What-If 0019: "Tie Vote"

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neremanth
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby neremanth » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:33 pm UTC

Piro wrote:I can here to say that Randall accurately predicted the election results with his first graphic!

At least when you compare it to Google's graphic of the results
http://i.imgur.com/JLYzF.png

Which of course means his first graphic doesn't actually depict a tie vote. :)


His first graphic isn't supposed to depict a tie for the whole country, just in one state - which for the graphic has been selected to be Florida, accordingly shown in grey. This is helpfully explained in the text above:
Randall wrote:I don't mean an electoral college tie. There’s probably about a 1 in 500 chance of one of those this year, and the consequences are thoroughly explored. I mean both candidates getting the same number of votes in a swing state. How unlikely is it?

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby Aiwendil » Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:51 pm UTC

As to why they created the system they did, when they were writing the Constitution, in 1787, they were assuming there would be no parties. This was very utopian thinking, because there had been parties in Britain, and it was obvious there were factions developing in America. So if you have no parties, each elector casts two votes for the two guys he thinks are best, and you just get two good candidates. This is especially true if there is no popular vote. This system was doomed to failure, but it worked for both of Washington's elections. All the electors cast one vote for Washington, and then they debated who should be VP, and they settled on Adams. (This system works better when there's no popular vote. Only half the states had a popular vote in 1788 and 1792, so the electors were free to discuss among themselves who they wanted.)
But the two party system coalesced around Jefferson's Republicans and Hamilton's Federalists during Washington's presidency. The Federalists nominated Adams rather than Hamilton because Hamilton had a sex scandal and Adams had seniority. (Adams was also much more of a moderate and had some of Washington's non-partisan spirit). The Federalists won that election, but they didn't have a "running mate," so their second vote was scattered. Adams became President and Jefferson became VP. So in 1800, the Jeffersonian 'Republicans created the whole running mate idea. They won a majority of the electoral college, and their electors vote for Jefferson and Burr. This ended up resulting in a tie between Burr and Jefferson. So that election went to the House of Representatives and Aaron Burr tried to get the House to vote for him. Hamilton hated Burr more than he hated Jefferson (and he hated both), so he had the Federalist House members vote for Jefferson. The election made them realize that as long as there was a party system, elections would be decided by the House rather than the Electoral College, and they created the 12th Amendment.


That's essentially right, but there are a few minor points I would quibble with.

First, it's not quite true that the Jeffersonian Republicans invented the concept of a running mate in 1800. The Federalists did have the idea of a running mate in 1796, and Adams's intended vice-president was Thomas Pinckney. The idea was that all the Federalist electors would cast one vote for Adams, but that one or two would not cast their second vote for Pinckney, thus ensuring that he had ever so slightly fewer votes than Adams, so that Adams would be president and Pinckney vice-president. But two things complicated this. First, no clear plan was worked out as to which electors would withhold their votes for Pinckney - that was left to be worked out on the day the electoral college actually met, which would seem to invite confusion. Second, there was a scheme by some Alexander Hamilton and a few anti-Adams southern Federalists to get Pinckney elected president instead Adams, by casting one ballot for Pinckney but the other for Jefferson. Word of this scheme got out, and it made a lot of pro-Adams Federalists reluctant to vote for Pinckney, for fear that the scheme would work. So, some voted for Pinckney but not Adams and others (a greater number, as it turned out) voted for Adams but not Pinckney. It wouldn't have mattered if the election hadn't been close, but it was very close, and Jefferson managed to squeeze into the margin between Adams and Pinckney.

In 1800, again, both candidates had running mates. Adams's running mate was actually Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the brother of his running mate from 1796. Jefferson's was Aaron Burr. Again, the idea seems to have been that all but one of the party's electors would vote for the running mate. Both parties seem to have learned their lesson, and there was no potentially self-injuring intrigue this time. The Federalists electors voted exactly as planned: all of them voted for Adams and Pinckney except for one, who voted for Adams and John Jay. The Republicans planned to do the same thing, but failed at the logistics of it; whoever was supposed to withhold their vote for Burr apparently didn't get the memo, and they all voted Jefferson-Burr.

