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Count Every Vote?: Some Thoughts on Al Gore in Florida and Optimal Recount Strategy

Brian C. Kalt

Michigan State University College of Law

MSU-DCL Public Law Research Paper No. 01-13

Unfortunately for Al Gore's presidential hopes, his political slogan "Count Every Vote" did not serve as the guide for his recount strategy. Instead, Gore challenged results in only a few counties and consistently litigated against a complete recount. Although Gore did not have the benefit of hindsight during the recount, there is ample reason, for Gore or any other recount challenger, to conclude ex ante that a broad count is the best bet.

Part I of this essay derives some basic principles of optimal recount strategy. Most significant is that a recount underdog choosing which leads to pursue should seek to maximize not just the expected value of a recount but also its variance. This means challenging even those groups of votes whose expected value to the challenger is negative, so long as they raise the variance of the recount sufficiently. Part II summarizes data that Gore knew or should have known. Part III applies the optimal strategy from Part I to the data in Part II, and concludes that Gore's strategy was suboptimal. Specifically, there were numerous additional groups of votes that Gore could have challenged that would have increased the variance of the recount, even if they did not increase its expected value to him.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

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Date posted: October 1, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Kalt, Brian C., Count Every Vote?: Some Thoughts on Al Gore in Florida and Optimal Recount Strategy. MSU-DCL Public Law Research Paper No. 01-13. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=443121 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.443121

Contact Information

Brian C. Kalt (Contact Author)
Michigan State University College of Law ( email )
318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States
517-432-6987 (Phone)
517-432-6879 (Fax)
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