Some may call it a coincidence that in the middle of the Sept. 13 Shasta County Board of Supervisors public comment period — precisely as the meeting was being blatantly hijacked by election-denier Dr. Douglas Frank, abetted by Supervisor Patrick Jones — that Supervisor Mary Rickert would Google Frank, and find Professor Justin Grimmer’s scathing critiques about the bow-tied professor.
Finally, when the serial rule-of-law-breaking Supervisor Patrick Jones briefly inhaled between feeding Frank leading questions, Rickert jumped in to quote Grimmer and his findings that basically blew Frank’s election-denying theories out of the water.
Grimmer called Frank’s claims “flawed reasoning”. Grimmer said that correlations drawn by Frank as justification for his voter-fraud theory are merely “a poorly chosen statistical analysis.” Furthermore, Grimmer asserted that Frank’s analysis “is not evidence of voter fraud, nor of any sort of voter manipulation.”
But at the very moment when Rickert was scrolling through Grimmer’s analysis of Frank, Grimmer was watching the supervisors meeting virtually, seeing and hearing Frank’s unauthorized 23-minute presentation that inspired Rickert to Google from the dais Douglas Frank in the first place.
Those are some pretty amazing coincidences that led to some equally amazing results. They’ve served as communication springboards to connect Grimmer, Rickert and other North State citizens who grow more concerned by the day about continuous election misinformation.
Grimmer introduced himself to Rickert as a professor of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He explained to Rickert that he’s spent a good deal of time evaluating voter fraud claims, such as those made by Dr. Douglas Frank, the very man who hogged the public comment period for nearly eight times his allowed time. Grimmer shared a memo he’d written that refuted Frank’s claims. He also provided another memo that said there was no evidence to support Frank’s assertions that Placer County elections are manipulated.
Grimmer offered to work with Shasta County to help restore citizens’ confidence in voting. He also participated in the following Q&A here on A News Cafe. Plus, he’ll be the featured guest on an October webinar hosted by Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen. (See below for more information.)
You may recall A News Cafe’s mention of Dr. Douglas Frank, Mike Lindell’s election-denying pal, whose phone was seized by the FBI, just as Lindell’s phone had also been confiscated by the FBI.
Since then, Frank has spoken freely on Twitter about what happened as he was leaving an airport “potty”.
Mike Lindell’s “expert” to look for “election fraud” Doug Frank says he recently also had his phone seized at the airport: “As I came out of the potty, there they were – two guys standing there waiting for me.” pic.twitter.com/08gdAqqr6x
— Ron Filipkowski ?? (@RonFilipkowski) September 27, 2022
But between the time of Frank’s appearance at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting and Frank’s FBI kerfuffle outside an Ohio airport restroom, he was the esteemed guest of the Shasta Freedom Coalition, a group of North State residents who believe the 2020 general election was stolen from former president Donald Trump, and who doubt the accuracy of Shasta County elections.
Frank’s presentation was held at Hillside Church in Redding, attended by more than 100 fellow election-deniers and conspiracy theorists at a cost of $20 per person. Random trivia: Toward the end of his presentation, Frank referred to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors as “intellectually inferior”. Interesting that Frank made no exception in that statement for Supervisor Jones, who’d orchestrated Frank’s public-comment-period take-over that morning.
Grimmer’s Frank critiques
Professor Grimmer graciously agreed to answer some questions for A News Cafe. But before we get to the Q&A, here’s some background about Grimmer:
Justin Grimmer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. His current research focuses on American political institutions, elections, and developing new machine-learning methods for the study of politics.
His research examines how representation occurs in U.S. politics using new statistical methods. His first book, Representational Style in Congress: What Legislators Say and Why It Matters (Cambridge University Press, 2013), shows how senators define the type of representation they provide constituents and how this affects constituents’ evaluations. The book was awarded the Fenno Prize in 2014 for best book published about Congress. His second book, The Impression of Influence: Legislator Communication, Representation, and Democratic Accountability (Princeton University Press, 2014, with Sean J. Westwood and Solomon Messing), demonstrates how legislators ensure they receive credit for government actions.
Grimmer’s current research projects include a book project on text as data methods for the social sciences, an examination of how electoral rules affect political participation, and an analysis of how social media affect democracies. His previous work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Regulation and Governance, and several top computer science publication outlets.
He holds a PhD from Harvard University and an AB from Wabash College.
Please join me in welcoming Professor Justin Grimmer to A News Cafe.
DC: Professor Grimmer, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about Douglas Frank, who spoke in Redding recently before an audience of passionate election-deniers, many of whom have monopolized public comment periods for many months with claims of voter fraud and stolen elections. Can you begin with a bit of background about how Douglas Frank got on your radar, and what prompted you to investigate his claims?
JG: After the 2020 election and before Biden’s inauguration I began working on evaluating voter fraud claims. That work resulted in a paper where we show that these claims are based on faulty statistical reasoning. In part because of this paper a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer contacted me in the Summer of 2021 and he asked my research group to evaluate Frank’s claims. That resulted in an article, and subsequently I have discussed Frank’s claims in a CNN story that I believe Supervisor Rickert quoted in the meeting.
I have kept track of his claims, particularly as he has been moving through California. Most recently, I attended a meeting between Frank and Placer County election officials.
DC: Yes, Supervisor Rickert not only mentioned your name from the dais during the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting, but she quoted a passage written by you, too. When Rickert referred to you during that meeting, Frank kind of chuckled, and said he knew who you were. So, obviously, he’s aware of you. Do you think he’s read your findings, and if so, has he refuted them with evidence?
JG: Douglas Frank knows about my refutations, but has never provided any evidence or argument that directly refutes my findings. Rather, on his Telegram account he has claimed a vague allegory disputes my findings. When I pressed him that his vague claims were not refutations, he claimed he wasn’t interested in a technical discussion with me, rather he was only interested in explaining his findings to the public. In the end, he claims that I am critiquing an analysis he doesn’t do. This is obviously wrong.
In the meeting with Placer County officials, I pointed out that Frank’s evidence didn’t match his claims, and he agreed. It appears that now he retreats to saying that the canvas provides the hard evidence. Yet, neither Frank nor his supporters will release that evidence. As a result, it is impossible to evaluate his claims.
DC: Do you think that people like Douglas Frank truly believe their claims? If so, what do they hope to gain? And if you suspect that even Frank doubts his claims, why would he continue to disseminate misinformation? Is it all political?
JG: As best I can tell, Frank truly believes some version of his claims, but his overall conspiracy theory is very vague, so it is hard to know exactly what Frank believes. Most notably, Frank never actually specifies *who* is behind the vast voter fraud conspiracy that he claims is occurring. Rather, he claims it is some vague group of political elites, and occasionally mentions Zuckerberg, Gates, or Soros.
There are a bunch of other holes in Frank’s story. For example, he claims there are large factories that print ballots, with of course no evidence for that claim. He claims some nefarious group is continuously monitoring submitted ballots so that other absentee ballots could be stuffed, but no evidence that is happening.
While it is hard to know Frank’s motivations for making the claims, there is no doubt his claims are having a corrosive effect on American democracy.
DC: You concluded in one of your memos: ” … And the supposedly strong relationship between the number of voters and the number of registered voters occurs because Frank is essentially correlating a variable with itself. This flaw occurs in other of Frank’s analysis and leads him to find seemingly large correlations that are just the result of the particular analysis he had run.”
With that in mind, Frank describes himself as an expert, so my question is, do you think that his errors are intentional, or out of ignorance?
JG: I’m not sure if his errors are intentional or based on ignorance. But Doug Frank is not an expert in the analysis of U.S. elections. The claims he is making have no basis in any published academic literature. And Frank never performs any rigorous analysis necessary to demonstrate his claims. For example, Frank asserts that his tests of voter fraud work because correlations of certain values do not occur when analyzing human behavior. This is a vague and unsupported claim that is easily refuted. Further, Frank has never released replication code or replication data—both of which are expected from any expert performing data analysis. This makes evaluating Frank’s claims exceedingly difficult.
Another interesting feature of Frank’s presentations to audiences (and to election officials) is that very little of his talks are actual analysis. Instead, he tends to tell stories about his travels and provides hearsay evidence. He also inflates his expertise.
For example, he claims to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in chemistry. But the nominees for the prize are not released for 50 years. A website discusses the process for nomination with the relevant quote: “The statutes of the Nobel Foundation restrict disclosure of information about the nominations, whether publicly or privately, for 50 years. The restriction concerns the nominees and nominators, as well as investigations and opinions related to the award of a prize.”
He even did some of this at the county meeting. When pressed about a Stanford professor, Frank claimed he received a scholarship to study physics at Stanford. That claim, whether true or not, is obviously immaterial for my critiques.
DC: That’s an interesting observation about the amount of time Frank spends telling stories. I noticed that very thing when I watched the video of his presentation in Redding.
Professor Grimmer, you’ve provided informative and enlightening answers, which I appreciate very much. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JG: Part of what makes Doug Frank so frustrating is that his claims are so obvious to social scientists and statisticians. It is remarkable how someone who knows so little about statistics, elections, and voting has been able to cause so much chaos.
Just the Facts About Elections webinar. (It’s free)
The Shasta County Elections Department will host a moderated webinar discussion with Justin Grimmer, a Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The webinar, Just the Facts About Elections, will be held on Mon., Oct. 3, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Grimmer will be joined by Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County Clerk; and Ryan Ronco, president of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials and Placer County Registrar. The webinar will be moderated by Jeannette Logue, retired from the California Teachers Association and a long-time poll worker.