Mathematical Alternatives to the Electoral College

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72 thoughts on “Mathematical Alternatives to the Electoral College

  1. > The winner is whoever manages to coat more of America with their own layer of monochrome sludge.
    Oh, so like Splatoon? (Unfortunately, I don’t think red vs. blue is a possible color combination in that game. Actually, doesn’t look like there’s red ink at all in that game—just orange and pink, and other even less-red colors.)

    1. Yes, the electoral college is silly, but its real problem is not with the bizarre way it produces its results. The problem is that it encourages the binary political system we have. Encouraging garbage at its inputs. This system relegates the most important decisions to primaries where, effectively, only the “base” votes. I would say the base are even worse at making decisions than the “undecideds” mocked in the cartoon. The base generally live in filter-bubbles where they feel fully informed but are really feeding off the resonances of their chosen echo chamber.

      We need a constitutional amendment that replaces the electoral college with a national ranked voting system (there are several possibilities: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_voting_system ). This would allow the voter to express more nuance in the ballot box. Perhaps it would allow us to move beyond the duopoly and encourage real competition in the political space.

      I think state-wide ranked voting systems should probably be used for congress critters (admitedly state-wide electoins in CA would be a bit tough… so maybe this needs more thought) in addition to a national one for the president. I live in MD, and every time I look at our congresional district map it makes me throw up a little in my mouth:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Maryland_congressional_districts#/media/File:Maryland_Congressional_Districts,_113th_Congress.tif

      1. If a 3rd party candidate wanted to have any success with the current system, they would pour all of their resources in a handful of states with the hope of a contested election. If the electoral college is split 268 / 265 / 5 each candidate actually has the same amount of pull as each requires the support of one of the others.

        I have never seen a 3rd party candidate actually attempt this strategy. Strom Thrumand’s Dixiecrat campaign came closest.

        Looking at countries with parliamentary systems, where 3rd parties have more clout, I am not sure that the citizens express any more satisfaction with their respective governments.

      2. How about a series of state wide constitutional amendments for convex redistricting.

        If two voters in a district can be connected by a straight line, everyone on that line should be in the district.

    2. It’s interesting that you mention misogynistic, shecky. Did you hear what the misandrist said on her way out?
      ‘You can achieve whatever you put your mind to. The women and girls can achieve anything!’
      The message was clear. The loser would have declared war on little boys and men had she taken power. She made this clear with her comments on her gender card, she was quite proud of her hypocrisy. The media universally overlooked her sexism.
      My conversation with shecky…
      Me: Male suicide 4x higher than for women
      Shecky: who cares, media won’t say it!
      Me: Homelessness is 4x higher for men than women
      Shecky: who cares, media won’t say it!
      Me: Incarceration 10x higher for men
      Shecky: now that Clinton does care about, they deserve it, no matter how petty the crime because crime is a male behaviour.
      Me: But aren’t these things representative of inequality?
      Shecky: No! She said she represented equality for _women_. Don’t you know anything about feminism? (Sigh). Of course not, you are a stupid male.
      Me: Wait a minute, isn’t that sexist?
      Shecky: Not unless you’re a misogynist.
      Me: You know calling me a misogynist isn’t an argument, right?
      Shecky: Only to a misogynist! Gotta run. Got to go to an anti boys club meeting for feminists…
      Me: isn’t that a dou… (pauses as shecky runs off mid discussion)
      Me: … ble standard? (Sigh).

      1. My feeling is that arguing about who “has it worse” is counterproductive.

        Both sexes have challenges. If women are more likely to be the victims of sexual assault but men who are sexually assaulted are less likely to be believed when they tell people, does arguing which sex has worse problems fix either of these problems?

        Along the same lines, the labels “misogyny” and “misandry” are also less then useful. They are both highly charged, so simply saying the words can cause people to go on the defensive. They also have widely varied definitions to different people. One person (Think third wave feminist) may use the word “misogynist” to describe a person that believes that gender roles are appropriate while another person (think contented 1950s housewife) may use it to describe someone that doesn’t respect the accepted social norms on how women are supposed to be treated.

        One of these people can say “He is a misogynist.” and the other can cay “No he isn’t.” Then neither of them is lying or mistaken but because they have different definitions on what the word means they are unable to communicate.

        As always, I would like to end with a plea that everyone involved in this debate tries to see and understand the position of the person they are arguing with. We have too little of that right now in our political discourse.

      2. It’s interesting to read your thoughts on this.

        The problems you’re citing are real and deep. The prison system incarcerates mostly men. When the criminal justice system falls short (by punishing instead of rehabilitating, by depriving ex-felons of the right to vote, or by imprisoning people for nonviolent offenses), men bear a disproportionate cost. More generally, the expectations society places on men (not to show emotion; to engage in competition for status; to display aggression and dominance) can cause pervasive burden and harm. I think it’s very fair to raise those issues: our society is quite capable of being systematically and simultaneously unfair to women, and, in different ways, to men as well.

        That said, your description of Clinton’s statement strikes me as a willful misinterpretation!

        All 45 presidents have been male. For the first 30 presidential elections, women couldn’t even vote. Throughout its history, our society has systematically denied many kinds of political and economic opportunities to women. Boys in America do not believe that their gender excludes them from being president or holding other high office; girls in America may. Thus, “Girls and women can be president too” seems like a purely positive message about girls, not a comment on boys’ potential in any way.

