[EM] Electoral College (was Re: Voting by selecting a published ordering)

Steve Eppley seppley at alumni.caltech.edu
Sun Apr 23 16:18:06 PDT 2006

Antonio Oneala wrote:

> The electoral college already allows candidates to withdraw their support and give it
> to other candidates.  

That "support" would be non-binding on the Electors.

Also, some states have passed a law requiring their Electors to vote for the state's 
winner.  I don't believe its constitutionality has been tested in court, but until it's 
found unconstitutional or repealed it will act as a deterrent against Electors voting for 
the "right" candidate.  Uncertainty about this could deter potential candidates from 
running, too.

> Actually, this is probably one of the main reasons the founders
> wanted an electoral college.  The main thing that messed up here was the at-large
> allocation of votes that most states chose - therefore, a person with a plurality
> usually gets a landslide in the college, and no redistribution is necessary.

Some people don't consider the Electoral College winner-take-all within most states to be 
messed up.  Here are 2 reasons to prefer winner-take-all:

1. If states allocate their Electoral College delegates proportionally, then every state 
would be a campaign battleground.  The cost of campaigning would be much greater.

2. There would be an incentive to ask for recounts in all states.

What I propose the states do is tweak the winner-take-all formula so that instead of a 
sharp reversal when a candidate's total goes from 50% - 1 to 50% + 1, there'd be a linear 
change within the 49% to 51% region.  For instance, if a candidate receives 51% or more, 
she'd win all the state's Electoral College votes.  If she receives 50%, she'd win half 
the state's EC votes.  50.5% would win 3/4 of the state's EC votes, etc.  With a formula 
like this, recounts within a state wouldn't swing the state's allocation by more than 
about 1 EC vote, so there'd rarely be an incentive to ask for a recount.

That's not a general formulation; it assumed only 2 candidates competing.  But it can 
easily be generalized so that the allocation of EC votes would be linear when the top 2 
candidates are close to each other, and otherwise all would be allocated to the top 
candidate. (Apologies if I'm still being unclear.)

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