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Published August 2, 2017 | Submitted
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Empirically Evaluating the Electoral College


The 2000 U.S. presidential election has once again rekindled interest in possible electoral reform including the possible elimination of the Electoral College. Most arguments against the Electoral College have either been based on ancedotal evidence from particular elections or on highly stylized formal models We take a very different approach here. We develop a set of statistical models based on historical election results to evaluate the Electoral College as it has performed in practice. Thus, while we do not directly address the normative question of the value of the U.S. Electoral College, this paper does provide the necessary tools and evidence to make such an evaluation. We show that when one preforms such an analysis there is not much basis to argue for reforming the Electoral College. We first show that while the Electoral College may once have been biased against the Democrats, given the current distribution of voters, neither party is advantaged by the system. Further, the electoral vote will differ from the popular vote will only when the average votes shares are very close to a half. We then show that while there has been much temporal variation in voting power over the last several decades, the voting power of individual citizens would not likely increase under a popular vote system of electing the president.

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