  2. Nice. Nice and correct to the point that it hurts a little.

    At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I feel like the paint gun battle would have an implicit bias toward Republicans given the current political climate. i.e. They are the party with all the gun nuts.

    On the other hand, perhaps the NRA will have less sway if we can get the desire to go on a shooting rampage out of our system every two years.

    Sounds fun.

    1. “They are the party with all the gun nuts.”

      It doesn’t mean, they shoot well.

      But I’d go for bullets which randomly contain red or blue paint. Unpredictability is essential on the battlefield. With these randomized bullets, you just don’t know if you kill the enemy or a friend. What better way to fight for your country’s future?

  3. When voter satisfaction is at an all time low, but re-election rates are at an all time high, you know that congress is doing its job.

  4. The Electoral College is the least of our problems. Gerrymandering is a bigger problem.

    But the fundamental HUGE problem is plurality-take-all. This makes people worry about winnability more than desirability early in the contest. Range Voting allows people to safely vote for their favorite candidate always. They may hedge their bets and give equal ratings for backup candidates, but never have to fully face the lesser of two evils dilemma and vote against their favorite.

    And boy, do we have two serious evils this year!

    Kodos or Kane?

    1. Do you know the Arrow Impossibility theorem?

      But yes, the current system is structured to produce bi-partisan hegemony, with 60% of the electorate feeling like neither party suits them particularly well.

      California has done away with party primaries for congress. There was still primary a election, but you vote for any candidate and the top 2 vote-getters go on the ballot. This has made a few races D v. D or R v. R. The idea is that this will take away the urge to appeal to the wings to get on the ballot. We will see how it actually turns out.

  5. In the Coin College, what happens if all four coins are heads? Is it possible that that’s when all our troubles will go away? This would be great and crucial to investigate scientifically.

    Another question I have is this: Is it possible that this country is just too big to do anything in a deterministic way? Perhaps we should decide everything randomly. For example, I am all for rewriting the Constitution to fit modern times. So let’s take each word in the Constitution, flip a (carefully chosen and fair) coin, and if it’s heads, keep the word, if it’s tails, discard the word. I believe, the result will be fair and modern and statistically significant—and half the size of the original.

    We should do the same thing with amendments: whenever a group of important and loud people try to change something in the Constitution, first flip a coin to decide if we adopt the change or not, and if the change is adopted, let us flip the fair coin on each of the word of the proposed amendment, and put the resulting randomized text into the list of amendments.

    I also propose that the Supreme Court works in this randomized way: they will decide on each case brought to them by coin flips. Then we won’t have fights over nominees, since one nominee is as good a coin flipper as any other. Come to think of it, we can decide on accepting a nominee by flipping a coin—fair and modern.

    Thanks for the ideas, I feel much better about the future: it will have a fair chance of being acceptable. 🙂

    1. “We won’t have fights over nominees, since one nominee is as good a coin flipper as any other.”

      I know some talented coin flippers.

    2. If all the coins show heads the winner of the popular vote is still president, but the looser becomes the vice president.

      That way the president and vice president are bitter political rivals. Just like the founders originally intended.

  6. It feels like we’re having a “kind of” paint gun battle college this year. There’s lots of sludge, but no one is an approximation of smooth hot chocolate. I’m favoring the coin college at the moment…I mean, coin tossing works for football games, so why not for choosing which Presidential candidate gets to go first?

  7. “Historically the electoral college vote and popular vote only differ 6%” However, statistics are showing that for this particular election the popular vote is going to dramatically differ than the electoral college vote. What’s your take?

  8. The Electoral College system is out of date and should be replaced by popular vote.
    The election campaign should be shortened.
    The media should pay more attention to the Senators and Congressmen up for election.
    The Lobbying laws need a total overhaul to give America back to its people, preventing groups like the NRA (who’s membership is only 1.6% of the population) from dictating to 324,965,355 Americans.

    1. If the election was decided by popular vote, we would have a more interesting election. I think it would interest voters more in the country as opposed to just the battleground states.
      In regards to paying attention to Senators and Congressmen, it wouldn’t hurt if the importance of Congress is emphasized in our education system or the news more. If people knew more about how government really worked, maybe our view of the system wouldn’t be so screwed up.

  9. Reblogged this on Southern By Design and commented:
    The day is here, we go to the polls to vote. I can’t help but feel a bit of contempt towards the country and the options we are forced to choose from! I am sure that I am not the only one with such feelings. So, to lighten the mood, I am sharing this funny piece in pictures- I hope you enjoy and even laugh a little.

  10. Very interesting. It is such a popular sentiment now a days that the Electoral College should be replaced. Again we see another situation where the majority of Americans voted for the the loser. It would be nice to see the swing states not as important and make other states more important.

    1. The Founding Fathers. The original intent was that the Electors would vote however they pleased and the popular vote would be non-binding on them. This is still the law in 21 states.

      The idea was that if the ignorant populace accidentally picked the wrong guy, the educated and intelligent Electors would wisely vote for the right one.

  11. There is another critical part of the picture: what are the powers of government and the checks on that power? In a system with deep commitment to and respect for minority rights (minority in the sense of the election losers), it isn’t so costly to have weaknesses/randomness in the process for choosing leaders. However, both parties have consistently eroded this commitment and associated checks and balances in the government that it now feels truly scary to be the party out of power.

    That said, it could be worse: some parliamentary systems lack any meaningful checks and balances on the executive and some countries have governments that are truly winner-takes-all.

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