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i am not a stuffed tiger.

voting as chicken dance

By now you've probably seen hundreds of reminders to vote. Just vote! say the kids with picket signs on the local news. P. Diddy and friends wear their "vote or die" shirts to encourage the hip-hop generation (40 million strong!) to participate in the political process to become a group worthy of pandering. It's a message that can be used by the spotlight classes who want to appear non-partisan but pro-involvement.

But does it make any sense? My only post-Dean involvement has been in registering voters and even I sometimes wonder about the utility of voting.

Jordan Ellenberg writes against the voter's paradox, taking the reader through a brief statistics lesson that includes cogent explanations of poll interpretation, binomial probability, and Bayesean inference to make his point. Namely, the chances of your vote counting are better than winning the lottery. [slate]

You can tell he's for real because the article is accompanied by several TeX prepared computation pages.

Comments

Ah! A fellow Dean supporter. I worked on the Dean campaign when I was living in Madison,Wisconsin...but can honestly say I haven't lifted a finger other than donating to the DNC...It does feel futile sometimes but alas, that is just the way it is. Hopefully more people will vote. If you would, explain to me more in detail the whole process of the electoral college...why do we have a popular vote?
I am probably not qualified to answer fully, but the most basic reason for holding a popular vote is that each state uses the results of the popular vote to distribute its electoral votes; though this is not always consistent across states (see the Florida legislature's threat to apportion their electoral votes to GWB regardless of the recount process in 2000). Another example is that most states allocate electoral votes as a block, while Maine and Nebraska (and possibly Colorado, pending a 2004 initiative) can split their electoral votes between candidates depending on the results of the election.

The important point in all of this is that national polls can be pretty meaningless. See sites like http://electoral-vote.com and http://pollkatz.com for state-by-state results and the effect on the electoral college.
sorry i guess i was feeling sarcastic.
Yeah - I was recently talking to Rhiannon about how my vote in NC doesn't count b/c it will (most likely) go to Bush. So that eliminates my vote for Kerry. It just annoys me - why even tell people to vote?

I guess so that they can vote for Kerry and then NC will go to Kerry. . . .
the point of that article is why to tell people to vote. their odds of having an effect on the election are greater than winning the lottery! voting is free! lottery is a waste of money!

Oh

I must have read a different article. It told me that my chances of winning the lottery were better than my vote actually counting in a presidential election. I thought that was pretty stupid.

Re: Oh

Given the 52-43 poll result, the Bayesian computation puts the chance of a tie at about 1 in 5 million. If the polls were exactly even, the chance would go up to 1 in 300,000. Those still aren't fantastic odds, but both beat the 1-in-80 million chance of winning Powerball by a mile. Suddenly voting seems a lot more justifiable.

Re: Oh

cool!