Re: Vote for Lizard People in MN?

From: cls <cls_at_truffula_dot_sj_dot_ca_dot_us>
Date: Tue Nov 25 2008 - 21:40:59 CST

>From: Charlie Strauss <>
>To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list <>
>Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 12:43:07 -0700
>Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] Vote for Lizard People in MN?

>My feeling is that all elections that differ by less than say a part
>in a thousand, ought to be settled by a game of chance not by a
>plurality of the votes.

I wonder whether you're joking.

>Say if Franken and Coleman are separated by less than 1000 in the
>initial count, you pick a random number to see who actually wins.

>This way things like traffic accidents, the Flu, rainstorms, and so
>forth, don't change the outcome of the election. There's little
>incentive to cheat at the precint level since it won't change the
>outcome. Likewise small errors or small numbers of lost ballots don't
>matter. Thus there is no need to call for a recount.

An election is an expensive experiment. You don't throw away
the information it yields.

Serious political observers have pointed out the significance of
elections that come so close to 50-50 all the time. If you roll
a die thousands of times and get a nearly equal number of each outcome,
you conclude that it's an honest die, that rolling it gives a truly
random outcome. 50-50 elections are telling us that the voters
are voting randomly, because they really perceive little difference
among the candidates.

>Once you accept the principle,

There's no principle in throwing outcomes away. If it's too close
to call, you can't honestly call it. That's an outcome. But it doesn't
follow that a game of chance, or a superstitious ritual, or any
other ceremony can serve the function of an election in a democracy.
Throw away the election and you throw away the democracy.

>It sure would solve a lot of problems and it's not going to happen
>very often so it's not like it undermines democracy in some way.

Handwaving notwithstanding, throwing away the outcome undermines
democracy in a direct and obvious way.

> At
>that margin both candidates are qualified and the precision we are
>measuring the election to exceeds the accuracy to which elections
>measure popular will--- the weather has more to do with the outcome at
>the part in thousand level.

In a 50-50 race for one seat, half the voters don't like one of
the candidates. That's the well known problem with first-past-the-post
plurality elections. You can't tell whether a vote for candidate A
is a vote *for* A or *against* B. The poll doesn't collect that

Accuracy of elections is a separate problem.

>Or one can assert that if Al Franken wins by 27 votes, most from

One can assert the moon is made of cheese. Doesn't make it so.

The reform that's needed is to admit that polling has an margin
of error, which leads to a nonzero certainty in the outcome.
More robust balloting systems, like OVC's, can reduce that margin
but they can't eliminate it.
Some ballots will be spoiled, lost, vandalized, etc.
Polling places will be disrupted by storms. Absentee ballots
will be ambiguously authentic. Voters will show up with questionable
credentials. Election law needs to reflect that,
by only declaring a winner when the margin of victory is greater
than the margin of error calculated beforehand.
If you don't get a winner, you have a runoff.

This won't happen. Voting and the election system will continue
to be irrational.


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Received on Sun Nov 30 23:17:18 2008

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