Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016
52 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 6, 2019
Inversions — in which the popular vote winner loses the election — have occurred in 4 US Presidential elections. We show that rather than being statistical flukes, inversions have been ex ante likely since the 1800s. In elections yielding a popular vote margin within one percentage point (which has happened in one-eighth of Presidential elections), 40% will be inversions in expectation. Inversion probabilities are asymmetric, in various periods favoring Whigs, Democrats, or Republicans. Feasible policy changes — including awarding each state’s Electoral College ballots proportionally between parties rather than awarding all to the state winner — could substantially reduce inversion probabilities, though not in close elections.
Keywords: Electoral College, Inversion, Wrong Winner, Referendum Paradox, Majority Deficit, National Popular Vote
JEL Classification: H0, J1, K16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation