Unexpectedly Intriguing!
14 December 2004

In the days following the November 2, 2004 U.S. election, I set up a simple spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel to work out just what percentage of the uncounted votes either George W. Bush or John Kerry would need to be able to claim victory in Ohio. It was such a simple tool that it immediately leapt out as being a natural fit for this blog - even with the 2004 election over, it can easily be modified to accommodate other political races, meaning lots of future use here for races of interest.

Uncounted Vote Frustration

Instead, developing this tool has been a complete pain in the you-know-what on account of the Kerry campaign's continued drive to count questionable ballots in Ohio. (Editor's note: If it isn't already, Captain Ed's blog is well deserving of a place of privilege in your blogroll.) Every time I think I have the web-friendly version of my calculator finished, along come the Kerry people with another set of unmarked, mismarked, and even properly marked ballots that they want to have counted, recounted or otherwise included in the previously certified vote totals. With any luck, they'll accept reality soon (but I won't believe it until I see it....)

I've dealt with the ongoing shenanigans by providing for three categories of uncounted votes: absentee, provisional and other. (One development version also included categories for spoiled ballots, overvotes, undervotes and fraudulent ballots, but as more time went by, "other" seemed a better solution.) I could go on, but to make a long story short, I am finally happy to present:

The Simple Majority Calculator

Keeping in mind that this tool is still subject to change due to the issues discussed above, here is the first released version of my Simple Majority Calculator. What it does is really simple - it starts with the votes that have already been counted for the given candidates for an elective office, then it adds those numbers to the total number of estimated votes cast that are still uncounted, then it figures out how many votes it takes to win a clear, simple majority as well as what percentage of the uncounted votes a candidate would have to receive in order to win. Simply enter the known or estimated values in the appropriate fields in the input table and click the "Calculate" button to get the results.

Raw Vote Data
Input Data Values
Votes Counted for the Republican Candidate
Votes Counted for the Democratic Candidate
Uncounted Absentee Ballots
Uncounted Provisional Ballots
Other Uncounted Ballots

Votes and Percentage Breakdowns
Calculated Results Values
Total Vote Count
Votes Needed to Win a Simple Majority
Percentage of Uncounted Votes Needed for the Republican to Win
Percentage of Uncounted Votes Needed for the Democrat to Win

Interpreting the Results

  1. If a candidate has a negative percentage, it means that they can actually have votes taken away from their totals and still be able to win a simple majority in the election. In other words, the likely winner.
  2. If a candidate has a percentage that is greater than 100%, it means they cannot win a simple majority, or rather, they are the likely loser.
  3. If both candidates have percentages that are greater than 0% but less than 100%, the race is up for grabs, although polling data may be used to anticipate the likely winner.

While not a perfect tool, the Simple Majority Calculator does offer some insight into how the uncounted vote totals have to break in order for a given candidate to win office. Improved, and more timely versions will follow in the future.

About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

Thanks in advance!

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