Friday, November 18, 2016

Other Random Thoughts on Election 2016

My GoogleDoc with the running tally for the election results can still be found here [link].  My random thoughts today in no particular order:

That clip from the spreadsheets is almost like a box which is bigger on the inside.

First: I don't really understand how California conducts elections.  If they are doing it in a way which uses technology that originates after 1990, there is no reason at all for them to still be counting votes - let alone to have literally 1/3rd of the votes counted later than the second day ofter the election.  Yet look at that comparison: Florida had roughly the same number of total votes and their post-election "updraft" of "other sources" votes is less than 1% of all votes.

Second: it seems really weird that the non-ballot box votes have trickled in at almost an identical ratio to the votes cast on election day.  Some might say, "that's just the way aggregation works," but if that was true, we'd see that in every state which does post-lection ballot counting, and we don't.  There's really not another state which has as much late post-election votes appearing as in CA, but the next closest (New Jersey) shows the ballots sent in by other means are not in the same proportion for candidates at all; Neither does Oregon (the next closest).  And by "weird," I mean this is the sort of stuff a diligent press covering elections would look into because these sorts of anomalies are how fraud is usually uncovered in other contexts.

Third: That comparison opens up the talking point of "popular vote" for a pretty harsh critique.  FL and CA are the two states nationwide in which the most votes were cast.  On election day, more votes had been counted in FL than in CA; today, CA has counted 2 million more votes than FL, which is about 25% of its original total.  But look at the margin of difference between the two candidates: in FL, the winner only won by about 2% of the vote; in CA, with votes still magically appearing, the winner is piling on ballots and has a lead of more than 3 million votes!  In one state!

That brings us back to this (updated) table:

Right now, as I write this, in the "popular vote," Clinton has more ballots counted than Trump.  No question at all.  But here's the thing: if that's a true "popular" win, it means that the victory ought to somehow manifest itself all the way down the aggregation of the votes, and it doesn't.  It only appears what California voting is in the mix.  This makes the voting in California what is known as an "outlier" (follow the link for a deeper explanation).  What the table above does is look at the "outliers" for both candidates -- the two states in which each won by the highest margin -- and takes them out of the tallies to see if the outliers had an out-of-balance influence on the election.  As it turns out, they do: with the outliers in, Clinton wins the "popular vote."  With the outliers out, Trump wins the popular vote.

Now: the right objection for the people who are committed to the "popular vote" dilemma is to say, "yes, but maybe Trump has partial outliers beneath the top two which are further muddying the water."  So let's check that -- that's why spreadsheets are awesome.  Here are the popular results with the top 5 outliers removed for both candidates:

See?  If you take out the top-5 places Clinton won by the highest margin, and the top-5 places Trump won by the highest margin, the margin for the winner gets bigger, and the winner is Trump.  This is actually how he turns out to win in the Electoral College: that system is built to sort of minimize the outliers in any region or state by not allowing lopsided local victories to over-influence the result on a national level.  That's how we can say with a completely-straight face, "Clinton definitely won California, but she lost the rest of the nation."  Trump's victories turn out to be more wide-spread, more consistent across geography, and almost completely by relatively-narrow margins in places where, frankly, the far-left rhetoric and idea of the DNC don't play very well.

Have a nice weekend.

UPDATED: an alert twitter reader pointed out that true outliers would be based on the percentage of popular victory, not on raw margin -- which is a fair enough point.  But it doesn't work out better for Mrs. Clinton if we try to work that out:

Click to Enlarge

The states where Trump had the highest margin of victory were tiny states.  While Clinton's highest margin of victory was in DC, CA and MA are still in her top-5.  The outlier calculation still renders her victory in CA a regional victory and therefore moot -- part of why we use an Electoral College and not a nation-wide popular vote.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Electoral College Punchline

So after a week of listening to people complain about the outmoded Electoral College and how undemocratic it is, I was drinking coffee today and thinking about the rest of 2016.  Specifically, I'm thinking about the last full week in July, and I'm thinking about the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.

