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Electing President Biden? (My head hurts)

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Sat 20 Sep, 2008 07:05 pm
I'm sorry, but you people have the most obscure, convoluted, bizarre electoral system.

First, you dont vote a President by popular vote like all the other kids do, you vote for an Electoral College, on a state-by-state basis. An Electoral College in which a state with 500 thousand inhabitants has the same vote as one with 35 million. And in which getting 48% of the vote in a state gets you 100% of that state's Electoral College vote, as long as your opponent had 47%.

OK, all that. Been discussed endlessly. But then your Electoral College has an even number of members. Which means that you can have the vote there result in a tie. Now that wasn't a very smart idea, was it?

According to the electoral projections site fivethirtyeight.com, there is currently a 1.06% chance of a tie in the electoral college. For example, if Obama wins all of Kerry's states plus Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada, it's a tie. Or if he wins Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, but loses New Hampshire. So what happens then?

The election of the President is thrown to the House of Representatives. But just to make things more consistent, the Vice-President will not elected by the same body, but by the Senate.

The Senate vote for Veep is apparently a straight vote. But I was reading on campaigndiaries.com just now what convolutions are involved in how the House then gets to elect the President.

It's not like the majority of the House decides, which would result in a quick election of Obama, considering the Democratic majority there. No, every state delegation in the House gets one vote. So all of California's US Representatives get one vote, and Alaska's US Representative also gets one vote. And a candidate needs the vote of a majority of all states to be elected - so, 26 votes in all.

But that's where another hitch comes into play. Because some states have an even number of US Representatives. So if a state has 4 US Representatives, and two of them want Obama and two McCain, that state's vote is itself a tie - and when that happens, that state's vote doesnt go to either candidate. Making it harder for either candidate to get to those 26 votes.

Oh, and every Congressman is free to vote their own opinion; there's no obligation to vote for their own party's candidate. In 2004, for example, South Dakotan Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth said that if the elections would end up in a tie, she'd vote for Bush, even though she was a Democrat.

So you can have a state with an equal number of US Representatives, Arizona for example has eight, currently divided up between four Dems and four Reps. In the new Congress it could be 5-3 for the Dems, but it could also be 4-4 again. And if that happens and both sides vote according to party line, Arizona's vote is not counted for either candidate. But you can also have a state like Mississippi. Four US Representatives: three Dems and one Rep. But one of those Dems could easily vote for McCain rather than Obama, making the state delegation a tie, and leaving another state's vote not counting for either candidate.

Bottom line, there's a chance that, after the Electoral College comes up with a tie, the House then comes up with a vote in which neither Obama nor McCain manages to get the 26-vote majority to be elected:

Quote:
If a few states deadlock, (NH and MS are likely candidates), Republicans convince one or two Democrats to switch (Herseth, for instance) and have moderately strong House results (saving the two NM seats, for instance), Obama might not be able to reach 26 states either. In some ways, this [..] scenario - however improbable it sounds - is more likely than a McCain victory.

So what would happen then? Well, remember that the Senate got to vote on the VP post. And with a likely comfortable Democratic majority there, Biden's job is safe. How's that relevant? Well:

Quote:
[T]he 12th amendment states that if by the fourth of March the House has not agreed on a candidate, the vice-president would become president. And given that Senate Democrats would have long already elevated Joe Biden to the vice-presidency, that could mean a Biden Administration.

There you are. If you get that tie in the Electoral College, and you then get a vote in the House of Representatives where neither Obama nor McCain manages to get a majority of the states' delegations -- you will get a President Biden instead.

Now my head hurts.
 
cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Sat 20 Sep, 2008 07:14 pm
@nimh,
What are you trying to do? Share your headache?
nimh
 
  2  
Reply Sat 20 Sep, 2008 07:57 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Yep, thats me Cool

No, I thought the prospect was just so bizarre, I wanted to share it.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Sep, 2008 08:08 pm
@nimh,
ha! the bipolarbear'd happy for once
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 12:08 am
@nimh,
nimh wrote:

I'm sorry, but you people have the most obscure, convoluted, bizarre electoral system.

Why yes. Yes we do.

nimh wrote:
So what would happen then? Well, remember that the Senate got to vote on the VP post. And with a likely comfortable Democratic majority there, Biden's job is safe. How's that relevant? Well:

Quote:
[T]he 12th amendment states that if by the fourth of March the House has not agreed on a candidate, the vice-president would become president. And given that Senate Democrats would have long already elevated Joe Biden to the vice-presidency, that could mean a Biden Administration.

