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I am putting this in a second post because it is a little more technical and maybe no one wants to read it.

What is "statistical error?"

In the context of the interim judging system, we are talking about "sampling error." This occurs when we use a sample to make predictions about properties of the entire population from which the sample is drawn. Like a political poll. We poll 1000 voters. 600 of them say they support George Bush. So we estimate that approximately 60% of <em>everybody in the country, not just those 1000</em> feel this way. "Sampling error" refers to the possibility that we might get a different answer if we actually asked everybody. There are very well understood mathematical formulas for calculating the probabilities that the sample percentage will be close to the true percentage.

To apply this to the ISU interim voting system, suppose that all 14 judges submitted their marks <em>and then</em> nine sets of marks were chosen at random to count. In this case we have chosen a sample of nine from the population of fourteen. Questions about whether the nine accurately reflect the choices of all fourteen are highly appropriate. Sometimes (and we can calculate how often to expect this), the wrong skater will win through "sampling error" -- the majority of the sample (the 9) supports skater A, while the majority of the population (all 14) supports skater B.

But this isn't how it's done. Instead, the nine "real judges" (not their marks) are selected before the event begins. These nine are now the "population" under study. The marks of all nine members of this population are counted. This is a "sample of size nine selected from a population of size nine." That is, <em>you have polled the entire population</em>, so there is no possibility of "sampling error." It is the election itself, not a poll.

What about the other five who have been excluded from the population before the election begins? Speedy has made fools of them. Because of their ignorance (and ours) they can't go off to the sports bar after all. They have to go through the motions. But this is because they don't know any better, not because of any question relevant to statistics.

Anyway, the moral of the story is this. If we want to protest the interim judging system we should concentrate on its cloak and dagger secrecy, rather than be drawn into fruitless arguments about statistics. The interim system makes it easier to cheat and harder to catch the cheaters, and that's the bottom line.

Mathman

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