Polmeth – election fraud in the Gilded Age

I’ll write more later about some of the research reported the past few days at the Political Methodology conference.

I’m now at one of the conference poster sessions, looking at a poster by Gail Buttorff, a grad student at the University of Iowa. Gail’s poster is titled “Electoral Fraud in the Gilded Age”, and it presents an application of the Benford’s Law test developed by Walter Mebane, and discussed in our recent book, Election Fraud. Gail’s test confirms some of the historical research that has asserted that there was rampant electoral fraud in the Gilded Age.

I’ll try to get a copy of her poster and paper!

Update: Here’s the abstract to the Buttorff paper.

The occurrence of election fraud during America’s Gilded Age has been widely suspected. There is a long list of studies suggesting that election fraud was a problem during this period in American politics. Until now, most of these studies have been largely historical accounts, interpreting historical evidence that might prove the existence of electoral fraud. However, recent developments in the area of electoral studies have seen the advent of new techniques aimed at detecting instances of electoral fraud. The second-digit Benford’s Law test is one such technique, which relies on identifying discrepancies between the predicted and realized distribution of vote counts. This paper extends on recent developments in election forensics. It uses the second-digit Benford’s Law test in an effort to identify possible instances of election fraud during the Gilded Age. The study is largely historical, in that it focuses on US presidential elections between 1872 and 1896. The results do in fact suggest incidences of electoral fraud during this period.