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New Study Finds No Evidence of OAS Fraud Claims, “Very Likely” Evo Morales Won Bolivia’s October Elections in the First Round

MIT Statisticians Confirm Main Findings of Earlier CEPR Analysis

WASHINGTON - A new study, which analyzes the results of Bolivia’s October election, concludes “we cannot find results that would lead […] to the same conclusion as the OAS” that there was an “inexplicable” and drastic change in the trend of the vote. The analysis, by Jack Williams and John Curiel of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, determines: “it is very likely that Morales won the required 10 percentage point margin to win in the first round of the election on October 20, 2019.” In an article for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage today, Williams and Curiel write: “as specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October election.”

The study, commissioned by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) to independently verify its November 2019 study, reaches many of the same conclusions as that earlier statistical analysis, and replicates some of the most significant statistical findings showing consistent voting trends in favor of Morales, before and after the interruption of the preliminary vote count [trep]. Repeated Organization of American States (OAS) claims of an “inexplicable” change in the vote count trend of the TREP were the basis for allegations of fraud shortly after the elections took place. 

But “The OAS’s claim that the stopping of the trep during the Bolivian election produced an oddity in the voting trend is contradicted by the data,” the MIT researchers conclude. “While there was a break in the reporting of votes, the substance of those later-reporting votes could be determined prior to the break.”

“The OAS seems to have made statements regarding the preliminary election results without basis in fact,” Jack Williams, coauthor of the study, said. “Morales appears to have been heading toward a first-round victory prior to the interruption of the preliminary count. The results once the count resumed are in line with the prior trend.”

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Bolivia’s electoral authority suspended the processing of tally sheets in the preliminary count on election night with 83.85 percent of tally sheets verified and Morales ahead by a difference of 7.87 percentage points over runner-up candidate Carlos Mesa. When results from the preliminary count were next reported with additional tally sheets verified, they showed Morales above the 10 percentage point margin of victory that would give him a first-round win. 

But, contrary to OAS statements that fueled violent protests opposition rejection of the election results, these results are entirely consistent, and there was no “inexplicable change in trend” in the preliminary count as the OAS had claimed.

“The OAS greatly misled the media and the public about what happened in Bolivia’s elections, and helped to foster a great deal of mistrust in the electoral process and the results,” CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. “This important analysis from MIT election researchers is the latest to show that the OAS’s statements were without basis, and that simple arithmetic shows that there is no evidence that fraud or irregularities affected the preliminary results, or the official results ― the ones that actually matter. The OAS needs to explain why it made these statements and why anyone should trust it when it comes to elections.”

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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