Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Aberrant Absentee Ballots, Some Statistics, Barzizza Files Complaint Against Election Commission

The Commercial Appeal reports that John Barzizza is challenging the election results, and asking for a recount of the votes. Here is the article: 

Commercial Appeal Article 

The complaint can be found here (if you cannot read The Commercial Appeal article).

Here is a portion of it:   


The absentee ballots made the difference in this election. In the other three categories (early, same day, and provisional ballots) the vote, incredibly, was almost a dead heat. Barzizza won each of these three categories, but his margin, out of almost 20,000, was only seven votes! In the absentee-ballot category, however, Palazzolo won 63% of the 475 ballots cast (301 to 174). In my opinion, the voting totals on the absentee ballots were so aberrant that a full investigation of the absentee ballots is in order if citizens are to have full faith in elections. 

I put together some charts to help show what I mean:

The discrepancy between the absentee-ballot results and the results in the other three categories cannot be explained by chance. By this I mean that the absentee voters differ, in a statistically significant way, from the 20,000 voters comprising the other three categories. The sample sizes are sufficiently large that, in the absence of a statistically significant difference, the absentee ballots should have been cast in a ratio similar to those cast in the other three categories.  I confirmed this by entering  the SCEC certified results into an on-line chi square statistical analysis. The computation showed that there is a far less than one percent (p value) chance that the variation between the absentee-vote results and the results of the other three categories is explained by chance. I would tell you the precise percentage of the possibility that the variation could be explained by chance, but when I tried to compute the exact "p" value (the level of significance), the software computed a value so low that it could not yield a number with that many zeroes to the right of the decimal point. You may quickly check my results by entering the figures into the linked website.

In non-technical terms, this simply shows that it would be next to impossible for the absentee ballots and other ballots to have come from the same data set.
What does this mean? It means, quite simply, that the 475 absentee voters were different in kind from the remaining 20,000 voters in that they supported Palazzolo by an almost 2:1 margin. This seems quite surprising when one compares this year's breakdown of the absentee ballots with that of  the 2014 election. In 2014, absentee ballots broke in the same ratio that they did in the other categories (56% to 44%):   

Take a look, for example at Germantown #3 precinct. I picked this precinct because It includes Villages of Germantown, a retirement home that, one would expect, would provide a number of absentee-ballot voters:

As you can see, in 2018, Palazzolo won the absentee ballots by a margin of 68% to 32%. Contrast this with the precinct's remaining votes, which Barzizza won by a margin of 51% to 49%. Then, look at what happened in this same precinct in 2014: Palazzolo won the absentee ballots 
(56%-44%) by roughly the same margin that he won in the other categories (54% to 46%). 

I submit that the discrepancy in this year's election between the absentee-ballot results and the results in the other categories raises a serious question about the handling of the absentee ballots -- a question to which the SCEC must provide a satisfactory answer in order for the voters to have confidence in the integrity of our election process.

The State of Tennessee has strict guidelines concerning absentee ballots

NOTICE: A person who is not an employee of an election commission commits a Class E felony if such person gives an application for an absentee ballot to any person or commits a Class A misdemeanor if such person gives an unsolicited request for application for absentee ballot to any person. T.C.A. § 2-6-202(c)(3) and (4).

I would like to know more about how the absentee ballots were cast in this year's election. I am particularly interested in how absentee ballots were cast by residents of retirement homes. Who, if anyone, went to the retirement homes to assist residents in their casting of absentee ballots? If, for example, SCEC representatives went to retirement homes, did they go to all of the city's retirement homes, or just a select subset of those homes? And, were the interests of all candidates protected during such visits? Maybe Mr. Barzizza's court challenge will give us the answers to these questions. We need complete transparency.


  1. Sorry, but Mr Barzizza's court challenge is nothing but sour grapes. There is no legitimate reason to assume that results of absentee ballots must mirror in person votes. It was a very close election, and he lost. Nothing is going to change that. Residents of retirement homes are not the only ones that vote absentee, but they may be more likely to be comfortable with the status quo, i.e. reelecting the current mayor.

    1. I beg to differ. In the last mayoral election there was NO statistical difference between the absentee voting and the regular voting. Something "different" happened this year. And, yes, Palazzolo was the establishment candidate then. It is possible of course that there is an explanation for this, but the absentee ballots need to be audited somehow. Absentee ballots are big issues everywhere. Furthermore, in the August election we were told of one instance where a retirement home resident went to vote, and had to fill out a provisional ballot! Records showed that she requested an absentee ballot. She claimed the administrator had asked if she wanted one and she said "no". It is completely against the law for the administrator to suggest to anyone that they even apply for an absentee ballot, much less complete a request for same. If this also happened in the November election as well, I believe it could be grounds for overturning the election. There is no way to know what happened until the absentee ballots are audited.