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"How to Use Math to Sway Presidential Elections" – Panel
A panel of experts from several disciplines will discuss how to use mathematical techniques to sway presidential elections, and also common mistakes the media often make in reporting on polls, at a symposium on Friday, Oct. 19th
The purpose of the symposium is to explain and discuss how to calculate both theoretical and actual voting power under the Electoral College, and how this information can then be used by presidential campaigns to concentrate TV advertising buys, candidate time, field offices, and other limited resources among states to target those citizens whose votes are most likely to be crucial.
The calculation of theoretical (or legal) voting power contradicts recent articles suggesting that voters in smaller states have greater voting power just because their states have more votes in the Electoral College per 100,000 voters than those in larger states.
This is a discredited form of analysis proven wrong more than forty years ago by two congressional hearings, several authoritative books on the Electoral College, hundreds of political science and mathematics articles, and by a method for calculating voting power now taught not only in most colleges but also at the high school level.
As the Boston Globe summarized it: "The [House Judiciary] committee listened to the testimony of more than 100 witnesses . . . Among the witnesses was law professor John Banzhaf, the author of an influential mathematical analysis showing that, contrary to popular opinion, the Electoral College gave more 'voting power' to citizens of large states – an inequality that could be remedied only by popular elections. The committee endorsed that view in April , approving a direct-election bill by a vote of 29 to 6."
Moving beyond theoretical or legal voting power, the professorial panel of mathematicians, political scientists, lawyers, and others will then discuss how to incorporate polling and other data to calculate the actual voting power of citizens in each of the swing states in this election, and in what ways these calculations might be used to determine how to most efficiently allocate limited campaign resources.
In discussing recent candidate polls, panelists will also explain how the media often get it wrong when they report that polls showing that the difference between the percentages for the major candidates is within the "margin of error" [e.g., 49% vs 46%, +/- 3 margin of error] means that it's just a "statistical tie" or that the difference isn't significant. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those participating from several schools include Law Professor John Banzhaf, creator of the "Banzhaf Index of Voting Power," Math Professor Daniel Ellman, Co-Author of “A Mathematical Look at Politics,” Political Science Professor Danny Hayes, Professor Leo Chalupa, GWU Vice President for Research, Professor Yongwu Rong, Chairman of the GWU Math Department, Math Professor Ted Turner, Professor Leonard Steinhorn, Communications and History (at AU), and others.
Additional information about using the Banzhaf Index to calculate voting power under the Electoral College may be found in: James Michener, Presidential Lottery, Part C entitled "The Banzhaf Studies" at 220 (1969); Pierce, The People's President, Section O entitled "Computer Analysis of Large versus Small State Power in the Electoral College" at 362 (1968); Robinson and Ullman, A Mathematical Look at Politics (2010); John Allen Paulos, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (1997); Hearings before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, U.S. Senate, p. 517-42, 904-33; Electoral College Reform, Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, p. 306-74.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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