September 28th, 2009


Roll of a die, draw of a marble decide election -

Roll of a die, draw of a marble decide election -

It's an old article ... but that's because I'm really behind in my email.

A city council election in Spearfish, South Dakota, ended in a 126-126 tie.  In the absence of any other rules, South Dakota state law requires that the tie be broken by a game of chance.

So here's what they did.  Both candidates rolled a six-sided die.  The highest roll then would draw one marble out of a bag containing two marbles: one black, one white.  The white marble indicated the winner.  Alternatively, the winner of the highest roll could require the loser to draw the marble out of the bag.

On the surface, this seems completely fair ... it's hard for me to see any way for there to be a greater than 50% chance of winning for either player.

What I'm wondering about ... is why the two-stage process.  It would seem to me that either stage (the die roll or the marble draw) is completely fair by itself.  Putting them together doesn't make it any less fair, but it doesn't make it any more fair, either.

Anybody see something that I'm missing here?

(Putting off grading papers?  No, heaven forbid, why do you ask?)

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