If You Liked the World Series, You Should Love the Electoral College

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Sports news flash: The San Francisco Giants won baseball’s World Series last night by a score of 30-27. The final two games were anticlimactic because the Giants piled up an unbeatable 27-15 lead in the first five games. The Kansas City Royals would have lost the series even if they had managed a 3-2 win instead of a 3-2 loss in Game 7.

Yes, we know. That’s not how baseball works. It’s how many games you win, not how many runs you score overall that counts. Which makes the World Series strikingly similar to … the Electoral College.

In the American system, the candidate who wins a state gets all its electors, even if he or she wins by only a tiny margin (except in Maine and Nebraska). In 2000, Al Gore got more total votes for president than George W. Bush but lost in the Electoral College. That struck a lot of Gore supporters as unfair, even leaving out the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to stop a recount of ballots in Florida. But in one sense it’s no different from a team losing the World Series despite scoring more runs.

There is one big difference, though: Most state races aren’t as evenly balanced as baseball games. A Democratic presidential candidate won’t win in Oklahoma and a Republican won’t win in New York. Candidates ignore states where the conclusion is foregone, so voters there don’t really matter. Voters in swing states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida, matter a lot, so their issues get a lot more attention from the candidates. This is in practice, if not in law, a violation of the principle of one person, one vote.

In other words, the World Series is like the Electoral College. The problem is that the Electoral College isn’t enough like the World Series.

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