It was bad enough that Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics after Obama himself flew to Denmark for the vote. Getting eliminated in the first round looked really, really bad.
Do the Europeans hate Obama now? Does the world think the US will be a third-world country in 7 years? It’s all too depressing to contemplate.
But we have a prescription for the President to turn it all around.
First, lets look at how the voting went down.
In the first round, Chicago was eliminated after the electors allocated their votes like this
Chicago – 18
Tokyo – 22
Rio – 26
Madrid – 28
So Chicago went out first by virtue of having received the fewest first-round votes. The other surprise is that Madrid actually came in first, when they were considered to have been a distant longshot. And then the other thing to realise is that the margin was very close. Any of the four cities, even Rio, could have been eliminated, if just a few votes had gone differently.
How about the second round
Tokyo – 20
Madrid – 29
Rio – 46
The first thing that’s interesting is that Tokyo actually lost votes going into the second round. And of course, Rio basically had victory at this point, seeing as nearly all of Chicago’s votes went to it. Support for Tokyo and Madrid heald steady throughout, while support for Rio spikes once the pro-Chicago voters were gone.
For the record, in the final round, the voting was:
Rio – 66
Madrid – 32
Anyway, it’s very easy to construct a scenario whereby one or two Tokyo and Madrid voters vote for Chicago in the first round and Tokyo ends up going out first. Madrid never really gained many votes throughout the process, (signifying they never had any support from those Tokyo voters), and in the second round, Chicago might have picked up all of Tokyo’s voters. We don’t know.
Here’s the problem. It all comes back to Kenneth Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, which states that no voting system really works, or can really capture the ranked preferences of the community. It’s complicated, so we won’t go into the details, but the obvious problem is that we don’t know who each voter had as their second choice.
It could be that a lot more voters would have preferred to see Chicago win over Rio, but due to the order of the voting, we don’t know. Think about it this way: Under a normal, American-style system of voting, where the winner is whoever gets the plurality of votes in the first round, we’d be talking about Madrid 2016.
A better method might be conduct voting Condorcet style. Wikipedia explains:
- Rank the candidates in order (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) of preference. Tie rankings, which express no preference between the tied candidates, are allowed.
- For each ballot, compare the ranking of each candidate on the ballot to every other candidate, one pair at a time (pairwise), and tally a “win” for the higher-ranked candidate.
- Sum these wins for all ballots cast, maintaining separate tallies for each pairwise combination.
- The candidate who wins every one of their pairwise contests is the most preferred over all other candidates, and hence the winner of the election.
- In the event no single candidate wins all pairwise contests, use a resolution method described below.
A particular point of interest is that it is possible for a candidate to be the most preferred overall without being the first preference of any voter. In a sense, the Condorcet method yields the “best compromise” candidate, the one that the largest majority will find to be least disagreeable, even if not their favourite.
Got that? Good.
So all Obama needs to do to regain his mojo is explain to the American public Arrow’s Impossibility Theorum, and then explain Condorcet style voting. Voila. Americans will understand how the vote meant nothing, how it could have easily gone differently, and how the office of the Presidency isn’t tarnished at all by the debacle. Problem solved.
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