<H2 class=entry-title>Math Whizzes Scrutinize Electoral College
By Leslie Wayne“To Keep or Not Keep the Electoral College.”
With a Shakespearean flourish, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to apply its engineering and systems know-how to that question at a conference tomorrow that brings together Constitutional scholars and mathematics experts.
“Since its creation in 1787, the Electoral College has remained the most mysterious mechanism for electing a president of a country,’’ said Alexander S. Belenky, head of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at M.I.T. “There is no consensus among mathematicians, systems scientists 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 will look at whether the Electoral College should be retained, eliminated or modified. Arnold I. Barnett, a management science professor at M.I.T. and the conference’s chair, said that as Election Day draws near and “as people start working the numbers, then there might be much more hunger to think, ‘Can we really do something differently?”
While the Electoral College is often studied from a political angle, M.I.T. feels that mathematical models are relevant.
Mr. Belenky, author of several books including “How America Chooses Its Presidents” and “Extreme Outcomes of U.S. Presidential Elections,” said that it is mathematically possible for two candidates to each win 49 percent of the popular vote, yet one candidate could end up with zero electoral votes and the other with 538 –- or any combination in between.
The conference website also contains an “Electoral College Quiz.”
You can test your knowledge with such questions as: “Does an appointed elector violate the U.S. Constitution by abstaining the course of voting in the Electoral College?
The answer is yes. The Constitution requires that all electors must vote. But, an elector can, in effect, abstain by casting a blank ballot, which actually did happen in the 2000 election.