Make that 1,049 votes from annihilation, theoretically

Sharp-penciled Contrarian reader Gus Reed points out that the Dips could have been wiped off Nova Scotia’s electoral map by as few as 1,049 votes, not 2,087 as I wrote Friday. For this to happen, all the defectors would have had to switch their votes to the second-place finisher in their respective ridings. 1,049 switchers would have done the trick under those highly theoretical circumstances.

But then the whole exercise was theoretical.

By the same token, Darrell Dexter would have needed only 11 Liberal voters switching to him to hold his seat.

These scenarios raise another question, likewise theoretical. In the 2000 Florida recount, we learned that the US election system is insufficiently accurate to determine the winner in extremely close races. No one knows who won that primary; the outcome was decided when five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court chose the candidate they liked best.

For all its apparent crudeness—paper ballots marked with a stubby wooden pencil—Canada’s election system is much better at deciding close contests. But can it reliably determine the outcome of races in which a single vote separates the top two finishers? Probably not. Party apparatchiks could always find reasonable doubt about the validity, eligibility, or probable intentions of at least one ballot, or at least one voter. My hunch is that a string of ridings decided by one vote would result in a string of judicially ordered by=elections.