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MIT Conference: To keep or not to keep the Electoral College
New Approaches to Electoral Reform

Conference Sponsors: Carnegie Corporation of New York and MIT’s Sloan School of Management

Conference Organizers: MIT's Sloan School of Management and MIT’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals

Conference Chair: Arnold I. Barnett, MIT’s Sloan School of Management

Conference Steering Committee
Alexander S. Belenky, Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals, MIT
Robert M. Freund, Sloan School of Management, MIT
David C. King, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Richard C. Larson, Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals, MIT
Herman D. Leonard, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Conference location: MIT’s Bartos Theatre (Building E-15). Directions to Bartos Theater can be found here.

Conference time: October 17, 2008, 8:30 a.m.—5:30 p.m.

Conference Preliminary Program: Click here to view

Conference goal: Since its creation in 1787, the Electoral College has remained the most mysterious mechanism for electing a President of a country. There is no consensus among mathematicians, systems scientists, and political scientists studying the Electoral College on whether it can satisfactorily serve the U.S. in the 21st century, especially after two close elections in 2000 and in 2004. Discussions of the Electoral College in the media mostly focus on opinions about this unique election mechanism and are not based either on its established quantitative features or on its true merits and obvious deficiencies, leaving them unknown or unclear to an overwhelming majority of the electorate.

The conference aspires to inform media representatives of what is really known about key Electoral College features, as well as to spotlight unsolved systems problems associated with analyzing this controversial election mechanism.

Leading Electoral College experts, along with the authors of recent proposals to reform the Electoral College and to improve its use in presidential elections, will review already known features of the Electoral College, as well as new findings. This will help the media avoid publishing and airing incomplete and sometimes incorrect information about the system of electing a U.S. President, confusing voters and affecting civic participation. Some quantitative features of the Electoral College, especially the way it works in close elections, will be briefly discussed in a simple manner.

Conference structure: The conference will be held in the form of dialogs both among the panelists—nationally recognized Electoral College experts—and between the experts and the media who communicate information to American voters about the system of electing a U.S. President.

This conference is part of MIT’s effort to promote a systems approach to studying voting systems and elections, in particular, the Electoral College and U.S. presidential elections.

Unlike traditional conferences on presidential election issues, the subject of the discussion will be the ideas and logic underlying the election rules rather than electoral politics and voting technologies.

Conference audience: Media representatives covering the 2008 presidential election and interested in discussing how the election system really works are invited to participate in the dialog with Electoral College experts; however, the conference is a public event, and all interested individuals are welcome to attend the discussion.

Registration: Representatives of the media interested in attending the conference should register to receive an official invitation and to attend lunch and refreshment breaks.

Sponsors and organizers of the conference believe that this public event will make a difference in understanding the Electoral College- a unique American democratic institution—and contribute to civic participation both in general and in the 2008 presidential election in particular. The conference will be held in the proposed format for the first time.