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Swing States, The Winner-Take-All Electoral College, and Fiscal Federalism

Duquette, Christopher and Mixon, Franklin and Cebula, Richard (2013): Swing States, The Winner-Take-All Electoral College, and Fiscal Federalism.

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There is a debate regarding the impact of swing or independent voters in American politics. While some argue that swing voters either do not swing or have a marginal impact on campaigns, the decline in voter partisan identification and the rise of independents means that they have a potential impact on elections, making them a desirable commodity to candidates. Additionally, presidential elections represent a unique case for swing voters. A robust literature notes that during the presidential primary and caucus process, voters in states such as Iowa or New Hampshire effectively have a greater voice in the election than those in other states. This is due to the number of voters in these states, and the strategic importance of having their primaries and caucuses positioned at the beginning of the presidential selection process. Additionally, the Electoral College is criticized as giving disproportionate influence to some voters or states, or as otherwise distorting the results in presidential elections because of its winner-take-all method of allocating votes in 48 or the 50 states. But these assertions notwithstanding, can the impact or distortion that swing-voters have in some states compared to others, in terms of their relative influence on presidential elections, be quantified? Relatedly, does the Electoral College distort the impact of swing voters? This study presents a new method to assess the impact of swing voters within the winner-take-all method that states use to allocate electoral votes. By looking at several recent U.S. presidential elections, we quantify how the winner-take-all method of allocating electoral votes produces disparities in the voting power of citizens across states.

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