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Posts Tagged ‘Electoral College

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all”*…

 

Voting2

 

In a simple democratic election with two candidates, every voter has the same probability of affecting the result of the election. In the United States, the electoral college ensures that this is not the case. Instead, the chance that your vote matters is dependent on which state you live in, and the political composition of voters who happen to live within that state’s borders.

Although Republican presidential candidates have benefited from the electoral college in recent years—2 of their last 3 election winners lost the popular vote—there is nothing about the electoral college that specifically favors Republicans. Its effects are largely random, and can be expected to change over time. One illustration of how arbitrary these effects are is that a state’s status as a swing state can often be eliminated by moving a few counties into a bordering state, instantly devaluing the value of its residents’ votes. It would only take a couple of these changes to shift the advantage of the electoral college to the Democratic party…

David Waldron’s eye-opening analysis: “Who benefits from the electoral college?

* John F. Kennedy

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As we exercise our franchise, we might recall that it was on this date in 1882 that nearly 10,000 workers gathered for a parade in New York City to celebrate the first Labor Day in the U.S.

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Written by LW

September 5, 2019 at 1:01 am

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both”*…

 

The U.S. Census has long been a lightning rod for controversy. Does it wildly undercount minorities? Wildly overcount minorities? Or—as Michelle Bachmann warned us—is it a liberal plot orchestrated by ACORN?

But no one has ever accused our Census Bureau of being a hotbed of…graphic design. Until now.

A Handsome Atlas celebrates Uncle Sam’s data chops by reproducing three Statistical Atlases from the latter decades of the 19th century…

It’s the work of Jonathan Soma, cofounder of the Brooklyn Brainery and stat freak (tracker of everything from Tokyo breakfast habits to bike lanes)… and it’s fascinating.

… you can follow the decline of Charleston, South Carolina, after the Civil War and the sudden ascendency of Milwaukee following the arrival of Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz.

Curious footnotes in American history pop up everywhere, as Soma discovered when he spotted an apparent flaw in a U.S. map. “Where Oklahoma should be, we had I.T.,” he says. “It turns out it was Indian Territory.  In 1905 the Native Americans who lived there applied for statehood. They wanted to create something called the State of Sequoia. But they were shot down, and two years later Oklahoma was made.”

Together the Atlases show a country emerging from crisis to redefine itself: more urban, diverse, and if you lived in Illinois or Kentucky, substantially more wasted [as illustrated in the chart above]…

The first Statistical Atlas of the United States of America was published in 1874 to coincide with the nation’s centennial. Two of the most stunning Atlases, from 1880 and 1890, were produced by Henry Gannett, who went on to co-found the National Geographic Society. His final Atlas even contains intimations of the Information Age. The 1890 census was the first to use a punch-card tabulating machine devised by Henry Hollerith, whose company would form the foundation of IBM…

In one regard the census has changed dramatically. While the 2000 Census broke down race into 63 categories, a century earlier we came in only five “colors.” The language of these Atlases oozes xenophobia. Maps and charts refer to “natives” and “non-natives.” Non–European Americans are lumped in as “other foreign.” And slave populations are often omitted altogether.

Then there are the “deaf mutes, paupers, and prisoners,” gathered under the heading: “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes.” Or this antiquated guide to the “insane” of 1870. I mean, who would be insensitive enough to call for a national database of the mentally ill these days?

Read the whole colorful story in Jeffrey Rotter‘s “The Motley Roots of Data Visualization in 19th Century Census Charts.”

* James Madison

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As we regret that we haven’t got more fingers and toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1789 that George Washington became the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College, a feat he repeated on the same date in 1792.

Washington’s overwhelming popularity made for a relatively smooth kick-off for the Republic.  Still, the electoral system soon began to cause problems.  History.com explains:

The peculiarities of early American voting procedure meant that although Washington won unanimous election, he still had a runner-up, John Adams, who served as vice president during both of Washington’s terms. Electors in what is now called the Electoral College named two choices for president. They each cast two ballots without noting a distinction between their choice for president and vice president. Washington was chosen by all of the electors and therefore is considered to have been unanimously elected. Of those also named on the electors’ ballots, Adams had the most votes and became vice president.

Although Washington’s overwhelming popularity prevented problems in 1789 and 1792, this procedure caused great difficulty in the elections of 1796 and 1800. In 1796, Federalist supporters of John Adams cast only one of their two votes in an effort to ensure that Adams would win the presidency without giving votes to any of the other candidates. This led to a situation in which the Federalist Adams won the highest number of votes and became president, but Thomas Jefferson, the opposing Democratic-Republican candidate, came in second and therefore became his opponent’s vice president.

In 1800, the system led to a tie between the Democratic-Republican candidates for president and vice president, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This sent the vote to the House of Representatives, where Federalists voted for Burr instead of Jefferson, whom they despised. As a result, the Congressional vote ended in a tie 35 times before the Federalists decided to hand in blank ballots and concede the White House to Jefferson.

In 1804, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution ended this particular form of electoral chaos by stipulating that separate votes be cast for president and vice president.

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