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Author Topic: The Electoral College: Arguments  (Read 6998 times)
Beet
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« on: August 27, 2007, 09:42:18 pm »
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Or more specifically, why some arguments for keeping it don't work. Over at The Fray there is an interesting discussion going on on the Electoral College.

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It's understandable, but wrong, to lay the blame for "swing states" on the Electoral College system; the possibility of a swing state is just as real in any proposed alternative which tries to mimic a direct national vote, because concentrated regional blocs of voters can easily be numerous enough to swing such an election. The only difference is that the "swing state" has to have a large population, or has to become a "swing region" made up of several states.

It's also understandable -- but also wrong -- to dismiss the Electoral College, and the winner-take-all system most states use to apportion their electoral votes, as flawed. Perhaps the best explanation of why that's wrong is an analogy coined by mathematician Alan Natapoff. Think of another quintessentially American institution: baseball. The champion of each major-league season is decided, ultimately, by the World Series, a best-of-seven contest.

We understand on a pretty fundamental level that this is a pretty good way to pick a winner: by requiring the eventual champion to perform consistently well over multiple games, we're doing away with flukes introduced by isolated, one-sided blowouts. The analogy to various direct-vote emulation schemes would be a series which always goes seven games, and where the team with the most total runs over those games wins. But this opens the door to, say, a "champion" who had a 7-0 victory in Game 1, followed by six straight 1-0 losses. Any baseball fan would immediately say that such a team is no "champion", and that the "losers" who won six out of seven games should be the ones getting the ticker-tape parade.

The Electoral College imposes a similar requirement of consistency on a potential President: by essentially creating many separate Presidential elections, the College requires the eventual winner perform well across a broader spectrum. If not for this, we wouldn't be able to talk about electing the "President of the United States" with a straight face; most of the time, a few populous regions would elect a President, and the rest of us would be along for the ride. We'd have the "President of California, New York and Florida", who'd incidentally end up as chief executive of all forty-seven other states. And that would be nothing short of disastrous: the only response possible from the more sparsely-populated states would be to band together into a massive voting bloc, and we'd end up with an even more polarized electorate.

What's worse, it would largely be polarized along geographic lines: the large population centers are mostly coastal, while the sparser areas lie in the nation's interior. The last time we were divided that sharply along a roughly geographic boundary, we fought a four-year civil war and got a lasting legacy of regional enmity thrown into the bargain. Keep the Electoral College, on the other hand, and the larger population centers lose some of their clout, the less-populated states gain a bit of power and a successful candidate is placed in a situation of needing to appeal to both.

An analogy can be drawn to the structure of the Federal legislative branch: the bicameral Congress, with representation apportioned equally to all states in one house and apportioned by population in the other, makes the same trade-off in a far more explicit fashion, and in doing so provides an effective check against tyranny by the majority. The Electoral College was not, so far as I'm aware, conceived with any such goal in mind, but nonetheless accomplishes much the same thing for the executive branch, ensuring -- for all its perceived faults and antiquated notions about representative democracy -- that a candidate for the Presidency cannot glide in on a single blowout any more than a team in the World Series can ride a single game's run tally through to the end.

1.) The claim that the possibility of a swing state is just as real in any proposed alternative which tries to mimic a direct national vote, because concentrated regional blocs of voters can easily be numerous enough to swing such an election.

The concept of a swing state is predicated on the notion that a small change in the proportion of the vote within the state (say a 51-49 Pennsylvania instead of a 49-51 Pennsylvania) can produce a disproportionate result. Without that dynamic the concept of a swing state (or swing region) is meaningless, as it does not matter who wins this or that region, it only matters who wins the overall most votes. This would be a recipe for LESS regional polarization, not more.

2.) The Article "Math Against Tyranny" does not refute any of the criticisms of the Electoral College as it now stands- its marginalization of non-swing states, its anti-democratic nature, its anachronistic character, and it's arbitrariness. It is predicated solely on the idea that one's likelihood of influencing the outcome of the election by your vote alone is increased from a vanishingly nonexistent amount to a slightly less vanishingly nonexistent amount. In other words, an interesting theoretical exercise, but no more, and certainly does not lead one to the conclusion of the present College.
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Beet
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2007, 09:42:50 pm »
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3.) The claim that the Electoral College is like baseball.

