Wisconsin’s already-fraught politics got even crazier last week when a bitterly contested, high-turnout state Supreme Court election ended in a near tie. Incumbent Justice David Prosser leads challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by less than 0.5 percent, which means Kloppenburg has the right to a state-funded recount.
We are probably headed toward a long, expensive, law-snarled process — much like Florida in 2000 or the Minnesota Senate election in 2008. This is no way to pick a judge. And any mathematician can tell you a better, fairer and less expensive way: Flip a coin.
Choosing election winners by coin toss when there’s an exact tie is a time-honored tradition in states from Illinois to Alaska; just last Friday, a coin flip settled a school board election in Crawford County, Kan. It’s time to extend that tradition to elections so close that there’s no hope of being sure who “really won.”
It’s not quite that simple, of course. If any result within 0.5 percent triggers a coin-flip, then any result within a few hundred votes of that threshold will be just as contentious as Florida 2000 or Minnesota 2008. And it’s hardly fair to Prosser to give his opponent a 50-50 chance of winning, as if he were up by seven votes instead of 7,000.
But you can fix both problems by weighting the coin. Leading by 215 votes out of 3 million, as Norm Coleman was in his Minnesota Senate race against Al Franken? You get a 75 percent chance of winning. George W. Bush, leading by 537 Florida votes out of 6 million cast, gets a 90 percent chance. Prosser’s margin in Wisconsin is substantially bigger, so maybe Kloppenburg should be awarded a 1-in-1,000 chance of taking office. The exact formula doesn’t matter, only that the bigger your lead, the more the dice (or the computerized dice simulations) are loaded in your favor.
You might be thinking, don’t we owe it to the people to figure out exactly how many votes each candidate got? That would be nice — but it’s impossible. There are always hundreds or thousands of ballots whose markings are ambiguous or whose legality is in question. In any election bigger than town dogcatcher, there’s just no such thing as an exact vote count.
Full Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/to-resolve-wisconsins-state-supreme-court-election-flip-a-coin/2011/04/11/AFUtUELD_story.html