Sunday, November 27, 2016

And it gets even worse

or the tyranny of the small states

A follow on from post yesterday about the unfairness of the electoral college. I was surprised by how small of minority of the voting population could elect the president of the US. It really is possible with the electoral college that 78.5% percent of voters could be overruled by as few as 21.5% in electing the president of the US. 

Personally, I find the results a bit shocking. But it also made me wonder in which direction we are heading in--towards a more or less fair selection process given future population changes.

So, I went with published estimates of the 2015 population, then extrapolated these into the next census count year (2020). Obviously, there will be a shifting of the electoral college based on changing demographics and this was accounted for in the 2020 census year. The interesting part too is that the electoral college being fixed to the House and Senate and the members of the house have been fixed to 435 members since 1913--all this was taken into account.

What happens is that the skew gets worse (i.e. less fair). Generally because more populated states tend to acquire more people at a larger rate over all. So, the effect on the electoral college selection process in the future is that an even smaller portion of the population can elect the president in the future. In other words the relevancy of the majority in selecting the next president becomes even less relevant.

OK--so the plot:

In 10 years the worst case results in a downward trend of .12% less of the voting population needed to elect the next president. Before you write this off as inconsequential--that .12% represents 400,000 people. That's 400,000 additional people in 2020 that could potentially lose the right to have their vote count. And a further extrapolation of this trend (beyond 2020) just ends up getting worse.

Given that the small states have an disproportionate representation in electing the president due to the electoral college, I like to call this the tyranny of the small states.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The inequity of the electoral college

or potentially how sk(cr)ewed are we?

This presidential election cycle in the US has given me much to think about. Especially post-election. Twice in my lifetime now we've elected a president with less than half of popular vote. When Gore lost in 2000 the margins were close (.5% of the popular vote), it's less so this time with Hillary Clinton standing at roughly 2 million votes and counting (or currently by a margin of 1.5%)

It got me wondering just how this could pencil out that the electoral college can skew the popular vote? I started doing a little research and a little simple math to see just how skewed (or screwed) we could be.

So, the electoral college has a representative for each member of the House and Senate. And that's the reason for the skewed representation. The senate is not based on population. So, out of the 535 votes, 100 are not based on population (one for each member in the Senate). Forget the fact that this approach seems somewhat feudal in approach (where only land-owners were allowed to vote).

Just how sk(cr)ewed are we. Well I grabbed data from the 2010 census, which is used to determine the electoral distribution. And it's ugly.

If we take the largest states and assume they all vote for the losing ticket, then the winning ticket gets the smallest margin of the winning vote, the outcome becomes just 21.5% of the population determining the outcome of the election. This is a highly unrealistic outcome, but theoretically possible. It shows that one-fifth of the population of the United States can select the president of the United States.

The simulation below accumulates the population of the most populous states with a losing electoral count. Then assume the remaining states a simple majority votes the other way (66,298,350).

state: California
state: Texas
state: New York
state: Florida
state: Illinois
state: Pennsylvania
state: Ohio
state: Michigan
state: Georgia
state: North Carolina
state: New Jersey
pop: 175547114, half electoral: 270

That gives the worst skewed case where the minority of 21.5% of the population selects the president. Surely any system that could so poorly represent the wishes of a majority must be broken or open to manipulation.