The question about the Arizona 2021 recount is closed and the message says: Update the question so it focuses on one problem only.

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I am finding it challenging to make the question more focused than it presently is.

I was particularly interested in the search for bamboo fibres in ballot papers, and how that would influence or support the many claims and accusations–seemingly hundreds–of election fraud that continue to haunt the 2020 US Presidential election results. Google News reveals an impressive 644 results for the search list: accusations Arizona bamboo "election fraud" 2020. Obviously, not all the pages are specific to the Arizona recount but it does suggest that the issue has stirred considerable interest and reactions across the globe.

As for narrowing the scope, the auditor and observer mentions that many of these ballot papers were not folded when 92% of the ballots arrived in envelopes. As well as that, he notes the importance of the ink's "signature" used in the printing the ballots; a theory advanced by Jovan Pulitzer who states that ballots must be printed in the US by law and “in some cases the ballots have to be printed in that exact state” and adds that a number of marks on ballots were clearly falsified by computers.

In the interview with Brakey, we learn that the audit team has been in the business of auditing for 17 years. The person being interviewed says that the company's name stands for Americans United for Democracy Integrity and Transparency (in elections), and states confidently that their job is not about the left or the right but about facts.

Now, I could have asked about the validity and veracity of each of the aforementioned claims by the auditor, Brakey, and those presented by Jovan Pulitzer. I could have struck down the reasons for the audit, attacking each and every thing said in that short interview, including the acronym for AUDIT, along with the whole premise of the recounting then maybe the question would have been more popular–although it did hit briefly the HNQ. But I didn't. Instead the question focuses on only one aspect: the possible discovery of bamboo fibres in the Arizona ballots and whether that is in itself sufficient proof of foreign interference and election fraud.

Sometimes an answer cannot be a straightforward "Yes" or "No", sometimes answers are far more complex, and the truth requires digging and fact searchings, and that starts with the small details. That's how I see it, perhaps some might interpret that viewpoint as being naïve and without logic. Maybe it is.

One of the moderators commented:

-1, [for the downvote] but not because I am frustrated, but because the structure of the question makes no sense. Experiments don't "prove" things. If you are Bayesian, you would say the results of the experiment can be used to update your priors. (A positive test for bamboo might make you think it (perhaps very slightly) more likely that the hypothesis is true.) If you are a Popperian, you might argue a positive result for bamboo would disprove the null hypothesis that the paper is made in the USA (if you could also demonstrate US paper doesn't contain bamboo, but that would be a different test.)

A second mod left this comment

Yeah, I've downvoted too. It's almost a strawman. Yes, they're looking for bamboo in the paper, but it's you that's jumped to asking whether that's "sufficient proof of election fraud". I'd VTC, but don't want to mod-hammer.

I disagree that I jumped to any conclusions or made the assumption that baboo traces suggest that the election in Arizona was rigged. In fact, I provided evidence that suggests the US may import paper products from China and that some of that paper may be made with bamboo. As other commentators hinted, maybe China is not the only nation to make paper from bamboo.

These observations and criticism of the question and its apparent lack of structure could have been formulated in an answer which was supported by evidence and not reliant on common sense. I left that opportunity to the community which appears to be doing a good job of debunking the dozens of vaccine controversies: claims supported by anti-vaxers and even by some doctors.

The post focuses on the issue of discovering bamboo fibres in ballot papers. The Q asks whether this is relevant or not in the accusations of election fraud.

I cited the source, I included links to that source. I did some research and shared it with the community. The interview posted on Twitter has been viewed over a million times and retweeted several thousand times.

  • How do I make this question more focused *without invalidating Schwern's answer which has attracted 36 upvotes and three downvotes. I would prefer to keep the attention on the bamboo fibres because of its extraordinary nature.

Any guidance much appreciated.

I find it inexplicable for someone with 80K rep on EL&U, +20K on Meta and +20K on ELL cannot see who or how many users closed the question on Skeptics but I'll leave that peculiarity for another day.

  • This is a side issue, but I just want to point out that Google returns a whopping 311 000 results for me if I search bacon eggs muffin "election fraud" "2020", so maybe don't read too much into the number of Google hits. link
    – sgf
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 15:12
  • 1
    @sgf it's just 79 results if you go to the last page
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 15:15
  • @sgf I have added a different link, thanks for reminding me about Google's wild algorithms,
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 15:21
  • 99 results as of July 2021. The bacon eggs muffin coalition is growing steadily. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


Judging by the comments (and my own thoughts), I think there are two main issues making your question appear unfocused: you have several quotes and it's not clear which claim you're asking about, and most of your post consists of you speculating about possible answers and evidence rather just asking the question.

First, your quotes have a number of claims and none of them quite match your question:

  • The first quote is made by the author of an article summarizing an auditing official's beliefs, and claims that 1) they are looking for paper made from bamboo because 2) the auditor thinks that will prove that China sent them
  • The second quote from the auditing official claims that 3) 40,000 ballots were flown to Arizona from Asia and they're 4) looking to find out if there's bamboo in the paper
  • The third quote is just the auditing official saying they are looking for facts, and doesn't really have any claims itself

Your question is "If traces of bamboo is discovered in the Arizona paper ballots, is that sufficient proof of election fraud", right? If so, that's not very clear from the quotes, nor is it clear who's claiming it.

