Improbable election results may look strange, but they’re correct

Improbable election results may look strange, but they’re correct


Three candidates for the County Commission race in District 7 received exactly the same number of votes during the early voting period as they did on election day. The results looked odd, but elections administrator Chad Gray checked the numbers and they’re correct.

Jennifer Luteran received 312 votes during early voting and 312 votes on election day. Christopher Richards received 182 votes during early voting and 182 votes on election day. Tom Tunnicliffe got 315 votes during early voting, and exactly the same amount on election day. There were a few absentee ballots for those candidates also.

When contacted about the odd result, Gray said he thought it might have been an error, so he went back to double check.

“We went through the tapes from early voting and election day and manually added all those up, and those vote totals were the same,” he said. “It’s really weird. I don’t think I’ve seen that happen before.”

That makes sense because the odds of that result are incredibly low. Joshua Clinton, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt who specializes in statistics, said that kind of outcome should only happen about once in every 23, 256 elections.

He did some back of the envelope calculations to get a rough estimate the probability. The odds of any one candidate receiving the same number of votes during early voting and on election day were around three or four percent. The probability of that happening to three candidates in the same election was around 0.00043 percent.

“This is not something you’d ever expect to see,” he said.

Clinton said the calculation is a bit simplified. It doesn’t take into account the fact that voters are selecting two candidates, and it makes assumptions about the probability of someone voting early.

However, he said the take home message is the same: this outcome is really strange. If anything, he said his estimate was conservative. The real number is probably even lower.

Gray said that he was surprised by these results, but that he has seen a few tie votes in Williamson County.

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