There you are. If you get that tie in the Electoral College, and you then get a vote in the House of Representatives where neither Obama nor McCain manages to get a majority of the states' delegations -- you will get a President Biden instead.

Now my head hurts.

That portion of the 12th amendment has been superseded by the 20th amendment, which states, in relevant part:
Congress, after an all-nighter, wrote:
If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified

Not much different, but it makes clear that the vice-president only acts as president until the house of representatives gets its act together and chooses a president (that was somewhat unclear under the 12th amendment).
nimh
 
  2  
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 08:30 pm
@joefromchicago,
Thanks for the clarification, Joe. So no four years of President Biden, then, in any case?
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 09:36 pm
@nimh,
Jesus! Please tell me you made all that up.

Actually, Biden looks way more presidential (whatever that is) than the others, not that he represents my viewpoint. He just seems so adult, you know?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 10:49 pm
@nimh,
nimh wrote:

Thanks for the clarification, Joe. So no four years of President Biden, then, in any case?

Only if it takes the house of representatives four years to break its deadlock and elect a president.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 07:05 am
@nimh,
nimh wrote:
First, you dont vote a President by popular vote like all the other kids do, ....

Yeah, well....
a) We got ours before all the other kids did, and folks still had to get around by horses and stuff.
b) Ya'll had our bad example to learn from.

Nyah!!!
nimh
 
  3  
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 07:57 am
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:

Yeah, well....
a) We got ours before all the other kids did, and folks still had to get around by horses and stuff.
b) Ya'll had our bad example to learn from.

Yeah but nobody said you had to stick with your example for the rest of eternity ... other people just changed the parts of their systems that didnt work anymore! Twisted Evil
squinney
 
  2  
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 08:10 am
@nimh,
Just change it?

Are you friggin kidding me?

C'mon, after the past eight years don't you understand that we love our current system and apparently quite a few want to keep it the same? You better be careful or we'll... we'll...
um, wait, I don't think we have any hungarian food items that we can name change and claim as our own. (Patriot Goulash, anyone?)
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 08:42 am
@nimh,
But it has worked. You posted a hypothetical, not a real-world example of when the system actually broke down.


And the system has been revised when it was unworkable, such as electing President and Vice President seperately.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 03:04 pm
@squinney,
Don't you remember "freedom fries?" LOL
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  3  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2008 06:08 pm
OK, this is related - so I'm just going to crosspost this sequence of posts from the Polls etc thread. Plus, that'll line the maps up nicely underneath each other. (I did change/add some wording here and there.)

______________________________________________

OK, so both pollster.com and fivethirtyeight.com not only keep track of all the polls that come out for every state, but also compute a trendline or projection on the basis of those polls.

I wanted to draw the current electoral map on the basis of the data on those two sites. Specifically, to draw the map according to different thresholds for what to consider a toss-up state.

If nothing else, it's a good opportunity to practice the Google Charts thing Craven presented on a more advanced scale. (I've used the web tools he linked in to make simple pie and bar charts, but want to now try out following the instructions in the Google Chart developer's guide on making maps.

OK. So coloured in on the following map are all the states where both pollster.com and fivethirtyeight.com currently give one of the two parties an advantage of at least 10%. These are, like, rock-solid safe states (note that Iowa, which went for Bush in '04, is already in there for the Dems!):


http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=400x220&cht=t&chtm=usa&chco=FFEEAA,5599FF,FF5544&chf=bg,s,EAF7FE&chld=ALAKAZARCACTDEHIIDILIAKSKYMDMAMSNENYOKRISCSDTNTXUTVTWY&chd=t:99,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,1,1,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,99,99,1,99


That's a very red looking map, but in fact it's 160 Electoral Votes for the Dems and 128 for the Republicans. You need 270 to win, of course.

OK, let's tighten it up a notch. States that both sites have one or the other candidate ahead in by at least 7%:


http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=400x220&cht=t&chtm=usa&chco=FFEEAA,5599FF,FF5544&chf=bg,s,EAF7FE&chld=ALAKAZARCACTDEHIIDILIAKSKYMDMAMSNENYOKRISCSDTNTXUTVTWYORNDLAGAME&chd=t:99,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,1,1,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,1


North Dakota, Georgia and Louisiana make it into the Republican camp; Oregon and Maine onto the Democratic side. That's 171 Electoral Votes for the Dems and 155 for the Republicans.

