In a blog post Monday, my colleague Adam Brown analyzed the publicly available Utah voter file with the catchy headline, “Are children and dead people voting in Utah?” Later in the day he posted a follow up with this headline: “Which counties have more registration errors?” Voting by dead people and children is not a problem in Utah. These so-called “registration errors” are better termed anomalies.
The blog posts, the brief summary on the Tribune’s Political Cornflakes blog, and the hype on KSL radio missed a lot of nuance. For example, KSL had a story during its 8-9 am drive-time show on Tuesday morning that reported on the posts. They introduced the story with this (at 31:09 in this mp3 file): “Our top local story this hour. This is something like you’d expect from Chicago. Dead people staying on the voter registration rolls.” Later on in the hour (at 46:33 in the mp3 file), KSL introduced Adam for a brief interview with this: “Well, there are either a whole bunch of long-living residents in Utah or some dead people are registered to vote…So, is this like Chicago?” Adam’s actual interview wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he referred to “incomplete record keeping,” his surprise at finding “several thousand people born in the 1800s registered to vote,” and how “carelessness” creates “opportunities for abuse.”
If those were the only things you saw or heard, you might be a little alarmed about the quality of election administration in Utah. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that there are more than a handful of active registered voters in the state of Utah who are children or dead people. Yesterday’s blog post laid out data analysis that was not fully informed and the information presented on KSL this morning was unnecessarily hyperbolic.
That said, if you go back to re-read Adam’s posts from yesterday, you will notice that in response to some well-informed readers he has inserted numerous updates. Adam’s updates to his posts are a good reflection of the cautionary statement (appearing in the top right on every page of this blog): “Buyer beware: Most of our posts discuss ongoing, unpublished research. We may revise our conclusions as we continue our research.”