WYSIWYG was born in the age of computers
What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) is an acronym usually associated with computing. As Wikipedia explains, “WYSIWYG implies a user interface that allows the user to view something very similar to the end result while the document is being created.”
The explanation continues to point out that, “Modern software does a good job of optimizing the screen display for a particular type of output.” It has come to be an expected user experience to have a direct lookat the final result. We don’t like surprises.
WYSIWYG can be applied to Electoral College voting results
I’m often asked how I came to investigate how we elect our nation’s presidents. It wasn’t because of a deep-seated fascination with history or politics. Rather, it was because I realized that the Electoral College voting results map we often see wasn’t telling us everything.
Here’s an example of the 2016 Electoral College voting results map:
The red states cast their electoral votes for the Republican candidate (Trump) while the blue states cast their electoral votes for the Democrat (Clinton). There is one exception in that Maine split their votes, giving one vote to Trump and the other three to Clinton. All of the other states cast all of their votes for the candidate who won the plurality of votes within each state.
More states leaned toward, and more electoral votes were cast, for Trump making him our president. What we see is what we get – it’s WYSIWYG at work. Trump captured 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232.
There was an after-election adjustment when seven rogue electors cast their votes for other candidates. Clinton lost five votes and Trump lost two so the revised total was 304 to 227. Still, mostly, WYSIWYG applies to this map because we can plainly see how each state weighed in. It’s clear, according to Electoral College results, which candidate carried the day.
WYSIWYG angers many voters
Many people are disappointed, angry even, with these results. Realizing that the nation’s popular vote total is not reflected in the map provokes people to think something is wrong with the map! Are they wrong? Not really because, remember, WYSIWYG is at work here. The Electoral College has spoken.
Still, something seems wrong, wouldn’t you agree? Something’s amiss. Since people sense something is wrong they quickly turn to the Electoral College and assume it’s to blame. The WYSIWYG can’t be wrong, can it?
WYSIWYG is victim to winner-takes-all
My contention is:
It is not the Electoral College’s failure that something is missing.
We map the wrong results!
Another computer acronym I’m sure you’re familiar with is: GIGO, whiche refers to Garbage In, Garbage Out. It means we get a false result when we begin with garbage. This acronym, too, applies here as well.
A presidential candidate captures all of a state’s electoral votes via the winner-takes-all mechanism every state uses (yes, even Maine and Nebraska apply it). That means that if a candidate wins a plurality of votes (the most votes) within a state, all of the state’s electoral votes go to the one candidate. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition for the candidates.
Let’s look at some basics.
Electoral College votes are allocated proportionally
States are allocated electoral votes on a proportional basis. All 50 states get the same number of electoral votes as they have U.S. legislators (Senators and Representatives). Each state gets two votes for each of their two senators and additional votes according to how many U.S. Representatives they have.
This proportional application, however, stops at the state borders. All votes are counted within each state but any that aren’t amongst the state’s plurality count are set aside. These set-aside votes are counted (tallied) but they gain no representation! It’s a winner-takes-all arrangement. A state’s electoral votes cannot reflect the entire voting sentiment of its voting citizens as long as winner-takes-all rules the day.
Remember: Winner-takes-all is not part of the Electoral College!
On average, about 46% of the votes cast simply don’t matter in the election. Over 63 million votes were set-aside (were not represented) in 2016. This is vote suppression!
If WYSIWYG showed true results
What if WYSIWYG in our Electoral College voting results map included the set-aside votes? Here’s another map that shows how voters really cast their ballots in 2016. Each state is a variation of purple (a mix of red and blue) indicating more red if most votes were cast for Trump and more blue if they were cast for Clinton.
This is the true WYSIWYG Electoral College voting results map showing how each state has a mix of Trump and Clinton representation. It shows the nation is not nearly as polarized as the other map suggests. It also points to a political race that was very close, making the country a patchwork of purple hues rather than a picture of stark contrast.
Proportional voting should not stop at state borders
Why should we end the Founding Fathers’ intent of proportional voting at the state borders? Why not allow all viable presidential candidates gain representation? The WYSIWYG we normally get hides the truth of our nation’s voting – the voting sentiment of the governed. But the previous WYSIWYG view is true in that we get what we see. We get only a part of the story.
Equal Voice Voting (EVV) continues the proportional vote capture on a state-by-state basis. It honors a state’s popular votes by giving representation to any candidate capturing a significant proportion of the vote.
We like WYSIWYG. Let’s avoid GIGO. Let’s make EVV render a new view so WYSIWYG reflects how we really vote.