Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why election recounts fail

Here is a NY Times op-ed by Charles Seife on the folly of repeated recounts in a close election:
Minnesota’s instruments for counting votes are simply too crude to determine the winner in a race this tight. ...
Luckily, Minnesota’s electoral law has a provision for ties. After all the counting and recounting, if the vote is statistically tied, the state should invoke the section of the law that requires the victor to be chosen by lot. It’s hard to swallow, but the right way to end the senatorial race between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken will be to flip a coin.
That won't solve anything. The loser of any close election will just keep requesting recounts, and then request a coin toss. They will never be able to fairly decide whether the election was close enough to justify that coin toss. It would be better to just accept the first count.

Saife has written on mathematics elsewhere, saying silly things like:
Zero and infinity are eternally locked in a struggle to engulf all the numbers. Like a Manichaean nightmare, the two sit on opposite poles of the number sphere, sucking numbers in like tiny black holes.

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