Last Saturday, Joe Biden was announced as the 2020 President-Elect alongside his running mate Kamala Harris, the VP Elect. The week prior, we hosted a mock election to see how our school would imitate its real-life counterpart.
To ease your extreme curiosity, we will also reveal the other candidates and delve a little deeper into their platform. Candidate A is Donald Trump, the representative for the Republican party, and obviously the President of the US. His campaign is mostly focused on immigration, jobs, the economy, and foreign policy.
Candidate B is Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate and most known for his previous Vice Presidency. Affordable healthcare is one of the main topics of Biden’s campaign along with the Affordable Care Act.
Candidate C was Green Party representative Howie Hawkins, highly campaigning the Green New Deal and Environmental problems.
Candidate D was Jo Jorgensen. Jorgensen was nominated by the Libertarian Party, who are known for their “minimum government, maximum freedom” ideal.
We decided to approach this election in multiple ways. We simulated three types of voting: direct democracy/popular vote, rank-choice, and the electoral college.
Direct democracy, better known as the popular vote, is your standard small-scale voting. Think student body president or prom queen. One vote is one vote, no middlemen, no nothing. This was first formed in Ancient Greece but isn’t implemented in America; it just isn’t as feasible with 328.2 million people.
In our case, President Trump (“Candidate A”) won with 76 votes. However, Biden (B) was in a close second with 75. Hawkins (C) and Jorgensen (D) fell much shorter with 34 and 3 votes.
A drawback of the current two-party system is that voters find themselves compromising their beliefs. They vote for not who they believe in, but who they think will win. We find ourselves voting between “two lessers evils” which should not be the case.
Rank-choice voting requires that a candidate has at least 50% of the votes. If none of the candidates have a majority, then the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated, and their votes are reallocated to their second choice. With a total of 187 votes, a candidate will need to reach 94 votes post-reallocation to win.
In the case of our election, Jorgensen’s votes were redistributed first, then Hawkins’s. This gave Biden the majority, thus winning the RCV simulation. (Shown below).
We know what you and any other person capable of basic addition is thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t add up to 187 votes!” And you’re right, it doesn’t. This is because many students didn’t take the ballot seriously. In a real election, they would be deemed invalid and not considered an actual vote.
However, we were serious when we said every vote matters (we’ll get further into it later). Actual voting doesn’t take your intent into account. They have precautions set up and a much more rigid setup than we do. Now we can learn from our mistakes and know how to better our polls to avoid inconsistencies like these.
The third election we ran was the electoral college. It’s the system our country currently operates under. You remember people crunching over maps and focusing on states as opposed to numbers? That’s because certain states hold more votes due to population. We did the math (each advisory being a “state”) and did the same. If you thought RCV was a headache, you better take some ibuprofen and get ready for a straight-up migraine.
To start, we found out how many students were in each advisory (as of August 2020) and placed them into brackets by “population” (shown below). From there, we granted each advisory a number of votes based on the aforementioned bracket. It didn’t matter how low the voter turnout was, that advisory had that number of votes and whichever nominee got the majority would receive all of them.
Note that each bracket’s vote is a multiple of six. This is attributed to the low voter turnout. Low number of votes makes it more likely for there to be a tie and, though Arkansas doesn’t split its electoral votes, we didn’t have much of an option. At first, we figured multiplying by two would be fine, but one advisory (looking at you, Cudworth) had a three-way split. Thus, common multiple six.
Though the exact data is shown on the “electoral college” tab of the spreadsheet here, we’ll give you the basics. Trump won a total of 1058 electoral votes (828 pure, 230 split). Biden won 887 (582 pure, 305 split), Hawkins won 119 (18 pure, 101 split), and Jorgensen won a whole zero (0 pure, 0 split).
The thing is, many of these advisories were won by one vote; others had no votes at all (and by others, we mean around a fifth). In fact, nearly all advisories were determined by one-two students. In the actual election, many states are prompted to recount due to the close call. This is why “your vote doesn’t matter” is a bunch of electoral bologna.
Take, for example, Laurie Bergenstock. With an advisory population of over 18, they’re in bracket D, which means 21 votes. However, only one person in that advisory voted. One vote became 21 instantaneously.
We figured it would be interesting to see why, exactly, students voted for their chosen candidate. We found out what set each nominee aside, what topics meant the most to their voters. Trump’s voters valued his stance on abortion and gun rights, as well as his relationship with the economy (after all, he is a well-known businessman). Over 35% of Trump supporters listed abortion as one of their core beliefs.
One student stated, “I support the ban on evictions since this pandemic has been financially draining for many people. I also agree with his position on guns… [and] his economic view on strengthening our economy [as well as] abortions…”
Those who voted for Biden focused on LGBTQ+ rights and appreciated his stance on COVID relief and Racial Equality.
“Most of their views seemed like healthy approaches to each immediately pending issue and a step towards progression,” says one student. “I didn’t agree with all of their views, but the majority of them seemed fair.”
Many Hawkins supporters list the same issues (their platforms are very similar), but appreciate his environmentalist approach. With such a small number of Jorgensen supporters, it’s hard to pinpoint why exactly they liked her.
So, how do different groups within our school stand in politics? With a large young voter turnout (just like the IRL election), Sophomores dominated the ballots with 90 of the 187 total votes. 37 of those were for Candidate A, 32 for B, 20 for C, and 2 for D. Juniors were close in numbers, going 24, 29, 7, and 2. Finally, Seniors were 15, 14, and 6.
What about academies? HHS was the most voter-savvy, contributing about 47% of the votes (though they do make up the majority of the student body). 31 votes were for Candidate A, 36 for B, 19 for C, and finally 1 for D. CAB had 26, 29, 12, and 1. ACME had 19, 10, 2, 1. Looks like Jorgensen was common across all the academies, at least she’s got that going for her.
Now, here comes the big question: why? We of course hosted this mock election to see how our school would compare to the actual 2020 election, but it goes a tad bit deeper than that. In the next presidential election, the majority of the student body will be eligible to vote, so why not get some ‘experience’ now? We tried to implement a ‘policy-only’ standard of voting so people would recognize politicians have more to them than their name. Hopefully, some will take this with them when the new generation of voters cast their ballot.
Spreadsheet link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZcXtnsTVDSA9RF3iTNAzJYeL5tlUxhOQwxf6LD_Cbfc/edit?usp=sharing