"Can I discuss the election with you?" I asked my old friend, Wilbert Hall, one of England's leading bookies.
"Of course," Will replied. "I'm always in the mood for a laugh."
"Do you think the same thing will ever happen again in Florida that happened in 2000?" I asked.
"I don't know, but it was very poorly handled all around then," Will said. "How did they ever expect to get a clear winner when neither side was even offering bonuses for votes? Why should somebody bother casting his ballot if he is not going to get some extra plays on the slots or a free $20 to put on blackjack?"
"Actually, I think that would violate the spirit of the American electoral system," I said. "Politicians in America don't give money for votes. It wouldn't be moral. In fact, they do just the opposite: You give THEM money, and if your contribution is big enough, they will give you their vote in the House or Senate."
"That particular election certainly raised some interesting Constitutional questions," Will commented. "What happens if a candidate gets the majority of the popular vote, but loses the electoral vote? Who wins?"
"That's easy," I said. "The Constitution is quite clear on that. Whoever gets the most Electoral votes is the president. Just like Bush."
"I don't mean who wins the presidency," Will said. "I have a more serious matter in mind. Who wins the bets? Let's say that I bet that Candidate X wins by at least 10,000 votes. X gets 20,000 extra votes but loses the election because of the Electoral vote. Do I win or lose? This is a serious question for bookmakers throughout the world!"
"Could it have implications in other fields?" I asked.
"I doubt it," Will answered. "Fortunately, the rules about who wins a football or baseball game are very clear. It was obviously too important to have a clear winner in these areas to leave any room for ambiguity. The Superbowl, for example, is not just some silly presidential contest."
"Why do you think that there was all this confusion in Florida, when it didn't happen elsewhere?" I asked. "Don't the people there learn how to count?"
"Of course they do," Will replied. "In Orlando, they can tell you exactly how many people attended any particular Disneyworld attraction in the past six months. The Marlins know not only how many people they have at any one game, but also how many hot dogs they ate. At Cape Kennedy, of course, they can not only count, but they can do so backwards -- starting at 10 and ending at 'lift off.' They just save these efforts for things that matter."
"Don't you think it is important to know who the president is?" I asked incredulously.
"Not really," said Will. Oh, sure, the president has some necessary functions, like throwing out the first ball of the baseball season, but even that doesn't really effect the outcome of the game. If you need proof that the presidential election is only an unimportant contest, just look at who covers it: It is left to second rate news organizations like CNN and The New York Times. The big boys, like ESPN or Sports Illustrated, wouldn't touch it."
"That's true," I admitted, "but what happens if America gets into a nuclear war? We have to know who the president is so that he can push the button."
"A nuclear war?" Will asked. "With who? There are no other superpowers left. Do you really think that Liechtenstein is about to declare war on the US? Look -- we live in the high tech age. You can sit in your home in Pennsylvania and play roulette at the AusVegas casino in Australia. You know immediately what number hit. If somebody gets the jackpot at Cashsplash, Microgaming doesn't have to have 35 recounts. The winner knows right away -- in fact, within 15 minutes it is all over the Internet bulletin boards. When things really have some meaning, they are not left in doubt."
"I can't believe that everyone considers the presidential election as unimportant as you do," I told Will. "How about politicians. Certainly THEY think it is important."
"Really?" Will mused. "Who do you think made up those ballots in that Florida county -- the one which confused everybody who wanted to vote for Gore? Politicians, that's who. I'll tell you this -- if they really considered the election important, they would have devised a system which produces the ultimate ballot -- one so simple that it can be understood even by a Democrat!"