Thursday, August 10, 2006

Recounts

Okay, now Mexico is recounting an election. Here's the problem with recounts: in the initial election, we have no idea how close a race it's going to be. Sure we have polls that tell you it's this plus or minus so many percentage points, but in an election, one percent can be thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of votes. Creating enough false ballots to insure victory, therefore, would require enormous fraud, and the corresponding enormous risk of discovery. When there is a recount, however, it is already certain that the balloting is very, very, very tight. It is at this point that the risk/reward curve of ballot irregularities is dramatically altered. The reward remains the same, but the necessary amount of fraud is reduced dramatically--a few hundred votes out of several million cast. Recounts lead to ballot irregularities, especially since creating badly made fake ballots voting for one's opponent can have much the same effect, and point the criticism the other way.

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