Friday, December 23, 2016

Electoral Integrity Project Report Puts North Carolina Along Side Cuba, Indonesia , And Sierra Leone

This was from a tweet I got today.  There was an article in the News&Observer that said, among other things:
"In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.
Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project."

But how do you know if this is real or fake news?  

I quickly mistyped their name into google and got to articles about the Election [not electoral] Integrity Project.  This one is clearly a right wing project whose name is very similar and whose acronym is the same as the Electoral Integrity Project.  Getting a name very close to a legitimate and respected organization is a common practice of scammers.  I discovered that when I wrote about the Alaska International Film Festival which took advantage of the similarity of its name (and same acronym) to the legitimate Anchorage International Film Festival.  HOWEVER, one shouldn't jump to conclusions without facts.   The online tracks I found show that the Election Integrity Project began shortly before ("February 2012") the Electoral Integrity Project ('mid-2012').  I'm guessing they would not have known about each other when they began.

Think Progress investigated the funding of the Election Integrity Project:
"Since launching its 2012 Election Integrity Project in February, the right-wing Judicial Watch has been a leading player in the push for more voting restrictions. The group — best known for its Clinton-era lawsuits — has demanded more voting roll purges like Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) failed efforts in Florida. But a ThinkProgress examination of tax filings reveals that the group has received millions of dollars from foundations tied to conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife since the start of 2001.
Though other rich right-wing funders like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess have gotten more attention in this campaign, Scaife has bankrolled the conservative movement for decades. A 1998 Washington Post story dubbed him the “funding father of the right.” Since the 1960s, the Pittsburgh media baron and heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes including the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution. He controls the Scaife Foundations — a group of conservative and philanthropic tax-exempt organizations. Between 2001 and 2010, the Allegheny Foundation, Carthage Foundation, and Sarah Scaife Foundation — all part of the Sciafe empire — gave at least $5.8 million to Judicial Watch."
OK, so that raises serious questions about the Election I P.  What about the Electoral IP?

It's getting harder to find things online.  Everything in the first several pages was either from the Electoral IP itself, or was someone citing the article about North Carolina.  Here's what their own website says:
"The Electoral Integrity Project is an independent academic project based at Harvard University and the University of Sydney. The EIP project is directed by the founding Director, Professor Pippa Norris, and governed by an International Advisory Board.  The project is administered by the EIP Project Coordinator, Ms. Alexander Kennett. The work has been generously funded by many foundations and partners, notably the Australian Research Council Laureate Award.
Since its inception in mid-2012, the Electoral Integrity Project has focused upon three issues:
When do elections meet international standards of electoral integrity?
What happens when elections fail to do so?
And what can be done to mitigate these problems?
EIP has sought to produce innovative and policy-relevant scientific research that achieves international standing in the social sciences and leads to a significant advancement of capabilities and knowledge about elections, democracy, and autocracy.
The project has used several strategies to achieve these objectives:
Developing and deepening concepts and theories concerning the causes and consequences of electoral integrity;
Gathering valid, reliable, and generalizable empirical evidence (through expert indicators, mass surveys, experimental designs, and case-studies) monitoring and comparing electoral integrity across and within nations; and
Building a worldwide research community engaging scholarly and practitioner networks drawn from diverse disciplines, theoretical approaches, global regions, international organizations, and methodological techniques to advance knowledge of electoral integrity."
Evaluations of the organization were scarce.  But I did find this one which looks pretty legit:  Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates to the European Union (AALEP).  The Electoral Integrity Project is on their list.  Their entry begins:
SUBMITTED BY CHRISTIAN* ON SUN, 08/14/2016 - 19:44
The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University. For the past four years, the EIP has been bringing together scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss effective research and how to design evidence-based programming that will increase the integrity of elections. Since the EIP’s inception, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has been an active participant in the project."
*Christian would appear to be Christian de Foully, Chairman of the AALEP

Another page on the AAPPAEU website explains what a Public Policy Advocate is:
"Why Choose a Public Policy Advocate
A Public Policy Advocate provides intelligent, unbiased advice that achieves the best results for a client or employer. Most importantly, trust is always implicit in a relationship with a Public Policy Advocate.
Being designated as a real professional public policy advocate is a designation for a select few who have been recognized by their peers, employers, and clients for their commitment, knowledge, experience, wisdom, and integrity in the public policy advocacy field.
No matter the size or scope of an assignment, Public Policy Advocates  leverage their experience to assess the past, present, and future and provide sound solutions on the many diversified issues encountered in the broad field of public policy advocacy.
An array of clients, from government to small business, relies on the wisdom of Public Policy Advocates to map the way to informed decision making. Clients include:
Government agencies
Publicly and privately held corporations
Trade Associations
Professional Societies
Energy companies
Financial institutions
Healthcare Providers
Hospitals etc …"
The Electoral Integrity Project has been around since 2012 and has monitored elections around the world and come up with frameworks with which to do that sort of work.

Although the author of the News&Observer story focuses on North Carolina (he's a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so he's writing about his own state, though it appears it was a long road to there given his degrees from East Anglia, Capetown, and San Diego), the EIP website map shows neighboring states with similar and even lower scores than North Carolina.  (Alaska and Hawaii don't seem to count.)

But the writer notes that North Carolina is the worst in one category:
"Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project."

Sorting through what to believe and then figuring out what it means is tricky. I'm betting there are people in North Carolina who are spitting mad and dismissing this report as liberal propaganda. But I bet that when they saw reports of election problems in foreign countries by this organization they just assumed it was true.  And assumed their own superiority in elections.

I haven't looked carefully at their study or their methodology and the factors they review.  But I suspect that while experts could dispute why they choose one factor over another and how the factors are weighted, that it's probably a pretty rigorous tool.  And that its application to US states wasn't altered and so that, using their measures, the comparisons are accurate.  And that someone else could come up with a measure that might rank the US states differently.

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