A brief election-related post

A brief election-related post November 6, 2012
This is what I grew up voting on. Optical scan may be more reliable, but it just doesn’t feel as official without a big lever to go *thonk*

Look, I don’t want to derail our contentious discussion of Dennett’s Breaking the Spell with a contentious discussion of the election, but I think it’s very important that you all know about the parody Nate Silver twitter account (@fivethirtynate) that’s popped up.  Among my favorites:

Now is the nowcast of our forecasts, made glorious projection by this mean of polls.

Teach a man to survey and he knows the race for a day. Teach a man to aggregate and there is no race.

A pundit asks me for the state of the race. I chant Bayes’ theorem until his writings crumble into dust. The Noise fades – for now.

A man boasts to me of Momentum, his greatest invention. “To victory,” he cries, taking flight. I light a candle from the wax of his wings.

I smash hourglasses in the wilderness until sand and glass covers all things. From time itself, I have aggregated a mighty desert.

Go to the ocean. Cup your hands and drink its salty foam. This is your sample size. What lurks within its abyssal depths?

Don’t count on being able to vote over your lunch hour. I did early voting and I had an hour long wait (if I had known, I would have worn my long underwear under my chinos). Even if you’re not in embarrassment-to-the-nation Florida (7 hour lines!), you may be in for a slog.

Today is also a good opportunity to teach friends and family about the dangers of illiquid markets, because the pricing on InTrade is very silly today.  When there aren’t enough people buying and selling shares, the odds get all wonky.  I was able to buy shares that the GOP would get 220 or more electoral votes for $7.90/share.  Tomorrow, if I’m right, they’ll pay out at $10 each.  Keep in mind that 220 EV is below Nate Silver’s projections of the Romney totals.  And, when I was making investments last night, some poor sod was willing to take the other side of me shorting an electoral college winner/popular winner split at $2.30.  Gevalt!

And one other opportunity for teachable moments: check out Ron Rivest’s Three Ballot Voting system, to detect tampering without compromising the secret ballot.  (He’s the ‘R’ in RSA encryption and I have a total crush).  When I dressed up as a hacked touchscreen voting machine for Halloween 2008 (see below, built a lightbox and slid transparencies in a loop for the different screens), I handed out pamphlets on machine voting security to tipsy, semi-naked people coming out of clubs.

And finally, possibly, you, like me, tend to wax wroth on Election Night.  If I had my druthers, the commentary would be limited to 5-10 minutes after polls close or a big set of tallies come in, and the rest of the time the channels would just show the static map silently.  It is a struggle for me to not yell unsavory things when the big board and the holograms come out.  So, my plan for tonight is to go to Krav right after work to tire myself out, and then to bake cookies while the returns come in.  I have no electric mixer, so creaming butter and sugar by hand should help divert my aggression.

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  • Ted Seeber

    Forget commentary, have some really geeky fun! Keep hitting refresh after 6pm EST on
    http://electoral-vote.com and watch the EVs happen in near real-time as *all* data is taken into account. Warning: Updates may continue right up until December 11, as that is the only voting day that actually counts. What, you thought YOUR vote meant something?

    • Ted Seeber

      They seem to be a little late with their map wipe. Either that, or my firewall is giving me a cached image.

      • Ted Seeber

        And this morning, despite their server meltdown- turns out their prediction was right on the money.

        Too bad another 4 million will be dead by the time we have another chance to correct our mistakes this time around.

  • Sara

    Good for you for holding out on a mixer. Creaming by hand, baby!

  • Niemand

    If you’re an adult US citizen, go vote. I don’t even care if you agree with my politics or not. Just, go vote. Voting tells the country’s leaders, “Yes, we are watching you and we do care what you do. We put you there, we can take you back out.”

    • Or it tells them “We’re making lots of noise to drown out the signal of anyone who actually may have been watching you, so just make the right noises and to what thou wilst”. Politicians are quite worried about their turnout being worse than the other guy’s, but I don’t they they’re loosing any sleep about the possibility of symmetrically low turnout.

      • That should be symmetrically high turnout, though it’s true either way.

  • If I get it right, the voter in that ThreeBallot voting system must be isolated from external influence on the cabin-checker-box-route. Because if the buyer of her can tell her which receipt to pick after filling in all three ballots her vote becomes fully verifiable.

    Of course that attack vector is totally irrelevant compared to camera phones and postal voting. But then if we’re talking boring actual reality, public vote counting solves the real part of the problem anyway.

  • deiseach

    I’ve been looking for an excuse to share this 🙂

    Regarding electronic voting, I am interested in the various voting machines used in American elections. Over here in my little green island, we still use the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil method. Something around eight years ago, the government of the day wanted to drag Ireland into the 21st century and bought in a job-lot of Dutch machines, which (instead of being allocated to centres around the country for elections) then sat in a warehouse in my own county for six years until they were flogged off on the cheap. You can read the whole saga here.

    The basic objection was the lack of an audit trail (no paper record, so who could prove the votes went where the machine said they went?). Both proponents and opponents instanced the use of such machines in America, so are they widely used, do people trust them, and is this because you only have two real parties (I get the impression third parties are very much a joke proposition) and first-past-the-post results, rather than the wider choice of parties here and the proportional representation system (which makes it very worth an aspiring candidate’s while to demand a recount to fight for every single vote he or she can scrape)?

    Have there been any big scandals (apart from the whole Saga of the Hanging Chads we all remember)?

    • Not thus far, but I think it’s only a matter of time though, particularly with horror stories like this one floating around.

      Our state uses the paper ballot with filled-in bubbles that then goes into an optical scanner. I asked if there was a way to verify that the machine registered my vote correctly. The poll worker said yes, but then was unable to actually make the machine do it. (He had printed instructions, but they didn’t work.) The most worrying thing about it was that on the Admin screen, the touch-button for “verify vote” was right next to the one for “turn off the machine and discard all the votes” !! Poor guy got very flustered so I finally told him not to worry about it. But I wasn’t happy.

      I really like the Three-Ballot Method, though my guess is that voter education would be a real trial — lots of rejected and spoilt ballots from folks who don’t listen to/read instructions, or simply don’t get it.

  • jenesaispas

    ‘Krav’ as in Krav Maga?

    • leahlibresco


      • jenesaispas

        Oh cool, I always wanted to try that when I was younger, don’t really know why.