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Our Omniscient Framers


For much of American history, the Electoral College — while a transparently indefensible anachronism — stumbled along OK as a kludge that mostly produced democratic results. Those days appear to be over:

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency despite receiving nearly 3 million fewer votes than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2000, George W. Bush pulled off a similar trick. According to a new study, these are not flukes. They are the kind of results we should expect from the Electoral College.

The study, by three economics researchers at the University of Texas, quantifies just how often the Electoral College will produce an “inversion” — that is, an election where one candidate wins the popular vote but the other walks away with the presidency. The numbers are simply astonishing.

In modern elections where one party prevails by just 2 points in the two-party popular vote, “inversions are expected in more than 30% of elections.” That number rises to 40 percent in elections with a 1 percentage-point margin.

Republicans, moreover, are far more likely to benefit from an inversion than Democrats. “In the modern period,” the study suggests, “Republicans should be expected to win 65% of Presidential contests in which they narrowly lose the popular vote.”

This Republican advantage can shift elections where the Democrat was a fairly clear winner in the popular vote. “A 3.0 point margin favoring the Democrat,” the study concludes, “is associated with a 16% inversion probability.” In other words,Republicans will win nearly one in six presidential races where they lose the popular vote by 3 points.

Well, who are you to question a hasty compromise pounded out one afternoon nearly 200 years ago that failed to work as intended almost immediately?

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