Both still far removed from 270, then. But all the states not colored in now are arguably in play: what's a 7% gap? One candidate needs to convince 3,5% of the voters to switch parties.

Tighten it up another notch: states where both sites have one of the candidates ahead by at least 5%:


http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=400x220&cht=t&chtm=usa&chco=FFEEAA,5599FF,FF5544&chf=bg,s,EAF7FE&chld=ALAKAZARCACTDEHIIDILIAKSKYMDMAMSNENYOKRISCSDTNTXUTVTWYORNDLAGAMEWANJNM&chd=t:99,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,1,1,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,1,1,1,1


That puts Washington and New Jersey in Obama's column, making for 197 Electoral Votes for the Dems and still 155 for the Republicans.

Another notch to states where both sites have one of the candidates ahead by at least 3%:


http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=400x220&cht=t&chtm=usa&chco=FFEEAA,5599FF,FF5544&chf=bg,s,EAF7FE&chld=ALAKAZARCACTDEHIIDILIAKSKYMDMAMSNENYOKRISCSDTNTXUTVTWYORNDLAGAMEWANJNMMIMNWIWV&chd=t:99,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,1,1,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,99


That puts Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in Obama's column and West-Virginia in McCain's, making for 239 Electoral Votes for the Dems and 160 for the Republicans.

Still 31 short for Obama, and 110 short for McCain. Looking ever better for Obama.

Are you feeling the suspense? Laughing

States where both sites have one of the candidates ahead by at least 2%:

http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=400x220&cht=t&chtm=usa&chco=FFEEAA,5599FF,FF5544&chf=bg,s,EAF7FE&chld=ALAKAZARCACTDEHIIDILIAKSKYMDMAMSNENYOKRISCSDTNTXUTVTWYORNDLAGAMEWANJNMMIMNWIWVPACOMTMONC&chd=t:99,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,1,1,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,99,99,1,99,1,99,99,99,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,99,1,1,99,99,99

That puts Pennsylvania and Colorado in Obama's column and Montana, Missouri and North-Carolina in McCain's, making for 269 Electoral Votes for the Dems and 189 for the Republicans.

This of course would put Obama on the edge of being elected -- except that 269 Electoral Votes makes for a very tortured post-elections process.

So basically, what Obama's painless election comes down to is getting at least one of the states left undivided on this map as well.

And there's the rub.

Which of the remaining states are currently most promising?

In Florida and Indiana, both pollster.com and fivethirtyeight.com give McCain the advantage, if with a narrow advantage. In IN, McCain leads by 2,5% according to pollster and 1,7% according to fivethirtyeight. In Florida, he's given the edge by 3,3% and 0,6% respectively.

So that leaves New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Nevada. In all these states, fivethirtyeight.com currently accords the advantage to Obama. But pollster.com disagrees: it currently gives the edge to McCain in every one of them.

On balance, McCain gets Ohio and Nevada, and Obama gets Virginia and New Hampshire:

Code: Fivethirtyeight Pollster

VA Obama +2,4 McCain +1,0
NH Obama +1,8 McCain +1,2
NV Obama +0,2 McCain +1,5
OH Obama +0,3 McCain +2,9


Virginia actually looks better than NH right now. The latest two polls out of NH both have McCain with a 2-3 point lead there, and one of them is the locally respected UNH poll. The four last polls from Virginia on the other hand have split, two with Obama comfortably ahead (by 6 and 8 points) and two with McCain narrowly in front (by 2 points). The pollsters showing Obama ahead also have a little more entrenched a reputation (ABC/WaPo and Survey USA) than the two with McCain ahead (Rasmussen and ARG). But obviously, it's still pretty much a coin's toss.

And of course, if the state that's Obama's best chance of getting 269+1 is down to a coin's toss, that is starting to make that other thread about the complicated consequences of a 269-269 result in the Electoral College - [nimh: i.e., this one] uncomfortably topical.
cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2008 06:18 pm
@nimh,
nimh, Good show! Now the big q: how recent are those poll numbers?
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2008 07:14 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Both sites base their trendline/projection on all available polls. But of course that does mean that the more polls there are available for a state the more up-to-date the rating is. Luckily, all the contested states are very intensively polled at the moment; the states for which there are few current data available are generally states that are very safely Republican or Democrat anyway.
0 Replies
 
 

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