+ Debating the Electoral College

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) plans to apply its engineering and systems know-how to help answer the ongoing question: should we keep or not keep the Electoral College?

The issue is the subject for debate today at a conference which brings together constitutional scholars and mathematics experts, according to a political note in the NY Times.

“Since its creation in 1787, the Electoral College has remained the most mysterious mechanism for electing a president of a country,” says Alexander S Belenky, a visiting scholar at the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT.

“There is no consensus, among mathematicians, systems analysts and political scientists studying the Electoral College, on whether it can satisfactorily serve the United States in the 21st century, especially after two close elections in 2000 and 2004.”

The conference is looking at whether the Electoral College should be retained, eliminated, or modified.

As Election Day draws near, and as people start working the numbers, there is reason to believe that something different might be done, says Arnold I Barnett, MIT management science professor and chairman of the conference.

The Electoral College is often studied from a political angle.  But the MIT professors are looking at it from a mathematical model.  Belenky, author of “How America Chooses Its Presidents,” says it is mathematically possible, for instance, for two candidates to each win 49 percent of the popular vote, and have one of them end up with zero electoral votes and the other with 538.  Or any combination in between. 

Say what?

sole source: political note by Leslie Wayne in the N Y Times on 10/17/08.   www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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