I propose a new formula for electing our officials.
We all know elections are determined by the most votes, but what determines how many votes a candidate actually gets? Are these votes representative of people’s values matching that of a candidate, or are they unduly influenced by media filling the void of widespread ignorance about the issues? Do we vote on candidates’ promises or their actual records?
There can be endless conjecture on this issue, but that fact is that over 94% of the time, the candidate with the most campaign funding raised wins. Do we really think this is a coincidence? I always say that Democracy does NOT give us what we deserve — it gives us what the MAJORITY deserves, and the ability of the average person to make an important, rational decision is arguably precarious at best.
So why don’t we have a formula that accounts for this? If a candidate spends twice as much and doesn’t get twice the votes, they lose.
We could factor in the influence of media — polls in particular — and skew based on election results from preceding voting regions, but let’s just start with campaign spending to keep it a simple start. Others can build on this if they choose. Here it is:
(popular votes) divided by (percentage of total spending) divided by (number of candidates compared)
So let’s look at the most recent election. Whoa! First let’s make sure we’re talking about campaign spending versus funding (contributions and the like), since according to OpenSecrets, there are millions more raised than spent. Hmmm. As interesting as that is, let’s ignore that for the scope of this article and stick with actual money spent.
Obama’s campaign spent $391,437,720.99 garnishing 69,456,897 votes; McCain spent $197,354,886.43 garnishing 59,934,814 votes. The other candidates either lost in the primary or accounted for negligible sums of spending, so we will consider only these as totals, but use the actual percents based on the electoral college data since it is so similar.
Obama: (69.5 million votes / 66.5% of spending) = 104.5
McCain: (59.9 million votes / 33.5% of spending) = 178.8
If we then take this divided by the number of candidates (2), we get 52.25 million adjusted votes for Obama and 89.4 million for McCain. This means if you weed out the influence of money in the simplest mathematical way, McCain got the equivalent of 63% of the vote, basically the opposite of the actual election results.
But this raises another question, not easily answered by the formula due to outlandish percentage error: What about candidates that got really small percentages of the vote but spent nearly nothing? If applied, Nader received 0.56% of the vote (738,475 votes) after spending $4 million dollars (0.67% of all money spent). Put into the mix, that means 36.7 million adjusted votes, or 22% of the votes for a third-party Nader.
If I had the time, I’d make a spreadsheet of all the elections I could, including the current RNC primaries. And many of us would probably like to know if Bush still beat Gore in 2000.