In a blog item on Monday, law professor Ilya Somin, of the Washington Post's right-leaning "Volokh Conspiracy" blog, declared the weekend's reported 96.7% vote in favor of Crimea joining Russia to be either fraudulent or the result of voter intimidation of some kind.
In the article, Somin called the results "dubious" and "highly improbable," declaring at least three times in his very short, 6-paragraph item that the referendum's results were "achieved" (his quotes) and/or "likely tainted by fraud or intimidation" --- the likelihood of which Somin describes as a "fact."
"It is highly improbable that 96.7% would have voted yes in a genuinely free vote, since the Crimean population includes large Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities that are overwhelmingly opposed to a return to Russian rule," the George Mason University School of Law professor instructs. "Crimean officials are also reporting a high 83% turnout. If that figure is correct, it makes it unlikely that the 96.7% result is explicable by selective turnout. If, on the other hand, officials are lying about the turnout, they could be engaging deception about the vote margin as well."
Mainstream corporate media in the U.S. have a very difficult time reporting on real evidence of fraud in American elections, much less reporting it as "fact." But when it comes to elections overseas, particularly those which involve perceived geopolitical foes of the U.S., papers like the Washington Post seem to have little, if any, reluctance in offering exceedingly speculative arguments that all but declare elections held by others to be "fraudulent." (See this head-spinning irony, also involving Ukraine, just days after the very same disparity in Exit Polling, carried out by the same firm, resulted in questions about the legitimacy of results from Ukraine's November 2004 Presidential election, but not the still-disputed results of the 2004 Presidential elections in the U.S. just a week or two earlier.)
But 96.7% is, indeed, an outrageously high number for any election result. So how much legitimacy should be given to the results of the voting announced from the weekend referendum in Crimea, given what we know about the balloting and what we don't? And can the U.S. learn anything --- for better or worse --- about the way votes were cast and counted in Crimea?...