And more right wingers talking nonsense about Benford’s Law update

It seems I was too kind to Larry Correia in my first post about the pro-Trumpist misleading claims about Benford’s Law. He actually is still pushing it as supposed evidence of election fraud.

“Basically, when numbers are aggregated normally, they follow a distribution curve. When numbers are fabricated, they don’t. When human beings create what they think of as “random” numbers, they’re not. This is an auditing tool for things like looking for fabricated invoices. It also applies to elections. A normal election follows the expected curve. If you look at a 3rd world dictatorship’s election numbers, it looks like a spike or a saw.

There’s a bunch of different people out there running the numbers for themselves and posting the results so you can check their math. It appears that checking various places around the country Donald Trump’s votes follow the curve. The 3rd party candidates follow the curve. Down ballot races follow the curve. Hell, even Joe Biden’s votes follow the curve for MOST of the country. But then when you look at places like Pittsburgh the graph looks like something that would have made Hugo Chavez blush.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/11/09/election-2020-the-more-fuckery-update/

On Twitter I noted that far-right extremist Nick Fuentes is also pushing not just the misleading claims about Benford’s Law but a false claim that Wikipedia “added” criticism of its use in elections to discredit the claims being made about the 2020 general election. As I pointed out in this post, the rider that Benford’s Law use with electoral data was limited had been their for years. Rather than pro-Biden supporters adding it, Trump supporters removed the sentence and references in a bid to hide the fact that their analysis was flawed. You can read a 2013 version of the page here https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Benford%27s_law&oldid=534279795#Election_data

Since then, the section on Benford’s Law in election has expanded into a mini-essay about its use and limitations.

I don’t have a source for 2020 data at the precinct level that some of these graphs are using. I’m certain that there will be both Benford and non-Benford like distributions for Trump and Biden in various places. I do have county level data for 2020 to 2016 from here https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/VOQCHQ

The analysis is trivial to do on a spreadsheet. Grab the first character and then tabulate it with a pivot table. You can explore various candidates from Bush to Biden on a Google sheets I made here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LPEKnoPtOE4VtYaM9z69B-a0XkRx5tyt_vPak8TknlY/edit?usp=sharing

Here, for example is Donald Trump in Alaska in 2016:

When you look at the district sizes in Alaska and consider Trump’s proportion of the vote, it becomes obvious very quickly that it would be absurd for this data to follow Benford’s Law. Here are the first four (of 40) districts.

DistrictTrump VotesTotal VotesPercentage
District 13180663847.91%
District 23188549258.05%
District 35403761370.97%
District 44070952142.75%
Trump’s vote in four Alaskan districts in 2016

We have leading digits of 3,5 and 4 and no 1s. Why? Because to get leading digits of 1s Trump’s votes would need to be proportionately much smaller! For example if he’d only got 20% of the vote in District 1 then that would result in some 1s. In some of the examples being passed around the Trumpist circles, that is one of the reasons for Benford-like graphs — they’ve picked places where Trump’s vote was proportionately low pushing into a ranges where 1s were common as a leading digit.

The mechanics of the deception here are fascinating. There’s an initial plausibility (Benford’s Law is a real thing and is actually used to detect fraud and has been applied to elections), a lack of any critical thinking (the examples being circulated are very limited, there’s no comparison with past elections to see what is normal) but then active deception (long standing academic critiques of applying Benford’s Law to election data being actively deleted from online wikis). On that latter part, we know the more extreme white nationalist right (Fuentes, Vox Day) are active in attempting to suppress information on how to apply Benford’s Law to election data. Providing the usual smoke screen an aura of legitimacy are the usual convenient idiots for neo-Nazis such as Larry Correia, who repeat the propaganda as ‘just asking questions’.

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26 responses to “And more right wingers talking nonsense about Benford’s Law update”

  1. When I got the notification about this post I initially assumed it was about the latest Freer diatribe on MGC (the end of the subject header was cut off in my mail client).

    In that last sentence, I at first read that as “Neo-Nazis like Correia” but then re-read and it seems you’re saying Correia is a convenient idiot for Neo-Nazis. Honestly, either one works at this point. Correia has modified his “beliefs” to stay in step with authority. He’s displayed his authoritarian worldview to the point where there’s no walking it back. Coupled with the rest of his beliefs, I think he can safely be labeled a neo-nazi at this point.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve felt his last few pieces have dropped off in quality. I appreciate him for his imaginative world building, which he seems to have mostly abandoned in favor of exposition.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If Freer’s last few pieces have dropped off in quality, I shudder to think what they’re like, having seen the tortured statistics of his regular pieces.

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  2. Of course. Election results, to put it simply, are NOT naturally occuring numbers. They are produced from specific, almost predictable root causes and contingencies in demographic subsets.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I think Kathodus was referring to his fictional pieces, which *have* fallen off in quality over the last 8 to 10 years.

