Thursday, November 04, 2004

What Counts as Counting?

Said John Edwards, "We promised the American people that every vote would count, and every vote would be counted." Now, what exactly is the difference between a vote counting and a vote being counted? Is this just a pretty redundancy, or did Kerry and Edwards perceive a distinction?

I'm pretty sure I know what it means for a vote to "be counted"; it means for a person or machine to process the ballot and increment the selected candidate’s total by one. So that leaves the question of what it means for a vote to "count." Assuming it's distinct from "being counted," I figure it must mean something like "matter" or "make a difference." But that is something that Kerry and Edwards emphatically could not guarantee, no matter how many lawsuits they filed. For example, thousands of Californians cast votes that did not make a difference. Some, like me, did so deliberately by voting for a third-party candidate. Most did so incidentally, because their votes could not (on the margin) have altered the allocation of California’s electoral votes. That’s true even if you look at the marginal effect of a large quantity of votes instead of just one vote at a time, since Kerry’s margin of victory was rather large in California. The margin of victory was even larger (for one candidate or the other) in many other states. Nothing that Kerry and Edwards did could have changed that in any substantial way. So what exactly did Kerry and Edwards mean when they promised to make every vote count?


Anonymous said...

vote counting: using your finger(s), and when they run out...

votes being counted: using your toes.

Not everyone will agree with me on this.

Gil said...

I know it's an odd way to say it, but I think it means something like:

"Remember how pissed off you were after the last election? Well, in honor of that anger, we hope you'll bear with us while we deny you closure tonight in order to explore every possible avenue to litigate ourselves to victory this time. I know that it has nothing to do with counting votes, but if I said this plainly, then everyone would rightly conclude that we're a couple of assholes."

Or...something like that.

Glen Whitman said...

Gil -- yeah, I think that's what Edwards meant on election night. But Kerry & Edwards had repeated that particular mantra many times during the campaign, as well. So what did it mean then?

Anonymous said...

I know Gil wont like me saying so, but at least one of the asshole Supremes (and I don't me Diana Ross) is about to kick the bucket from cancer. He voted to STOP the counting in Florida. May he be buried under a heap of chads (or cow manure). What a truly sorry loser!

Who will W. nominate in his place, perhaps the Hammer from Sugarland, Texas? Here's an argument against cloning: can you imagine 9 dufus Clarence Thomases or 9 smug Antonin Scalias belching or farting on the Court? Count my frigin vote and let my frigin vote be counted! Do you really have a problem with this, Gil?

Gil said...

I have no problem with counting all the votes that are unambiguous as long as they might change the outcome.

I do have a problem with an endless cycle of re-counting with changing rules until the outcome is what you'd like.

I don't think Rehnquist has been a great justice, but there are worse ones on the Court. Thomas is the best one there. I wouldn't mind having clones of him there at all.

The appointment of new Supreme Court Justices is one of the main reasons I'm happy that Bush is still president. They are likely to have an impact long after this presidency is over.

But, you seem to repeat the mantra without answering Glenn's question. What does "and let my frigin vote be counted" add to "Count my frigin vote"?

Does it mean "Make sure my pick wins the election, otherwise my vote didn't count"? Or does it mean that "I subscribe to a conspiracy theory that says the system is rigged against my pick's candidacy, so prove my vote counted by having my candidate win"? Or what?

Gil said...

Oops. Of course, I meant "Glen's" not "Glenn's".

Sorry, Glen.

Gil said...


Honestly, I think that you're right to wonder about this and that the "every vote [...] count" doesn't mean anything that isn't implied by "count every vote". I think they just decided that it sounds better to have that double-phrase in there, and their target demographic can be easily persuaded that it adds something profound that they're not bright enough to understand. They might even be more convinced that Kerry/Edwards are much smarter than that idiot Bush who just says things plainly so that anybody who wanted to could understand it.

Anonymous said...

Dozens of books have been written about what happened in the 2000 election. History will say what happened and people like you wont be able to distort the truth anymore. The final asault on the voting rights were made by the conservative majority of the Supremes. Btw, doesn't it bother a right-winger like you that the most fiscally irresponsible president in history just got "re-elected;" "Mission Accomplished" is decidedly unaccomplished;a Vietnam war evader is a Commander-in-Chief and a warmonger;a boondogle of a precription drug plan at a time of insolvency;tax relief for the wealthy at a time of war and bankrupcy;that he used gay bashing as a wedge issue. Bush is a spoiled idiot child and if you voted for him and Cheney for "good reasons" then you scare me. So you think Clarence Thomas is the cat's meow do you? You must know too that "idiot" is a relative term and can be applied widely. Oh, how I long for Gore and his silly "lockbox" for Social Security.

Gil said...

I guess the truth is determined by the number of books written about a subject. I hope it's more than than the number of books revealing the truth about UFOs.

I'm not a right-winger, I'm libertarian. Your failure to distinguish between these positions says more about you than me.

I'm not at all happy about Bush's fiscal irresponsiblity, nor about his boondogle of a prescription drug plan, but all I've heard from Kerry lead me to believe he'd only be worse in these areas.

I like the tax cuts, for the wealthy and for the middle class. I'd like more of them. I'd like huge spending cuts, and rolling back of regulation, too.

Bush was less of a Vietnam war evader than Clinton was, but I suspect you have much less of a problem with Clinton's past. Me, I have no problem with anybody who wanted to avoid fighting in that war doing so.

There was a significant "Mission Accomplished" at that time. Nobody seriously thought there would be no more violence in Iraq at the time. I'm not thrilled with evey aspect of the handling of Iraq; but, again, I have seen little to encourage me that Kerry would have been better, and much to concern me that he would have been far worse.

I must say that this compulsion to continue to characterize Bush as an idiot strikes me as rather sad and pitiful.

But, getting back to the post's subject, what does "make every vote count" mean that isn't implied by "count every vote"?

Gil said...

If you think that's true, then it's an interesting confession on your part.

Personally, I don't think it's true.