In a close race, the underdog candidate could have a 45% chance of becoming president

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to a University of Texas study of the history of the Electoral College, the less popular candidate has a 45% chance of winning the general election if the race is decided by fewer than 1% of the voters.

The term is known as “inversion.”

This is when there is a mismatch between the candidate who wins the popular vote and the candidate who wins the election through the Electoral College.

Inversion has happened four times in American history—1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. The analysis from the University of Texas Electoral College Study (UTECS) suggests that, under the Electoral College system, more inversions are likely in 2020 and after when elections are close.

“The probability of inversion is very tightly linked to the expected closeness of the race. And the last couple of decades have featured some of the closest presidential races in U.S. history,” said UT Austin economist Michael Geruso. “To the extent you think 2020 will be a close race, you should be prepared that an inversion is likely. That goes for any future election as well.”

According to the study, for the previous 30 years, the probability for a Republican Electoral College win has been about 70% when the Democratic candidate had the popular vote. However, though it hasn’t happened yet, there is a significant possibility for a Democratic candidate to win the Electoral College in a future race in which a Republican wins the popular vote.

Neither removing the two Electors corresponding to Senators, which skews representation to smaller states, nor changing the winner-takes-all method used by most states will eliminate the risk of inversions.

“Many factors contribute to inversions. Popular vote totals depend on the number of voters, but electors are allocated based on the number of persons in the last census — including children and adults who cannot vote,” Geruso said. “In short, only relying on a national popular vote to decide the presidency would eliminate the chance of mismatch between the president and the popular vote winner.”

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