Here is another in my occasional series of critiques of bad election fraud arguments. I realize that some people consider it counterproductive to criticize bad election fraud arguments for fear of trivializing real problems. I wish that these people were equally concerned that making bad election fraud arguments will trivialize real problems.
Today I consider the "Connally anomaly": the fact that in 2004, C. Ellen Connally, Democratic candidate for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, received more votes than John Kerry in 12 of Ohio's 88 counties -- although Kerry received hundreds of thousands more votes than Connally statewide. The Conyers report, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Rolling Stone article on the 2004 election, and Richard Hayes Phillips' book Witness to a Crime all cite this result as suggesting fraud. Recently, Stephen Spoonamore has speculated that Republican IT expert Mike Connell is somehow implicated in the Connally anomaly. The problem is that the Connally anomaly isn't actually anomalous.
According to the Conyers report of January 2005, these results "appear to run counter to the established principle that downballot party candidates receive far less [sic] votes than the presidential candidate of the same party" (page 54, footnote 238). In Butler County, where Connally received over 59,000 votes and Kerry just over 54,000, the report commented, "It appears implausible that 5,000 voters waited in line to cast votes for an underfunded Democratic Supreme Court candidate and then declined to cast a vote for the most well-funded Democratic Presidential campaign in history" (page 55). Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. summarizes the case this way:
When the ballots were counted, Kerry should have drawn far more votes than Connally -- a liberal black judge who supports gay rights and campaigned on a shoestring budget. And that's exactly what happened statewide: Kerry tallied 667,000 more votes for president than Connally did for chief justice, outpolling her by a margin of thirty-two percent. Yet in these twelve off-the-radar counties, Connally somehow managed to outperform the best-funded Democrat in history, thumping Kerry by a grand total of 19,621 votes -- a margin of ten percent....
Kucinich, a veteran of elections in the state, puts it even more bluntly. "Down-ticket candidates shouldn't outperform presidential candidates like that," he says. "That just doesn't happen. The question is: Where did the votes for Kerry go?"
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"
Actually, that just does happen. In 2000, Democratic judicial candidate Alice Resnick received more votes than Al Gore in 81 of Ohio's 88 counties. Granted, this election was unusual in that Resnick actually received more votes than Gore statewide. But even fellow Democratic judicial candidate Timothy Black, who trailed Gore by over 300,000 votes statewide, received more votes in 40 counties. In 1996, when the Democratic judicial candidates were uncompetitive (one lost by 17 points, the other by 32), one Republican judicial candidate received more votes than Bob Dole in 81 counties, and the other in 58 counties. In 2004, not only did every Democratic judicial candidate receive more votes than Kerry in at least 3 counties, but every Republican judicial candidate received more votes than Bush in at least 4 counties. In short, it is absolutely routine in Ohio for down-ticket candidates to outperform presidential candidates in at least some counties.
The counties where Connally received more votes than Kerry were among the most Republican counties in the state. This is not surprising. Judicial races are non-partisan on the ballot in Ohio, so many people who turned out to vote in the presidential race would have had no idea that Connally was Democratic, never mind "a liberal black judge who supports gay rights." The more Bush voters in a county, the more of them were likely to vote for Connally essentially by mistake. (Similarly, many Kerry voters voted for Connally's opponent, Thomas Moyer. In Cuyahoga County, Connally ran 7 points behind Kerry although it was her home county.)
Phillips offers a plausible -- but inadequate -- argument that the "Connally anomaly" counties are anomalous anyway. Phillips notes that Connally's vote share in these 12 counties is close to her vote share in the other counties won by Bush, but Kerry's vote share is about 11 points lower. So, are these 12 counties indistinguishable from the other "Bush counties" except for the 2004 presidential race? Actually not. In 2000, Al Gore did about 7 points worse in the "Connally anomaly" counties than the others. In 2002, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan also did about 7 points worse in these counties. And in 2008, the Democratic share of the primary vote was about 6 points lower.
Someone may be saying, "Aha! That 11-point gap for Kerry is larger than the other three gaps!" Yes, it is, but we would expect that given how the "Connally anomaly" counties were selected in the first place. By definition, these are the counties where Kerry did worst compared with Connally -- so it isn't surprising that Kerry also did somewhat worse than Gore or Hagan. However, if one simply plots Kerry vote share against Connally vote share, these counties don't especially stand out. (The one county that does stand out is Erie, where Kerry won but Connally got only about 34% of the vote.) Nor do they stand out if one plots Kerry vote share against Gore vote share.
None of this is to vouch for the accuracy of the vote counts or the fairness of election administration in all (or any of) these counties. Other evidence can and should be considered point by point. But as for the Connally anomaly itself, well, it doesn't exist.