Florida Ballot

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First, nice joke: http://www.rmoritz.homestead.com/Files/Floridaballot.jpg

Now serious. I don't think any reasonable person would say, "if everyone's vote in Florida went to the candidate they wanted, Gore wouldn't win". Obviously there was confusion in Palm Beach County - be it stupid voters or confusing ballot.

However, does anyone really think that the ballots that had multiple candidates marked should be counted for Gore? Should that county have a re-election, allowing them to change their vote without giving you or me the right to change our vote?

And FYI - a friend of mine in Palm Beach County said she saw several people come out of the booth and ask for, and receive, another ballot. I can't say everyone that asked received another, but at least some did - and of all the allegations, I haven't heard complaints that people were denied another.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000


There's no such thing as a perfect UI.... If a wall street trader hits the "TRADE" button without first carefully studying what instrument he selected, then he shouldn't be trading to begin with...

How many second chance do you get in your life?

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

This morning I heard that Cook County in Chicago, which had a similar ballot, had 120,000 discarded ballots.

If a Wall Street trading system had such a high rate of user error, it would be tossed out in a heartbeat.

Also, trading systems often have a lot of computer and human error- catching mechanisms. And, the 3 day settlement period offers some time to unwind or undo a bad trade.

The money markets system I worked on for three years had an important ability to reverse or reverse and replace a trade in the system.

The point being that trading systems have as many error-checks and safeguards as they can manage to have, depending on the kind of trading involved.

It seems to me that our voting system should have such safeguards, rather than just considering votes disposable.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

After following all the ballot usabilty hoo-hah on the news, Chi-Web and MeFi, let's put our money where our mouth is.

Have fun and play safe.

* * * * DESIGN-A-BALLOT * win cool stuff save america * www.dynagirl.com/contest.html * *

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

One thing to keep in mind is that while Buchanan received more votes in Palm Beach than in any other county, Palm Beach has a lot of voters. If you graph Buchanan's vote totals as a percentage of the population, his results in Palm Beach don't look out of the ordinary relative his performance in other counties. Please see Alex Tabarrok's press release at http://www.independent.org/tii/news/001110release.html for a discussion of this issue.

(Please note that I think the ballot is poorly designed, and may have confused some voters, but that Buchanan's vote totals in Palm Beach do not support the proposition that voters in Palm Beach made more mistakes than any other county in Florida.)

In any case, elections are unfair in many ways. For example, Florida's ballot-access laws are so stringent, that no third party candidate has appeared on the ballot for governor since 1920. (It's easier to get on the ballot for president than it is for governor. See Richard Winger's article, The Importance of Ballot Access. (Spring 1994 Long Term View, Massachusetts School of Law, Andover, MA.) at http://www.ballot-access.org for an excellent discussion of the unfair obstacles that third parties have to overcome.) If we overturned the elections every time a candidate got unfair treatment, we'd never get anyone elected.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

Actually, Buchanan's percent of Florida without Palm Beach County was 0.25%. His percent in Palm Beach was 0.79%. So, first, in a liberal area (where Gore got over 60%) he got tripple his average...

If he only got 0.25% in Palm Beach, and it's safe to assume Gore should have had the rest, that's over 2000 votes. Not that I think you can or should do this, but I do think it's obvious, Floridians (?) wanted Gore - they just didn't say it correctly.

So - my question again - do people think that Palm Beach, some Florida counties, all of Florida, or all of US should revote? Or, should the absentee ballots be counted, and whomever wins the majority (even if it's 1 vote) gets the 25 electoral votes of Florida.

Either way, I really hope the system changes AFTER this election, and before next. It's broken.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

I agree that the election process could be improved in many different ways. I also agree with you, irrespective of whether Buchanan accidentally got votes intended for Gore, that more people in Florida want Gore to be president than want Bush. Most of Nader's votes would've gone to Gore, which would've given him the advantage. It seems to me that not allowing voters to express their second and third choice (thereby allowing Nader votes to count for Gore as well) is a much bigger flaw in the election process than a poorly designed ballot.

But does that mean that we should overturn the election because of it? The participants in the election knew of the election process's quirks and deficiencies before they ran, including the risk that one or more of those quirks could work against them.

In any human rule based system, you have referees who interpret what a rule means, and whether or not a rule has been violated. In the case of the ballot design, the referee is the Florida Department of State, which has determined that the butterfly ballots conform with Florida state regulations and are therefore valid. In addition, the ballots were approved by the county elections supervisor (a Democrat) prior to the elections. I think that we should abide by these referee's decisions. Therefore, I think the ballots should be carefully recounted, and whoever wins (by however slim the margin) should be the next president. To allow another election post hoc, seems to me to be a case of "Tails I win, Heads we play again."

(Aside: Looking at Tabarrok's graph of Buchanan's percentage of the total vote per county, Buchanan's performance in Palm Beach appears to me to be well within the variablility apparent in the data. Also, given Buchanan's low absolute numbers, a relatively small increase in his absolute numbers could have a big impact on his percentage in a given county. His good performance in Palm Beach could be as easily explained by a cluster of a few vigorous activists as by a poorly designed ballot. .

Ray Lehmann (managing editor of Palm Beach Jewish News) made some good points about this on the Armchair Economist mailing list today:

"1. Buchanan drew 8,000 votes in Palm Beach County in
the 1996 Republican primary, which was his best
showing of any county in the state. 

2. The Reform Party has seen its membership grow 110
percent in Palm Beach County since 1996, while most
counties in Florida stayed relatively flat or

The primary reason for this latter statistic, one
might infer, is the presence of Palm Beach resident
Donald Trump, who had been Buchanan's chief rival for
the Reform nomination going into the year. While there
may be little overlap in support between Buchanan
supporters and Trump supporters, it is not
unfathomable that some segment of Trump's base in the
Reform Party would still vote Buchanan simply out of a
desire to keep their flailing party afloat." 

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2000

Ooops. Here's a working link to a CNN story about the Florida Department of Election's judgment regarding the Palm Beach ballot design.

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2000

Ummm, no comment regarding the election results (or lack thereof). However, this was one of the funniest things I've ever heard:


I nearly rolled off my chair.

-- Anonymous, November 14, 2000

It should be noted that contrary to what the press would like us to believe, the county is not made up exclusively of little old Jewish women. There is a large segment of very independent voters who have rejected other main stream candidates in the past.

If there was a large bloc of democartic voters that meant to vote the straight party line but accidentally voted for Buchanan then you would expect to see differences between Gore and the Democratic candidate for the US Senate. In fact, they are less than 500 votes apart. (Nader's voters seem to have gone to the two independent candidates for US Senate.) Bush and the republican US Senate candidate were more than 2,000 votes apart (the senate candidate got more). So there is no evidence here of a big swing of Buchanan voters voting for the democratic candidate for US Senate. That would seem to go against the theory of accidental Buchanan votes.

-- Anonymous, November 15, 2000

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