Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Flip for president? Prof says odds better

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tired of the counting and recounting in Florida?

        A University of Cincinnati professor has a more decisive way of electing a president — flipping a coin.

        If the 5.8 million votes cast in Florida Nov. 7 had been coin tosses, the professor says, the election would likely have been decided by more votes than the slim 388-vote lead George W. Bush was clinging to Tuesday.

        Dr. Ralph Buncher, professor of biological statistics at UC, said that by using the coin-toss method, there would be a 75 percent chance that the margin of victory would be larger than 388.

        “Even coin tosses wouldn't be this close,” said Mr. Buncher, who computed the odds for fun. “It just shows how terribly unlikely this is. It's a very strange event.”

        Tim Burke, co-chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said coin tosses have decided elections in Ohio. Typically, though, they're in much smaller races.

        So would Mr. Burke go for a coin flip to decide which candidate gets Florida's 25 electoral college votes and the White House?

        “Depends on the coin,” Mr. Burke said. “I'd do it with the JFK half-dollar, or the FDR dime.

        “Come to think of it, there really aren't too many Republican coins — mostly just $10,000 bills.”

        A spokesman for the George W. Bush campaign in Ohio wasn't sure the coin toss was such a good idea, either.

        “I'll have to get back to you,” said Bob Hopkins, spokesman for Bush For President.

        Mr. Hopkins was reluctant when he called back.

        “This coin toss thing is fraught with peril,” he said.

        “The problem is that the Gore camp would want to litigate who gets to make the call.

        “Then, if we win, they'll want a re-flip.”

        Here we go again.


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