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1 A Bayesian Approach to Detecting Electoral Manipulation Micah Altman, Harvard University “Manipulating Maps and Winning Elections” is a challenging paper to comment upon. In part, this is because it is, in sum, convincing, and in part because it is merely the tip of Professor Johnston’s iceberg: It rests upon (and cites) a score of his previous works, which have been produced over more than twenty-five years of scholarly activity. In particular, this paper brings to bear data from Johnston’s unique and detailed research into the mechanics and effects of the UK’s system for defining parliamentary constituencies [Rossiter, Johnston & Pattie 1999], and analytical methods that he has invented or refined [Johnston, Rossiter, & Pattie 1997; Johnston & Pattie 2000]. I do not intend to comment upon every aspect of this article in these remarks. Instead, I will attempt to place that work in a more general analytic framework, and to suggest several methodological refinements and alternative approaches. Since Johnston explicitly draws on the general themes of “generalization and order,” “measurement,” (p. 2) and “understanding of aggregation patterns,” (p. 3) and since he argues that significant insights are to be gained from the “application of mathematical and statistical reasoning,” (p. 19) it is appropriate to put Johnston’s approach into a more formal statistical framework. 1 In the next section of this paper I present one such framework. In the subsequent sections, I 1 Since Johnston’s paper is also a call for more quantitative empirical work in the discipline, it is also worth noting a methodological issue that makes such work easier – replication standards. For other scholars to be able to extend empirical work most effectively, that work must be replicable: It must be possible for another scholar to evaluate the results, reproduce them, apply the methods used, and subject the data analyzed to alternate methods of analysis, all without the need to consult the original author. (In political science this is known as the ‘replication standard’. [King 1995]) To borrow from the submission policy of the flagship journal in my field, the American Political Science Review : “Authors should describe their empirical research in sufficient detail to permit reviewers to understand what has been done and … permit other scholars to carry out similar analyses on other data sets.” Some empirical journals, like Political Analysis , are even more specific, requiring that every empirical paper specify an archive where the data used in the paper and the computer code necessary to reproduce the results in the paper, can be obtained. That more attention to replicability would be useful is clearly demonstrated, when such a solidly empirical paper as this, by an author who has been in the forefront of making geographic data available for research [Johnston, Dorling & Pattie, 1999], still falls short of full replicability. For example, the replicability of Johnson’s analysis would be
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This note was uploaded on 05/12/2010 for the course APPLIED ST 2010 taught by Professor Various during the Spring '10 term at Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina.

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