Share with your friends


Analytics Magazine

Electoral College put to the math test

With the campaign two months behind us and the inauguration of Donald Trump two days away, isn’t it time to put the 2016 U.S. presidential election to bed and focus on issues that have yet to be decided? Of course not.

While political pundits and campaign staffers continue to rehash the respective campaigns’ strategy, not to mention the impact of reported Russian hacking and influence, leaked email, personal servers, FBI investigations and now an investigation of the FBI, I think we can all agree on two things: Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by about 2.8 million votes, and Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote, 304-227, and thus the presidency.

The discrepancy caused some people to take a closer look at the Electoral College and its state-by-state, largely winner-take-all format and question whether there could be a better method for selecting the president of the United States. MIT professor Arnold Barnett and Yale University professor Ed Kaplan, both longtime members of INFORMS (Kaplan served as president of the organization in 2016), were among those with inquiring minds.

In a Dec. 16 article (“How to cure the Electoral College”) in the Los Angeles Times, Barnett and Kaplan proposed an “electoral vote equivalents” (EQV) system in which electoral votes are allocated “in direct proportion to each candidate’s share” of each state’s popular vote.” The authors argue that not only would the EQV system make every vote in every state important, but it would also increase the importance of less-populated states, which was one of the main objectives of the Founding Fathers when they created the Electoral College in the first place.

At the time of the nation’s birth, a large percentage of the population was concentrated in a handful of urban areas such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia. In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College to give voters in the less-populated, largely agricultural-oriented states a modest weighted say in the presidential election.

Rather than repealing the Electoral College, Barnett and Kaplan say the EQV system would strengthen it by bringing every state into play in the general election, including electorate vote-rich California, Texas and New York, which are mostly ignored during presidential campaigns today because the winner of those states are a “foregone conclusion.” According to the authors, the EQV system would also increase the clout of small-population states because they tend to vote more lopsidedly than the nation as a whole, which pays off when the percentage of the margin of victory within a state matters.

Would the EQV system have made a difference in this election? Yes, it would have awarded the presidency to Hillary, say the authors. But as Trump noted, if the rules of the game had been different, he would have changed his campaign strategy.

– Peter Horner, editor, Analytics magazine and OR/MS Today magazine

Related Posts

  • 54
    Amidst the ongoing debates about the U.S. 2016 elections, the most plausible explanation comes to us from a Greek OR/MS analyst who started off looking at medical research. As often happens, truth is stranger than fiction, and powerful insights tend to emerge from seemingly unrelated lines of thinking. Several years…
    Tags: elections, election, u.s, days, campaigns, vote, focus, today, politics
  • 47
    As I write this, the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign staggers toward the finish line, leaving behind a trail of mud the likes of which we’ve never seen before. When the election is finally over, no matter the outcome, I think we all could use a hot shower.
    Tags: election, presidential, politics, campaign, u.s, time, days, created, elections, isn
  • 35
    For the past several months, I have spent hours staring at my screen, reading anything I can get my hands on that might help me get a sense of what might happen during the elections on Nov. 8. Since I live in Oakland, Calif., the heart of the uber-liberal bubble…
    Tags: election, presidential, politics
  • 32
    Five months have come and gone since the U.S. presidential election and three months have come and gone since the inauguration, and yet the country remains evenly divided over almost everything even remotely related to politics. No, I didn’t expect partisan passions to magically dissipate after Election Day, but I…
    Tags: u.s, months, election, politics


Study: The magic of animated movies not tied to latest technology

In the nearly 60 years between the 1939 release of Hollywood’s first full-length animated movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and modern hits like “Toy Story,” “Shrek” and more, advances in animation technology have revolutionized not only animation techniques, but moviemaking as a whole. However, a new study in the INFORMS journal Organization Science found that employing the latest technology doesn’t always ensure creative success for a film. Read more →

Six finalists named for Edelman Award

INFORMS selected a diverse group of six finalists for the 47th annual Franz Edelman Award for Achievements in Operations Research and Management Science, the world’s most prestigious award for achievement in the practice of analytics and O.R. The 2018 finalists, who will present their work before a panel of judges at the INFORMS Conference on Analytics & Operations Research in Baltimore on April 15-17, included innovative applications in broadcasting, healthcare, communication, inventory management, vehicle fleet management and alternative energy. Read more →

Are Super Bowl ads worth it? New research suggests benefits persist

On Feb. 4, more than 40 percent of U.S. households will watch the 2018 Super Bowl game on TV. Advertisers will pay up to $4 million for a 30-second spot during the telecast. Is the high cost of advertising worth it? A new study finds that the benefits from Super Bowl ads persist well into the year with increased sales during other sporting events. Further, the research finds that the gains in sales are much more substantial when the advertiser is the sole advertiser from its market category or niche in a particular event. Read more →



2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research
April 15-17, 2018, Baltimore


CAP® Exam computer-based testing sites are available in 700 locations worldwide. Take the exam close to home and on your schedule:

For more information, go to