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The Electoral College: Origins, Consequences, and Flaws

January 27th, 2019, 11:14pm by Sam Wang


I have some thoughts on the Electoral College. I hope you don’t mind the Twitter format!

You can also see a single-page version here thanks to ThreadReaderApp.

Tags: President · U.S. Institutions

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Marc

    Good analysis. But, why did you exclude the nine presidential elections from 1788 to 1820?

  • LondonYoung

    Sam – I would have thought your response to the first tweet would be different.

    I expected you to rank order all the states by electoral-vote-to-population ratio, then go down the list until you reached 270, and calculate half the population of those states … and then point out “with the EC system you only need n% of the voters to win where n << 50". "Isn't n shockingly low?"

  • LondonYoung

    So, I couldn’t resist:

    43% of the people who cast votes in 2016 live in states with 270 electoral votes.
    Assume a candidate wins those states with, say, 50% of the vote.
    Assume the main loser takes 100% of the rest of the country.

    In this case, the election can be won with 21.5% of the vote to the loser’s 78.5%.

    • Sam Wang

      Well done, and I have no quarrel with your arithmetic. However, there is a whiff of descending to his level of wrongheadedness there!

    • LondonYoung

      Yeah, I agree.

      By the way, I wasted my time sharpening my pencil because the end result is not really much more shocking than the standard 25/75 argument which applies to all indirect representation systems.

    • Matthew J. McIrvin

      You could make the numbers essentially as extreme as you like by assuming more implausible conditions: suppose almost nobody votes in the states the winner took, but tens of millions vote in the loser’s states; then the winner can win with close to 0%. But more realistic scenarios are probably more convincing, and the real world has provided them.

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