A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

How many ways to win the election with nothing to spare?

Over at FiveThirtyEight, the following ‘homework assignment’ was given:

How many unique ways are there to acquire at least 270 electoral votes without any excess?

I figured it would be a ‘large’ number, but I was surprised at the actual total: 51,199,463,116,367 (or, fifty-one trillion and change). about 2.3% of all possible combinations (This exact number is based on the simplifying assumption of treating Maine and Nevada as giving up their electoral votes in the same way as all the other states). The answer was given by Isabel Lugo, a mathematician.

If you blindly checked all the possibilities at a rate of 1000 per second, it would take over 17,000 centuries. That’s older than John McCain.


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