The game of baseball, as has been pointed out above, is an exercise in recreation in which the most important unit of victory is the "game". It is not designed to measure how good a team's athletes are to the optimal level of perfection. If one team won a 7 game series by 4-3 but the losing team had numerous injuries and won their 3 games by huge margins while those injuries cost them the decisive 1 game, who would the money-changers rank as the best game if the teams were to face each other again, or in the next season without any trades? Even in baseball, those who are seriously studying the statistics do not just look at games won but RBIs, ERAs, etc. etc.

Furthermore, the analogy obscures that all states, unlike all games, are not equal. In fact, 80% of states are foregone conclusions. What if there was a rule that said that a team could only field its best players in game 1, while in games 2-5 it could only field two or three bad pitchers and its worst hitters? Such would be a game that was a foregone conclusion, and no baseball fan would stand for such rules.

4.) The claim that the College requires the the eventual winner perform well across a broader spectrum.

On the contrary, the College requires the eventual winner to perform across a NARROWER spectrum, geographically. He or she can get demolished in Nebraska, Montana, Texas, and Utah, but still win a victory by eking out tiny margins in Ohio and Florida. In fact, only the Electoral College allows the winner to win with less than a majority of the vote. By definition, it leaves more room for winners who leave more American voters behind than the popular vote.


5.) The claim that we would not be able to talk about the "President of the United States" but we'd have the "President of California, New York and Florida"

Does the author of this objection really think George W. Bush, the current President, really has 'wide geographical support' encompassing all areas of the country? Hardly. The President elected by the Electoral College has been one of the most polarizing Presidents in recent history. To many, he's the President of "Texas, Texas, and Texas". He's made absolutely no effort to reach out to the people or areas that did not support him, as evidenced by his win in 2004 again losing almost exactly the same states.

6.) The claim that the electorate would largely be polarized along geographic lines: the large population centers are mostly coastal, while the sparser areas lie in the nation's interior.

Again, the electorate is currently polarized (geographically) along roughly those lines. The author is merely describing the status quo. The only difference is that the author (apparently) imagines that this time it would be the coastal areas in the majority. This assumption is wrong-- as the Slate writer pointed out, Kerry, who had more support among coastal areas, would have been put at a disadvantage in a national popular vote situation.

7.) The claim that the Electoral College empowers small states while disempowering large ones.

Simply incorrect. The Electoral College empowers SWING states while disempowering non-swing states. Hence Florida, the 4th-largest out of 50 states (and hence in the top 8% percentile) decisively swung the 2000 elections due to the electoral college, while the much smaller states of Oregon and New Mexico were unable to do so. The small states like Montana and the Dakotas are DOUBLY punished by the Electoral College: not only do they have less people but they are not swing states. Hence, they receive even LESS attention than they would under a national popular vote.

8.) The notion that the Electoral College goes against the 'tyranny of the majority' like bicameral Congress, with representation apportioned equally to all states in one house and apportioned by population in the other, makes the same trade-off in a far more explicit fashion, and in doing so provides an effective check against tryanny by the majority.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how Congress's structure protects against tyranny of the majority. It does so by dividing powers among different parties, such as the two Houses of Congress; by staggering elections in the Senate, and by giving certain protections to the minority, regardless of which minority that is.

The Electoral College on the other hand, serves only to introduce an arbitrary element of bias into the system. It does not divide the Presidential power; whomever is elected President still has all the same unified powers. That makes the bicameral and staggering elements of Congressional diffusion irrelevant. Secondly, it does not give certain protections to the minority regardless of who is in the minority. It only protects the minority under certain, arbitrary cases. When the 'tyranny of the majority' benefits from the Electoral College (which is most of the time), it actually artificially enhances the stature of a smaller win by making it seem larger than it was.

