-Hui paper is not available electronically, nor can I find the paper’s abstract online (I’ll post them here when I do find them). As I understand the Brady-Hui paper, they are going to use the spatial approach, with LA County data, to study some of the new causal inference methods that are currently in vogue in statistics and political methodology.

The other is a paper by Walter Mebane, “Election Forensics: Vote Counts and Benford’s Law.” Here is Mebane’s abstract:

How can we be sure that the declared election winner actually got the most votes? Was the election stolen? This paper considers a statistical method based on the pattern of digits in vote counts (the second-digit Benford’s Law, or 2BL) that may be useful for detecting fraud or other anomalies. The method seems to be useful for vote counts at the precinct level but not for counts at the level of individual voting machines, at least not when the way voters are assigned to machines induces a pattern I call roughly equal division with leftovers (REDWL). I demonstrate two mechanisms that can cause precinct vote counts in general to satisfy 2BL. I use simulations to illustrate that the 2BL test can be very sensitive when vote counts are subjected to various kinds of manipulation. I use data from the 2004 election in Florida and the 2006 election in Mexico to illustrate use of the 2BL tests.

Mebane’s paper is available from the Political Methodology paper archive. This project by Mebane is also going to be presented at the election fraud conference in late September at the University of Utah.