Article published Sunday, November 23, 2008, at Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Counterpoint: The Recount, My numbers do, indeed, add up

By John R. Lott, Jr.

The pieces on the Opinion Exchange website ("WSJ numbers don't add up") and in Tim O'Brien's Nov. 13 Blog House column attacking my work on the Minnesota recount were inaccurate. The Star Tribune's claims have been picked up by other media and used by the Franken campaign.

Just correcting "typos" in how the votes were recorded reduced incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman's lead from 725 to 206 votes when Minnesota counties certified the votes on Nov. 10.

Using the vote totals from Nov. 9, I pointed out that Franken's net gain was huge -- "new votes for Franken from all the precincts is greater than adding together all the changes for all the precincts in the entire state for the presidential, congressional, and state house races combined." A Star Tribune editor claimed "[Lott's] numbers are simply wrong. ... I don't know what statistical calculation Lott was using, but Obama clearly got more from the corrections."

The Star Tribune argued that Obama's net gain was 1,121 votes -- much bigger than Franken's, and thus evidence that nothing unusual had occurred in Franken's race.

Why the difference? While my work looked at the impact of correcting already reported votes ("typos"), the Star Tribune primarily relied on something quite different -- two precincts that didn't report the presidential votes for their districts until Nov. 5, the morning after the election.

For example, precinct Richfield W-3 P-01 went from 0 to 908 votes for Obama. For McCain, it went from 0 to 474.

This was not an incorrect number that was entered and later corrected, but simply the result of no numbers having been entered for either Obama or McCain or any other presidential candidate until Wednesday morning.

The same exact thing happened in precinct Alexandria W-1 P-2, where the Obama vote count went from 0 to 107. The other candidates had also been reported as having zero votes.

Fox News contacted the auditor of Douglas County, where the Alexandria precinct is located. The auditor thought that the couple hour delay in sending in the results due to network problems was very different from other counties that had changed the results they had first sent in.

Looking at the precincts that had entered a number and then changed it between Nov. 5 and Nov. 10, Obama picked up 106 votes. Adding together the changes for Richfield (908), Alexandria (107), and the corrected typos (106) yields 1,121 votes, exactly the number that the Star Tribune reported.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

List of my Op-eds

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article


Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper