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Final Popular Vote Estimates: Obama wins 7 of 8 Michigan scenarios

With all ballots having been counted in Montana and South Dakota, we present our final version of the popular vote scenario tester.

With around 36 million votes having been cast between the two leading Democratic candidates, the voting totals wound up being remarkably close. They are within about a percentage point of one another, almost whichever scenario you pick.

However, we can probably narrow things down from the 972 scenarios that we described before to just a relative handful, all of which center around Michigan. At this point, there is very little argument not to include Florida at full weight. Nor is there any credible argument not to include all caucus states as best as we are able, even if our vote estimates have a margin of error around them. The more exotic scenarios like counting the Texas caucus vote or excluding Puerto Rico and other territories can probably also be discarded.

That leaves eight potential ways that we can handle Michigan.

1. Ignore Michigan entirely. That gives Obama a win by 155,782 votes.
2. Count Michigan at 100 percent and give no votes to Obama. That gives Clinton a win by 172,527 votes.
3. Count Michigan and give all uncommitted votes to Obama. Obama +65,641.
4. Count Michigan and give all uncommitted and write-in votes to Obama. (Note that we have included a new option to treat Michigan’s 27,694 discarded write-in votes as uncommitted). Obama +93,335.
5. Count Michigan and allocate uncommitted votes based on the preferences of uncommitted voters in exit polls. We have that total at Obama +6,961, however it is so close that it can essentially be considered a tie.
6. Count Michigan and allocate uncommitted and write-in votes based on exit polls. That gives Obama a “safe” win by 28,008 votes.
7. Count Michigan and allocate all officially-recorded votes based on exit polls. This may be a truer reflection of voter preference because roughly 20 percent of Hillary Clinton’s voters indicated in exit polls that they’d prefer to have voted for another candidate. Under this scenario, Obama wins by 90,398.
8. Same as above, but also include write-in votes in the total that we divide among the candidates. This is actually my preferred solution, because write-in voters were almost certainly included in exit polls even if they weren’t included in Michigan’s official tally. Counterintuitively, Obama’s margin goes down slightly if we take this approach (because we are giving the majority share of a slightly larger pie to Clinton). But we still have Obama winning the national popular vote count by 87,351.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.