Electoral college predictions and voodoo

Predicting who will win the election based on the Electoral College is a bit like predicting who will win the Super Bowl six months prior — there is a bit of guesswork involved because things could change dramatically by the final day, but, at the same time, there are statistics you can use to make your prediction as accurate as possible. Depending on the source, a prediction may be as scientifically perfect as possible or it may be complete voodoo.

I hate the Electoral College, but we’re stuck with it. That’s how we pick Presidents. Suck it up and deal. Let’s move on.

In previous years, I enjoyed using Electoral-Vote.com that takes the map and updates it daily based on the most recent polls. The problem with that approach is that it treats each poll separately, and sometimes they may vary wildly.

More accurate this year is Nate Silver’s 538 map. This website is run by a bunch of math nerds. They don’t just take the most recent poll; they take them all and average them together based on a number of factors including the previous accuracy of that particular pollster, whether it was a poll of all voters or likely voters, how old the poll is, and a bunch of other things I don’t completely understand because math.

According to Silver, Hillary has around an 80% chance of winning the election, which isn’t completely surprising. The problem is that this election has already broken all the rules. Silver had also predicted in the past (like every other “expert”*) that Trump would never be the nominee.

This map is from 270toWin.com and matches Nate Silver’s current prediction

Seriously, Trump’s campaign is a classic example of what not do to in a campaign. The whole thing has gone against everything I ever learned as a Political Science major, a campaign manager, a lobbyist, and a campaign worker. It goes against everything I ever taught when I was a Political Science professor. He’s done everything wrong.

Of course, that could also be why he’s only given a 20% chance of winning.

But hey, the conventions haven’t even happened yet. For all we know, the GOP will find a way to nominate someone else and then we’re back to square one. Hillary, after all, is popular only in relation to Trump. If they nominate someone else, that 80% chance of winning would drop quickly.

*including me

Primary Elections vs. General Elections

The way we choose candidates and elect them is really screwed up.

Just because someone does well in the primary/caucus stage doesn’t mean they would be the best candidate to take on the other party in November.

We can see this perfectly in this election cycle. Just about every poll shows that Sanders would be a better candidate in November against any Republican, and Trump would be the worst possible choice for the Republicans.

Clinton is currently doing better with the delegate selection, but many people seem confused at the way the system works and are only paying attention to the number of states won by the candidates. This primary/caucus season is not like the electoral college where the winner of a state takes it all. If you win by a small enough percentage, you could have two candidates coming out of the election with the same amount of delegates.

But there’s something else to consider. Look at this map showing who has won the various states on the Democratic side so far:

demo map

When I first started thinking about this, I said, “Who cares that Clinton won Alabama or that Sanders won Oklahoma? Those states are never going to vote for the Democrat in November.”

In November, we Democrats are assured some states but need to win some of the “purple” states that can go either way. On this map (of the states that have already voted), those would be Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Nevada. While all four of those have gone Democratic in the last two elections, they were close and easily could have shifted Republican.

Sanders won two of those states and Clinton won two. So does that tell us anything?

No, not really, and that’s the problem. While I was hoping to show that Sanders has a better chance in November in the purple states, instead I find an inconclusive result.

If we didn’t have that stupid electoral college, things would be much different…

The way we choose candidates and elect them is really screwed up.





Four Reasons why the GOP will lose in 2016

Democrats may lose Congress thanks to apathetic voters, gerrymandering, and acting too much like Republicans, but we’ve pretty much got the White House secure for the foreseeable future.  Here’s why:

1.  The Electoral College.  As much as I want to get rid of it, it certainly works to the Democrats’ favor.  You need 270 electoral votes to win, and Democrats start with 252 that are pretty much guaranteed, in states that haven’t voted Republican since Bill Clinton was elected.

If you add to that group Virginia and New Mexico (states that have been reliably blue the past few elections) then bang, you’re at 270, and that doesn’t even count the possibilities of winning Nevada, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado, all of which have gone Democratic in the past two elections (even North Carolina and Indiana went Democratic in 2008, so don’t necessarily count them out either).

Republicans, meanwhile, start with maybe 167 guaranteed electoral votes.  That’s a huge burden to overcome. emap

Look at that map again. See how the Democrats only need to get Florida to win? If not Florida, then only two states (for example, Virginia and Nevada).  For the Republicans to win, they will need pretty much every single gray state on this map. And even if they took every single gray state, that would only be 280. If as few as one state goes the other way (Florida or Virginia, for instance), they lose.

2.  Numbers.  There are more of us than there are of them.  If we’d vote in equal percentages, we’d always hold Congress, too, but we don’t — except in Presidential years.  More people voted for Democrats in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections (and in that last one — GWB’s re-election — there are those who question that).  There’s no reason to assume that will change, especially because of…

3. Demographics.  Republicans are predominately older white men.  It’s true.  Young people, women, minorities — all securely Democrats.  And as the country becomes less and less white, and as women become more and more independent, those numbers keep changing to the Democrat’s favor.  Further, fewer people identify themselves as conservative these days.   It’s a trend that has reasonable Republicans rightly worried.

4.  Candidates.  Let’s face it, the Republicans do not have a shining star on the horizon — there is no one with the personality of Ronald Reagan who can charm America into voting for him.  Instead, we get Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Mitt Romney (again),  and a bunch of others who, in the last poll, could not get past 10%.

