There’s a conspiracy theory going around the right-wing blogosphere that says that Obama “stole” votes in heavily Democratic precincts in heavily Democratic cities in heavily Democratic states. Why he’d do this isn’t clear — the electoral college chooses the president, so a few extra votes in states that are in the bag aren’t going to change the outcome — but the drum is being beaten louder and louder. It’s “evidence of massive voter fraud” that “could have impacted the election.” It’s “statistically impossible.” It’s proof that he stole the presidency.
And what’s this evidence? That in certain precincts in certain cities, Mitt Romney received no votes.
Now, let’s note at the outset that we’re talking about overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhoods populated overwhelmingly by people of color here. With Obama winning upwards of 95% of the black vote nationally, you’d expect his support in black areas of Democratic cities to be even higher. So the broad trends aren’t cause for alarm.
What’s curious, the conspiracists say, isn’t the landslide. It’s the unanimity — the fact that in 37 precincts in Chicago, 59 in Philadelphia, and about a hundred in Cleveland, Obama won every single vote cast. Here’s Mark Steyn of the National Review, quoting a commenter at a Chicago news station’s website:
Statistically, even if among 10′s of thousands of voters all wanted to vote for Obama, it would not be possible to receive 100% of the vote because at least a few would make a mistake and vote incorrectly for Romney.
A commenter at National Review picks up that ball and runs with it:
It’s not statistically probable that hundreds of thousands of voters in a single sample, would cast votes in such a homogeneous way, particularly when you account for the fact that voters aren’t infallible.
One of two things happened: Either there is some yet undiscovered process error that “accidentally” cast all votes for Obama, or there was intentional fraud or deceit Now, I know what direction I lean, but whatever the case is, there needs to be a robust and thorough investigation to determine if the failure was accidental or intentional.
But, to pretend there wasn’t some kind of failure, is anti-science.
So what’s the deal here? Was there a pool of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of urban voters in which not a single vote was cast for anyone but Obama?
Simply put, no.
Let’s take Chicago’s 6th Ward as an example.
Ward 6 went for Obama by an overwhelming margin this year. He received more than 99% of the votes cast, holding Romney to just 0.53% of the total. (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did even worse.) But even in the 6th, Romney managed to get on the board in nearly every precinct.
There are 48 precincts in Ward 6, and Obama took the whole vote in just three of them. Romney managed to pull a single vote in another eight, and multiple votes in the remainder.
The thirty-seven Chicago precincts in which Obama won unanimous victories are scattered across thirteen wards, and the amount to less than 1.5% of the city’s more than 2,000 precincts. And if you have a guy regularly taking 99% of the vote in big swaths of a big city, there are going to be a few places where he hits 100%.
That’s it. That’s the whole story.