Re: What a weird situation

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From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Fri Nov 17 2000 - 20:10:33 PST

On Fri, 17 Nov 2000, Jeff Bone wrote:

> What I meant by that comment is: there is no Constitutional *formula*
> prescribing, explicitly, any particular means or mechanism or circumstance
> for redoing an election. ...

That's not the purpose of the Constitution. Look, section 8 clause 2 says
Congress has the power "To provide and maintain a Navy," and that's all it
says [1]. What is the explicit means prescribed for awarding contracts
for ships? Or for handling defense appropriation budgets? Well, that's
left to Congressional legislation. If every detail of government were in
the Constitution, the document would be as large as the United States Code
and the Federal Register combined.

> > No, [a national revote is] not necessary, thanks to the Electoral
> Yes, it is necessary, given that the Electoral College is in practice merely
> a weighted surrogate for the popular vote. The question at issue here is
> "how much information did the voter have at the time they voted." The
> question of fairness arises, in this issue as in the issue of media effects
> and disparate poll closing times, in whether voters in some locale with more
> information have an unfair influence on the outcome of the election. The
> answer, via game theory, is yes: any game where one party has more
> information about the state of the game at the time of play than another has
> an "unfair" advantage in the game. Note this is an objective assessment and
> term of art, not a value judgement.

There were undoubtedly a number of Nader supporters on the West Coast who
were watching returns in the East before deciding whether to actually vote
for Nader or Gore. That's completely different from a revote.

I think there should be a uniform poll closing time across the country
(e.g., 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific). Not to prevent West Coasters
from gaming the system when a third party can decide a tight race, but for
the much more common case of encouraging people to vote even though their
candidate appears to be losing nationally.

Suppose Florida had election rules that said if there's less than 0.1% of
a lead in a contest, you do a runoff election, with only the two leading
candidates. That sounds reasonable to me. Now, it could be that the 2-4%
who voted for Nader in Florida might now vote for Gore. Or it could be
that they would vote for Bush (the "heighten the contradictions" approach
in vogue right before Nov. 7th). Or it could be that before the runoff
takes place, one of the candidates makes a terrible gaffe and loses

So people might change their votes for a number of reasons. But the
Floridians are only gaming the system if they *knew* their first votes (on
Nov. 7th) were likely to end in a tie of less than 0.1%. Anyone who
didn't vote their true intention, hoping to get a tie, would be a fool. I
cannot imagine a scenario where it would be strategic to vote with the
*assumption* that you would be allowed a revote/runoff. Even then, what's
the value of forcing a revote? [2]

So I think any strength in your argument is not about gaming that will
have an effect on the outcome, it's about a sense that others got to vote
with more info than us. But that's just life. The revote or runoff only
happens in very rare cases that nobody could predict or count on.

It's as if all of Florida's ballots from Nov. 7th are being trucked up to
the state capital for a first count, and oops - the truck falls off a
bridge and the ballots are too damaged to count. So you do a revote. And
yes, Floridians get to know that, this time, their votes will determine
the Presidency, but it's not because of any trickiness on the part of the
Floridians. And I see no threat to other peoples' votes that would
override the importance of the Floridians' right to have an accurate
count. Maybe someone can come up with a compelling scenario, but I don't
see it.


p.s. - Also, I change my earlier comments. It's arguably fine to do away
with the Electoral College and still sum up the national votes from state
totals. Then you could still do a recount or revote just in Florida (or
in any other states where the vote is tight and there are provisions for

    Section 2 clause 1 says the President is in charge of the Navy, and
    those are the only two mentions of the Navy.

[2] The only way I can see a problem with a revote is in a very, very
hypothetical case like this:

1. Nov. 6th, Gore is leading Bush in Florida in "true intent" of voters.

2. Nov. 7th, sneaky Gore supporters vote for *Bush* in Florida, in
   *just* enough numbers to force a runoff (!).

3. Nov. 7th, later that day, voters in Califiornia see that Bush is at
   ~50% in Florida, there's a good chance he'll carry it, so some of the
   Californians decide they can afford to vote for Buchanan instead of

4. Nov. 8th, we wake up to find Bush has lost California by a hair. And
   Florida is close enough that it's runoff election rule kicks in.

5. Nov. 14th, Florida holds a runoff election, Gore supporters all vote
   for Gore, who now wins Florida. And they tricked Californians into
   giving up California for Gore, too.

Is there a realistic scenario?

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