Re: Random choice (was Re: exit polls vs. election results)

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Tue May 17 2005 - 23:27:37 CDT

On May 17, 2005, at 9:17 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:

> On Tuesday 17 May 2005 15:40, Ron Crane wrote:
>> I prefer publicly-witnessed random choice, since
>> it's easy for the public to understand and to verify,
>
> To understand in a basic way, yes. To verify, no. It is difficult
> for statistics professionals to verify randomness. I know of
> many ways to fudge a seemingly-random process, and the experts
> know many more.
>
> This is not an argument against having public witnesses. By all
> means, let us have yet another open government process. But let
> us not rely very much on the witnesses for verification.

The idea is carefully to specify the process for generating the random
result, not leaving anything to the imagination, and keeping everything
open to observation. Something like this is a start:

1. Each witness volunteers a coin.
2. Each witness inspects the others' coins. Only coins that pass all
volunteers' scrutiny are used for the next steps.
3. The volunteers elect a coin tosser.
4. Using each coin in round-robin sequence, the tosser conducts a
sequence of tosses long enough to produce a binary number of sufficient
magnitude for the purpose in question. Endianess is, of course,
specified in advance.

No doubt there are better processes. But even this one is better than
simply leaving the selection of challenge precincts to the candidates,
or to the whims of the officials.

-R

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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:40 2005

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