Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Hillary Clinton winning the presidency one coin toss at a time

Now, I don't pretend to understand the interminable and positively Byzantine process of US presidential candidate primaries and caucuses, but it appears to be perfectly acceptable and unexceptionable for candidates to win delegates by the toss of a coin, which seems just plain wrong to me.
An article in the Des Moines Register explains this process. For example, in the Democratic caucus in Ames precinct 2-4, it seems that, when the votes of the "participants" were totted up, there were 60 missing out of the expected 484, a number which is equivalent to an additional "delegate" (Ms. Clinton's 240 votes had earned her 4 delegates, and Mr. Sanders' 179 votes earned him 3). No-one seemed to know where the missing 60 participants might be, and as far as I can see no-one seemed that concerned by it.
However, as the Des Moines Register reports with admirable sang-froid, "Unable to account for that numerical discrepancy and the orphan delegate it produced, the Sanders campaign challenged the results and precinct leaders called a Democratic Party hot line set up to advise [sic] on such situations. Party officials recommended they settle the dispute with a coin toss."
What? Is that really the official solution to missing voters?
Anyway, the candidates obviously accepted this wisdom, and Ms. Clinton won the toss, earning herself an extra delegate, and thus winning the caucus by 5 delegates to 3. It kind of makes one wonder what would have happened if Mr. Sanders had won the toss and tied up the score 4-4. A round of tic-tac-toe, maybe? Rock, paper, scissors?
What is even more bizarre is that the same situation occurred in no less than 5 other precincts in Iowa, and in all 5 cases Ms. Clinton won the toss. Setting aside the sheer unlikeliness of her winning 6 tosses out of 6, bear in mind that this is happening in what is being called the closest Iowa Democratic caucus in history, with Ms. Clinton currently holding 50% of the vote and 22 delegates and Mr. Sanders sitting on 47% of the votes and 21 delegates (with 99% of votes counted as I write this). So, these 6 coin tosses will be far and away the deciding factor in the contest, which I find just unbelievable.
Now, I know this is just the first skirmish in a long battle within a protracted overall war, and perhaps not all that significant in the scheme of things. But it really does not inspire much confidence in the system somehow.
But, hey, at least Donald Trump lost in his Iowa caucus, so maybe the system does work after all...

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