Saturday, October 25, 2008

If the Whole World Could Vote, Who Would Win--Obama or McCain?

The has opened our U.S. Presidential election to the world, at least online. If everyone in the world had a vote, online at the Economist's site, that counted in a worldwide electoral college, who would win--Obama or McCain?

First, they explain our own existing electoral college, a confusing concept to many. Then they explain how they set up the theoretical world electoral college and how they apportioned the votes. Here are those explanations, quoted in full.

America's electoral college
All democratic systems have their quirks, and America's is no exception. The electoral college is a 200-year-old institution. According to its rules, Americans do not vote directly for their presidents. Instead they cast a ballot to decide who wins their state's electoral-college votes. The number of these votes is fixed by the number of people the state sends to Congress, which in turn is based on its population. All states have a minimum of three votes and there are 538 electoral-college votes up for grabs in total. The presidential candidate who secures the most electoral-college votes ends up in the White House. The loser invariably ends up on day-time television shows.

Critics of the electoral-college system say it can produce a president who has lost the popular vote, as happened in 2000. They also complain that the winner-takes-all system employed by most states leads candidates to focus on a small number of "swing states" and ignore more reliably partisan ones. There have consequently been many attempts to reform the electoral-college system—over 700 so far—though until now nobody has suggested that the entire world be included.

The Global Electoral College
The Economist has redrawn the electoral map to give all 195 of the world's countries (including the United States) a say in the election's outcome. As in America, each country has been allocated a minimum of three electoral-college votes with extra votes allocated in proportion to population size. With over 6.5 billion people enfranchised, the result is a much larger electoral college of 9,875 votes. But rally your countrymen—a nation must have at least ten individual votes in order to have its electoral-college votes counted.

There are few countries whose votes in the Global Electoral College are a foregone conclusion. So the winner is unlikely to be decided by a small number of "swing countries". Rather, they will have to cobble together a coalition of small, medium and large nations. (A campaign stop in Beijing is recommended, as well as a tour of Africa.) Voting in the Global Electoral College will close at midnight London time on November 1st, when the candidate with most electoral-college votes will be declared the winner.

Click here to see who is ahead in the worldwide voting.


Margie's Musings said...

I don't approve of the electoral college system. It was devised when most Americans were illiterate and is now outdated. The presidency needs to be decided by the popular vote.

Anonymous said...

The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do state-by-state or country-by-country, but that we shouldn't have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Because of state-by-state enacted rules for winner-take-all awarding of their electoral votes, recent candidates with limited funds have concentrated their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes-- 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.