Gary sent along this news article from the Syracuse Post-Standard:
Dead heat: Obama and Clinton split the Syracuse vote 50-50
by Mike McAndrew
In the city of Syracuse, the strangest thing happened in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary.
Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama received the exact same number of votes, according to unofficial Board of Election results.
“Wow, that is odd,” said Jay Biba, Clinton’s Central New York campaign coordinator. “I never heard of that in my life.”
The odds of Clinton and Obama tying were less than one in 1 million, said Syracuse University mathematics Professor Hyune-Ju Kim.
“It’s almost impossible,” said Kim, who analyzed the statewide and citywide votes.
Lisa Daly, Obama’s Syracuse campaign coordinator, said she thought a mistake had been made when she was first told the tally by the Board of Elections.
What are the chances of it happening?
“Good thing it wasn’t a mayor’s race,” quipped Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
A total of 12,346 votes were cast for Democrats in the city. Four other Democrats also received votes: John Edwards, 114; Dennis Kucinich, 113; Bill Richardson, 90; and Joe Biden, 27.
The tie is likely to be broken when elections officials recanvass the voting machines and add in the absentee and affidavit votes.
But for now, it’s all even.
The story The Post-Standard broke about Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama battling to a tie vote in the city of Syracuse was being posted Thursday on internet sites across the country.
Clinton and Obama each received 6,001 votes in Syracuse in the unofficial Board of Elections results. A total of 12,346 votes were cast in the city.
After doing a statistical analysis for The Post-Standard, Syracuse University mathematics professor Hyune-Ju Kim noted that the odds of Clinton and Obama getting the exact same amount of votes in Syracuse was less than one in 1 million.
To come to that conclusion, Kim factored in the state-wide and city-wide results in the Democratic primary.
Elaborating on Thursday, she noted: “The “almost impossible” odd is obtained when we assume the Syracuse voter distribution follows the New York state distribution. Since it is almost impossible to observe what we have observed, statistically we can conclude that Syracuse voter distribution is significantly different from the New York state distribution.”
There would be less than one in 1 million chance of a tie occurring between Clinton and Obama in voting by a randomly selected group of 12,346 New York Democratic voters, she said.
Not to pick on some harried mathematics professor who’d probably rather be out proving theorems, but . . . of course Syracuse voters are not a randomly selected group of New Yorkers. You don’t need a statistical test to see that. Regarding the probability of an exact tie: I don’t think that’s so low: a quick calculation might say that either Clinton or Obama could’ve received between, say, 5000 and 7000 votes, giving something like a 1/2000 chance of an exact tie. That’s gotta be the right order of magnitude.
Anyway, I know this is silly–as pointed out in the article, it doesn’t matter if there’s a tie in Syracuse anyway. This might make a good classroom example, though. (See also here and here for more on the probability of a tied election.)