Monthly Archives: April 2003

National Menu

I have received some great feedback from the survey! Thanks! One of the comments was in regard to the inconvenience of having to use the pull-down menu each time the visitor wanted to see the national-level results from a different year (when the desire was to view national results from many different years). I have added a “Menu” button that now presents a list of years in the left-side frame to have quick access to national-results pages. If you have an idea for a better/more intuitive method for accessing this function, feel free to comment.

Site Survey

Today, I have uploaded a site survey to solicit feedback on the site and to obtain information on how to make the site better. This survey automatically pops up if you load the home page (I know that this can be annoying, but fortunately, you only need to visit the home page once :) The survey is also available via a link located in the bottom frame of the election results pages. If you have a moment, please fill out the form. I greatly appreciate it!

New Home Pages

I have upgraded the Atlas home pages (This includes the home page plus the general interactive pages such as information, guestbook, email form, about, faq, etc.) to W3C XHTML and CSS compliance. This upgrade has also enhanced the navigation (I think that it looks nicer too). Older browsers may have trouble with these pages (especially Netscape 4) and I recommend upgrading to a standards-compliant browser.

The upgrade also combines the Presidential Primary and General elections into a single navigation frame. Please let me know if you encounter any problems or broken links.

New Election Reference Set

My first book contribution is now out! I was contacted last February by M. E. Sharpe about supplying election data for their new publication, American Presidential Campaigns and Elections, a three volume reference set (Edited by: William G. Shade; Ballard C. Campbell; Craig R. Coenen, Documents Editor). I just received my copy last week. Its a nice reference; each chapter covers one election, including an overview of the issues and campaign, text of speeches, results maps, and the data!

The description of the content is as follows: “Presidential campaigns and elections provide the drama and substance of America’s democratic process. As democracy in action, they punctuate our nation’s history in precise intervals, capturing the issues, the ideas, and the mood of the nation every four years. Every campaign follows a similar format: candidates jockey for selection, nominations are made, candidates and party leaders hit the trail, and voters render their decision on election day. Yet despite this familiar process, every campaign is unique, featuring colorful personalities and unexpected events.

This fully illustrated reference is packed with facts and information on every campaign from the election of 1788-89 through the hotly contested election of 2000. Each entry traces in detail the background and results of the election, and the set features hundreds of rarely seen documents associated with the campaigns.”

The target customer for the reference set is libraries -> as its hefty price of $325 is beyond what most people are willing to pay for a copy at home. Purchase of the three-volume set is presently only possilbe through M. E. Sharpe directly. You can see an overview of the set and purchase directly from them at this link.

What was the Real Popular Vote?

No, I’m not referring to the Florida recount of 2000 or even 1876. In this post, I’m discussing a challenge faced by any person attempting to present results of older Presidential Elections. The problem has its root cause in the U.S. Constitution – a small excerpt from Article II, Section I reads: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, …. It turns out, that most states, for a long period of time, chose to appoint Presidential Electors through a method direct popular vote of the Electors themselves. As an example, the residents of the State of Ohio, in 1904, had to cast votes for 23 names among 138 Presidential Electors. The names of the actual Presidential Candidates to whom the long list of Electors are pledged, were not on the ballot.

Given such an unwieldy voting task, the totals amongst the electors of the same party often varies. In our Ohio example from 1904, the 23 Republican Electors’ totals vary by over 3,000 votes. In several cases, including MD 1908, CA 1912, and WV 1916, the closeness of the election combined with the variation in totals for the electors resulted in a split ticket of chosen Presidential Electors!

This variation in Electors is due to many factors, including errors, the desire for some voters to vote for the actual electors that they know, a lack of understanding of the voting procedure, and even the choice of an elector with the same name as another party’s Presidential Candidate such as ‘Alfred E. Smith’ , a Socialist Elector from Colorado in 1928 – he received about 1,000 more votes than any other Socialist Elector.

With all these votes recorded by the various election agencies of the time, many publications created by these agencies summarize the results – inconsistently from state to state and even within a single state from year to year. Examples of summaries include: data shown for the elector whom received the most total votes, data shown for a “generalized average” of electors, data “given is that cast for the elector receiving the highest aggregate vote cast in each county for elector by the party represented”… and so forth. When compiling all of these together – especially for a close election – the result is a “total popular vote” that is not statistically correct. Did Kennedy really win the popular vote in 1960? How about the split result in Popular/Electoral vote of 1888?

I am attempting to collect the data for all Electors in all the states for these years, so that the results may be presented consistantly (and perhaps even variably (meaning that I might be able to have an option to show the “total popular vote” by different statistical methods such as average, highest total elector, median elector, total of highest aggregate elector in each county, total of median electors in each county, etc.)) This is a big job, so don’t expect it too soon.

Comments Welcome.