Working on a longer post about Iran election coverage, but for now here’s FiveThirtyEight’s Renard Sexton on the “fishy” election numbers:

Although widespread allegations of fraud, manipulation, intimidation and other all too common elections tactics have been common, statistically detecting fraud or manipulation is a challenge…


Two things are of particular interest to us, the first being whether it is plausible for Pres. Ahmadinejad to have received as high of a total as the results indicate (and the sub-question of whether it was plausible for him to have received an outright majority in the first round). The second question is whether the vote totals for his rivals are reasonable, given the fact that they have run for elected office before.

… We would have expected Ahmadinejad’s result from Friday, informed by the polling, historical trends and a bit of bet-hedging, to be between 40% and 55%.

These figures would suggest that Ahmadinejad’s reported 65% of the national vote is at minimum outside of the trend, and more likely, an exaggerated figure. Whether they overstate the will of the Iranian public by 3-5 points or say, 20-30 points, is up for interpretation.

Sexton also lays out why the “provincial results” are particularly “fishy.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.