Home / Dave Brockington / Electoral College Alternatives and 2012, continued

Electoral College Alternatives and 2012, continued


Unlike most other Red-Blue states, Pennsylvania is still considering changing the rules allocating their EC votes. Instead of the Congressional district system, the new move is for a variant of full on proportional where the 18 votes corresponding to the size of their House delegation are distributed proportionately, and the two remaining are awarded to the overall plurality winner of the state.

This ongoing issue motivated me to finally update the slide I use in my lecture on the Electoral College that I reproduced here in the event that all 50 states adopt a given reform. There are several calculations available, including the district system here, and a straight proportional system here. I found neither entirely satisfactory, so in the spirit of a further delay in grading essays, made my own calculations.

The district plan, assuming all states implement it the manner in which it is currently used by Maine and Nebraska, results in 265 EC votes for Obama, and 273 for Romney. (I’m not sure how sound this is; as of today Daily Kos Elections still does not have data on the presidential vote for 26 districts, but unlike the page I linked above, my estimate does add up to 538 at least). The pure proportional plan (without the two vote bonus for the plurality winner) results in Obama 277, Romney 261. I allocated remainders with a strict rounding up criterion. As both estimations assume uniformity in the rules adopted by the states, neither are bullet proof. The table below the fold reproduces my results for the proportional model.

There are some odd results of course, which I’ve highlighted. Alabama was a draw on rounding up, so I arbitrarily assigned it 3-6, as considering Romney received 60.6% of the vote, this is more reasonable than 4-5. MN, MS, MO, NV, NH, and WI are all ties. Although I did this in some haste, I think the criterion for remainders was uniformly applied. There’s also the issue of a minimum legal threshold for assigning EC votes. Six states had votes for “other” at 3% or higher; most of which is likely accounted for by Gary Johnson, who received 3.55% in New Mexico alone. With such a minimal third party result, a pure PR system would not punt the election to the House, but it’s not far off from doing so. My updated slide for my lecture on the EC is here, and what this tells us is that either reform can have unintended consequences. In five elections since 1960 the House decides under PR, as with one under the CD plan (1976); in two others under CD the EC winner did not win the popular vote (2000, 2012). Of course in one case since 1960 the current Electoral College produced a President who didn’t win the popular vote either. The only reform that retains the underlying logic of the EC and has a result consistent with the PV remains the NPV Compact, but that too has issues as were discussed a few days ago.





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  • Joe

    Very helpful. The campaigns would have been run differently with different rules, so somatic artificial.

    • Joe


      • Njorl

        I’ve been wondering what made you type “somatic” instead of “somewhat”. I’m not coming up with anything.

        • Bill Snowden

          Try harder. It’s 2013; the age of discrete keystrokes is giving way to the age of quantum typing: clouds of probability resolved by auto-correct algorithms. The new typo is always spelled correctly, and often jarringly recondite.

          • Jameson Quinn

            You mean “often jargon recommended”.

  • John

    I’m not sure how useful this is. Republicans aren’t proposing moving to a system where all states allocate electoral votes proportionately. They are proposing to do this only in states where they control the state government but which tend to vote for Democrats for president. Thus, we see that they’ve made no effort to adopt this system in states where they win.

    • Jameson Quinn

      Virginia tends to vote D? But yes, point taken.

      • Dave Anderson

        Right now Virginia is trending Blue with a Cook PVI of D+a smidgen (where smidgen is less than 1% point more Democratic than the country as a whole), and if you are assuming in a neutral economic environment that Democratic leaning demographic groups are growing in voter registration and voting propensity while Republican leaning groups are disproprotionally dying, then kneecapping any state’s electoral votes where they are are R+2 or more Democratic than that makes a lot of sense from a purely cynical election winning Republican consultant perspective.

        • Jameson Quinn

          No it doesn’t, unless they’ve rigged other states first. The EVs republicans stand to gain wouldn’t be enough; but if their candidate is doing well enough to have a shot, they are more likely to lose EVs. That is, VA is bluer than 50% but redder than the tipping point.

    • tomstickler

      You have found the essence of the Republican strategy. They have no interest in having every state use the same method. They only want a hybrid system that favors them.

  • Pretzalcoatl

    I’m okay with the change only if they also move to allocate their house seats proportionally.

    There’s no federal constitutional requirement for single-member districts.

  • wengler

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this idea doesn’t pass anywhere. It hurts the state parties and doesn’t give that big an advantage. They Republicans are flailing about, trying to do anything but change some of their awful white nationalist, pro-rich, pro-corporation policies.

  • Jameson Quinn

    One could use PR but “require” any delegates for non-top-two candidates to cast their vote for a (statewide) top-two candidate. Thus eg Nader delegates would have voted for Gore or Bush, presumably mostly following Nader’s instructions, and the 5 elections decided by the House would have been avoided. This is arguably even better than NPV as it reduces the chance of a plurality-but-not- majority result. (This advantage could also happen under NPV if some states moved to SODA voting ballots).

  • mds

    Hmm, so, the vote rigging has become a non-story because Virginia dropped it, yet it’s still on the table in more safely blue Presidential state(s) PA (and MI?) where it could do more damage. We’re no longer talking about VA, where the Republican is probably already winning outright if it’s swinging the GOP’s way. And even when Corbett lost, the legislature would probably remain sufficiently Republican to keep it from being reversed. Grand.

  • Western Dave

    I think it’s pretty DOA in Pennsylvania. Republicans are starting to realize that if they do pass it, we’ll see a lot of outside (read NY) money in the state race and they’ll get buried in what would normally be a safe off year election. They are very worried about waking a sleeping tiger. Their biggest initiative right now is trying to sell off the state stores and they might not be able to get that through.

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