The Republicans know this.  And that is why they so desperately are trying to suppress the vote and get rid of campaign finance laws.  “If you can’t win by getting the most votes, then cheat and buy the election” is their motto.

Constitutional Amendments I’d add

Which amendments would I like to see made to our Constitution?

After discussing Schwarzenegger’s pledge to run for President a few days ago, I began thinking of them.  Here then is my list, in order of preference.constitution_quill_pen

Abolish the Electoral College and replace it with popular vote.  This will get rid of “red” and “blue” states, allow for every vote to count, and prevent someone the majority of Americans don’t want from becoming President.

Abolish the requirement that you have to be a natural born citizen to be President.  Keep the requirement for citizenship, of course, but there is no reason why someone who became a citizen should not run.

Establish an independent commission to redraw congressional districts every ten years.  In order to prevent gerrymandering, we need to take district drawing out of the hands of politicians.  Ideally, they should do this for the states too, under the idea of Equal Protection.

Limit Senators to two six-year terms and Congress members to six two-year terms.   Come on, it’s not like there aren’t other qualified people out there.  Serve your terms and go home.  Treat this like a public service instead of a career.

Abolish Washington DC and make Washington part of Maryland. It’s ridiculous that these people do not get a representative in Congress. While there are enough people living there to make DC a state (more people live in DC than in Wyoming), the easiest solution is to just merge it with Maryland.

Define the death penalty as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thus prohibited.  It’s time we recognized that the death penalty is prone to mistakes, applied in a discriminatory manner, and doesn’t belong in a modern civilized society.

Then there are some that are needed to overturn Supreme Court decisions, but honestly, a few more votes on the Court would prevent that.  Back in the 70s we fought for an Equal Rights Amendment to prohibit discrimination against women.  Since that time, the Courts have held that women are, indeed, “people” under the 14th amendment and as such are entitled to protection against discrimination.  However, a different court could come along and go back the other way.  Therefore, the following amendments would be nice:

Amend the 14th amendment to prohibit discrimination against women, gays, and non-English speaking people.  I’m including transgender people and such in this.

Define “people” to exclude corporations.  A person has morals and eventually dies.  Conservatives who cite the Founding Fathers for anything to support their views are oddly silent on this one.

Define “speech” to exclude money.  These last two are needed to overturn the Citizen’s United case.

Top 5 reasons to get rid of the Electoral College

1. It will make every vote count. I grew up in Virginia which, at the time, was reliably Republican. My vote meant little in the Presidential race. Then I moved to Massachusetts and later New York where my Republican friends’ votes were meaningless.

That’s ridiculous. With the winner-take-all elections we have now, people who are in the minority party in their states have no real reason to come out and vote.ElectoralCollege-638x370

By having a popular vote for the President, every vote will count. Democrats in Utah and Republicans in Hawaii won’t feel their votes are wasted.

2. It will force candidates to campaign everywhere. Right now, there are states that rarely see a political campaign, where the candidate visits only to raise money and then disappears. The candidates also pay an inordinate amount of attention to whatever issues are important to those states that are in play, even if those issues would hurt the rest of the country. (Admittedly, some of that will still go on with our current primary system.)

Getting rid of the electoral college means a vote is a vote, no matter where it is. A vote in Idaho is meaningless to a Democratic candidate now, but it would be worth just as much as one in a swing state if we get rid of the electoral college.

3. It will help get people in those non-swing states involved. It should increase voter participation, and even help the local economy.

4. It will get rid of “red states” and “blue states.” This concept does nothing to help political discourse, and only divides us more.

5. It will make it clear that the President represents the people, not the states. And, more importantly, all the people, not just the ones in the states that elected him.

Right now, a President can lose the election and still win. That has happened three times in our history, most recently when Gore got more popular votes than Bush yet Bush won the electoral college. We ended up with a guy a majority of Americans voted against. How is that democracy? That’s winning by a loophole. And it could easily happen again.

(EDIT:  Be sure to read the very extensive debate on this topic in the comments!)

(EDIT #2:  Obviously, this was written before the 2016 election, so now we have two examples of a candidate winning the popular vote and losing the election within a period of 16 years.)

(EDIT #3:  If you’re really interested in this topic, I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my book HOW TO ARGUE THE CONSTITUTION WITH A CONSERVATIVE.)

How the GOP can win the presidential race

To follow up on yesterday’s editorial cartoon:

The Republican party has won the popular vote only once in the last six presidential elections (when Bush won by a razor-thin margin). They have a huge uphill battle, and it’s not getting any better for them. The population is changing, and the old angry white man vote is dying.

Look at the electoral college voting patterns. You need 270 electoral votes to win. If we count every state that has voted Democratic in the last six elections, the Democrats start off with 242 votes, and the Republicans have 206. If you count only the last two, the Democrats have 332.

This is bad news for the Republicans, which leaves them with two options: (1) expand their base by appealing to younger voters, women, and minorities; or (2) cheat.

As we have seen, they have decided to go for option 2. Republicans have instituted voter purges and intimidation, creating hardships for those in Democratic-leaning districts and causing long lines to discourage voting. They’ve fought against early voting and other methods which will encourage people to exercise their rights. They’ve gerrymandered districts in ways that keep Democrats from winning.

They’ve created a propaganda machine to convince people that voter fraud is taking place (quite ironically). They’ve passed laws making it harder for people to register and vote. And they’ve challenged the Voting Rights Act in court.

Because, let’s face it, the only other solution would be to actually listen to the will of the people.