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Benford's LawTheory and Applications$
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Steven J. Miller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691147611

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691147611.001.0001

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Can Vote Countsʼ Digits and Benfordʼs Law Diagnose Elections?

Can Vote Countsʼ Digits and Benfordʼs Law Diagnose Elections?

(p.212) Chapter Nine Can Vote Countsʼ Digits and Benfordʼs Law Diagnose Elections?
Benford's Law

Walter R. Mebane,

Princeton University Press

This chapter illustrates how the conditional mean of precinct vote counts' second digits can respond to strategic behavior by voters in response to the presence of a coalition among political parties. The digits in vote counts can help diagnose both the strategies voters use in elections and nonstrategic special mobilizations affecting votes for some candidates. The digits can also sometimes help diagnose some kinds of election fraud. The claim that deviations in vote counts' second digits from the distribution implied by Benford's law is an indicator for election fraud, generally fails for precinct vote counts. This chapter shows that such tests routinely fail in data from elections in the United States, Germany, Canada and Mexico, countries where it is usually thought that there is negligible fraud.

Keywords:   elections, vote counts, second digits, voting, election fraud

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