Category Archives: On Living Here Now

On Voting 15: Concluding Thoughts

We deserve representation for our votes

Perhaps the true message of the inability of the major parties to maintain real dominance is that we require alternatives to extended power reigns. That desire to impede long, tight grips on the government by individuals (or monolithic groups like the aristocracy or the Democrats or Wall Street or…) may well have been the true motivator of the Founding Fathers. Perhaps some of them feared that more than they felt the need to distribute freedoms.

Bear in Mind

Much of what I have posted over the past two weeks suggests that voting behavior in 2016 was not too far afield from the norm, but this caveat must be raised:

  • None of this suggests election meddling did not occur or that such meddling is not heinous and criminal. The voting was close enough and the ultimate representation skewed enough that nothing about the data rules out meddling. In fact, historical precedents (such as Hayes/Tilden) should encourage a thorough review of the election. The last thing we need is a regression in validity.
Third Parties

The two primary parties have an immense investment in ensuring that no third party rises to challenge their hegemony.

  • Voter turnout in 2016 has been studied endlessly with the weird conclusion that it was up and down from prior elections. Either way, the turnout from those who could vote was somewhere between 55% and 60%. This means that the Democrats captured 28.6% and the Republicans 26.4% of eligible voters. (I used 57.5% as a good mid-point for turnout and the total voting pattern I outlined a few days ago for the 2016 federal government.)
  • The two major parties have a clear vested interest in keeping turnout low. If a third party could energize another 25% of the voter population to show up at the polls, then they would be in the driver’s seat. If that sounds impossible, we are talking about 75% turnout, which puts us within the realm of the possible compared to other nations. Keep this in mind the next time you hear about support for voter ID laws and all the rest. Neither party benefits when too many of us actually vote.
  • The most successful third parties (at getting people into federal seats) have been geographically limited. This should be a model for getting such a thing rolling. As a humble suggestion, start some local third parties with quality funding and telegenic candidates. Get elected and then start merging parties across regions. Find some common ground among Green and Libertarian and Conservative and all the rest and refuse to back candidates running with the two major parties.
  • The occasional independent candidate can break out, but they often run on a single issue (sometimes in opposition to a single issue). Often, they melt into one of the parties upon election. I would argue that an independent candidate with means and likelihood of victory ought to join a nascent third party.
Abstaining

The majority of the eligible population do not participate in most elections.

  • I understand that we have done a good job making it inconvenient and difficult to vote. We vote on week days and often work a distance from our polling station. The primary last week in New York was conveniently scheduled from noon until nine, which sounds good, except that I know people who work that entire time. We can’t vote on a Saturday? Not even try it? Of course, as I mention above, it does work to the advantage of the two major parties to keep turnout low.
  • No matter how annoying or difficult, we all still need to vote. Maybe start taking the day off until your workplace actually closes for a couple hours from lack of employees and puts up a sign that says “Be back in two hours – we are celebrating our nation by voting”.
  • Not voting is a vote for the winner. That doesn’t bother enough people. The two major parties rely on ennui to keep potential voters at home. That ought to anger people, but then… ennui.
Republicans

They last had a good run when Truman annoyed voters and Eisenhower excited them. Otherwise, most people haven’t really been inclined to vote Republican.

  • Stole a few pages from the old Democratic party and learned to game the system. All of this worked well for the Democrats until well after WW II.
    • Hit the smaller states hard
    • Gain control of state governments and manage state-wide decisions on federal voting; this would be gerrymandering and voter ID
    • Appeal to people with staunch conservative views on social issues
    • Drape yourself in the local version of patriotism
  • Essentially, the Republican party was the minority party for the past 70 years based on voter preference. Any claim to a right to govern is based on the shady math of our election process. It does feel like we have forgotten that we became an independent nation in the first place because our government representation did not reflect the reality of our population.
Democrats

Somehow, the Democrats have turned themselves into the meritorious party done wrong by the system.

  • In the past 50 years, the Democrats earned an outright majority of the popular vote for all federal offices only three times: twice under Jimmy Carter and once under Barrack Obama. That’s not much on which to base a claim to general popularity.
  • Probably can claim that they are playing the long game. That sounds good anyway. We do tend to switch back and forth between the parties for President, but that’s a shell game with a lot of visual appeal. In the long run, the Democratic party will no doubt adopt the 21st century version of its old tactics (currently employed by the Republicans) and we’ll all look back on these days and wonder what we (currently aligned with either party) were thinking.
What I Expected

Laying my cards on the table, this series was not my original intention. I had been thinking about the way politicians and political parties influence the populace. While pulling together my thoughts in that area, I casually dug around in past election results. Obviously, that distraction turned into full blown research.

Even so, I expected to find that the Democrats had been generally ill-used of late and that it was a recent phenomenon. My current view of a pendulum swinging back and forth in favor of each party is an evolution from that earlier perception that the Republican party had found a new way to play the game.

The real problem took a while to crystallize. I simply do not believe that the make-up of our elected representatives at the federal level reflects the will of the people. Moreover, I believe that has long been the case. The fault in my research is that I did not go back far enough in time. I do not know when (or of) the elected representation ever did reflect the will of the people. Perhaps some day.

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins

On Voting 14: State Alignment Discussed

What’s in the data

Regarding the data posted yesterday, I used the same methodology that I used when analyzing the overall voting applied to each seating in the House, Senate and Presidency. For 1952, the numbers reflect the elections for the candidates for the 1952 House, 1952 President, 1952 Senate, 1950 Senate and 1948 Senate. All of the winners were expected to be seated in the federal government in 1952. Then I broke that down by state. I then did the same for the people currently in our national government as a result of the 2016 election.

As an added bonus, I calculated the best statewide participation in each of those elections. So, I determined which of the four elections under consideration in each state had the highest turnout and calculated the percentage of the population based on the most recent census.

Lastly, I decided which state was truly red or truly blue in terms of federal voting. I called it red or blue if: 1) that party received about 55% of all the votes under consideration; 2) chose a Senator and a President from that party; and 3) went for that party with 55% or more of House votes. That felt pretty strict.

Why compare those?

Seemed like a good idea?

Republicans won the Presidency succeeding a Democrat that did not run for the office. The leader of the Republican party in both cases had toyed with the idea of joining either party. The Republican party appeared ascendant in some of the lower races. Of course, data accessibility mattered. I wanted enough time to have passed that changes within states would be meaningful.

Let’s start with participation

I want to start with a string of epithets. Look at the participation numbers for 1952! Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia are all below 20%! That’s the best they could muster! Four of those states went blue. None went red. Arkansas and Louisiana didn’t make 25% and they also both went blue. National participation came in at just over 40%. Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Delaware and Connecticut all peaked out above 50%.

By 2016, nationwide participation was above 44%. Louisiana was the champion and only state to exceed 60%. Considering their miserable record in 1952, that is downright astounding. No state fell below 30%. Hawaii and Texas probably ought to do something to improve participation, however.

So, the heinous results appear to have waned. Honestly, if your participation is below 20%, then it looks like shenanigans are afoot. I’m not sure that we can feel good about a situation in which over half the population has no say in the election, but we do show improvement nationwide and at the state level over 60 years.

In eleven Senate races across 1948-1952, the Democratic candidate face no Republican opposition (Alabama, Arkansas(2), Georgia(2), Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia). That happened twice for the Republicans (California and Florida). No Republicans received votes in the House races in Georgia. Across 2012-2016, that happened for the Democrats once (California) and the Republicans twice (Alabama and Kansas). In Vermont, the Republican did not face a Democrat and still lost. Also in Vermont, the House candidate was an unopposed Democrat.

Moving on to party loyalty

Using my methodology outlined above, eight states were strongly Democratic in 1952. Fourteen were Republican. In 2016, the Democrats have increased their states to 14 and the Republicans to 17. That means that we have gone from 56% of the states being arguably in play to 38%.

As discouraging as that sounds, 36 states changed their alignment between 1952 and 2016. In the scheme of things, that does make the situation seem fluid. Four states were Republican in 1952 and remained so in 2016: Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah. Six states went from blue to red. Three went the other way. The rest included going neutral in the mix.

Perhaps that is the most important message. Change may seem glacial in terms of a lifetime, but change does appear inevitable for the political landscape.

Tomorrow, I will wrap up with some thoughts about what all this data and analysis might mean. Just as importantly, the fact that change is inevitable does not mean that we have no impact on the nature of that change. I may have some thoughts about the direction that we want to guide the change.

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins

On Voting 13: State Alignment Data

How red and blue are the states?

Here’s some data comparing overall voting 64 years apart. The “PART” column is the voting participation from the best turnout of the prior current House, and Presidential elections as well as the two Senate elections.

Total 1952 Federal
Dem Rep Total 1950 Population Part
Alabama 910,296 203,245 1,153,833 3,061,743 13.92%
Alaska 14,219 10,893 25,112 128,643 19.52%
Arizona 477,979 473,483 951,463 749,587 34.76%
Arkansas 1,054,225 229,044 1,285,810 1,909,511 21.20%
California 5,730,604 11,446,133 17,934,264 10,586,223 48.57%
Colorado 1,066,530 1,119,969 2,196,956 1,325,089 47.55%
Connecticut 1,924,618 2,180,841 4,145,874 2,007,280 54.65%
Delaware 314,618 339,610 656,107 318,085 54.71%
Florida 1,231,106 1,426,511 2,659,156 2,771,305 35.70%
Georgia 1,627,302 198,979 1,826,861 3,444,578 19.04%
Hawaii 58,445 67,748 126,193 499,794 25.25%
Idaho 386,678 565,993 956,434 588,637 46.93%
Illinois 7,823,932 8,498,060 16,357,399 8,712,176 51.43%
Indiana 3,284,482 4,094,756 7,435,730 3,934,224 49.70%
Iowa 1,792,268 2,457,607 4,270,864 2,621,073 48.41%
Kansas 1,184,926 1,835,255 3,055,551 1,905,299 47.04%
Kentucky 1,733,654 1,611,975 3,355,536 2,944,806 33.73%
Louisiana 1,276,291 374,017 1,651,317 2,683,516 24.29%
Maine 342,253 687,467 1,046,331 913,774 38.50%
Maryland 1,490,022 1,711,651 3,215,129 2,343,001 38.50%
Massachusetts 4,314,361 4,741,789 9,187,885 4,690,514 50.81%
Michigan 4,924,980 5,478,218 10,453,759 6,371,766 44.28%
Minnesota 2,566,736 2,784,076 5,375,340 2,982,483 46.54%
Mississippi 792,691 118,990 911,681 2,178,914 13.10%
Missouri 3,595,282 3,300,758 6,901,011 3,954,653 47.84%
Montana 475,397 523,508 1,004,403 591,024 44.84%
Nebraska 735,886 1,484,581 2,239,596 1,325,510 46.00%
Nevada 146,613 159,024 305,637 160,083 51.34%
New Hampshire 366,015 564,579 943,075 533,242 51.19%
New Jersey 3,889,417 4,913,519 8,923,245 4,835,329 50.04%
New Mexico 457,950 441,861 900,588 681,187 35.19%
New York 10,725,908 13,792,747 26,491,948 14,830,192 48.07%
North Carolina 2,333,425 1,309,081 3,645,996 4,061,929 29.81%
North Dakota 242,377 657,046 925,934 619,636 43.59%
Ohio 5,849,266 7,461,349 13,385,436 7,946,627 46.57%
Oklahoma 1,764,259 1,452,297 3,222,428 2,233,351 42.49%
Oregon 844,377 1,504,969 2,363,176 1,521,341 45.69%
Pennsylvania 8,160,138 8,930,390 17,166,507 10,498,012 43.63%
Rhode Island 839,040 713,875 1,553,185 791,896 52.34%
South Carolina 637,640 20,378 816,403 2,117,027 16.11%
South Dakota 370,205 705,748 1,075,953 652,740 45.08%
Tennesee 1,794,925 970,339 2,827,385 3,291,718 27.12%
Texas 5,264,683 1,474,651 6,752,087 7,711,194 26.92%
Utah 551,142 695,893 1,247,850 688,862 47.84%
Vermont 148,780 400,537 549,822 377,747 40.78%
Virginia 1,219,457 606,187 1,996,223 3,318,680 18.67%
Washington 1,926,790 1,976,649 3,922,705 2,378,963 46.35%
West Virginia 1,848,126 1,558,485 3,388,611 2,005,552 43.71%
Wisconsin 2,471,637 3,411,061 5,896,925 3,434,575 46.80%
Wyoming 219,137 267,911 487,548 290,529 44.78%
Total 103,201,088 111,953,733 219,168,262 150,523,620 40.89%
47.088% 51.081%
Total 2016 Federal
Dem Rep Total 1950 Population Part
Alabama 2,100,167 4,670,983 6,918,591 4,779,736 44.42%
Alaska 393,104 592,069 1,220,647 710,231 44.86%
Arizona 4,263,641 4,980,503 9,759,381 6,392,017 40.26%
Arkansas 1,226,617 2,586,090 4,154,239 2,915,918 38.77%
California 32,785,603 13,879,730 52,400,300 37,253,956 38.07%
Colorado 4,917,574 4,690,311 10,265,745 5,029,196 55.28%
Connecticut 3,689,408 2,398,539 6,328,143 3,574,097 46.02%
