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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Numbers DO lie

Shortly after the polls closed in Texas on Tuesday, the running tally at the bottom of the CNN’s screen showed that, with 1 percent of precincts reporting in the Lone Star state, Hillary Clinton had collected roughly 450,000 votes in the Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama’s 350,000.

That’s 800,000 Deomcratic votes – with 1 percent of the precincts reporting. Didn’t that number seem just a bit high to anyone at CNN?

Now I realize that 1 percent of precincts doesn’t necessarily equal 1 percent of the electorate – because some precincts are more populous than others – but using a 1-to-1 ratio for the sake of argument, CNN’s number means Texas had about 80 million people vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Not bad for a state that has only 21 million residents (and only 12.75 million registered voters, fewer than half of whom are Democrats).

But alas, this wasn’t just a CNN problem. A quick check of the tallies on Fox News and MSNBC revealed the exact same numbers. These national news operations apparently all get their data from the same source, that data obviously was wrong, and no one at the networks bothered to confrim the numbers before broadcasting them. TV news operations are in such a hurry to air results first that they don’t bother to check the most important thing: whether the results are correct.

Ultimately, with 99 percent of the Texas precincts reporting this morning, Clinton had 1.45 million votes to Obama’s 1.35 million – a total of 2.8 million. That number seems much more plausible.



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