The allegedly confusing ballot
Chambers Jr, Henry L.
ChambersH at MISSOURI.EDU
Thu Nov 9 10:38:27 PST 2000
Ward Farnsworth makes a few nice points about the problems inherent in
revoting. I respond to them in order.
>1. In an important sense it's too late to "revote." . . .
>Surely there is something important about the principle that when we >vote,
>we vote at the same time rather than sequentially. It has to do with
>putting voters on an equal footing. I would much sooner tolerate >some
>errors in recording peoples' preferences (which are inevitable >anyway)
>start fiddling with the other principle.
Recall that I suggested a revote only if the ballot was illegal under
Florida law. If the illegality stemmed from the disregard of a law or
regulation that was designed to make the ballot non-confusing, I have little
problem with suggesting that the ballot be invalidated. The question then
becomes how to fix the problem of the invalidation.
>2. Another of the many bothersome aspects of this idea is the >spectacle
>deciding whether to enforce the law only after the result it >>(perhaps)
>produced has become clear. . . . [A]s I understand it the ballot was
>reviewed, approved, and distributed by both parties in advance of the
>election. If Gore had won (or wins), the objections to the form of >the
>ballot evaporate or never get made. . . . Sounds like heads I win, >tails
you lose; it
>raises nice strategic possibilities for future designers of ballots >in
The reason it does not get raised if Gore is not elected is because there
would be no reason to believe that the problem caused damage, not because no
problem existed. While the suggestion that future ballot designers might
try to make a confusing ballot exists, it is likely dwarfed by the desire to
make sure that the ballot is not objectionable in the first place.
Remember, the revoting only comes as a direct result of a breach of Florida
>3. It appears that preferences about the political outcome are >driving
>of the arguments being made in public discussion of this issue. (I
This is true, but does not tell me much. Presumably, the argument is that
Gore supporters are complaining because their guy was disadvantaged. Of
course, I could argue that Bush supporters are inappropriately suggesting
that a tainted election be validated just because their guy likely
benefitted from the taint. If we could turn back the clock, I suspect that
we all would prefer to fix the ballots. I suspect we would do so because we
prefer to have an accurate account of the people's preferences. That
suggests to me that a limited revote is a reasonable option.
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