Some people, however, took it upon themselves to "stuff the ballot" by crashing our defenses that keep people from voting more than once. The last time I checked, we were nearing 100 responses. Then, virtually overnight, the total responses jumped above 5,000. That told me immediately something was wrong, so I pulled the poll.
You might have been interested in the results. But now none of us will ever know for sure how people feel. As best I remember, Millburn was leading McConkie slightly, but Democrat Rob Miller was close on their heels.
Now blogger Tyler Farrer, in his "Davis County Watch" web log, admits to having corrupted some of the poll. His blog says the results of such polls cannot be trusted, and he hoped to make the point by stuffing the poll with votes for Millburn.
He hoped two things would happen: "First, that the ballot stuffing would be recognized and exposed. Second, that one or more people would retaliate and that Miller's box would become very full. At this point," he wrote, "I thought that the poll would be seen as a loss, the results in question, and shutdown."
Which is what happened. In a Monday afternoon conversation with Rob Miller over this incident, he told me he had seen an outpouring of support from all quarters -- not just from those in Davis County -- judging from the huge volume of e-mail he had received over the poll. I was given to understand that many of these people also had voted online to counter Farrer's efforts.
Farrer, however, apparently seems to have had second thoughts about his actions.
He wrote on May 20: "The poll was shut down but, somehow, the results of that poll seem to be held inviolate. I wish to apologize to any whose opinion has been changed, or not, as a result of my manipulation. What I did may not have been illegal, but it was wrong. Just because a process is flawed does not mean that trust in that process should be violated without regard. It was not my intention to swing favor in the direction of any one candidate...."
He goes on, but I'm sure we get the idea. We agree with Farrer that what he did was wrong. Frankly, everybody has taken this whole matter far too seriously and truth has been hurt in the process. Here's why:
- I doubt anyone's mind will be changed by reading the results of such a poll. It's meant simply to give Clipper readers an idea of what people are thinking.
- If the poll reflects a result we don't like, it is a travesty to manipulate it. Even those who don't come out well benefit by finding out what others are thinking. This can be a warning to work harder or to refine one's messages.
- Online polls are for information only and lack the controls necessary to make them statistically valid. But that is not to say they can't give us a general idea -- if people don't try to manipulate them.
The company that hosts our Web site manages sites for well over 100 newspapers across America. They've had few problems in their other markets -- except for here. So we've asked them to beef up their security measures a second time.
They're cooperating --but are probably wondering what's wrong with us and why we can't seem to get along. Meanwhile, we'll have to limp along without our online poll for a while. We can't tell where all of the fabricated votes came from, but they don't help anyone. We're all better off listening to the public, even if we don't like what they say.