Recounts

by Brian on February 13, 2004

Looks like being an election official in Florida just got easier.

The Department of State has notified elections supervisors that touchscreen ballots don’t have to be included during manual recounts because there is no question about how voters intended to vote.
While touchscreen ballot images can be printed, there is no need and elections supervisors aren’t authorized to do so, Division of Elections Director Ed Kast wrote in a letter to Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning.

So we’re just going to trust the computers. Given how reliable we all know computers to be, this is about as democratic as selecting candidates by lots. (Just for the record, I think it’s an interesting theoretical question about how democratic that is. It’s how we pick juries after all, and they are often considered an important part of the democratic process.)

Counting votes is a very hard business, so you can see why they’d want to speed it up. In Australia, with roughly the same population as Florida, spread over a much larger area, with I think twice as many voters, and a more complicated voting system, we manage to count every ballot by hand in 3 or 4 hours. To be sure, we don’t have as many elections at once as Floridians do, but you’d think for top-line elections they could try for a change running elections as well as we do. (Hat tip: kos.)

{ 6 comments }

1

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.13.04 at 10:36 pm

This computer voting thing is going to be a mess.

2

Glen 02.14.04 at 12:53 am

Your parenthetical comment about selecting candidates by lot got me thinking about an alternative scheme: selecting *voters* by lot. See my post here.

3

sennoma 02.14.04 at 3:04 am

It’s how we pick juries after all

Offtopic a bit: not if my wife’s recent experience with jury duty is any indication, it’s not. Prospective jurors might be randomly chosen, but then some pretty heavy selecting-for-desired-qualities takes place.

4

Matt McG 02.14.04 at 9:24 am

It’s an interesting point. I’ve thought a few times about the possibility of selecting democratic representatives at random. It seems the logical conclusion if one believes that who politicians are matters as well as what they represent.

[For example, the plausible claims that are often made that our parliament ought to have more women in it… which is sometimes backed up by deliberate selection policies for candidates.]

More here on this: Glaikit Feartie: Voting

5

raj 02.14.04 at 12:29 pm

One clear problem regarding counting votes in the US is that, in an election, the occupant of virtually every office is subject to the whim of the electorate. Moreover, there are often more than a few referenda. All on the same ballot. In one country with which I am familiar, Germany, when one goes to vote, one votes for the occupant of one office. I haven’t heard of any referenda there. That makes vote counting relatively simple.

6

Nicholas Weininger 02.14.04 at 4:52 pm

Ken MacLeod has, in one of his more recent books (_Dark Light_, I think, but it might be _Cosmonaut Keep_), a very nice exploration of how a choose-officials-by-lots system might work, complete with the line: “Elections are *so* undemocratic”.

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