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The perplexing mathematics of presidential elections

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Author:Keith Devlin (Devlin's Angle)
Description: It's not the idea of one person one vote that's the problem, it's that math that is used to turn those votes into a final decision. Ideally, that math should reflect the wishes of the electorate. But does it? The answer usually comes as a surprise to most people. There are, in fact, several different ways to do the math, and they often lead to very different outcomes. That's right: there's a choice of how to do the math! The electoral math used in the United States election process counts votes using a system known as plurality voting. In an election where there are just two candidates, that system works just fine. It's when there are three or more candidates that problems can arise. Plurality voting can result in the election of a candidate whom almost two-thirds of voters detest.

Levels: High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: Combinatorics
Math Ed Topics: Public Understanding of Math

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