The Recount of Monty’s Crisco

Keep it on the down low, but there are a bunch of court cases working through the system, attempting to overturn the recent presidential election.
I recently blogged about one spur to litigation, Bev Harris of Black Box I’m not gracing her site with another link.
Anyhow, I got a nice comment from an Elizabeth person, who was kind enough to stop by and tell me it’s about counting every vote.
Hmmm… Well, it is and it isn’t, I think. It’s about the system. The voting system is a bit like exercise. You miss a day in the gym, go back the next day, and don’t sweat it. Maybe you need to work a bit harder. But you don’t burn down the gym, or quit going because you had a screwup.
Elizabeth disagrees. Below is my answer, explaining why I have a major, massive, hemorraging, screaming problem with the present drive to “count every vote.”

Thanks so much for stopping by Sasha’s, the multifaceted, multinational, multivariate group blog, where you are as likely to read a recipe for truffles, as an ode to 90 ton power hammmers or a screed about the latest political atrocity.
With respect to your comment, I have nothing against counting every vote. In fact, I think it’s a good idea, insofar as practicable. My only real bones to pick are:
1. I believe that expecting numerical perfection in counting 120 million votes cast in 50 states and 5000 counties is wishful thinking at best. Even microprocessors in a desktop computer have an error rate, which hopefully error correction routines correct. In the computer, those include check sums and parallel processes. In the election system, that includes civil suits, criminal prosecutions for denial of the right to vote, and political solutions – e.g. legislatures changing voting districts, overturning elections perceived as corrupt, etc. While judges are great at vindicating individual rights – one or two or a dozen people denied the franchise by Jim Crow, for instance, they aren’t good at determining how many votes were “undercounted” or “overcounted” among say 10 million cast in Ohio. You have far too much faith in lawyers if you think they can do this accurately. Rather than expecting perfection from a system that is human and therefore flawed no matter how well the machinery operates, I am content to rely on it as probably the best option, the best compromise between promiscuity and scrupulousity that can be achieved on this scale. In other words, so long as there isn’t massive election fraud, I’m cool with it. I know the Dems are going to steal votes in Philly, Chi-town, and Boston, and I know Tom Delay and the Texas Dems are going to screw some Dems out of seats – including Martin Frost, who we could have used in Congress. I’m even pretty confident that the Dems get the best of it – it’s a lot easier to control a half dozen big city machines, than it is to control hundreds of counties and towns, few of which have ever been subject to the level of political organization of any major coastal city.
Yep, you heard right. I’m willing to eat the sausage, even if it’s unsavory at times, and even if I know I’m getting a raw deal once in a while. If we lose a few votes here or there, I can live with it, as long as the overall system is generally functioning. Too often, we make the perfect the enemy of the good, never more so than in the last four years with this voting integrity thing. First we needed to replace the punch cards with electronic machines. Now the electronic machines are no good. Come on. Give it a rest. If you really believe in massive conspiracies to hack voting machines and so forth… well, you might have trouble voting in most states, unless you could talk your conservator into letting you. My point again being it’s better to get a whole sausage that’s pretty good, rather than getting a tiny speck of meat that is perfect. (To really flog the metaphor). The system ain’t perfect. You can either live with it, or tear it down trying to litigate perfect. You may be unhappy with it today, but your lawsuit today will be met with a Republican one tomorrow. It’s destructive, and it isn’t going to solve a damn thing in the end.
2. I think the “count every vote” mantra of the election litigators, civil rights hustlers and political hucksters is a cynical attempt to manipulate election results. It has the effect of shining a magnifying glass on a rickety system, a system that only works right as long as we can ignore the relatively minor flaws, ignore the bitter partisanship between us and work together. Like marriage, plural society works well because people don’t pay “too close” attention to each other. Close enough attention is paid for sure; enough to be affectionate maybe; but not too close. To murder another couple metaphors, when you let the sunshine in (Mr. Nader…) and shine a magnifying glass on things, they catch fire and burn. You get a nice view of the ants before they catch fire, basically.
I speak as an attorney when I say that litigating elections is a horrid idea. Nevermind the fine business opportunity it presents to my and my pals. Short of outright fraud, I’m willing to let McGreevey get away with his B.S., let B-1 Bob Dornan get his seat stolen by crooked recounts, let Walter Mondale parachute in at the last moment like a geriatric Private Ryan, and so forth. The alternative – letting a pack of lawyers decide the problem – is insane. I’m a lawyer. I like some lawyers. I’ve dated a couple. They’re crazy. Fine people, but crazy, and most don’t have a lick of common sense. And judges are just older lawyers. While I’d trust maybe half of the practicing attorneys out there to interpret any given non-complicated law somewhat decently, I really wouldn’t trust them to understand voting machines, have the wisdom to decide how districts ought to be broken up equitably, and really, really wouldn’t trust them to deal with anything involving statistics and votes. Trust me. If that Berkeley study about Ohio and Florida, with the shaky statistical methods, is the basis for this round of election litigation, the lawyers will botch it no matter how the rulings come out. Most lawyers went to law school because you had to do math to go to med school, and most of them couldn’t do math. So if you are entrusting recounts and sophisticated mathematical analysis to attorneys… well, then you’ve answered the threshold question incorrectly.
I also have a really strong suspicion that most of the “count every vote” folks pushing the recounts right now are really saying “count every vote, again and again by disparate and ever variable standards, if necessary, until we get a combination of counties and electors that gives us a win, then stop.” Sorry, but I really truly don’t trust our MoveOn buddies to play it fair and square.
Anyhow, thanks for stopping by. Believe it or not, I live in a tepid blue state, and practice law in a couple blue states, insofar as the District of Columbia is a Blue state. We could use more Red/Blue dialogue. So please do keep on stopping by and commenting, even if only to argue. Matter of fact, please do stop by to argue. You might change our minds, or vice versa.
Warmest regards,
Al Maviva