During that week, there was a process that played out which involved the voting of delegates which is both remarkably-like and remarkably-unlike the Electoral College.

In the "remarkably-like" category, there were no actual voters at the Democratic National Convention. There were about 4763 delegates.  Also remarkably-similar: almost all of the ones sent there by voters were assigned to a candidate in a "winner take all" method of pledging delegates to candidates, making the process of the convention somewhat ceremonial rather than actually deliberative.  Last, because of this previous similarity to the Electoral College, the person who won the most delegates also won the nomination from that party.

Nobody was rioting in the streets because the process worked the way it was meant to work.

But in the "remarkably-unlike" category, of the 4763 delegates voting at the DNC, 712 were "superdelegates" who were not elected and not bound by the vote of any citizen in the United States.  That's 15% of the votes cast, and nearly all of them were cast for Hillary Clinton.

So let me propose something to the people complaining about the Electoral College: I think that you could show us exactly how much you hate representative election processes by first changing the DNC over to a strict popular-vote process with no opportunity for superdelegates to pollute the outcome and for all the votes to count.  You go ahead and run that system for 3 or 4 elections to show us how well it goes, and then we can talk about how to apply it to National elections.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The last 10 elections

I was playing with the numbers from the 2016 Election results some more and I added a tab to my GoogleDoc spreadsheet on the election.  From that work, I came up with this:

It's the "final" vote tally for each of the last 10 Presidential elections in the US, which goes all the way back to the Carter/Reagan election.  Purists will complain that I have only included 3rd-party candidates in two elections, but let's face it: Perot got 50% more votes in 1996 (his worst performance) that all 3rd-party candidates got this year.  They aren't relevant in the other elections we are looking at.

The reason I wanted to call your attention to this table is that some are calling this election a wave of somekind.  If it is a wave, it is a wave of voters walking away from the voting booth, not a wave of new and vibrant citizenry.  Trump is probably going to outpace Romney's turnout in 2012 by a few thousand votes overall, but the problem in the electorate for the GOP is actually still very clear.

In the last 5 months, Ben Shapiro has made the case over and over that Trump had a 43% ceiling of voters.  Turns out he was marginally wrong in the final tally.  Trump got about 47% of all votes (including independents).  But: the ceiling for Republicans is pretty obvious.  In the last 5 elections, no GOP candidate got more than 62 million votes.  In this election year where it was obviously-terrible versus obviously-awful, the GOP candidate only got 61 million votes (that's rounding up and assuming a LOT).  The GOP has a ceiling of support which, frankly, they have to be worried about.

Now: what's the right course of action if this is true?  Is it to try to become more like the center and center-left to try to gain more people with policies which, frankly, are going to ruin us?  Or is it rather to do a better job of telling the story of what makes America a please where all people can come, and join, and participate in a way which makes more of us and more of them?

Because the core Conservative message is really not, "I wish you people knew which bathroom you are supposed to use."  It is rather, "We believe that you have a right to your life, your liberty, and the fruit of your labor -- and you should be protected when you are trying to use those rights."

That's the only way to break the 61 million voter ceiling.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Hidden Benefit of the Electoral College

So this is the third post I am making about Election 2016, and I hope it will be the last.  I have covered the reason for the electoral college, and the fairness of the electoral college, and now I want to cover something that those arguing against the electoral college are conveniently ignoring: how many voters the current system actually stiff-arms.

"Yes, Yes!" they may try to say, "Because Clinton won the popular vote, there are TONS of people being disenfranchised!"

No, that's not what I mean at all.  If you want to see the worksheet I am pulling these cells from you can go here.  Look at this:

In my data, I have taken the results (as of 11 Nov 2016) and calculated the margin of difference in the votes between the two candidates.  I sorted the list by largest margins of victory, and what do you know? Secretary Clinton has 4 of the top-5 margins of victory.  Those 4 states netted her 115 Electoral votes.  End of story.

Well, not quite the end.  In those 4 states, 8.86 million people voted for Donald Trump.  Meaning: in those states, Clinton got 100% of the electors in spite of getting only 62% of the vote.  All of the people who voted for Trump got no voice in the Electoral College.

