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complex systems scientist at the Medical University of Vienna.
“Of course, this is a statistical detection technique, not conclusive proof,”
says Klimek, who, along with Stefan
Thurner and other colleagues, report the
analysis online January 15 at arXiv.org.
But the numbers need explaining, “and
nothing explains them as cleanly as the
fraud hypothesis,” Klimek says.
Thousands of voting regions in Russia
and Uganda reported 100 percent voter
turnout with 100 percent of those votes
for the winning party, the researchers
found. Graph these data various ways
and the fraud signature pops out, notes
Klimek. Plotting votes for the winner
Data plots reveal
Landslides in high-turnout
areas suggest ballot stuffing
By Rachel Ehrenberg
Election fraud comes in many flavors,
but there’s a new taste test for one sort of
trickery. Scientists analyzing data from
recent international contests, including the questionable 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia, have proposed
a new mathematical measure to discern
fraudulent elections from fair ones.
The researchers examined voter turnout and votes received by the winning
party for recent parliamentary elections
in Russia, Austria, Finland, Switzerland,
Spain and the United Kingdom and for
presidential elections in Uganda and
the United States. Graphing the relationship between turnout and votes for
the winner revealed unusual peaks in
the data for the elections in Russia and
Uganda — a signature of funny business,
the scientists contend.
Ballot stuffing best explains the data,
says study coauthor Peter Klimek, a
cumulatively against voter turnout, for
example, reveals a line that slopes off into
a plateau for most countries, but for Rus-
sia and Uganda those lines keep climbing.
The next epidemics will be tweeted
Twitter posts tracked with official data during cholera outbreak
Fraud alert When the percentage of votes
for the winner is plotted cumulatively against
voter turnout, the resulting curve usually plateaus. But in cases of suspected fraud (Russia
and Uganda), the winner keeps gaining.
Vote counts suggest ballot stuffing
of votes for winner
25 50 75 100
Percent voter turnout
By Rachel Ehrenberg
Twitter, blogs and other social media can
be powerful tools for tracking infectious
diseases as they spread in poor countries with weak infrastructure, conclude
researchers who studied Haiti’s post-earthquake cholera outbreak of 2010.
Twitter posts and news about cholera
gathered from the Internet in the first 100
days of the outbreak tracked closely with
official data reported from hospital and
clinics. But the social media data were
available almost instantly instead of days
to weeks after the fact. Mining such informal news sources could allow for speedier
interventions with vaccines or antibiotics, biomedical engineer Rumi Chunara
of Harvard Medical School and her colleagues report in the January American
Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
“There’s very useful information in
some of these nontraditional sources,”
says Philip Polgreen, an expert in bio-
informatics and epidemiology at the
University of Iowa. The new work estab-
lishes that the approach is useful for
tracking a disease that emerges in the
unsafe living conditions that often fol-
low a disaster, Polgreen says.