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In an op-ed column in today’s New York Times, Charles Seife, a journalism professor at New York University, offers an interesting resolution to the tight U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken: cast a lot to determine the winner by chance.

Money quote: “After all the counting and recounting, if the vote is statistically tied, the state should invoke the section of the law that requires the victor to be chosen by lot. It’s hard to swallow, but the right way to end the senatorial race between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken will be to flip a coin.”

Not Every Vote Counts

By Charles Seife

Dec. 4, 2008

Excerpts

… Much more alarming is that hundreds of votes have disappeared in the still too-close-to-call Senate race between Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, and Al Franken, the Democratic candidate. The missing ballots expose a fundamental flaw in our way of doing elections — one that proves the recount in Minnesota is futile.

Before the recount began on Nov. 19, Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken were within about 200 votes of each other. With a little under three million ballots cast in the election, that margin was unbelievably small: a few thousandths of a percent separated the two candidates. …

Some missing ballots were misplaced: officials in Ramsey County — to their great embarrassment — discovered 171 uncounted ballots in a compartment of a voting machine. Some errors were typos: a clerical mistake wiped out 25 votes in Blue Earth County. …

In truth, the counting errors dwarf the tiny numerical difference in votes between the two candidates. If, at the end of the recount, Mr. Coleman or Mr. Franken is ahead by a few dozen or a few hundred votes, that would be because of errors rather than voter preference.

Minnesota’s instruments for counting votes are simply too crude to determine the winner in a race this tight. … Even though, at the end of the recount, it will seem as if one candidate has won by a hair, the outcome will really be a statistical tie.

Luckily, Minnesota’s electoral law has a provision for ties. After all the counting and recounting, if the vote is statistically tied, the state should invoke the section of the law that requires the victor to be chosen by lot. It’s hard to swallow, but the right way to end the senatorial race between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken will be to flip a coin.

——

Related links

Coleman-Franken Senate Recount — Live Coverage

Minnesota U.S. Senate Recount Trial — Live Coverage

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IRAQ UPDATE

Reconciliation Needed in Iraq’s Most Violent City

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Peterson from Karnes City, Texas, of 3rd Platoon, 302nd Military Police Company, aims with his rifle as black smoke fills the sky during a patrol 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 14, 2008. (Photo credit: Petros Giannakouris / AP)

By Denis D. Gray

Dec. 3, 2008

Excerpts

… As U.S. and Iraqi forces battle insurgents in the streets, Mosul faces economic and political problems that could unravel Iraq’s third-largest city even if the military campaign succeeds.

Fixing Mosul is a test of whether the Baghdad government can successfully grapple with potentially explosive forces beneath a still fragile stability achieved elsewhere in Iraq.

The solutions offered seem straightforward enough: more jobs, good cops and a generous dose of brotherly love. But the devil is in Mosul’s wrenchingly complex catalog of woes.

A dozen Sunni insurgent groups alongside a spectrum of others. Hostility among the province’s seven major groups and 26 tribes. Neglect, probably calculated, by the central government. Unemployment running more than 60 percent and electricity spluttering in for an average of four hours a day.

The city is al-Qaida’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq and a flashpoint along a dangerous Kurdish-Arab divide. Its local government is too paralyzed to kick-start the crucial economic engines. …

Violence — from car bombs targeting police to masked gunmen slaying Christians — occurs daily in this ancient, in parts graceful, city known as the “Pearl of the North,” a place once famed for its refined culture, learning and tolerance among ethnic and religious groups.

But more than 22,000 Iraqi and U.S. forces — “the Mosul surge” as troops call it — are blanketing the city of 1.8 million, and attacks are substantially down from several months ago. …

A recent report by the International Crisis Group, which monitors conflicts around the world, warned that the Arab-Kurdish schism, with Mosul as one of its epicenters, could arguably exceed the Sunni-Shiite divide that spawned the 2005-2007 sectarian war. …

“We’ve (the Americans) been here five years and the city has seen a steady decline. The people are despondent. So we have been handed a monumental job — to fix the third largest city in Iraq,” says Lt. Col. Kirk Fernitz, planning chief for the Mosul Reconstruction Operations Center, a new joint U.S.-Iraq effort to apply “rapid, shock treatment” and win some dispirited hearts and minds. …

——

Related story: Attacks in Iraq at lowest level since 2003

Conflict in Iraq video

U.S. combat deaths down (MSNBC, Dec. 4, 2008) — NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports that U.S. casualties are now at the lowest level since those conflicts began, with some commanders worrying they can only go up from here. (02:10)





3 Responses to “Coleman vs. Franken: ‘Flip a Coin’”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Coleman-Franken Recount Live Says:

    Related link: Coleman vs. Franken: ‘Flip a Coin’

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    […] Coleman vs. Franken: ‘Flip a Coin’ […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Coming Home from Iraq Says:

    […] Coleman vs. Franken: ‘Flip a Coin’ […]

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