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The AFL-CIO's Election Day Fraud Detector The AFL-CIO's Election Day Fraud Detector

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Blogs / Influence

The AFL-CIO's Election Day Fraud Detector

November 6, 2012
The AFL-CIO is preparing a new, Moneyball-esque strategy to spot election fraud in today's contests. 

That's according to a report from Slate today.

The union's approach, which monitors whether the numbers in vote totals follow a natural distribution is similar to models used at credit card companies and the IRS. Here's Slate's Sasha Issenberg

The system, designed by senior political strategist Matt Lackey, is based on Benford's law, a mathematical principle that states that the first digits of numbers are distributed steadily in nature. In most organically produced sets of numbers, from baseball statistics to the areas of rivers, the ratio of whose (for example) first digit is 7 to those whose first digit is 4 should remain constant. 

[snip]

Tonight, Lackey and his colleagues in the AFL's analytics department will be checking on charts that should appear as a clean slope if the digits in vote totals occur in the same ratios they are expected to appear in nature. "We can detect when things are or are not natural," says Lackey. "If you've got a big analytics shop, it's not hard to get them to do one more thing, if it's looking at a graph and saying does it look like a slalom?"

What happens if abnormalities are found? They'll get passed to the union's legal and media departments, Issenberg writes.

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