Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just Flip a Coin Already

When the good people of Minnesota were asked to choose in November between Norm Coleman and Al Franken they said "yes." So now instead of a settled Senate race they have a spectacle.

The good news is, that some of the institutions with real legal status aren't leaning one way or another either. Institutions with less credibility are now reviewing thousands of ballots one by one to see what they think the voters meant because the ballots weren't clearly marked......imagine instant reply in the NFL lasting 1.5 months with about 3 review boards involved. It's a nightmare.

It's become such a joke that on the website for this Minneapolis newspaper you can actually look at hundreds of these ballots that NEVER WOULD HAVE BEEN COUNTED IN A NORMAL ELECTION to try to determine what the voter meant. Unsurprisingly Democratic and Republican members of the 678 review panels (slight exaggeration) have dramatically different views of which ballots should count.

I used to teach statistics, a sin for which I will pay dearly in the next life. I can honestly tell you that in Florida in 2000 and now in Minnesota in 2008 WE WILL NEVER KNOW WHO REALLY WON THE ELECTION. It's not possible to go back to determine what those ballots meant. When you have millions of ballots cast and it comes down to a few hundred the result will never be clear because there are thousands of votes in every election that get lost or are marked improperly or get left in a car trunk in Kansas for Pete's sake. In those instances the result is going to come down exclusively to the rule that's chosen to decide the outcome. Those rules have the illusion of fairness and such, but in reality the losing side always cries foul. In Florida the rule we settled on was leaving it up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now in Minnesota they seem to want to include as many institutions as possible which I'm assuming is an attempt to put some credibility in the outcome.

No one in their right mind thinks this process will be fair or credible. Lawyers are involved - fair and credible outcomes have been excluded.

States should adopt a simple rule - if the outcome is within say 1000 votes we flip a coin - period. It will save money, move things along, and eliminate the arbitrary nature of "recounts" in which lawyers for each candidate scream about counting invalid ballots that simply should not be counted. It's a dumb process, so if you want arbitrary, make it quick, painless, and save us the cost of a recount.

Don't like the outcome of a single flip - make it 2 out of 3?


  1. I don't know... in my experience coins tend to have a right-leaning bias.

  2. Maybe if we flipped dollar bills instead.....are they more balanced?

  3. Isn't it better to keep them locked in some Kirk-esk battle? Anything to keep these boys out of Washington and out of our pockets!