In short, the claims made above are invalid; it is not impossible to defend the Electoral College, but they cannot be made under the grounds given above.
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2007, 02:29:16 pm »
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How would a national popular election be conducted?  Would the federal government run the entire process, voter registration and qualifications, voting machines, candidate qualification)?
Would citizens who do not reside in the United States (and the District of Columbia) be permitted to vote?
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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2007, 03:00:32 pm »
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How would a national popular election be conducted?  Would the federal government run the entire process, voter registration and qualifications, voting machines, candidate qualification)?
Would citizens who do not reside in the United States (and the District of Columbia) be permitted to vote?

Federalization of the voting wouldn't be required, but the Bush v. Gore ruling could be used as precedent for that. Of course, ex-pats are allowed to vote if they are still citizens.
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« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2007, 03:42:33 pm »
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Assuming the Feds "take-over" the Presidential election:

Would all FEC filed Candidates be allowed on the ballot of a National Popular Vote Ballot?
Who prints the ballots, the Feds, the States, or the Municipalities?
Would IRV be used?
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« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2007, 07:27:14 pm »
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IRV would be ideal, I think, as the President is chosen through a single-winner election. (Condorcet is simply too complicated to be feasible.)

All candidates filed with the FEC should be allowed on the ballot, but not all candidates must be marked in order on the ballot, allowing the exhaustion of ballots. I see no reason for the federal government not to be the ones printing the ballots, as clearly nationwide standardization is much less likely to results in "biased" ballots. Still, counts would be carried out at the local level.
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2007, 02:57:51 am »
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How would a national popular election be conducted?  Would the federal government run the entire process, voter registration and qualifications, voting machines, candidate qualification)?
Would citizens who do not reside in the United States (and the District of Columbia) be permitted to vote?
Federalization of the voting wouldn't be required, but the Bush v. Gore ruling could be used as precedent for that. Of course, ex-pats are allowed to vote if they are still citizens.
So people in Texas could vote a straight ticket, and have it count as a vote for the presidential candidate, but those in North Carolina could vote a straight ticket and not have it count?  And voters in some states might require photo ID, or be required to vote by mail (Oregon), and votes in Washington state could drag in for weeks afterwards, and voters in Texas could vote before the election.  And if a state decidesto let 16 YO to vote, or permanent resident aliens, it would be OK?

And if Florida lets every conceivable party get on the ballot, and other states make it extremely difficult for all candidates to get on the ballot, it is OK?

Should the east coast be required to keep their polling places open until midnight, so that the west coast can close at 9 PM (Alaska and Hawaii to 7 PM).  What about Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas, and American Samoa?
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2007, 01:38:17 pm »
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Could you imagine how big the ballot would be just being on the popular vote?
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2007, 03:50:13 pm »
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Could you imagine how big the ballot would be just being on the popular vote?

I don't see why it would be particularly larger than the current ballot in states with larger than average ballots. It isn't as if the popular vote suddenly makes it possible for minor independents or parties to win the Presidency.
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2007, 07:53:32 pm »
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Could you imagine how big the ballot would be just being on the popular vote?
I don't see why it would be particularly larger than the current ballot in states with larger than average ballots. It isn't as if the popular vote suddenly makes it possible for minor independents or parties to win the Presidency.
Remember that it was because Florida made it so easy for presidential candidates to qualify that they had to use all the weird ballot formats that confused people.  If you also had to support ranking, it could be a pretty long ballot.
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2007, 08:16:30 pm »
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Could you imagine how big the ballot would be just being on the popular vote?
I don't see why it would be particularly larger than the current ballot in states with larger than average ballots. It isn't as if the popular vote suddenly makes it possible for minor independents or parties to win the Presidency.
Remember that it was because Florida made it so easy for presidential candidates to qualify that they had to use all the weird ballot formats that confused people.  If you also had to support ranking, it could be a pretty long ballot.

New Jersey had more candidates on the ballot than any other state in 2004 (9), and it was not a long ballot. Florida had only one more candidate than that in 2000 (10); a ten-candidate ballot is not a long one, it's routine here, and there was no excuse for the poor ballot design.
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2007, 12:43:35 am »
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If all candidates were listed that obtained Ballot Access in atleast one state there would have been 16 candidates in 2000 & 17 Candidates in 2004.

Not a "LONG" ballot at all.
For a LONG ballot see here http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/state.php?year=2003&fips=6&f=1&off=5&elect=0&minper=0
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2007, 01:41:28 am »
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The current system actually encourages people to be on the ballot only in some states. Lincoln won without receiving any votes in many states (of course this was before the secret ballot).
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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2007, 01:49:44 am »
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The current system actually encourages people to be on the ballot only in some states. Lincoln won without receiving any votes in many states (of course this was before the secret ballot).

It was also before the Government printed the ballots.
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2007, 11:45:26 pm »
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I would imagine that a federal ballot for Pres/VP would have to stand alone. The primary and general election would be independent of any state decisions about candidates at lower levels. That would create the required uniformity for selection and ballot access. That would also allow for any unique choices of voting method and run-off if desired. States might choose to match the federal date, but that would be a separate, coincident ballot to the national election.
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« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2007, 02:56:36 am »
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Remember that it was because Florida made it so easy for presidential candidates to qualify that they had to use all the weird ballot formats that confused people.  If you also had to support ranking, it could be a pretty long ballot.
New Jersey had more candidates on the ballot than any other state in 2004 (9), and it was not a long ballot. Florida had only one more candidate than that in 2000 (10); a ten-candidate ballot is not a long one, it's routine here, and there was no excuse for the poor ballot design.
Florida also required a space for the write-in candidates.   And they put the name of both the President and VP candidate on the ballot.  Florida counties screwed up the ballot at least 3 different ways, all related to using form factors that had problems handling that many candidates.
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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2007, 01:33:11 pm »
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7.) The claim that the Electoral College empowers small states while disempowering large ones.

Simply incorrect. The Electoral College empowers SWING states while disempowering non-swing states. Hence Florida, the 4th-largest out of 50 states (and hence in the top 8% percentile) decisively swung the 2000 elections due to the electoral college, while the much smaller states of Oregon and New Mexico were unable to do so.

... to amend this; the assignment of an electoral vote for a Senator does benefit small states slightly. However, the main effect, especially in terms of particularistic state interests (i.e., hurricanes vs. corn; how much does my vote matter? etc) is still between safe states and swing states.
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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2007, 02:38:35 am »
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1. Electoral Votes shall be apportioned among the several States, according to their respective numbers, counting citizens 18-years of age and older.   There shall be at least one electoral vote per 10,000 such citizens.
2. The distribution of electoral votes in each State shall be determined on the basis of popular election by the People of the State, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.   Electors shall cast separate votes for a Presidential and a Vice-Presidential candidate, at least one of which shall not be an inhabitant of the same State.
3. The electoral votes for President and the electoral votes for Vice President in each State shall be allocated in proportion to the popular vote received by each candidate.
4. The candidate who receives a majority of electoral votes for President shall be elected President, and the candidate who receives a majority of electoral votes for Vice President shall be elected Vice President.  Congress shall by law provide for the case wherein no Presidential candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, or no Vice-Presidential candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes.
5. The Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections to determine the allocation of electoral votes shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law, make or alter such Regulations.
6. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall be treated as if it were a State for purposes of this article.  The Congress will execute the the powers vested in the Legislatures of the States, with respect to the District.
7. The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of Article II, Section I; The 12th article of amendment, and the 23rd article amendment of the Constitution of the United States are hereby repealed.
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« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2007, 03:17:25 pm »
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Nice, but why not just establish the popular vote?
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« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2007, 12:43:33 am »
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Nice, but why not just establish the popular vote?
Because we don't have a democracy, we have a representative republic.

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
Thomas Jefferson
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« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2007, 09:04:02 am »
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Nice, but why not just establish the popular vote?
It keeps the federal government from direct management of the election.   It avoids the presumption that people who live in Puerto Rico, etc. should vote for the President of the United States.

In addition, when the initiative and referendum are implemented, electoral votes can be used with a system that requires concurrent majorities (eg a majority of the electoral vote, and a majority of the electoral votes in 3/5 of the States).

And finally, it gives a greater sense of involvement to each voter since they can think that their vote produces an electoral vote or "wins" their state.
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« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2007, 09:12:44 am »
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1 The status quo on this FAILS.

2 I'd make PR a state so a moot point

3 Hahahahahaha. No.

4 Screw the voters. The electoral vote biases it towards useless heartland states.
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« Reply #22 on: September 03, 2007, 11:17:41 am »
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StateEVBushKerryNaderBadnarikPeroutkaCobbWrite-insPeltierBrownNone
AL
339
212
125
1
1
AL
44
27
16
1
AZ
350
192
156
2
AR
202
110
91
1
CA
2070
919
1124
3
8
4
7
5
CO
310
161
146
2
1
CT
248
109
134
2
1
2
DE
59
27
32
DC
43
4
39
FL
1146
597
539
5
2
1
1
1
GA
587
341
243
3
HI
87
40
47
ID
92
63
28
1
IL
867
386
475
1
5
IN
456
274
179
3
IA
222
111
110
1
KS
197
122
72
2
1
KY
311
185
124
2
LA
331
189
140
1
1
ME
99
45
53
1
ME
383
164
214
2
1
1
1
MA
462
170
286
1
2
2
1
MI
735
351
376
4
2
1
1
MN
362
173
185
2
1
1
MS
212
126
85
1
MO
423
225
195
2
1
MT
69
41
27
1
NE
126
84
41
1
NV
136
68
65
1
1
1
NH
93
45
47
1
NJ
584
270
310
3
1
NM
127
64
62
1
NY
1290
517
754
17
2
NC
602
337
263
2
ND
49
31
17
1
OH
861
438
419
2
2
OK
257
169
88
OR
250
118
128
1
1
1
1
PA
946
459
482
3
1
1
RI
77
30
46
1
SC
304
176
125
1
1
1
SD
56
34
21
1
TN
435
247
185
2
1
TX
1376
841
526
2
7
UT
147
105
38
2
1
1
VT
47
18
28
1
VA
522
280
238
2
2
WA
423
193
224
3
2
1
WV
145
81
63
1
WI
403
199
201
2
1
WY
37
26
11
Total
19999
10194
9623
75
63
18
17
2
5
1
1
EV %
50.97
48.12
0.38
0.32
0.09
0.09
0.01
0.03
0.01
0.01
Popular %
50.73
48.27
0.38
0.32
0.12
0.10
0.03
0.02
0.01
0.00
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« Reply #23 on: September 03, 2007, 11:22:35 am »
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StateEVBushKerryNaderBadnarikPeroutkaCobbWrite-insPeltierBrownNone
AL
339
212
125
1
1
AL
44
27
16
1
AZ
350
192
156
2
AR
202
110
91
1
CA
2070
919
1124
3
8
4
7
5
CO
310
161
146
2
1
CT
248
109
134
2
1
2
DE
59
27
32
DC
43
4
39
FL
1146
597
539
5
2
1
1
1
GA
587
341
243
3
HI
87
40
47
ID
92
63
28
1
IL
867
386
475
1
5
IN
456
274
179
3
IA
222
111
110
1
KS
197
122
72
2
1
KY
311
185
124
2
LA
331
189
140
1
1
ME
99
45
53
1
ME
383
164
214
2
1
1
1
MA
462
170
286
1
2
2
1
MI
735
351
376
4
2
1
1
MN
362
173
185
2
1
1
MS
212
126
85
1
MO
423
225
195
2
1
MT
69
41
27
1
NE
126
84
41
1
NV
136
68
65
1
1
1
NH
93
45
47
1
NJ
584
270
310
3
1
NM
127
64
62
1
NY
1290
517
754
17
2
NC
602
337
263
2
ND
49
31
17
1
OH
861
438
419
2
2
OK
257
169
88
OR
250
118
128
1
1
1
1
PA
946
459
482
3
1
1
RI
77
30
46
1
SC
304
176
125
1
1
1
SD
56
34
21
1
TN
435
247
185
2
1
TX
1376
841
526
2
7
UT
147
105
38
2
1
1
VT
47
18
28
1
VA
522
280
238
2
2
WA
423
193
224
3
2
1
WV
145
81
63
1
WI
403
199
201
2
1
WY
37
26
11
Total
19999
10194
9623
75
63
18
17
2
5
1
1
EV %
50.97
48.12
0.38
0.32
0.09
0.09
0.01
0.03
0.01
0.01
Popular %
50.73
48.27
0.38
0.32
0.12
0.10
0.03
0.02
0.01
0.00

