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

Steve Eppley seppley at alumni.caltech.edu
Thu Apr 27 13:30:26 PDT 2006

Dave K wrote:
> On Wed, 26 Apr 2006 07:06:00 -0700 Steve Eppley wrote:
>> Dave K wrote:
>>> On Sun, 23 Apr 2006 16:18:06 -0700 Steve Eppley wrote:
>> Third, I'm curious how one can distinguish between these two cases:
>>     1.1  A candidate has a safe lock on some state, and therefore
>>          does not pay much attention to the policies preferred by
>>          the voters in that state.
>>     1.2  A candidate has a safe lock on some state, and has been
>>          paying so much attention to the policies preferred by the
>>          voters in that state that that is why it is a safe state.
> What one election does does not define safe states - in your second case 
> the candidate did not treat that state as safe.

I disagree with that definition of "safe."  If the polls show a candidate will easily win 
the upcoming election in a state without having to spend much in the way of campaign 
resources or additional promises, the state is safe.  If the polls predict a close 
election, the state is not safe.  Previous elections may correlate, but aren't nearly as 
relevant as current polling to whether the candidate will spend significant campaign 
resources or make additional promises.

> Now come to NY, where the Dems have demonstrated ownership by winning 
> the last 5 elections.  Having 31 EVs, this has to be why:
>      They do not bother to campaign here.
>      They do not bother to campaign about our local issues.

Neither of those implies the candidates ignore the safe state's voters' preferences on the 
larger issues.

On local issues, the people can appeal to local government for redress. (Or, perhaps, to 
folks like Alfonse D'Amato, who received the nickname "Senator Pothole" late in his career 
by paying some attention to local New York issues.)

>> Here's the general proposal:
>>     The percentage of Electoral College delegates awarded by
>>     a state to its leading candidate decreases incrementally
>>     from 100% to 50% as the lead decreases from 2% to a tie.
>>     The rest, if any, go to the candidate in second place.
> Now disagreed:
> Who is third in a state could be a serious contender in others.
> EVs for a minor candidate COULD be pledged as to who to vote for if 
> their primary candidate lost.

Refer to the voting method I mentioned on 4/22/2006, which launched this round of 
discussion of the Electoral College:

    Before election day, each candidate publishes a top-to-bottom
    ordering of the candidates.
    On election day, each voter selects one candidate.
    After the voting, the totals are published.
    Then candidates may choose whether to withdraw from contention.
    Then each vote is counted for the non-withdrawn candidate who
    is topmost in the ordering published by the selected candidate,
    and the candidate with the largest count is elected.

Assume each state used this voting method to award its Electoral College delegates.  There 
would be strong incentives for candidates to withdraw in the case where that would prevent 
fragmentation of the Electoral College and result in the election of a President they'd 
prefer more.

Other good voting methods could also be modified to allow candidates to withdraw from 
contention, at least in the context of Presidential / Electoral College elections.

So I see no reason why the existence of strong third candidates should cause us to change 
my proposal for tweaking the winner-take-all Electoral College formula.  It would be an 
improvement over pure winner-take-all, regardless of whether the voting system as a whole 
induces increased competition, by making it much rarer for recounts to have a chance of 
changing the outcome.

By the way, nothing I've written implies I personally believe proportional allocation of 
Electoral College delegates by all states would be much worse.  I've merely pointed out 
there are arguments on both sides of this (relatively unimportant) issue.  For a more 
thorough treatment of the issue, see Judith Best's book "In Defense of the Electoral College."

Now... can we please go back to discussing whether candidates would have sufficiently 
strong incentives to rank compromise candidates over worse candidates, when publishing 
their orderings before election day, assuming the voting method I repeated above?

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