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Another look at OR and US Presidential Elections

Mike Sheppard of Michigan State has a wonderful page that answers the question:  For each US Presidential Election, how few votes needed to change in order to reverse the result?  Most of us remember that in Bush-Gore 2000, just a few hundred Floridians needed to change their vote (269 by the official count:  I won’t get into the controversy on what the real number is (or even its sign!)) in order to give Florida to Gore who would then win the election.  But I hadn’t known that in 1976, Ford would have beaten Carter if just 9246 people (in Ohio and Hawaii) changed their vote!  The most one-sided election?  McGovern would have needed more than 3 million vote changes to beat Nixon in 1972.

Why is this operations research?  The question of which states need to switch is nicely modeled in integer programming, so this problem makes a nice (minor) modeling challenge.

You can also check out Mike’s use of linear programming to eat at McDonalds.

Tip of the hat to Greg Fulco for the pointer.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Andriy Yakushyn | September 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear Prof. Trick,

    This is indeed an interesting link, especially considering that many people believe the upcoming elections would be very close in nature. I also believe that 269-vote swing should be at least a basis for partial re-count.

    I’ve actually stumbled upon your blog through “BI and OR” post. And since comments are disabled there – I wanted to comment here. I think that terminology is really messed up. BI doesn’t exist by itself in a vacuum cube. BI consultants need a lot of Operational Research whether they’re drafting new requirements for the BI system or transitioning from old model. Data itself, without any process knowledge attached to it, is pointless and best consultants recognized that long time before. I wanted to compliment you on an unbiased view at this situation.