A better discussion of the Electoral College
September 7, 2000 7:56 AM   Subscribe

A better discussion of the Electoral College and the possible outcome this November. Not better because Bush is seen as ahead (I'm voting for Nader), but better because it seems to acknowledge the vagaries of making such predictions.
posted by silusGROK (5 comments total)
Be sure to check out the chart mid-way down the screen. Very nicely done.

posted by silusGROK at 7:57 AM on September 7, 2000

This is indeed a well written analysis of the electoral college, albeit a disheartening one for those of us supporting Gore.

Still, given the great many 'tossup' votes out there, hope is by no means lost.

What's interesting is the possibility that Gore could win in the popular vote, and yet still lose the election based on the electoral college system. The last time that happened was over 100 years ago.

I shudder to think about the reaction of the American people should such a situation come about with this election. Social unrest on a grand scale, to be sure.

Perhaps it would be wise to move to Canada . . .
posted by aladfar at 8:36 AM on September 7, 2000

[side-note: I hate it when sites throw up a pop-up using an already-open window, such as my metafilter edit window, then I can't get back what I typed ...]

I don't expect that there will be a discrepancy between the popular and electoral votes. There hasn't been one for over 100 years for very good reason.

First, regionalism is no longer a factor. The former practice of ticket-balancing has been replaced (IMHO, laudably so) by picking an able assistant who could credibly fulfill the job. Not in the Constitution, and surely a practice we can credit to Reagan (if nothing else [tweak!]). That said, there are regional differences that may be returning, now that the Cold War is history and the need for a united front is diminished.

Second, the winner-take-all system dominates the college, and whereas 100 years ago electors were generally free to vote their conscience, today a majority are bound by state (!) law to vote in accordance with election results. The last time an elector bolted was 1976, when one voted for Reagan over Ford. There hasn't been an electoral vote for a third-party candidate in a generation, let alone a state won by one. Not even Perot in '92.

Third, the bandwagon effect. With pervasive media, which we decidedly did not have in the 19th century, everyone knows the current polling figures at the same time. If you watch the trend line at the tail end of the campaign, there is almost always a trend UP for the leader, as people join the winning bandwagon or start counting themselves out of the likely voters group because their candidate is losing. One exception was '88 when Dukakis had a late surge and almost caught Bush Sr. But generally, this means that "leaning" states one way or the other turn into safe states for the winner.

Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be the closest election in the popular vote since 1960. If there isn't enough of a shift to invoke the bandwagon effect, the WTA system may end up hurting the leader by magnifying the results in close states.

I wouldn't expect social unrest on a grand scale. That didn't happen in either of the previous "stolen" elections, and certainly wasn't a factor in 1960, which shares many attributes with our present. But it will probably mean the revival of the Bayh amendment or something like it.
posted by dhartung at 9:27 AM on September 7, 2000

First of all, "better" how? The article makes almost all the same points I've been making here for weeks.


He makes his assessments on the basis of how the states have voted historically, and comparing the outlooks of the two campaigns' Electoral College experts. During this post-convention period, the polls haven't settled down and will become more indicative after Labor Day.

The article was written 30 August. Orvetti's page updates near-daily... and includes "after Labor Day" data. Check out Orvetti's home page. As I said in my lead, he's fairly even-handed.

posted by aurelian at 9:33 AM on September 7, 2000

It's better because it acknowledges that several states are still "toss-ups" instead of lumping them into one column or another when the polling data doesn't exceed the margin of error.
posted by mikewas at 9:31 PM on September 7, 2000

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