Political Science 485-001: Election Forensics

Fall 2022
Monday, Wednesday 2:30-4 (1427 MH)
Professor: Walter R. Mebane, Jr.
Office: 7735 Haven Hall; email wmebane@umich.edu
Office hours: Tue 1-3 or other times by appointment.
Course web page: in Canvass; syllabus also at http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/ps485.html

Assignment Due Dates
due date description weight
-- short papers 20%
Nov 16 fraud statistics exercise 10%
Nov 21 proposal for final paper 10%
Dec 12, noon final paper (see file fpaper.pdf) 30%
-- participation (includes discussion instigation) 10%
Dec 16, 4pm-6pm final exam 20%

The course incorporates many features of a seminar. Practically this means two things. First, for each course topic 3 through 8 students are responsible for instigating discussion with the assigned reading as a point of departure. Following a voluntary sign-up period, the assignments of students to topics will be posted on Canvas. Second, pertaining to two of the first eight topics, every student must submit a paper that raises some analytically interesting point addressed or raised by the course readings. These papers may focus on either required or recommended reading. Additional reading may be drawn in but not substitute for some reference to reading listed on the syllabus. One of the topics must be the topic that student has been assigned as a discussion instigator. The other may be freely chosen. The papers should pertain to distinct topics. Each paper is due at the beginning of the class meeting during which the topic (or specifically the reading the paper addresses) comes up. Grades for the papers will be counted separately from grades for the quality of discussion instigation.

Instigation grades will be part of “participation.” Students assigned to instigate discussion for a topic need to coordinate among themselves how they will take responsibility for kicking off the various classes encompassed by their topics. Typically instigation will involve the group making a brief (say 10-15 minutes) presentation to motivate and pose initial discussion points then continuing to supply comments and material to move discussion along. Each group that is not assigned to instigate discussion for a class meeting is expected to offer at least one significant intervention (response or question) during the class meeting.

Note that it will be possible to take the final exam earlier during exam week than the official time shown above. Details will be discussed in class and announced in detail later.

Reading Availability

Much of the course will refer to journal articles and papers posted on the Canvass course site. Other articles are easily found via Google or in http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.umich.edu/ or https://www.lib.umich.edu/. In the following listing, required reading is preceded by a bullet. Other items are recommended.

Class meeting and reading schedule

  1. introduction (Aug 29-31)

    Challú, Cristian, Enrique Seira and Alberto Simpser. 2020. “The Quality of Vote Tallies: Causes and Consequences.” American Political Science Review doi:10.1017/S0003055420000398, pp. 1-15. (in file quality_of_vote_tallies_causes_and_consequences.pdf)

    Paul Mwangi & Company. 2022. “Republic of Kenya in the Supreme Court of Kenya at Nairobi, Presidential Election Petition No. of 2022.” (particularly notice pp. 51-52) (in file PETITION-1_odinga.pdf)

  2. the US in 2000 (Sep 7-14)

    Hasen, Richard L. 2004. “A Critical Guide to Bush v. Gore Scholarship,” Annual Review of Political Science 7: 297-313. http://ssrn.com/abstract=491326

    Toobin, Jeffrey. 2001. Too Close to Call. New York: Random House.

    Kirk Wolter, Diana Jergovic, Whitney Moore, Joe Murphy, Colm O'Muircheartaigh. 2003. “Reliability of the uncertified ballots in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.” The American Statistician 57 (1): 1-14.

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Jasjeet S. Sekhon. 2004. “Robust Estimation and Outlier Detection for Overdispersed Multinomial Models of Count Data.” American Journal of Political Science 48 (April): 392-411.

  3. the US in 2016 and 2020 (Sep 19-21)

    Hannah Klain, Kevin Morris, Max Feldman, and Rebecca Ayala. 2020. “Waiting to Vote: Racial Disparities in Election Day Experiences”(at https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/6_02_WaitingtoVote_FINAL.pdf).

    Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller. 2019. “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Volume I of II,” pages 1-15, 22-66, 108-110, 114-123, 129-141, 174-199. https://www.justice.gov/storage/report_volume1.pdf
    (in file report_volume1.pdf)

    Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate. 2019. “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 3: U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities,” pages 1-42. https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume3.pdf (in file Report_Volume3.pdf)

    David Shimer. 2020. Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference. New York: Knopf.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 2017. “Statement by Secretary Jeh Johnson on the Designation of Election Infrastructure as a Critical Infrastructure Subsector,” Press Release, January 6, 2017. (in file STATEMENT FROM SECRETARY JOHNSON RE ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE - FINAL.docx)

    U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 2017. “Starting Point: U.S. Election Systems as Critical Infrastructure.” https://www.eac.gov/assets/1/6/starting_point_us_election_systems_as_Critical_Infrastructure.pdf (in file starting_point_us_election_systems_as_Critical_Infrastructure.pdf))

    Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate. 2019. “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 1: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure with Additional Views.” https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume1.pdf (in file Report_Volume1.pdf)

    Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate. 2019. “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia's Use of Social Media with Additional Views.” https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume2.pdf (in file Report_Volume2.pdf)

    Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate. 2019. “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 4: Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment with Additional Views.”. https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume4.pdf (in file Report_Volume4.pdf)

    Latanya Sweeney, Ji Su Yoo and Jinyan Zang. “Voter Identity Theft: Submitting Changes to Voter Registrations Online to Disrupt Elections.” Technology Science 2017090601. September 6, 2017. (in file sweeney.yoo.zang.techscience2017.pdf)

    James Lamond and Talia Dessel. 2019. “Democratic Resilience: A Comparative Review of Russian Interference in Democratic Elections and Lessons Learned for Securing Future Elections.”

    Renee DiResta, Kris Shaffer, Becky Ruppel, David Sullivan, Robert Matney, Ryan Fox, Jonathan Albright, Ben Johnson. 2019. “The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency.”

    Gillian Cleary. 2019. “Twitterbots: Anatomy of a Propaganda Campaign.”

    Barry C. Burden, David T. Canon, Kenneth R. Mayer, Donald P. Moynihan and Jacob R. Neiheisel. 2017. “What Happens at the Polling Place: Using Administrative Data to Look Inside Elections.” Public Administration Review 77(3): 354-364. (in file burden.etal.PAR2017.pdf)

    Andrew C. Eggers, Haritz Garro, and Justin Grimmer. 2021. No evidence for systematic voter fraud: A guide to statistical claims about the 2020 election. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118 (45): e2103619118. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/118/45/e2103619118.full.pdf (in file e2103619118.full.pdf)

  4. the US in 2004 and 2012 (Sep 26-28)

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. “VTP Toolkit.” (at http://web.mit.edu/vtp/).

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. “The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Materials and Research Archive” (at https://www.eac.gov/election-officials/pcea/materials-research-archive).

    Jeh Johnson. 2017. “Statement by Secretary Jeh Johnson on the Designation of Election Infrastructure as a Critical Infrastructure Subsector”(at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/06/statement-secretary-johnson-designation-election-infrastructure-critical).

    U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 2017. “U.S. Election Systems as Critical Infrastructure” (at https://www.eac.gov/sites/default/files/eac_assets/1/6/starting_point_us_election_systems_as_Critical_Infrastructure.pdf).

    U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 2017. “ELECTIONS - CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE” (at https://www.eac.gov/election-officials/elections-critical-infrastructure/).

    Mark Lindeman. 2006. “Beyond Exit Poll Fundamentalism: Surveying the 2004 Election Debate.” Paper prepared for presentation at the 61st Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montreal, Canada, May 18-21, 2006. (in file beyond-epf.pdf)

    Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. 2005. “Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004.” (in file EvaluationJan192005.pdf)

    House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff. 2005. Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio. (in file final_status_report.pdf).

    Mebane. 2005. “Inferences from the DNC Provisional Ballot Voter Survey.” Section V of Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio. Democratic National Committee, Voting Rights Institute, June 22, 2005.

    Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Michael C. Herron. 2005. “Ohio 2004 Election: Turnout, Residual Votes and Votes in Precincts and Wards” and “Ohio 2004 Election: New Registrants, Provisional Ballots, Voting Machines, Turnout and Polls Open Elapsed Times in Franklin County Precincts.” Section VI of Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio. Democratic National Committee, Voting Rights Institute, June 22, 2005.

    Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman. 2006. What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election.

    Mark Crispin Miller. 2008. Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000 - 2008.

  5. voting technology (Oct 3)

    VerifiedVoting. 2020. “Voting Equipment Database.” https://verifiedvoting.org/voting-equipment-search/.

    Matt Blaze, Harri Hursti, Margaret Macalpine, Mary Hanley, Jeff Moss, Rachel Wehr, Kendall Spencer, Christopher Ferris. 2019. “DEF CON 27 Voting Machine Hacking Village, August 2019.”
    https://media.defcon.org/DEF(in file voting-village-report-defcon27.pdf)

    Andrew Appel. 2018. “Design flaw in Dominion ImageCast Evolution voting machine.” https://freedom-to-tinker.com/2018/10/16/design-flaw-in-dominion-imagecast-evolution-voting-machine/

    Eric L. Lazarus, David L. Dill, Jeremy Epstein and Joseph Lorenzo Hall. 2011. “Applying a Reusable Election Threat Model at the County Level.” 2011 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections, San Francisco, August 8-9. (in file Lazarus.pdf and at

    EVEREST team. 2007. “EVEREST: Evaluation and Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards and Testing: Final Report.” (in file everest.pdf and at

    Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. 2007. “Project E V E R E S T: Evaluation and Validation of Election Related Equipment, Standards and Testing: Report of Findings.” (in file Everest.pdf)

    Debra Bowen, California Secretary of State. 2007. “Top-to-Bottom Review.”

    Presidential Commission on Election Administration. 2014. “Materials & Research.” See papers under heading “Voting Technology” at

    Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons. 2012. Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Paul S. Herrnson, Richard G. Niemi, Michael J. Hanmer, Benjamin B. Bederson, Frederick G. Conrad and Michael W. Traugott. 2008. Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot. Washington: Brookings.

    The Brennan Center for Justice Voting Technology Assessment Project. 2006. The Machinery of Democracy: Voting System Security, Accessibility, Usability, and Cost.

    Saltman, Roy G. 1988. “Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying.”
    NBS Special Publication 500-158. http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/Legacy/SP/nbsspecialpublication500-158.pdf

    Michael C. Herron, Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Jonathan N. Wand. 2008 “Voting Technology and the 2008 New Hampshire Primary.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 17 (December): 351-374. http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/NH2008HMW.pdf

  6. Sarasota 2006: electronic voting machines (Oct 5)

    Adam Aviv, Pavol Cerný, Sandy Clark, Eric Cronin, Gaurav Shah, Micah Sherr and Matt Blaze. 2008. “Security Evaluation of ES&S Voting Machines and Election Management System.” 2008 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology Workshop, San Jose, July 28-29. (in file aviv.pdf and at

    Niemi, Richard G., and Paul S. Herrnson. 2003. “Beyond the Butterfly: The Complexity of U.S. Ballots.” Perspectives on Politics, 1 (2 Jun.): 317-326.

    R. Michael Alvarez and Thad E. Hall. 2008. Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy.

    Marcia Lausen. 2007. Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr., and David L. Dill. 2007. “Factors Associated with the Excessive CD-13 Undervote in the 2006 General Election in Sarasota County, Florida.” MS.

    GAO. 2007. “ELECTIONS: Further Testing Could Provide Increased but Not Absolute Assurance That Voting Systems Did Not Cause Undervotes in Florida's 13th Congressional District,” Statement before the Task Force on Florida-13, Committee on House Administration, House of Representatives. (in file d0897t.pdf).

    Yasinsac, Alec, David Wagner, Matt Bishop, Ted Baker, Breno de Medeiros, Gary Tyson, Michael Shamos and Mike Burmester. 2007. “Software Review and Security Analysis of the ES&S iVotronic Voting Machine Firmware.” Report. Security and Assurance in Information Technology Laboratory, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, February 23, 2007. (in file FinalAudRepSAIT.pdf)

    GAO. 2008. “ELECTIONS: Results of GAO's Testing of Voting Systems Used in Sarasota County in Florida's 13th Congressional District,” Statement before the Task Force on Florida-13, Committee on House Administration, House of Representatives. (in file d08425t.pdf).

    D. A. Buell, E. Hare, F. Heindel, C. Moore and B. Zia. “Auditing a DRE-Based Election in South Carolina.” 2011 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections, San Francisco, August 8-9. (in file Buell.pdf and at

  7. post-election audits (Oct 10)

    Jennifer Morrell. 2019. “Knowing It's Right, Part Two: Risk-Limiting Audit Implementation Workbook.” (in file 2019_RLA_Part2_vFINAL.pdf)

    Jennie Bretschneider, Sean Flaherty, Susannah Goodman, Mark Halvorson, Roger Johnston, Mark Lindeman, Ronald L. Rivest, Pam Smith and Philip B. Stark. 2012. “Risk-Limiting Post-Election Audits: Why and How” working paper draft. (in file RLAWG12.pdf and at

    Mark Lindeman, Philip B. Stark and Vincent S. Yates. 2012. “BRAVO: Ballot-polling Risk-Limiting Audits to Verify Outcomes.” 2012 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections. (in file evtwote12-final27.pdf and at

    Philip B. Stark. 2010. “Super-Simple Simultaneous Single-Ballot Risk-Limiting Audits.” 2010 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections, Washington, August 9-10. (in file Stark.pdf and at

    U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 2017. “POST ELECTION: AUDITS & RECOUNTS” (at https://www.eac.gov/election-officials/post-election-audits-recounts/).

    Ronald L. Rivest. 2017. “Bayesian Post-Election Tabulation Audits Explained and Extended,” working paper draft. (in file bayesx.pdf)

    Andrew W. Appel, Richard A. DeMillo, and Philip B. Stark. 2020. “Ballot-Marking Devices Cannot Ensure the Will of the Voters.” Election Law Journal 19 (3):432-450. (in file elj.2019.0619.pdf)

  8. strategic behavior I (Oct 12)

    Cox, Gary. 1996. Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral System. Cambridge.

    Riker, William H. 1986. The Art of Political Manipulation. Yale UP.

    Riker, William H. 1982. Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

    Saari, Donald. 2001. Decisions and elections: explaining the unexpected. Cambridge.

  9. strategic behavior II (Oct 19)

    Alesina, Alberto, and Howard Rosenthal. 1995. Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy. New York: Cambridge UP.

    Alberto Alesina, John Londregan and Howard Rosenthal. 1993. A Model of the Political Economy of the United States American Political Science Review 87 (Mar): 12-33.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr., and Jasjeet S. Sekhon. 2002. “Coordination and Policy Moderation at Midterm.” American Political Science Review 96 (March): 141-157. MS version available at http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/midterm.pdf

  10. using eforensics to measure election frauds (Oct 24-Nov 2)

    Diogo Ferrari, Kevin McAlister, Walter R. Mebane, Jr., and Patrick Y. Wu. 2019. eforensics R package. https://github.com/UMeforensics/eforensics_public.git (also in file eforensics_0.0.4.tar.gz)

    Klimek, Peter, Yuri Yegorov, Rudolf Hanel, and Stefan Thurner. 2012. Statistical detection of systematic election irregularities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (41): 16469-16473. http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16469.full (in file PNAS-2012-Klimek-16469-73.pdf)

