SixFifty

lessons from America

Nebraska a major headache for networks

Once again – as on so many occasions this election cycle – the blogosphere and the number-crunching experts on sites like 538, DailyKos, electoral-vote et al are way ahead of the game.  And the TV networks and even 24/7 news channels like CNN are failing to either be accurate or informative.  What is the cause of this?  It is Obama winning one of Nebraska’s 5 electoral college votes – an event which joins the long list of records broken this year.  

As electoral-vote explains:

“Nebraska is one of the two states (along with Maine) that awards one electoral vote for each congressional district carried plus two for the statewide winner. It now appears that Obama won NE-02 (Omaha) and picks up another electoral vote. This is the first time in history that either state has split its EVs.”

CNN and other major news networks just can’t cope with this fact and don’t – at least as yet – show it on their maps.  And there has been very little mainsteam discussion of even the possibility of it happening, as far as I can tell.  Where as Nate, Kos and others (including me!) have been talking about it for a while and following the vote count in Nebraska closely.

Proving the rule that incumbents when they keep winning under a system don’t want to change it and then look like sore losers when they immediately reverse their position upon losing (even just one electoral vote),

“Nebraska Republicans have reacted to this development with dismay and intend to introduce legislation in 2009 to go to a winner-take-all system like 48 other states. Although technically the (unicameral) legislature is nonpartisan, de facto, the Republicans control it and also the governor’s mansion, so they will probably succeed.”

And going back to one of my favourite subjects, reforming the electoral college, electoral-vote.com some great analysis of how Nebraska may prove a fillip to the national popular vote movement: 

“An indirect effect of Obama winning the electoral vote is to provide a solid precedent for allowing a state to allocate its electoral votes as its state legislature determines by state law. This issue could come up again if the Interstate Compact is adopted by states with 270 electoral votes. If this happens, then those states will cast all their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote (not the state popular vote), de facto eliminating the electoral college without a constitutional amendment. Currently four states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey) have passed it. If another dozen or so blue states were to pass it, it would come into being and there would surely be court fights about the right of a state legislature to determine how its electoral votes were cast (even though the constitution is pretty clear it is up to the states to choose their electors as they wish). Having a precedent for something other than winner-take-all would strengthen that court case.”

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November 10, 2008 Posted by | systems | , , , , | 1 Comment

The distorted lens

And I’m not talking the media for once.  It’s always gratifying seeing other people blog about the the pitfalls of the ‘winner-takes-all’ system, or at least pick up and supporting what political anoraks like me and my much more learned brethren on 538 are saying.  Exhibit A is this from the Guardian’s technology blog:

FiveThirtyEight.com has lots of maps – including the remarkable result from 1984, when Reagan got 525/538 of the “electoral college” votes while getting 60% of the votes, and the amazing one from 1972, when Nixon got 62% of the votes cast but 520 “electoral college” votes. And then there’s 2000, when.. oh no, let’s not. Which goes to show how the first-past-the-post system, as used in the US states – and here, since you mention it – can distort things.”

It’s also highly unusual but very welcome to find specific mention of the electoral reform campaign on the back page rather than the inside / comment pages of newspapers. But here Martin Samuels, the Times’ chief football correspondent, makes an insightful connection between politics and sport.  I’m going come back to this article – exhibit B as it were – in another post shortly.

October 22, 2008 Posted by | lessons from America, systems | , | Leave a comment

Florida answers magnificently

Holy moly.  This is awesome. Remember the Big Schlep.  I thought my 91 year old relative (she’s a year younger than I remembered) would not be open to persuasion on her vote, such were assumptions about her.  I was so pessimistic I didn’t even bother to contact her.  But my mother stepped up to the plate, fired up by Sarah Silverman’s video, and sent an email to our elderly relative instead.  The email used the talking points which exposed the myths about Obama (like ‘he’s a Muslim terrorist’ etc) and gave the positive reasons to vote for Obama.  And look what she got back today:

“Thank you for your long letter praising our next president, we hope Obama. We and most of our friends are supporters of Obama and we all hope that he will get elected.”

Wow.  That is brilliant. And momentous.  The friends she is talking about are likely to be residents of similar gated retirements communities, the sort not obviously ever in ‘Obama’s column’.  But they are.  And if this picture is repeated across the state, then we may well be looking at Florida turning blue this election, a very handsome electoral college win for soon-to-be President Obama.  Indeed, that is looking the case. Today 538 predict Obama to win Florida by 4.6%.  And electoral-vote.com‘s aggregate of polling also gives Obama the state by a similar margin.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | 50 State strategy, lessons from America | , , , , | Leave a comment

States that split matter

So we have McCain pulling out of actively campaigning in Michigan.  And some of his staff and resources from that state are believed to have gone not just to the well-known swing states but to Maine as well. DemConWatch notes:

“Yesterday Matt wrote about how McCain is going to focus on winning one of Maine’s Electoral votes by sinking more money into the state. The other state that awards Electoral Votes by district is Nebraska and the Obama campaign isn’t conceding. Today the Obama campaign announced that they will open a second office in Omaha. Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, which includes Omaha and its suburbs, is considered by some to be a “battleground district“.”

Maybe we will have more states, especially the smaller ones, in future following Maine and Nebraska’s lead and dividing their electoral college votes by district; if only to get a piece of the election action. The old statewide winner takes all system maybe isn’t the best suited any more.  There’s also a decent case for looking more closely at the National Popular Vote scheme that has been proposed, and backed by a number of states.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | 50 State strategy | , , , , | 2 Comments