Delaware 865,227 571,951 1,495,852 897,934 49.18%
Florida 17,135,564 17,644,974 35,749,231 18,801,310 50.10%
Georgia 6,136,937 7,855,458 14,329,680 9,687,653 42.24%
Hawaii 1,406,076 566,126 2,042,629 1,360,301 31.65%
Idaho 738,580 1,591,212 2,487,962 1,567,582 44.03%
Illinois 10,843,842 8,266,665 19,873,588 12,830,632 43.15%
Indiana 4,526,155 5,557,887 10,685,973 6,483,802 42.18%
Iowa 2,371,468 3,128,718 5,752,322 3,046,355 51.41%
Kansas 1,124,380 2,557,984 4,402,251 2,853,118 41.51%
Kentucky 2,543,702 4,348,075 7,028,858 4,339,367 44.34%
Louisiana 2,892,477 4,445,749 7,462,928 4,533,372 60.56%
Maine 1,027,506 1,321,934 2,797,108 1,328,361 56.30%
Maryland 6,448,063 3,571,105 10,848,576 5,773,552 48.18%
Massachusetts 7,326,004 3,792,012 11,507,259 6,547,629 50.78%
Michigan 8,903,581 7,580,530 17,244,882 9,883,640 48.56%
Minnesota 5,710,106 4,375,838 10,629,980 5,303,925 55.52%
Mississippi 1,677,933 2,469,631 4,265,056 2,967,297 41.84%
Missouri 4,906,699 5,639,652 11,087,118 5,988,927 46.90%
Montana 767,935 996,358 1,860,870 989,415 51.33%
Nebraska 1,008,669 1,856,747 2,961,402 1,826,341 46.23%
Nevada 2,015,447 1,962,897 4,309,981 2,700,551 41.67%
New Hampshire 1,290,810 1,250,770 2,687,301 1,316,470 56.53%
New Jersey 6,999,547 5,264,266 12,581,560 8,791,894 44.06%
New Mexico 1,504,292 1,243,146 2,869,742 2,059,179 38.77%
New York 18,643,155 8,848,350 28,845,622 19,378,102 39.85%
North Carolina 7,837,793 8,628,592 16,946,436 9,535,483 49.73%
North Dakota 393,414 877,844 1,346,171 672,591 51.20%
Ohio 9,308,366 11,391,334 21,538,139 11,536,504 47.64%
Oklahoma 1,553,738 3,826,887 5,675,906 3,751,351 43.76%
Oregon 3,948,613 2,703,250 7,327,297 3,831,074 52.24%
Pennsylvania 11,437,974 11,528,143 23,540,727 12,702,379 48.14%
Rhode Island 1,010,876 560,773 1,630,750 1,052,567 44.10%
South Carolina 3,319,027 5,004,519 8,643,743 4,625,364 53.60%
South Dakota 436,864 871,141 1,389,134 814,180 45.46%
Tennesee 2,828,606 5,373,195 8,594,630 6,346,105 39.52%
Texas 11,830,717 16,864,320 30,010,932 25,145,561 35.67%
Utah 1,270,696 2,643,715 4,368,083 2,763,885 40.94%
Vermont 635,230 271,904 1,216,972 625,741 50.35%
Virginia 6,924,633 6,453,935 13,750,989 8,001,024 49.78%
Washington 7,248,335 5,169,899 12,829,484 6,724,540 50.05%
West Virginia 969,501 1,456,995 2,513,291 1,852,994 38.48%
Wisconsin 5,689,971 5,535,160 11,702,396 5,686,986 52.92%
Wyoming 213,835 637,399 920,877 563,626 45.39%
Total 245,048,458 230,305,265 500,800,734 308,143,815 44.24%
48.931% 45.987%
Leaning
1952 2016
Alabama D R
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas D R
California R D
Colorado
Connecticut D
Delaware D
Florida
Georgia D R
Hawaii D
Idaho R
Illinois D
Indiana R
Iowa R
Kansas R R
Kentucky R
Louisiana D R
Maine R
Maryland D
Massachusetts D
Michigan
Minnesota D
Mississippi D R
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska R R
Nevada
New Hampshire R
New Jersey R D
New Mexico D
New York D
North Carolina D
North Dakota R
Ohio R
Oklahoma R
Oregon R D
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island D
South Carolina D R
South Dakota R R
Tennesee R
Texas R
Utah R R
Vermont R
Virginia
Washington D
West Virginia D
Wisconsin R
Wyoming R

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins