NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Factors in 2000 Presidential Vote Count

October 17, 2001

A statistical analysis by the General Accounting Office attempted to find factors that would account for variation among counties in the portion of presidential votes that were uncounted in the 2000 presidential election. The most significant factor was the state in which a county was located -- more important than counties' demographic characteristics or voting equipment. All three factors had statistically significant effects.

  • The largest percentages of uncounted presidential votes tended to occur in counties that used punch card equipment.
  • Counties that used optical scan equipment with error correction had percentages of uncounted presidential votes that were about 1.1 percentage points lower than counties with punch card equipment.
  • Potentially, an estimated 300,000 additional presidential votes nationwide might have been counted if all the punch-card counties had instead used precinct-based optical scan equipment with error correction.

Counties' demographic characteristics were also important. Specifically, counties with higher percentages of minority residents tended to have higher percentages of uncounted presidential votes, while counties with higher percentages of younger and more educated residents tended to have lower percentages.

  • However, counties that used punch card equipment did not generally have higher percentages of minority, less educated or lower-income residents.
  • And while county demographic characteristics accounted for 16 percent of the variation, voting equipment accounted for only 2 percent of the variation.
  • State differences (in the number of candidates, counting standards and so forth) accounted for some 26 percent of the total variation in uncounted presidential votes across counties.

The remaining 52 percent of the variation was due to unknown factors for which the GAO had no data, such as whether a county switched to a new type of voting equipment or the number of inexperienced voters in a county.

Source: "Statistical Analysis of Factors That Affected Uncounted Votes in the 2000 Presidential Election," Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives, GAO-02-122, October 15, 2001, U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C.

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