It's also not really true, despite what one often hears, that after the tied vote Aaron Burr somehow connived to steal the election from Jefferson. He actually made no public statement on the subject of the contingent election in the House and he didn't try to influence it in either direction. In fact, he wrote to Jefferson that he still fully supported him for the presidency and that if the House selected him, he would step aside for Jefferson. Now, one could argue that he should have made a public statement to this effect, and certainly by modern standards his failure to do so would be judged quite harshly. But recall that at the time it was considered unseemly for candidates to participate directly in the campaigns and elections at all, so the fact that he made no such announcement is hardly surprising.

Moreover, Burr presumably fully expected the Republican delegations in Congress to vote for Jefferson - which, in fact, they did. It was actually the Federalists who made an attempt to embarass Jefferson by electing Burr instead of him. There were 16 state delegations, so Jefferson needed nine to win. Seven of those delegations were controlled by Republicans, one was evenly split, and eight were controlled by Federalists, so it was a close thing, and for 35 ballots the vote was 8 to 6 in favour of Jefferson, with two state delegations split. In the end, Alexander Hamilton, who hated Burr for personal reasons, convinced some of the congressional Federalists to give it up.

Sorry for the long-winded nitpicking, but this is one of the historical periods I'm rather geeky about. Also, I think Burr is one of the more unfairly maligned historical figures.

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby armandoalvarez » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:02 pm UTC

Aiwendil wrote:That's essentially right, but there are a few minor points I would quibble with.

******
In 1800, again, both candidates had running mates. Adams's running mate was actually Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the brother of his running mate from 1796. Jefferson's was Aaron Burr. Again, the idea seems to have been that all but one of the party's electors would vote for the running mate. Both parties seem to have learned their lesson, and there was no potentially self-injuring intrigue this time. The Federalists electors voted exactly as planned: all of them voted for Adams and Pinckney except for one, who voted for Adams and John Jay. The Republicans planned to do the same thing, but failed at the logistics of it; whoever was supposed to withhold their vote for Burr apparently didn't get the memo, and they all voted Jefferson-Burr.

It's also not really true, despite what one often hears, that after the tied vote Aaron Burr somehow connived to steal the election from Jefferson. He actually made no public statement on the subject of the contingent election in the House and he didn't try to influence it in either direction. In fact, he wrote to Jefferson that he still fully supported him for the presidency and that if the House selected him, he would step aside for Jefferson. Now, one could argue that he should have made a public statement to this effect, and certainly by modern standards his failure to do so would be judged quite harshly. But recall that at the time it was considered unseemly for candidates to participate directly in the campaigns and elections at all, so the fact that he made no such announcement is hardly surprising.

Moreover, Burr presumably fully expected the Republican delegations in Congress to vote for Jefferson - which, in fact, they did. It was actually the Federalists who made an attempt to embarass Jefferson by electing Burr instead of him. There were 16 state delegations, so Jefferson needed nine to win. Seven of those delegations were controlled by Republicans, one was evenly split, and eight were controlled by Federalists, so it was a close thing, and for 35 ballots the vote was 8 to 6 in favour of Jefferson, with two state delegations split. In the end, Alexander Hamilton, who hated Burr for personal reasons, convinced some of the congressional Federalists to give it up.

Sorry for the long-winded nitpicking, but this is one of the historical periods I'm rather geeky about. Also, I think Burr is one of the more unfairly maligned historical figures.

Thanks for that, Aiwendil. If I could "like" that post, I would. I was writing largely from memory-I should have looked up the details first.
Last edited by armandoalvarez on Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:11 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby nowhereman » Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:12 am UTC

I figured I should add this as I am a resident fo Nevada. When a tie occurs, the winner is chosen not by coin toss, but by a game of high card. If I remember correctly, one of our AGs was elected because of this rule. It makes me wonder what would happen if the election was between say Lance Burton and David Copperfield. I imagine that there would have to be a very thorough search beforehand to prevent cheating. I also think it would be televised with tickets being sold at $200 a ticket. Sell enough PPV tickets and we could pay down the national debt a bit :)

EDIT: I just realized that out national debt is over 16 trillion dollars. In order to pay off that debt, each and every person in this world would have to buy a ticket for $2000+. That is the kinda number that boggles the mind. Maybe we could cover the intrest?
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby tippe » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:43 pm UTC

OK, I'll admit I passed my university statistics and probabilities course by the skin of my teeth, but I think Randall may have made a mistake.

