Exit Poll Versus Reported Vote Count
By Theodore de Macedo Soares
The 2020 Vermont Democratic Party presidential primary was held on March 3, 2020. Election results from the computerized vote counts differed significantly from the results projected by the exit poll conducted by Edison Research and published by CNN at poll’s closing. In candidate Sanders’ home state, the combined disparities between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Biden at 10.8% exhibited the largest disparity of the 14 primary states that voted to date and for which an exit poll was conducted.
In this Vermont election candidate Sanders saw the largest discrepancy between the exit poll and computer vote counts. His projected vote proportion fell 6.3% in the vote counts—an 11% reduction of his exit poll share. Biden with an exit poll share of 17% and in danger of receiving 0 delegates (if his vote count fell below 15%) outperformed his exit poll share by 4.5% in the vote counts—a 26.1% increase of his exit poll share. The combined discrepancies between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Biden at 10.8% was double the 5.4% margin of error (95% CI) for the exit poll difference between the two. See table below.
The United States remains one of the
few major democracies in the world that continue to allow computerized vote
counting—not observable by the public—to determine the results of its
Countries such as Germany,[ii]
Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and many other countries
protect the integrity and trust of their elections with publicly observable
hand-counting of paper ballots.[v]
 Exit poll (EP) downloaded from CNN’s website by TDMS on election night, March 3, 2020 at 7:00 PM ET. Candidates’ exit poll percentage/proportion derived from the gender category. Number of EP respondents: 781. As this first published exit poll was subsequently adjusted towards conformity with the final computerized vote count, the currently published exit poll differs from the exit poll used here and available through the link below.
 Candidates’ percentage/proportion of the total computer-generated vote counts derived from reported counts (100% reporting) updated on March 7, 2020 and published by The New York Times. Total number of voters: 157,707
 The difference between the exit poll proportion and reported vote proportion for each candidate (subtracting values in column two from the values in column three). A positive value indicates the candidate did better and received a greater share of the total reported count than projected by the exit poll. For example, as candidate Sanders, reported percentage/proportion of the total vote decreased by 6.3% compared to his exit poll share this value is negative.
 This column shows the percentage increase or decrease from the candidate’s exit poll projection (difference in table column four divided by exit poll proportion in column two). Shown, to simplify the table, only for candidates with greater than 4% share in the exit poll.
 This column presents a distinct Margin of Error (MOE) for the exit poll (EP) differences between candidate Biden versus each of the other candidate’s EP results. This MOE, for example, between Biden and Sanders is 5.4%. For simplicity MOE only shown for candidates with greater than 4% share in the EP. As this election involves multiple candidates the common method of ascertaining an MOE of the poll and then doubling it to see if the difference between two candidates is significant is replaced by a more appropriate method that directly calculates a distinct MOE for the difference between any two paired candidates. MOE calculated at 95% CI according to multinomial formula in: Franklin, C. The ‘Margin of Error’ for Differences in Polls. University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. October 2002, revised February 2007. Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/images/PollingUnit/MOEFranklin.pdf
 The discrepancies between the exit poll and the reported computer-generated vote counts comparing candidate Biden with each of the other candidates (subtracting each candidate’s difference between exit poll and computer count from Biden’s difference of 4.5%. If the MOE is greater than the discrepancy the discrepancy is not significant as it can be explained by the MOE. Conversely if the MOE is smaller then it cannot explain the discrepancy and another explanation is required. As shown in the table the combined discrepancies between Biden and Sanders at 10.8%, doubling the MOE and thus highly significant, cannot be explained by their MOE. Another explanation is required.
[i] Fittingly, according to a recent Gallup World Poll, only 40% of Americans say they are confident in the honesty of U.S. elections. Finland and Norway with 89% of their citizens expressing confidence in the honesty of their elections along with the citizens of 25 other countries have greater confidence in their elections than do Americans.
[ii] In 2009 the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that every important aspect of an election must be observable by the public and thus “meet the constitutional requirements of the principle of the public nature of elections.” The Court explicitly ruled that no amount of voting machine testing, security requirements, and licensing procedures can compensate for this constitutional requirement. With this ruling, Germany abandoned inherently unobservable computerized vote counting and reverted to the hand-counting of every ballot in the precincts in which they were cast and in the plain view of the public.
The court also noted that while vote fraud with hand-counted ballots would be easy to detect, “programming errors in the software or deliberate electoral fraud committed by manipulating the software of electronic voting machines can be recognized only with difficulty.”
[iii] During the 2007 presidential election, eighty-three municipalities (France has 36,569 municipalities) were allowed to use voting machines. Due to security concerns and the inability of voters to determine if their votes are counted correctly a moratorium, that remains today, prevents additional municipalities from introducing voting machines. In the 2012 elections only 64 municipalities continued their use. The French government desires a total ban on their use.
[v] The United States’ long ballots–containing federal, state, and local races–are commonly cited as being unwieldy for hand-counting. The use of Sweden’s method of providing different colored paper ballots for federal, state, and local races that are then sorted prior to hand-counting addresses this objection and allows for at least the hand-counting of federal elections with only three races per ballot.
Vermont 2020 Democratic Party Primary Exit Poll. Published by CNN at poll’s closing on election night.
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