In the United States, the electoral system for determining the president is controversial and sometimes confusing to voters keeping track of election outcomes. Instead of directly counting votes to decide the winner of a presidential election, individual states send a representative number of electors to the Electoral College, and they are trusted to cast their collective vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.

Under the current rules, the value of a vote differs from state to state. A large state such as California has an immense effect on the national election, but, compared to a sparsely populated state such as Alaska, is grossly under-represented in the U.S. senate, where all senators have an equal vote. Arnold Barnett and Edward Kaplan, in their 2007 CHANCE article, "A Cure for the Elector College" called the Electoral College "the fun-house mirror of American politics" and suggested a weighted voting system that would mitigate the problem caused by the present winner-take-all rule.

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Reprinted with permission from Chance. Copyright © 2010 American Statistical Association. All rights reserved.

This article first appeared in Chance: A Magazine for People Interested in the Analysis of Data 23, no. 1 (February 2010): 41-47. doi:10.1007/s00144-010-0009-y.

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