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Topic: Math and the electoral college's virtue
Replies: 27   Last Post: Mar 30, 2007 6:07 AM

 Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
 Robert Harrison Posts: 31 Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Math and the electoral college's virtue
Posted: Nov 16, 2000 7:50 PM

I would hate to have had this election take place under a "popular vote"
system. With the narrow margin in the popular vote, you would have to have
a recount nationwide to determine the winner.

What I'm saying is this, in California, Gore won the state, so there is no
need for a recount there, even though a day later over 1 million votes in
California had not been counted. If the margin in the popular vote were
small then all of those votes would have to be counted before the election
was decided.

Also, take for example two states with approximately the same population and
each has 7 electoral votes. One goes 51%-49% for Gore, the other state goes
to Bush by the same margin. So under the electoral college system each
candidate gets 7 electoral votes and the counting is done in those two
states. But using the popular vote and combining those two states, you have
a dead heat at 50%-50%, so every last vote has to be counted (and counted
accurately).

If the system of electing the president were to be changed, I would prefer
one of two changes.

First, you could eliminate the automatic 2 votes that each state gets. This
would answer some critics objections to the current system, but I think you
would then see the campaigns neglecting the smaller states.

Second, you could apportion each state's votes by congressional district, as
some states do now, only giving the two "senatorial" electoral votes to the
candidate that carries the state.

But the problem with any change is that any of the states which tend to lean
toward one party would be against it. Why would Massachusetts
(predominately Democrats), for instance, want to change the system and let
the Republican candidate get any credit for the Republican votes cast in the
state when the Democratic candidate now gets 100% of the electoral votes.
Republicans states would be the same way.

"Mike Oliver" <oliver@math.ucla.edu> wrote in message
news://3A1081DB.32AC595A@math.ucla.edu...
> "David C. Ullrich" wrote:
> > Curious. Say you're living in a state that's overwhelmingly
> > for candidate XXX and you favor candidate A. Your vote has
> > essentially no effect under the current system - under a straight
> > popular vote it would have the same effect as everyone else's.

>
> That is, essentially none.
>

> > Maximizing voter's "power" is a good thing, but equating this
> > "power" with the probability that the vote will decide the
> > election is absurd.

>
> Since at the end of the day I'm more or less an (individualist) anarchist,
> I'm not going to enter into a normative discussion of what constitutes
> a "good" voting system. But *descriptively* this idea of voter
> power makes a lot of sense, and implies that almost everyone who hasn't
> specifically studied the issue has precisely the wrong notion about
> who is favored by the electoral college system.
>
> Most people who look at the issue superficially note that even the
> least populous state gets three electors, and conclude (quite wrongly)
> that the system gives disproportionate power to the small states
> because their ratio of electoral votes to population is higher.
>
> In fact, it's easy to see that other things being equal (the "other
> things" are e.g. the closeness of the race in your state and the
> proportion of undecideds), your chance of deciding the election
> is proportional to 1/sqrt(n) where n is the number of voters.
> Since the number of electoral votes is (roughly) proportional to n,
> it follows that your power is approximately proportional to sqrt(n).
> That is, the system gives disproportionate power to voters in *large*
> states.
>
> Now you might well ask what practical difference this makes, given
> that (all the propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding) never
> has a state really been decided by a one-vote margin.
>
> Well, the reason it makes a difference is that the same arguments
> hold for, say, a block of 100,000 votes. So lets say I know I'm
> soon going to be running for president, and I'm in charge of
> a committee that's assigning a pork-barrel project that I expect
> to be worth 100,000 votes in the state in which I place it, and
> my choices are California and Wyoming. If my main concern is
> my presidential ambitions, I'd be nuts to put it in Wyoming.
>
> Now all this is basically a consequence of the winner-take-all
> rule that most states have adopted. If electors were to be
> assigned proportionally to the vote in each state, then
> the two votes each state gets corresponding to its senators
> would indeed mean that the small states would have disproportionate
> power.

Date Subject Author
11/10/00 chip_eastham@my-deja.com
11/10/00 Dan Goodman
11/11/00 Marc Fleury
11/12/00 Jim Dars
11/14/00 denis-feldmann
11/14/00 Dan Goodman
11/20/00 Chip Eastham
11/20/00 Herman Rubin
11/20/00 Dan Goodman
11/22/00 Herman Rubin
11/22/00 Dan Goodman
11/12/00 Jon and Mary Frances Miller
11/12/00 Gerry Myerson
11/12/00 Ronald Bruck
11/12/00 Steve Lord
11/13/00 Barry Schwarz
11/13/00 Alan Morgan
11/11/00 David C. Ullrich
11/13/00 Mike Oliver
11/16/00 Robert Harrison
11/17/00 Mike Oliver
11/20/00 Keith Ramsay
11/20/00 Mike Oliver
11/20/00 David C. Ullrich
11/17/00 useless_bum@my-deja.com
11/28/00 Danny Purvis
11/28/00 LOUIS RAYMOND GIELE
3/30/07 Ross Finlayson