Saturday, 14 August 2004

Facts and figuring...

Being a librarian [and therefore curious about everything] and a Canadian living in the United States [and therefore not blinded by American patriotism - although I may be blinded by Canadian patriotism if such a thing exists] this link from a recent entry on hitormiss.org caught my eye and so I had to read about an electoral college worst case scenario. So I was reading about this scenario and although I know little about the electoral college concept [about as much as your average person who lives here], I wanted to know more. I searched and found an interesting article here and although it did present both advantages and disadvantages of the electoral college system, it became quite clear that it was pretty biased, which is to be expected having been written by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director for the FEC Office of Election Administration. That's ok. We're all biased in one direction or another. But what bothered me is that statement that "in very close popular elections, it is possible that the candidate who wins a slight majority of popular votes may not be the one elected president -- depending (as in 1888) on whether his popularity is concentrated in a few States or whether it is more evenly distributed across the States." [page 16]. I had the feeling that a candidate could win the electoral college vote and lose the popular vote by much more than a slight majority. I looked up some of the numbers and did a few calculations and it seems to me that in a true worst case scenario, one party could get less than 25% of the popular vote and still win. If 51% of the people in each of the states but the top ten most populous ones [Georgia, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, New York, Texas, California] voted one way [say for the Republicans] and everybody else voted the other way, then [in this incredibly unlikely event] the Republicans would win with 279 electoral votes. How can a system that has a potential result like this [no matter how unlikely] be rational? And this is just an extreme. Results could be less extreme and still have a shocking and obviously unpopular result like this.

Here's my calculations. Tell me if I made any mistakes. I did use 1999 population numbers but that shouldn't throw things off too much.

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