Solving the electoral tie problem


In 2000, the Florida Presidential election ended up in a tie. Many people get offended at that remark, because they don't think of elections as being compatible with ties, they insist that their candidate really won.

However, to scientists, you have a tie when the results differ by less than the margin of error. And I refer not simply to the margin of error from the problems in the voting machines, but a much more bizarre margin caused by political pressure to interpret the results in different ways.

This is a curse because if you get a close result, there will be tremendous political and financial captial spent to try to push the results one way or another by redefining the rules. It's an unstable situation, solved that time only by damaging the surpreme court by forcing it to make such partisan rulings.

How to avoid this? One of the causes of the problem is that almost all states decide to give all their electoral votes to the winner of their state, rather than apportioning them. One reason they do this is that it makes the state a bigger prize in the election, and so the candidate works harder to please the state. (This is the same factor, as they will also work like crazy in a tie to be the prevailing party.)

To solve this I propose a slightly different formula for allocating the electoral votes. I'll flesh it out with 2 candiates in a state with 50 votes and 10M voters.

If one candidate gets, say, 51% of the vote (5.1M votes or more) then give them all the electoral votes. This, as before, keeps the candidate very interested in winning the state and pleasing its voters. If a candidate gets under 49%, they get zero as before.

If they get between 49% and 51%, apportion the votes on the pro-rata portion of this region. For example, if both candidates get 50%, they split the votes, 25 each. If one candidate gets 4.92M votes and the other 5.08M, we see 5 votes for the first candidate and 45 for the 2nd.

What this means is that if, by recounting or re-interpeting, you can add 4,000 votes to your total, you win one whopping electoral vote.

So it's worth fighting and recounting a bit, but not going crazy, because you aren't going to change the results a lot no matter what you do.

Yes, this means Gore and Bush would have split Florida's votes and Gore won the presidency, but of course it could easily benefit the other side under different circumstances. I will note that if we get a national total in the electoral college that is within one electoral vote, then it becomes just as profitable to fight like hell for that single electoral vote in either direction. But we have reduced the chance of this happening by a considerable margin.

In the long term, a better fix is called for, perhaps arranging for a coalition government in the event of a tie. But this requires a massive and impossible
constitutional change -- even though it is the norm in many countries with minority governments.

My proposal, however, only requires new action in the individual states.

Of course the other thing the individual states should do is put in preferential balloting, which eliminates almost all problems with vote splitting. Today we're seeing people calling for Nader not to run, to avoid him "spoiling" the election again. I understand the logic behind this, but the long term consequence is to say that 3rd views should never stand in elections, because they will always split some vote. That's a big cost to pay.


The only sensible solution is proportional
representation. You go just a step in this
direction. However, even under your system,
a candidate can win the presidency even if the
other candidate has a majority of the electoral

Any mathematician will tell you that the difference between one and two is comparable to the one between two and many. The US has a two-party system, which is only slightly better than
a one-party system.

Proportional representation would also solve the problem of third-party candidates splitting the vote.

The electoral-college system might have made sense in its time, but it is outdated today.

You see...politics needs to update itself.nobody is intereste din candidate debates and all that flying around shaking hands and repeating the same old speech ten times a day......... folk want action ! fear ! casualities !

Add new comment