So the odds of a 9-state tie is 1e-45. Fine, lets go with that. He then goes on to say this is equivalent to the odds of a tie-breaking elector reaching into a hat simultaneously being hit by a falling cocaine bale, a tornado and a comet. By my calculations, isn't that equal to: "odds of tie needing to be broken by drawing from a hat" x "odds of a cocaine bale falling from the sky" x "odds of a tornado hitting" x "odds of a comet impacting" = 1e-5 x 2.9e-21 x 1.4e-12 x 6.4e-16 ~ 2.6e-53. That's an error of almost 8 orders of magnitude, which either means that I never should have passed that probabilities and statistics course in the first place, or that the world is coming to an end because Randall made a math mistake that's only 4 orders of magnitude away from being big enough to pass a tornado through...

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:18 pm UTC

tippe wrote:OK, I'll admit I passed my university statistics and probabilities course by the skin of my teeth, but I think Randall may have made a mistake.

So the odds of a 9-state tie is 1e-45. Fine, lets go with that. He then goes on to say this is equivalent to the odds of a tie-breaking elector reaching into a hat simultaneously being hit by a falling cocaine bale, a tornado and a comet. By my calculations, isn't that equal to: "odds of tie needing to be broken by drawing from a hat" x "odds of a cocaine bale falling from the sky" x "odds of a tornado hitting" x "odds of a comet impacting" = 1e-5 x 2.9e-21 x 1.4e-12 x 6.4e-16 ~ 2.6e-53. That's an error of almost 8 orders of magnitude, which either means that I never should have passed that probabilities and statistics course in the first place, or that the world is coming to an end because Randall made a math mistake that's only 4 orders of magnitude away from being big enough to pass a tornado through...


If you take the tie as a given, then you only need to account for ~3 orders of magnitude - which are accounted for by the mentioned durations - the probabilities listed are per second, while the described compound event is of the cocaine impact within a second, the tornado within, say, 3 seconds (0.5 orders of magnitude) and the meteorite within, say, 5 minutes (300 seconds, 2.5 orders of magnitude). There's some imprecision in the language used, and some rounding errors, but the two probabilities are equal to within the errors in approximation.

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby tippe » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:41 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
tippe wrote:OK, I'll admit I passed my university statistics and probabilities course by the skin of my teeth, but I think Randall may have made a mistake.

So the odds of a 9-state tie is 1e-45. Fine, lets go with that. He then goes on to say this is equivalent to the odds of a tie-breaking elector reaching into a hat simultaneously being hit by a falling cocaine bale, a tornado and a comet. By my calculations, isn't that equal to: "odds of tie needing to be broken by drawing from a hat" x "odds of a cocaine bale falling from the sky" x "odds of a tornado hitting" x "odds of a comet impacting" = 1e-5 x 2.9e-21 x 1.4e-12 x 6.4e-16 ~ 2.6e-53. That's an error of almost 8 orders of magnitude, which either means that I never should have passed that probabilities and statistics course in the first place, or that the world is coming to an end because Randall made a math mistake that's only 4 orders of magnitude away from being big enough to pass a tornado through...


If you take the tie as a given, then you only need to account for ~3 orders of magnitude - which are accounted for by the mentioned durations - the probabilities listed are per second, while the described compound event is of the cocaine impact within a second, the tornado within, say, 3 seconds (0.5 orders of magnitude) and the meteorite within, say, 5 minutes (300 seconds, 2.5 orders of magnitude). There's some imprecision in the language used, and some rounding errors, but the two probabilities are equal to within the errors in approximation.


OK, that makes sense, but I don't know why I should take as a given that one tie has already occurred in Florida, when we're trying to compare the probabilities of a 9-state tie to the probability of the simultaneous occurrence of multiple rare events. Besides, if it's already given that Florida is in a tie, isn't the probability of the 8 other states also in a tie about 1e-45 / 1e-5 = 1e-40? The difference is still ~5 orders of magnitude....

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:33 pm UTC

tippe wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
tippe wrote:OK, I'll admit I passed my university statistics and probabilities course by the skin of my teeth, but I think Randall may have made a mistake.