"Well, someone has to lose," may be the comeback, which seems pretty clever, but that's actually the argument for the electoral college, not against it.  The argument "Someone has to lose" says that each state ought to have a decent say in the outcome, and we decide that part in a local election where the weighted representation of that state in the final tally is decided.  So the argument that somehow about 400K people's votes didn't count really overlooks the fact that those 400K are nothing compared to the 5.58 million people in California (more people than voted for Hillary in RI, VT, ME and MA) have no voice in the Electoral College -- California (and most states) are winner-take-all.  The same goes for Clinton voters in Texas, in case you are curious: 4.6 million people, no electoral votes.

But here's the thing: what if we said that voters should not have no voice at all in the outcome of their state's electoral votes, and we instead said that the electors for a state are divided up proportionately according to the votes made in that state (with the candidate who gets the most votes getting the benefit of the round-up when dividing the electors)?

Here's how that comes out in 2016 (as of 11 Nov 2016):

Here's how it looks as of 8 Dec 2016:


What we get in this case is a reflection of how close the race really was -- because factually, there was no blow-out.  The final tally of votes shows the candidates separated by about 0.3% of the total votes cast.  And the reality is that Trump won about 30 states, Clinton won about 20 plus DC.  If we gave out the electors proportionately by state, Clinton still would have lost.

So please stop complaining about how unfair the election was.  This is how we have been doing it for 200+ years, and it's still a good system.  It is still a good rule of law.

Are Electors Fairly Distributed?

Last time I gave a very simple way to understand why the Electoral College is a more-fair way to run a Presidential election.  This time I want to unpack that a little by running some of the numbers.

If you read the other post, you have the link to my running tally of the Popular vote, contained in a GoogleDoc spreadsheet.  It has a second tab called "Voters per Elector," and here's a snapshot of part of that data:

The sheet has done the math, and has taken the total number of votes cast in 2016 in each state for the two main candidates (sorry: my datasource is not showing the others), and divided it by the number of electoral votes that state gets in the Electoral college.  For those who are not familiar [link], the Electors are equal to the number of Representatives in the Federal House of Representatives, and that number is updated every 10 years based on the US Census.  What that ought to do is to show whether or not a state actually has proportional representation in the Electoral college, or if the voters in a given state have oversized influence compared to other states.

The way this list is sorted, the states with the fewest number of voters per elector (that is: the voters who are over-represented based on apportionment) are at the top.  So in this list, Alaska is seemingly over-represented in the Electoral College compared to California, yes?  Maybe the concerns over the Electoral College being fair have a point.

That is, of course, unless we finish up the maths.  California has about 18x the number of electoral votes that Alaska has (55/3=18.33), but Alaska is over-represented by about 2x in voters/elector.  Alaska isn't going to outman California anytime soon.  In fact, our list shows the top 16 over-represented states in the Electoral College, and it turns out that California is actually very happy to be #16.  It's not on the short end of the stick the way (for example) Florida and Pennsylvania are -- they are at the bottom of the list, and CA voters are over-represented in the EC by a factor of 2 compared to those other large states.

The other thing we can see mathematically is this: the 15 states above California in this ranking have the same number of electors as California.  That is to say: California has the same amount of sway in the EC as 15 other states combined.  That's pretty good for California -- because it means, for example, that as a state they have more influence on the outcome of the election than All of New England; they have more influence on the election than NY and PA combined; they have the same influence on the election as the entire Rust Belt; They have the same influence on the election as all of the south excluding GA and FL.

Which is to say this: complaining about the fact that one state is politically lopsided and delivers landslide popular counts for one side of the political spectrum overlooks that in other states where the vote may be more evenly split, those states have a LOT less net influence on the outcome of the election already.

I have one more thing to say about this, and it will follow in another post.

The Popular Vote Tally

OK, so we avoided one sort of political nightmare on Tuesday, and we have chosen the other political nightmare instead -- which is better phrased, "we have the government we deserve."  Americans cast all the ballots, and Americans will live with the outcome.  There are some really funny things that therefore follow, and some really terribly sad things which therefore follow, and some terrible things which did not have to follow but are going on anyway.  I am not going to talk about any of those.

I am instead going to talk about this:

I want to talk about the idea that somehow its unjust or unfair or uncivilized if Clinton got more votes nationwide than Trump, she loses.  Somehow we are barbarians if the constitutional system of the electoral college is not subverted to this alleged popular will.

To help you see what is and is not included in this reasoning, let's look at a spreadsheet I have whipped up in GoogleDocs [link].  Insofar as it is possible and useful, I will update that file with vote tallies while they are still evolving.

This is the part that I think is interesting:

The complaint of the tweeter above says that Clinton's victory in the 50-state tally is growing, and as it continues to grow it seems like she was robbed.  The problem with that logic is that her voters are pretty concentrated in one state.

In the table above, you can see the current vote tally (dated 2016-11-11; it may be different when you read this in the future), and it does two things with that tally: it subtracts the state where Clinton's margin of victory is the highest (CA), and the state where Trump's margin of victory is the highest (TX).  In that hypothetical nation which lacks TX and CA, Trump wins the election by almost 1.4 million votes.

Now: Why look at the election this way?  Because this is how the code of law by which we are supposed to be running this nation looks at our election.  Of course, it does not drop out TX and CA from the results -- but what it does do is say that because we are a vast nation, and we have states which are both larger and small, and we have regional populations, there ought to be a way to make sure that (for example) large cities do not have a greater say in how our nation is run than rural counties and states.  There ought to be a way to make sure that the self-interest of the South does not override the interests of the West, or the Northeast, or the Great Plains.  And the way this is done is through the electoral college.  That is to say, it allows each state to have a completely-proportional representation in the vote without causing huge swings in population density to be over-represented in the final account.

I have some other things to say about this, but it's enough to say right now that the inability of someone like David Leonhardt to grasp the real issue here says a lot about why the Left does not understand why Trump voters voted for Trump.

More to follow.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Day before the 2016 Presidential Election

Here's what Real Clear Politics says about the polling, state-by-state, for tomorrow's election:

The gray states are the ones allegedly "in play" - meaning that their polling results (which are averages of multiple polls in these states) are inside the statistical margin of error, so it's actually too close to call.  In this tally, that leaves 93 electoral college votes open or too close to call, which means neither candidate for President has them closed yet.  That's enough to leave the race undecided.

The first scenario everyone needs to keep in mind is this: if Clinton wins PA, and the rest of the map plays according to the polls, she wins and Trump loses. Here's how PA voted in 2012:

If Erie and Pittsburg turn Red in 2016, I guess this could change, but I don't see any reason to believe that they will.  The only alternative, really, is if the turnout in the Red counties improves by a very significant margin, or decreases in the Blue counties by a significant margin.  Otherwise, Hillary wins, and we are doomed to suffer through the most corrupt elected official in the Federal Executive branch ever, and to hope that she is not really sick because the only thing worse that a Clinton term in office will be that she is replaced by Tim Kaine.

That said, if Trump can pick up PA, this is how the rest of the map has to go to earn him enough Electoral votes:

Right? That gets him 285, and he wins comfortably and we are doomed to suffer under years of TV time consumed by the real-life equivalent of Zaphod Beeblebrox diverting attention from the way the government is running by a reality TV show which makes the Running Man look like a great idea.

But if Trump loses PA, is he really finished?  Here's one to consider:

This scenario leaves the electoral college deadlocked at 269, and the vote goes to the House of Representatives to decide who wins the election.  If he can't win PA maybe he can pull down redneck New Hampshire (which went for both Bushes once), and that brings everything to s screeching halt.

But: the odds that Clinton will lose PA this round are as low as her losing MI, WI and CO.  My opinion is that the loose talk about a last-minute landslide in favor of Trump is interesting to read, but not in touch with reality.

Good luck and God bless to all of you.  Let's hope for the best in the coming years. and remember that your neighbor is not your enemy.