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    • Yes and no. I was referring to his ostensibly non-fiction essays on MGD, which used to be fantastical and full of imaginative world-building, but have become less interesting recently. I haven’t read his intentionally fictional work at all – by the time he was embedded in my mind, it was as one of the more vitriolic and hateful of the Sad Puppies and I couldn’t bring myself to even check him out. Caveat: if he was on the Hugo ballot that Vox and his Rabid and Sad minions usurped, I read that work, but I don’t remember it off the top of my head.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So Larry’s still serving as Teddy’s useful idiot. How manly and free-thinking of Larry. Does he hope senpai will notice him? Is he trying to challenge Brad for the title of Teddy’s #1 Bitch?

    I was over on RationalWiki for another reason, and was reminded of some of Teddy’s more-grandiose promises about Voxopedia, about how soon it would be a top 100 site and become the base of all knowledge. Really quickly. Uh-huh.

    Puppies, thy family name is Dunning-Kruger.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the amazing things to me is how Republicans are going along with Trump’s antics.

    I suppose it is to be expected that they will jump to a conclusion of fraud on the flimsiest evidence – they don’t want to accept that Trump lost fair and square or that all Trump’s talk of fraud is just more of his lies.

    But it seems that the Republicans are falsely targeting military voters as “illegal” in Nevada, just because they are stationed out of state. You would think that would be a step too far for the Republicans. You would think that they might stop and ask why that is being done – if there is real evidence of fraud. Apparently not.

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    • I think you’re wildly overestimating the integrity of Congressional Republicans: there is a handful who probably believe this nonsense, but the rest of them know there isn’t a shred of truth to it. They’ll go along with anything if it helps keep them in power.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yeah. That’s what allows them to set up “voter ID” laws that allow for massive voter suppression, even though they know those laws are unnecessary and damaging to democracy.

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        • Indeed. Noticeably the conspiracy theory they are pushing with the 2020 election is that the ballots or the count itself is being tampered with after the voting. Voter ID would be irrelevant in that circumstance.

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      • I’m not just talking about the Republicans in Congress (though I’ve seen it suggested that some fear a backlash from Trump’s base leading to defeat in the Senate runoffs in Georgia if they admit that Trump is flailing around with no real case).

        But what about people like Correia are are supposedly looking at this, and should know that they need to take a look at the supposed evidence, and should be able to recognise military addresses ? Shouldn’t they be worried by it?

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    • Considering T’s constant denigration of the military, is anyone surprised?

      That and the R’s fervent belief that votes in favor of them should be counted, and votes against them shouldn’t.

      Some voters are more equal than others.
      You love the Party.

      They are a bunch of people who took Orwell at face value because they’re incapable of recognizing satire.

      Just like they used to think The Colbert Report was a serious RWNJ program and were so surprised when he got The Late Show and revealed his true self.

      And yet the Drumpf campaign spent heavily in buying ads on the show every night for weeks! I LOL when someone on FB noted that there was a T ad on the episode of Colbert where he was interviewing the cast of The West Wing about their upcoming reunion show to benefit Michelle Obama’s GOTV charity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And this buying of ads on Colbert went on every night for… I don’t know how long, at least a couple weeks. He commented on it himself, with great glee, saying “Has he HEARD how I talk about him?”

        Plus it was after the campaign had already blown through its cash, very close to the election. The very best people, the smartest, would have been advertising elsewhere, maybe targeted in swing states instead of nationwide on a proudly liberal show.

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    • They don’t even start counting military and overseas ballots in Pennsylvania until tomorrow.

      It’s really awful that the Republicans are trying to stop our servicepeople from being able to exercise their Constitutional Right to Vote.

      But hey, the Republicans are Real Patriots™, aren’t they? 🙄

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I learned a new word for me today — apophenia: the tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things. It was used re discussing Qanon adherents and game design, but it pretty much applies to the arguments of the entire right wing.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I dunno if I should take your word for this Camestros. I mean, when it comes to fraudulent and shady voting practices, aren’t the Puppies kind of the experts here?

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I am in favor of counting everyone’s vote, even when I don’t agree with them. And I am particularly in favor of counting the votes of people who are away from home getting shot at in the name of Mom, baseball, apple pie, and the flag. If they make a good-faith effort to get their votes in (and many of them pay the exorbitant fees to get super-express mail for their ballots), I am going to count them. Military members have been voting by mail since the Civil War, and they deserve it. Families who get regularly uprooted to follow them deserve it too.

    You’d think the flag-waving milSF Baen-esque authors would be too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The only thing that surprises me about Correia is that so many people seem to have not caught on to the fact that he’s just as much of a lying sack of shit as Beale is.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A YouTube video demonstrating why deviations from Benford’s Law (and from randomness of the last two digits of vote counts) are expected in Chicago elections.

    Liked by 2 people

      • You’re post is also dated November 14th.You may share my suspicion that dates are given in Australian Eastern Daylight Time (or the Standard Time equivalent).

        Like

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