How did you determine the amount of EV's?
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jimrtex
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« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2007, 12:37:18 pm »
Ignore

How did you determine the amount of EV's?
EVs in each state are apportioned based on Citizen Population over 18.  The EVs in each state were then apportioned use unmodified St. Lague with no threshold. 

St.Lague is roughly equivalent to dividing the total popular vote by the number of EV to determine a quota, then dividing the popular vote for each candidate by this quota, and rounding to the nearest whole number.  St.Lague ensures that the exact number of EVs for a state are apportioned.

The following table shows what the effect of apportioning EVs by total population would be.  Utah has a young population, West Virginia has an old population, other states have a proportionately large non-citizen population.

PopulationCitizen > 18Pop. EVCitizen EV
Alabama
4,447,100
3,276,570
316
339
Alaska
626,932
421,983
45
44
Arizona
5,130,632
3,387,552
365
350
Arkansas
2,673,400
1,950,712
190
202
California
33,871,648
20,011,574
2,407
2,070
Colorado
4,301,261
2,993,981
306
310
Connecticut
3,405,565
2,401,238
242
248
Delaware
783,600
567,739
56
59
District of Columbia
572,059
411,044
41
43
Florida
15,982,378
11,081,542
1,136
1,146
Georgia
8,186,453
5,675,210
582
587
Hawaii
1,211,537
842,654
86
87
Idaho
1,293,953
891,064
92
92
Illinois
12,419,293
8,387,117
883
867
Indiana
6,080,485
4,409,194
432
456
Iowa
2,926,324
2,143,474
208
222
Kansas
2,688,418
1,902,932
191
197
Kentucky
4,041,769
3,003,225
287
311
Louisiana
4,468,976
3,198,079
318
331
Maine
1,274,923
959,368
91
99
Maryland
5,296,486
3,698,493
376
383
Massachusetts
6,349,097
4,471,379
451
462
Michigan
9,938,444
7,106,102
706
735
Minnesota
4,919,479
3,501,681
350
362
Mississippi
2,844,658
2,049,386
202
212
Missouri
5,595,211
4,094,716
398
423
Montana
902,195
666,228
64
69
Nebraska
1,711,263
1,219,908
122
126
Nevada
1,998,257
1,317,914
142
136
New Hampshire
1,235,786
902,521
88
93
New Jersey
8,414,350
5,645,884
598
584
New Mexico
1,819,046
1,230,736
129
127
New York
18,976,457
12,476,046
1,349
1,290
North Carolina
8,049,313
5,820,423
572
602
North Dakota
642,200
475,801
46
49
Ohio
11,353,140
8,322,126
807
861
Oklahoma
3,450,654
2,487,713
245
257
Oregon
3,421,399
2,415,985
243
250
Pennsylvania
12,281,054
9,147,224
873
946
Rhode Island
1,048,319
746,333
75
77
South Carolina
4,012,012
2,939,606
285
304
South Dakota
754,844
545,573
54
56
Tennessee
5,689,283
4,202,518
404
435
Texas
20,851,820
13,299,845
1,482
1,376
Utah
2,233,169
1,425,658
159
147
Vermont
608,827
451,982
43
47
Virginia
7,078,515
5,051,517
503
522
Washington
5,894,121
4,088,019
419
423
West Virginia
1,808,344
1,398,620
129
145
Wisconsin
5,363,675
3,900,470
381
403
Wyoming
493,782
360,316
35
37
United States
281,421,906
193,376,975
20,004
19,999
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