    Electoral Complaints Commission. 2010. “Electoral Complaints Commission Final Report: 2009 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections.” (in file ECC Final Report 2009.pdf)

    Electoral Complaints Commission, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. 2009. “Annex a: Audit Results By Polling Station.” Annex for 18 October 2019 Letter to Azizullah Ludin, Chairman, Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan. (in file ECC2009_October18ANNEXADecisionAuditandRecount_20091018.pdf)

  11. Election Forensics Toolkit (Nov 7-9)

    Francisco Cantu and Sebastian M. Saleigh. 2011. “Fraudulent Democracy? An Analysis of Argentina's Infamous Decade using Supervised Machine Learning.” Political Analysis 19 (4): 409-433. (in file Political Analysis-2011-Cantú-409-33.pdf)

    Rundlett, Ashlea and Milan W. Svolik. 2016. “Deliver the Vote! Micromotives and Macrobehavior in Electoral Fraud.” American Political Science Review 110 (1): 180-197. (in file rundlett.svolic.apsr2016.pdf)

  12. digit tests (Nov 14-16)

    Wendy K. Tam Cho and Brian J. Gaines. 2007. “Breaking the (Benford) Law: Statistical Fraud Detection in Campaign Finance.” The American Statistician, 61 (August): 218-223.

    Mebane. 2008. “Election Forensics: The Second-digit Benford's Law Test and Recent American Presidential Elections.” In R. Michael Alvarez, Thad E. Hall and Susan D. Hyde, eds., Election Fraud: Detecting and Deterring Electoral Manipulation. Washington, DC: Brookings Press, 2008, pp. 162-181.

    Mebane. 2006. “Election Forensics: Vote Counts and Benford's Law,” Presented at at the 2006 Summer Meeting of the Political Methodology Society, UC-Davis, July 20-22.

    Mebane, Walter R., Jr. 2007. “Evaluating Voting Systems To Improve and Verify Accuracy.” Prepared for presentation at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, San Francisco, CA, February 16, 2007, and at the Bay Area Methods Meeting, Berkeley, March 1, 2007.

    European Union. 2001. “Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: 1 October 2001 European Union Election Observation Mission Final Report.”

    Mebane. 2007. “Election Forensics: Statistical Interventions in Election Controversies,” Presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Aug 30-Sept 2. http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/apsa07.pdf

    Kirill Kalinin. 2017. “The Essays on Election Fraud in Authoritarian Regimes: III. Theory of Loyalty: Signaling Games of Election Frauds,” Ph.D. dissertation.
    (in file dissc_final_Walter.pdf)


  14. other statistical methods to try to detect election fraud (Nov 21-30)

    Peter Ordeshook, Mikhail Myagkov and Dmitry Shakin. 2009. The Forensics of Election Fraud.

    Susan D. Hyde and Nikolay Marinov. 2012. “Which Elections Can Be Lost?” Political Analysis 20 (2): 191-210. (in file Political Analysis-2012-Hyde-191-210.pdf)

    Susan D. Hyde. 2011. The Pseudo-Democrat's Dilemma: Why Election Observation Became an International Norm. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.

    Bjornlund, Eric C. 2004. Beyond Free and Fair: Monitoring Elections and Building Democracy. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

    Judith G. Kelley. 2012. Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Oftern Fails. Princeton UP.

    election monitoring organizations (examples).

    Pippa Norris. 2014. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. Cambridge.

    Ali Ansari, Daniel Berman and Thomas Rintoul. 2009. Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran's 2009 Presidential Election. Chatham House, London. June 21, 2009. (in file 14234_iranelection0609.pdf)

    Reza Esfandiari and Yousef Bozorgmehr. 2009. “A Rejoinder to the Chatham House report on Iran's 2009 presidential election offering a new analysis on the results.” (in file Iranian election.pdf)

  15. more tests and ambiguities (Dec 5-7)

    European Union Election Observation Mission. “Mexico Final Report, Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, 2 July 2006.” November 23, 2006.
    (in file 2006_24_11_final_report_mexico.pdf)