Accuracy Counts: Illegal Votes in Contested Elections and the Case for Complete Proportionate Deduction

April
2008
Kevin J. Hickey

Contested elections in which the number of illegal votes exceeds the purported winner’s margin of victory present courts with difficult choices. Simply certifying the result risks denying the true winner his victory, while ordering a new election leaves the choice to a changed electorate. Adjusting the results is also problematic, as it may create a perception that judges, and not voters, have decided the election. This Note argues that courts should be more willing to use statistical techniques to resolve this type of election dispute. It critiques the various remedial measures that courts have employed, as well as the rejection of statistical methods in existing case law and legal commentary. The author concludes that a statistics-based remedy—termed “complete proportionate deduction”—best balances the values of accuracy, finality, and public faith in the democratic process.

This article appears in the April 2008 Issue: Volume 83, Number 1