It’s the JWM 2008 Election Prediction Contest!

Longtime Readers™ of this blog know that every two years we have a little contest to mark election time. (Here’s links to the 2004 and 2006 editions.) And the winner of the contest gets a nice little prize.

Well, it’s that time again, so welcome to the 2008 Just Well Mixed Election Prediction Contest!


  • This post will be open for comments between now and midnight the day before Election Day (November 3, 2008).
  • Like the Constitution, this contest doesn’t give a damn about the popular vote — all we care about is the Electoral College. So, to play, leave a comment on this post predicting the number of Electoral College votes you believe Barack Obama and John McCain will each win on Election Day. (More info on the Electoral College process below.) This means that the minimal acceptable entry would be a comment along the lines of “Obama 333, McCain 205” — though you’re encouraged to share how you came up with your prediction!
  • The winner will be the commenter whose prediction is the closest to the actual result. The only thing that will count will be your EV totals for each candidate, not how you reached them. In other words, a prediction of 20 EVs won by winning Ohio and one predicting 20 EVs won by winning Minnesota and Wisconsin (10 each) are equivalent for judging purposes.
  • If multiple people should submit the same prediction, and that prediction should be correct, they will all be sent a tiebreaker question by e-mail on the day after Election Day and given 24 hours to answer it. The first person to answer correctly wins.
  • If you submit your prediction and then decide later you want to change it, go ahead and post another comment with your updated prediction — I’ll take the comment you submitted with the most recent timestamp as your final prediction.


In the past, I’ve given away games as the prize for this contest, but that tends to disadvantage players who aren’t running Windows or don’t like games. So this year I’m making it simpler: I’ll donate $25 in the winner’s name to, an organization fighting to ensure that American elections are conducted in a reliable and publicly verifiable manner. (In other words, no more Florida 2000s, and no more crazy-ass Diebold machines.)


  • There are a total of 538 Electoral College votes available. (Learn more about the Electoral College.)
  • To win the Presidency, a candidate must receive a majority of these votes. A “majority” is defined as 50% of the votes plus one, which for a total of 538 means that a minimum of 270 is required to claim victory.
  • Each state receives a number of Electoral College votes equal to the number of Members of Congress (Representatives plus Senators) it has. Because states get seats in the House of Representatives based on their population, this means that states with large populations end up with more Electoral College votes than do states with small populations.
  • Other states with smaller populations are nonetheless important because they are “battleground states”. These are states where theoretically either candidate could convince a majority of the population to vote for him. These states are important because they are the only places where a candidate can win new Electoral College votes — getting more votes in a state that already favors his candidacy doesn’t impact the College in any way. Battleground states in 2008 include Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana.
  • Most states allocate their electoral votes in “winner-take-all” fashion, meaning the winner of the popular vote in that state receives all the state’s EVs. However, two states — Maine and Nebraska — allocate their EVs by Congressional district instead, meaning that the winner of the popular vote in each district receives 1 of the state’s electoral votes. This can result in the candidates splitting those states’ EVs between them.


  • has complete projections for all fifty states, updated daily based on the most recent polling data.
  • and also have up-to-date polling data you can use to see where each state is trending.
  • CNN has an interactive Electoral Map Calculator that lets you set how you think each state will go and then tells you how it impacts the overall distribution of EVs. Very useful for running “what-if” scenarios.

So that’s how it works. The comments are open. How do you think this thing is gonna shake out?

UPDATE (Nov. 2): From the “wow, that takes ENORMOUS balls” department, statistician Bruce Nash goes so far as to not only predict who will win each state, but exactly what time each state will be called as well:

(Skip ahead to 6:30 or so if you don’t care about his methodology and just want to see the predictions.)

UPDATE (Nov. 5): Long night. Winner announcement coming soon.

UPDATE (Nov. 6): Has Missouri announced an official winner yet? The unofficial counts on their Web site show McCain winning the state narrowly but I have yet to see an official announcement from them, and all the news orgs still have it as too close to call on their maps…

UPDATE (Nov. 7): And we have a winner: Amber Sparks, who predicted Obama 354, McCain 184. Obama actually did a little better than that — he’s currently at 364, and depending on how Missouri and the 1 EV for Omaha, Nebraska eventually go he could go up to 376 — but since everyone else thought he’d pick up even less, Amber’s optimism wins the day. Congratulations, Amber! My contribution to Verified Voting in your name is on its way.



October 29, 2008
11:56 am

Obama takes 331 EV, McCain 207. I’m really inclined to think Georgia plays a LOT closer than is predicted, but can’t convince myself to swing those 15 votes to Obama. Maine goes 3-1 for Obama, with McCain getting the vote from the second district. Obama takes CO and NM, but loses NV in the west, gets both MO and NC east of the Mississippi.


October 30, 2008
10:28 am

While I may be an idiot in general, I’m not so dense that I don’t know the Mississippi is the EASTERN border of MO…

Greg Gunn

October 31, 2008
2:49 pm

MY guess:
Obama 338
McCain 200
Others 0
I don’t think either ME or NB will split. I say Obama wins at LEAST 338 (maybe more if he swings NC, MO, or IN)
And if things get really crazy, maybe ND & MT too, but I’ll stick to the guess at the top as the MOST likely.


November 1, 2008
5:44 pm

Including NC and split NE vote. (Obama gets Omaha.)

Casey Foster

November 4, 2008
12:08 pm

I’m going to take the low bid and go with:
Barack Obama: 311
John McCain: 227
This works like The Price is Right huh?
Seriously, I hope for a blowout, but there is my 2 cents.


November 5, 2008
8:51 am

Kudos Amber!