So the odds of a 9-state tie is 1e-45. Fine, lets go with that. He then goes on to say this is equivalent to the odds of a tie-breaking elector reaching into a hat simultaneously being hit by a falling cocaine bale, a tornado and a comet. By my calculations, isn't that equal to: "odds of tie needing to be broken by drawing from a hat" x "odds of a cocaine bale falling from the sky" x "odds of a tornado hitting" x "odds of a comet impacting" = 1e-5 x 2.9e-21 x 1.4e-12 x 6.4e-16 ~ 2.6e-53. That's an error of almost 8 orders of magnitude, which either means that I never should have passed that probabilities and statistics course in the first place, or that the world is coming to an end because Randall made a math mistake that's only 4 orders of magnitude away from being big enough to pass a tornado through...


If you take the tie as a given, then you only need to account for ~3 orders of magnitude - which are accounted for by the mentioned durations - the probabilities listed are per second, while the described compound event is of the cocaine impact within a second, the tornado within, say, 3 seconds (0.5 orders of magnitude) and the meteorite within, say, 5 minutes (300 seconds, 2.5 orders of magnitude). There's some imprecision in the language used, and some rounding errors, but the two probabilities are equal to within the errors in approximation.


OK, that makes sense, but I don't know why I should take as a given that one tie has already occurred in Florida, when we're trying to compare the probabilities of a 9-state tie to the probability of the simultaneous occurrence of multiple rare events. Besides, if it's already given that Florida is in a tie, isn't the probability of the 8 other states also in a tie about 1e-45 / 1e-5 = 1e-40? The difference is still ~5 orders of magnitude....


The two events being compared are:

An election has a 9-state tie.
An election official in Florida carrying out a tie-break has multiple bad things happen to them.

You don't factor in the probability of an election happening in the first case, so why factor in the probability of a tie-breaking Florida official existing?

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby tippe » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:22 pm UTC

The two events being compared are:

An election has a 9-state tie.
An election official in Florida carrying out a tie-break has multiple bad things happen to them.

You don't factor in the probability of an election happening in the first case, so why factor in the probability of a tie-breaking Florida official existing?


OK, I'll concede, and admit that your interpretation is probably what Randall was going for, and so by that metric he didn't make an 8 (or 5) order of magnitude mistake. However, <nitpick> let me just point out that in the second event, the probability of an election happening would have been the same as in the first event, and so since that probability is common to both events, isn't it meaningless to even mention it (as long as we're just comparing those two events and aren't trying to calculate absolute probabilities, or trying to compare them to a third event where an election isn't assumed)? In other words, it was unnecessary for me to factor in the probability of an election happening, and my argument regarding the 5 order of magnitude error still stands. </nitpick>

<edit: relocated quote to top. Top-posting is bad...>

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby bmonk » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:54 pm UTC

I just want to add that the idea of being hit by a zeptobale is a pretty cool idea. But how would you know?
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby Arancaytar » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:11 am UTC

After that lesson in probability, here's another question: What if third-party candidates actually won any electoral votes? The electoral system with two parties is simplicity in itself. There are 538 votes and two candidates, so the simple majority is practically implicit.
To go for the most extreme case, what if there were fifty candidates, and each won a single state's electoral votes? Would the Californian win automatically?

So I checked Wikipedia.

Pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the House of Representatives is required to go into session immediately to vote for President if no candidate for President receives a majority of the electoral votes (since 1964, 270 of the 538 electoral votes).

In this event, the House of Representatives is limited to choosing from among the three candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each state delegation votes en bloc – each delegation having a single vote; the District of Columbia does not receive a vote. A candidate must receive an absolute majority of state delegation votes (i.e., at present, a minimum of 26 votes) in order for that candidate to become the President-elect. Additionally, delegations from at least two-thirds of all the states must be present for voting to take place. The House continues balloting until it elects a President.

The House of Representatives has chosen the President only twice: once under Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 (in 1801) and once under the Twelfth Amendment (in 1825).


Side note: Reading how some of these rules originated is both entertaining and a bit scary. It drives home that the constitutional convention was not some kind of divine conclave writing a holy book, but wrote most of its rules while having very little idea of how or whether they would apply in practice even then - let alone today.
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:34 am UTC

So wait, the House just keeps holding the same vote over and over again until... someone changes their mind, or gets sick of it and throws in the towel? I could see a national popular election showing different results on a second run just because there's so much damn noise in the system, but surely each delegation in a group of ≤50 already has their mind made up by the time this happens. Why would holding the vote again ever give a different result?
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby armandoalvarez » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:22 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:So wait, the House just keeps holding the same vote over and over again until... someone changes their mind, or gets sick of it and throws in the towel? I could see a national popular election showing different results on a second run just because there's so much damn noise in the system, but surely each delegation in a group of ≤50 already has their mind made up by the time this happens. Why would holding the vote again ever give a different result?

Well, Pfhorrest, the popes are elected by the cardinals sitting in a locked room until they come up with a pope, and (in recent centuries) they always pick a pope eventually. And until 1968, the "smoke filled rooms" at political conventions were just the debating until they had a consensus candidate. It shouldn't be much of a problem as long as the vast majority of Congress belongs to one of two parties, it's unlikely that there wouldn't be a majority (although each state delegation might be tied and there's a chance the House as a whole would be tied). The representatives have to live with each other for the next two years and answer to the people during the next election, so I doubt they'd let the deadlock go on eventually. The weaker candidates would be pressured to concede, or their advocates would stop voting for them. Some deal would be made in the end. For example, in exchange for conceding the presidency to the Republicans in 1876, the Democrats demanded the withdrawal of Union troops from the South.

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:42 am UTC

Ok, so it's not just literally "well, there was no majority that time; everyone, please cast your vote again and lets see if it's different...". It's argument and persuasion and so on until a majority opinion arises. Not just an ongoing re-running of the poll, but a debate. The way it was put before ("continues balloting") sounded like the former, which sounded ridiculous.
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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby Mirkwood » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:47 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Ok, so it's not just literally "well, there was no majority that time; everyone, please cast your vote again and lets see if it's different...". It's argument and persuasion and so on until a majority opinion arises. Not just an ongoing re-running of the poll, but a debate. The way it was put before ("continues balloting") sounded like the former, which sounded ridiculous.


When electing a Pope, they are required to vote at certain times of day. The Constitution doesn't have that requirement, so the House can basically schedule a week of debate if they want to, and then vote. The requirement to continue balloting does prevent them from going into recess, I suppose, and there would be objections to doing much of anything else.

Come to think of it, though, the House has a good reason not to pick any president. If the House has chosen no president by Inauguration Day, and the Senate has picked no vice president, then the Speaker of the House becomes acting president. (As determined by the Presidential Succession Act.) So if the Speaker of the House can be assured of the Senate failing to pick a vice president and has presidential ambitions, he'll be sure to tell everyone there's no rush and to not hurry in forming a consensus.

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Re: What-If 0019: Tie vote

Postby silverpie » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:06 pm UTC

One factor that may complicate things--the election really is for actual people as electors, not just the candidates. So a tie in Florida isn't just a two-way tie for one office, but a 58-way tie for 29 offices. It is by no means certain that all states' tie-breaking rules always result in one or the other entire slate being picked. It could be that; it could be the first 14 on each slate and the one extra chosen by lot; or it could be a draw in which any 29 of the 58 could become the electors. (In Tennessee, the rules actually grant the deciding vote in this specific case to the state election commission; for other offices, different tiebreaks are specified.)

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Re: What-If 0019: "Tie Vote"

Postby Troon » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:00 am UTC

Someone is wrong on the Internet, and it's Randall this time. I've created an account just to point this out.

2.9 × 10^-21 bales is not 29 zeptobales, it's 2.9. So either the text or the calculation result is wrong. :shock: :shock: :shock:

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Re: What-If 0019: "Tie Vote"

Postby phlip » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:17 am UTC

Troon wrote:
2.9 × 10^-21 bales is not 29 zeptobales, it's 2.9. So either the text or the calculation result is wrong. :shock: :shock: :shock:

According to Wolfram|Alpha it's the calculation result, the correct figure is 2.9×10−20 bales/second. Probably a typo due to having the "zepto" prefix on the mind.

Alpha is also telling me that this frequency is "approximately (0 to ∞) × delta brain wave frequency" which is possibly the least helpful thing it has ever said, and that includes measuring things in kilometer-dollars or gallon-dollars...

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