[EM] Alan Natapoff and the electoral college

Michael A. Rouse mrouse at cdsnet.net
Mon Nov 6 09:55:32 PST 2000

I know most of the people on this list have seen a description of Alan
Natapoff's ideas on why the electoral college is a good thing, mainly
because it magnifies the potential importance of any one vote, especially
in close elections. He likens it to the world series where the victor wins
the most games rather than the one who gets the most runs.

I remain unconvinced by his arguments -- and his sports analogies -- but it
does open the door for some interesting election methods.

The first I'll call "triad" voting. Votes are randomly grabbed in groups of
three. If two people in the triad vote for candidate A and one for B, the
entire triad is considered to vote for candidate A. If one votes for A, one
for B, and one for C, and there are any undistributed "non-triad" votes,
they are added until there is a majority or the votes run out. Any ties
remaining are thrown out. The process repeats until the final triad, which
either elects someone or has a three-way tie. If there is a three-way tie
in the final triad, the person with the greatest number of victories on the
previous level would be the winner, continuing down the line (if necessary)
to the person with the greatest number of popular votes. I don't want to
throw the election to the House! (grin)

Another method would be to grab two votes at random. If they are for the
same person, that candidate gets a vote in a second pool. If there is a
tie, one vote at a time is added until there is a majority or the votes
have run out (in the latter case, choose the FPTP winner of the group -- if
there is a tie, throw it out). Do the same with the second pool, continuing
until there is a single winner or a tie. Popular vote or the previous
method would be the tiebreaker.

This would seem to fit Mr. Natapoff's criteria for increasing the power of
each vote. The problems with this method is the randomness of the result --
it depends on the order the votes are counted -- as well as the "butterfly
effect" where a single vote in the right spot can cause an apparent
landslide victory or humiliating defeat. In addition, it would weight three
2:1 victories as a winner over two 3:0 victories -- certain votes would be
more powerful than others. It would be a kind of sweepstakes vote, where
the power of your vote would depend purely on chance. 

There are probably other voting criteria these methods violate. Still, it
would be kind of interesting to simulate it for large groups -- say 3^16
(43,046,721) voters in a presidential election. Perhaps large-scale
statistics would take over from short-range randomness (or semi-randomness,
if one precinct at a time were considered, with "extra" votes carried to
the next precinct. Or if everything were electronically counted, you could
use the order of vote).

Michael Rouse
mrouse at cdsnet.net

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