The Volokh Conspiracy

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Statistical nonsense at SCOTUS

The Texas AG's outlandish claims about the statistical unlikelihood of Biden's victory



As co-Blogger Jonathan Adler has noted, the Texas AG is suing the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin over supposed election irregularities, and calling on the Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction to hear the case on an expedited basis.

The filed motion and supporting documentation is posted here.  This little tidbit caught my eye:

9. Expert analysis using a commonly accepted statistical test further raises serious
questions as to the integrity of this election.

10.  The probability of former Vice President Biden winning the popular vote in the four Defendant States—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—independently given President Trump's early lead in those States as of 3 a.m. on November 4, 2020, is less than one in a quadrillion, or 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000. For former Vice President Biden to win these four States collectively, the odds of that event happening decrease to less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power (i.e., 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000^4). See Decl. of Charles J. Cicchetti, Ph.D. ("Cicchetti Decl.") at ¶¶ 14-21, 30-31. See App. 4a-7a, 9a. 11.

11. The same less than one in a quadrillion statistical improbability of Mr. Biden winning the popular vote in the four Defendant States—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin— independently exists when Mr. Biden's performance in each of those Defendant States is compared to former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's performance in the 2016 general election and President Trump's performance in the 2016 and 2020 general elections. Again, the statistical improbability of Mr. Biden winning the popular vote in these four States collectively Again, the statistical improbability is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000.

Wow! What a bombshell this is!  Odds of Biden having won GA, PA, WI, and MI are 1,000,000,000,000,000 to the fourth power to 1!

For the mathematically disinclined, 1 quadrillion to the 4th power is 1 with 60 zeros after it. Long odds indeed!  It's about equivalent to being dealt several trillion or so royal flushes in a row.  There's proof of fraud for you!

Spoiler Alert.  It's total nonsense—I know it's early in the 2020-21 Term, but I'm putting the odds at getting anything more ridiculous in a SCOTUS filing at about 3 quadrillion to 1.

I have not read the cited declaration by Dr. Cicchetti; it is not yet publicly available anywhere, as far as I can determine.  The Complaint says it will be included as an Appendix in the (forthcoming) motion to expedite, and that will give more detail, I assume, as to how he arrived at this preposterous calculation.

But I do know a little about statistics, having taught it for many years, and I assure you:  there is no "commonly accepted statistical test" that will, or can, demonstrate that the odds of Biden winning these four states, given Trump's early lead, are so incredibly long.  It is a fantasy. As many, many people have pointed out, Trump's disappearing leads in all four states can rather easily be explained by an increased tendency of people using mail-in ballots to cast votes for Biden—something that was widely anticipated prior to the election, and which indeed seems to have come to pass.

This is flim-flammery of the highest order.  I look forward to parsing Dr. Cicchetti's analysis and filling you all in on the mistakes that he made.  Stay tuned.