  1. Bruce

    And then, of course, they had to count every vote to certify the election. The democrat party wants to count them over and over and again and again in the vague hope that eventually the end result will change.

  2. Who Tends the Fires

    “NEWS” that’s out of the cage before XMass…

    The Word for the Day is: “Neo-neo-cons” I should probably rename this to the WheneverIgetaRoundTuitSpam!, but that doesn’t roll as trippingly off of the keyboard. So ya’ll are stuck with the rather deceptive DailySpam! because I like it. Look at it thi…

  3. James

    In a sense, this is actually pretty funny; rather like the old joke about the fool who lost $20 betting on the horse racing ($10 on the race itself, another $10 on the action replay) – except that in this case, if you can find enough excuses to keep handling the ballots, sooner or later enough can be tampered with, “lost” or “found” to change the overall outcome. It’s sad they feel the need to sink to these depths, rather than trying to win an election fairly…

  4. Who Tends the Fires

    “NEWS” that’s out of the cage before XMass…

    The Word for the Day is: “Neo-neo-cons” I should probably rename this to the WheneverIgetaRoundTuitSpam!, but that doesn’t roll as trippingly off of the keyboard. So ya’ll are stuck with the rather deceptive DailySpam! because I like it. Look at it thi…

  5. Al Maviva

    James, I think it’s more accurate to state that they feel the need to sink to those depthes, precisely because they tried to win an election fairly, but failed…

  6. Major Sean Bannion

    Fair? When did today’s Dem party become all about “fair”?
    Fair on the Indian reservations in South Dakota? Fair in Philly? Fair in St. Louis? Fair in the sense of “crack for votes” kind of fair? Fair by trashing GOP rented get-out-the-vote vans in Chicago kind of fair? Fair in the attcking GOP campaign offices and personnel sort of fair?
    (By the way, nowhere in the U.S. Constitution will you find the word “fair.”)

  7. Lynxx Pherrett

    I’m with Maj. Bannion on this.
    There are numerous types of sore losers, but the worst seem to be those who tried to cheat and still ended up losing.
    I’ll add a note on the Berkeley paper for those who, unlike me, think its results actually show something. If you accept the study’s results as significant, they also support a conclusion opposite to the one drawn by its authors: the introduction of electronic voting machines in the heavily Democratic counties in Flordia prevented the rampant vote fraud that had been used to pump up statewide Democrat vote totals for years.

  8. Al Maviva

    Lynxx, that’s a really good theory. It’s certainly more sound than the Berkeley Profs’ theory of nefarious (and highly technically sophisticated) RethugliKKKan tampering in a handful of counties controlled by Democratic political machines… After all, everybody knows we Republikans is too bass ackwards what to operate computers, no how.

  9. Ken

    It’s not that we Dems can’t handle the loss, we can’t handle a war criminal, social-security busting, star wars, God-talks-to-me, C student, 91 I.Q., draft-dodging, oil-sucking, tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, pro-poverty, frat-boy, so why fight it?
    Let’s be irrational about it and give into the oh-so-fair Tom Delays and the ones holding the Burr signs dancing around at our Bowles rally.