Claims 1 and 4 are just saying that they are looking for bamboo paper, and claim 3 is saying that ballots were flown in from Asia, and neither of those match what your question is asking. That just leaves claim 2, which appears to just be the summary of the auditor's reasoning made by whoever wrote the article you quoted from. However, even that doesn't really match your core question, since it's not actually claiming that it would prove fraud, rather it's just saying stating what the auditor believes.

So, what claim are you actually asking about?

  • If you want to know if ballots were flown into Arizona from Asia, then focus your question on that and get rid of everything else
  • If you want to know if the auditor believes that finding bamboo paper would prove ballots came from China, then focus your question on that and get rid of everything else
  • If you want to know if bamboo paper ballots would prove that there was election fraud, then find a quote from the article or elsewhere explicitly claiming that and get rid of everything else
    • This seems to be what your question is focused on, but none of your quotes actually claim that it would prove fraud. I'm sure you can find someone notable claiming it more explicitly, and if you did then those other quotes would be useful background info

Finally, a large amount of your question is devoted to things that aren't the question. I'm just eyeballing it, but it seems like a third of your post is your actual question and quotes, a third are statistics about the paper industry, and a third is reasons why you think the answer to your own question is 'no'.

  • The section about paper statistics would be better suited as parts of an answer, there's no reason to include it in a question (unless the claim was directly related to paper imports/exports, of course)
  • Explaining your own incredulity can be a useful part of a question, especially if you're questioning what users here would consider a widely held belief. However, you wrote much more here than you needed to, that entire section can be summed up as "I know China produces paper from bamboo, but I'm sure the US imports that paper so I don't see why ballots made from bamboo paper would prove fraud like so-and-so claims"

Overall, my advice in order to get your question more focused and reopened would be:

  • Cut literally everything you wrote after the quotes (except for maybe the part where you explicitly ask your question), you don't need to spend so much of your question explaining why you're asking it
  • Make sure your quote(s) have claims that match your question: if you want to know if finding bamboo paper would prove fraud, quote someone claiming that it would, don't quote someone claiming that someone else thinks it would
  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. This explains why nearly every question on Skeptics commands a "yes, it's true" or "no, it's false" answer. It is just verifying what someone said, or what was heavily implied. This site is a totally different kettle of fish from what I thought I had observed. Thank you, in any case. I will not be editing the question, it would mean radically changing the question beyond recognition.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 18:49
  • In this meta question you explain you are only asking one question in the main question. The text of the main question does jump around a little, so it isn't focussed on that one question, but ultimately even one question can be too broad and unfocussed. How is Babby Formed is also a single question, but needs more focus to determine what level it should be answered (and many books have been written on the subject).

  • As worded, your question isn't really about paper, bamboo or US elections. It is about how weak or moderate evidence can be used to update people's beliefs.

  • You could have asked "Was the election rigged?", "Is there bamboo in the paper?", "Can you test for bamboo in the paper?" (I am curious about whether such a test exists!), "Are they actually testing for bamboo in the paper?", "Do authentic election voting slips contain bamboo?", "Is the paper for authentic election voting slips manufactured in the USA?" All of these could have been answered by presenting empirical evidence.

  • Instead you ask "What should I think if..." This isn't answerable with evidence; only with philosophical discussions about the nature of knowledge. The Bayesian answer to that depends on your priors. e.g. If you are 99% sure the election was rigged, based on a mass of high quality evidence, a negative result shouldn't shift your opinion much. If you are 51% sure, based on a hunch, a negative result should change you opinion more. If you are 99% sure that the paper does not contain bamboo, a positive result should shift your opinion greatly - but perhaps not fully across.

  • It isn't clear that your formulation is notable, because it isn't clear that the auditors hold the view that you ascribe to them; that the result of a single test will necessarily "prove" a particular conclusion. You are basing it on an interpretation of a paraphrase of a quote. The analogy that comes to mind is a parent looking under a child's bed for monsters before reassuring them it is safe to go to bed. Concluding from that that either parents believe in (a) monsters; (b) that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence isn't reasonable.

  • As for preserving the existing answer: I made a mistake; I wanted to close this question when I saw it, but I saw that @Schwern had posted a long answer. @Schwern has a good rep, and I trusted that their answer was of good quality without reading it immediately. I didn't close the question so as to not undo the effort Schwern had made. The next day, I got a chance to read that answer, and I do not think it is acceptable. When I tried explaining this, Schwern pointed to flaws in the question that lead to this. We need to break this cycle of the question remaining inadequate to preserve an answer that is inadequate because of the quality of the question.

  • The question received close votes from two regular users and one close vote from me. I am afraid I can't recall whether their close reasons exactly matched mine - I think my close reason takes precedence. I am sure I looked and took them into account, but I don't recall what they were. I am confident it wasn't because it was a duplicate.

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