Monday, July 25, 2016

Election 2016: Math vs. Path


In a previous post, I go over the concept of "on the ballot in enough states to mathematically be elected." For presidential candidates, the number representing "enough states" is either one or zero (zero reflecting the possibility of winning a state as a write-in). Since the US House of Representatives chooses the next president from among the top three recipients of electoral votes in the event that no candidate receives at least 270 electoral votes, carrying even one state (or even a congressional district in Maine or Nebraska) represents a possible, if narrow and rather implausible, path to the presidency.

I close that post out with:

Bonus question: How many states must a vice-presidential candidate win in order for it to be mathematically possible for that vice-presidential candidate to be elected?

Hint: It's a lot more complicated than the other question/answer set.

How much more complicated?

Well, in the event that no vice-presidential candidate receives 270 or more electoral votes, the next vice-president is chosen by the US Senate from among the top two recipients of electoral votes.

From a set of three contenders, what is the fewest number of electoral votes that a candidate can receive while (1) coming in second place (2) from a field in which precisely three candidates receive electoral votes, while (3) holding the first place finisher to fewer than 270 electoral votes?

The answer, if my math is right, is 135.

If the first place finisher receives 269 votes and the second place finisher receives 135 votes, that leaves 134 votes for the third place finisher. Obviously the first place finisher could receive fewer than 269, or the second place more than 135, but like I said, 135 appears to be the absolute minimum number to get into a Senate-decided vice-presidential selection process by making the top two cut from among three contenders.

This means that the absolute minimum number of states that contender would have to win would be four. If a vice-presidential candidate won the electoral votes of California and Texas, that would bring in 93 electoral votes. The next two heaviest states are Florida and New York, with 29 each for a total of 151. Carrying only one of those two would leave the contender at 122, 13 electoral votes short, which could be made up for by carrying any one of eight states: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey or Virginia. Absent one of those, it's going to end up taking five or more states to reach the magic number.

There's a huge gap between the one electoral vote that could conceivably make a president in the House and the 135 electoral votes it would take to potentially make a vice-president in the Senate.

Vis a vis the Libertarian Party, that makes the path to the vice-presidency much narrower for William Weld than the path to the presidency for Gary Johnson. It seems nearly certain that even if Johnson pushes the election to the House and prevails there, he'll be saddled with Mike Pence or Tim Kaine as sidekick.

Vis a vis the Reform Party, it likely closes off the vice-presidential nominee's path completely. The party's ticket will be on the ballot in states disposing of 58 total electoral votes (New York and Florida), plus possibly Louisiana with 8, bringing the potential total to 66. Note I said it likely closes the path off completely. There might be opportunities to register and have write-in votes counted in enough states to get the total up to 135. But it looks like President Darcy Richardson would likewise probably have to make do with Pence or Kaine in second chair. But I'll still do my best.


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