# [EM] Counting Large Numbers of Votes

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Sun Feb 17 15:24:26 PST 2002

```The Florida recount provided one cautionary note about popular presidential
elections:  When implementing such a reform, we should be very careful
about how the votes are counted, lest we wind up with a national recount
that makes Bush vs. Gore look like a case in small claims court.

Obviously better machines should be the #1 priority, but I assume that even
the best machines will have unforeseen errors.  Besides, we can't (and
shouldn't) make every voting machine in the US identical.  How then to
innovate and see if new technologies are better?

And, if we ever have an exceptionally close race, even the tiniest voting
machine error rate could matter.  I know that in 2000 the _national_ margin
was a statistically significant 500,000, but we can't assume that we'll
never have a squeaker of a race under some popular election system.

Here's one idea, applicable to any voting system I can think of:

For each vote total (be it approval votes, preference orders in IRV,
pairwise matrices in Condorcet, etc.), have each state round all numbers to
the nearest multiple of 2,000 or some similar number (I'm not wedded to any
particular number, and I'm open to the possibility of rounding to the
nearest 1% of the number of voters or whatever number).

With rounding, it would be very difficult to change a state's count of
would have an incentive to scrounge for votes anywhere and everywhere.
However, with rounding recounts would only makes sense in states with
either (a) unreliable election procedures (cough, Florida...) or (b) totals
close to the rounding threshold.

Problem (a) is solvable, and the frequency of problem (b) is predictable,
and unimportant except in super-close _national_ races.  In our current
system, of course, a national race with a statistically significant margin
can still be affected by a single state with a statistically insignificant
margin.

One other note:  Although rounding would prevent most recounts, it makes a
tie more likely.  Small non-zero margins could still produce a tie with
rounding.  However, I can think of a few reasonable ways of resolving the
tie without resorting to a coin toss or a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling.  Maybe
toss the decision to the Congress, or maybe count the number of states in
which one candidate won more votes than the other (count DC as a state if
the # of states won is a 25-25 tie).  I'm sure people can come up with
other equally reasonable methods.

What do people think of some sort of rounding scheme to prevent a national
recount in the event of a popular presidential election?

(And yes, Demorep, I agree that the EC is evil, I'm just pondering the best
replacement for it.)

```