Voting By the Numbers: Introduction
Like everyone else, the results of the 2016 presidential election surprised me. The past two decades have seen two elections that generated significant hand wringing. I am not referring to the ultimate winner here or even the political climate that preceded the voting. Rather, we used to be able to ignore the malleability of our system. Whether or not you liked the results in 2000 or 2016, we all faced the reality that the inherent design of the system could be skewed so that it no longer reflected the will of the voters. While we once primarily questioned the behavior of politicians when running for office, we now discuss almost as much the viability of the process for electing them.
In the wake of both contests as well as various results in Congressional elections, pundits focus on primary culprits like the Electoral College and the way voting districts are drawn. In short, much of the argument has been that Republicans managed to leverage the design to work in their favor.
I fell under the sway of the arguments as much as the next person interested in fair representation. On the other hand, I had a niggling suspicion that either party was perfectly willing to take advantage of the rulebook, given the chance. So, I decided to do a little historical research.
What I did
I gathered data from Wikipedia, the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Federal Election Commission. Then, I tabulated the results of House, Senate, and Presidential elections going back to 1940 or so. I created spreadsheets and did some math to see whether or not voters were receiving the representation that they wanted. I even developed a metric, Voter Return on Investment, to gauge how much the end result accomplished the intentions of the voters.
In the coming weeks, I will post my findings as well as the charts that I used. I will try to explain the findings with as little bias as possible. Even so, this is also about politics. Comment or share where you find interest and forgive me when you must.
Any knowledge of recent or distant U.S. history makes clear that no party has a monopoly on actions for good or ill. As organizations, the parties are most interested in propagating their brands behind whatever policies serve their current purposes. Often, those policies pander to political bases and do not have wide support. As you will see, the American people appear to be more aware of that than anyone ever gives them credit.
Because so much has been pulled together here, I plan to post sections every day for the next couple weeks. First, I will start with some opening thoughts, followed by data and analysis on 1) House, 2) Senate, and 3) Presidential elections. Lastly, I will do the math and combine the results of all the federal elections for each government seated every two years since the early 1940’s.
If I do end up spouting something particularly daft, then I plan to revise. For that matter, I am just as likely to add any wisdom that arises later. Doing otherwise would be surrendering to the present at the cost of moving forward.