Saturday, October 20, 2012

Presidential Race As Sporting Event Part 2: The Computer Game - What if it's a tie?

The NY Times has a little game you can play on your computer to see the different ways the states could fall and how it would affect the election.

I got a tie, by giving Romney most of the 'tossup' states and leaving all the 'leaning' states where they were. (At least the NYTimes uses the neutral term 'tossup' instead of the LA Times' 'battleground' states.)

Click image to see it bigger and sharper - or click here to go to the NYT page
So what happens if my scenario - a tie - is the result election night?  It just turns out the Washington Post asked the same question yesterday.  They say there are 32 different ways to get to a tie.  And they say a tie doesn't look good for Obama.
If somehow, though, we got to a 269-vote tie, the task of electing the president would fall to the House of Representatives — the new one that will assume office in January. According to the 12th Amendment, each state delegation would cast one vote, with the winner determined by whoever wins more states.
Since we don’t know exactly what the House will look like, we can’t say with certainty who would have the edge. But it’s very unlikely that an Electoral College tie would wind up in Obama’s favor.

At the NYTimes you can move the states over to either candidate. Is this sport? Or is this just a clever graphic way of helping people grasp the effect of each state's electoral college votes? Probably a little of both, and it certainly plays into the "Winner - Loser" narrative I discussed in Presidential Race As Sporting Event Part 1.   Are they making equally clever graphics to show how to balance the budget?  As I'm typing that question, I'm thinking, "Yes, they did, and I posted about it."

Bookmark this page for election night.  It will be a handy way to keep track as the votes are counted.

This was not the Part 2 I had in mind, but it seemed appropriate.  I guess there will be a Part 3. 


  1. Well, as far as I know every state recieve their score according to their polulation, but wouldn't it be possible to eliminate "draw" as outcome of the election. It would be. For example if the max. score would be an odd number, you didn't have to think about this problem. I also have a slightly more difficult sollution: if you eliminate draw by giving scores to the states in a way that there is no such combination which allows draw.

  2. Well, each state, as you point out, gets a number of votes depending on population. Then they get added up. I'm not sure how you could fix the numbers so that there could never be a tie. Unless every state got an even number of electors except one. But would that be as proportional as possible? Probably not.

    A much easier way is to eliminate the electoral college and just count the actual vote. Then we wouldn't have the candidates concentrating on just a few states. Some states have passed an agreement to have their electors vote for the candidate with the highest popular vote nationally, but that won't happen until enough states sign on so that it will be certain. Here's that story.

    Here's an MIT forum on the electoral college.

  3. Here we have a mixed system where the constituencies and the total number of votes as well.

  4. And I found an other problem. What if there are 3 or more major candidates? Then the solution for 2 candidates would not work.

  5. The Democrats and Republicans have done their best to make sure no other party becomes major. For the debates, they limited participants to parties that got at least 15% in the polls, which means none of the third party candidates gets 15% because people don't see them. The Green Party candidate even got arrested outside the second debate and was kept in custody for eight hours.


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