Category Archives: On Living Here Now

On Voting 12: Federal Elections Discussed As A Whole

National Elections on the Whole

One of the most intriguing approaches to analyzing the voting results of the past seventy years is a tabulation of all the votes cast to place a particular set of people in place across all federal elected offices. So, I took the total votes cast for each party’s presidential candidate and added the votes cast for each party’s Congressional candidates. I did the math for every two years.

For example, in 1970, I counted the votes cast in 1968 for the presidential candidates. I then added the votes cast for each party’s candidates in the 1970 House elections. Lastly, I added the votes cast for Senate candidates in 1966, 1968 and 1970. After all, they all held their seats during the 1970/71 term.

Election Democrat Republican Total Popular Vote
President, 1968 31,271,839 31,783,783 73,199,998
House, 1970 29,080,212 24,352,657 54,258,885
Senate, 1966 12,358,323 13,169,332 25,798,900
Senate, 1968 24,976,660 23,588,832 50,691,952
Senate, 1970 25,402,791 19,326,064 48,478,460
Totals 123,089,825 112,220,668 252,428,195

 

Votes were cast for Democrats 48.76% of the time while Republican candidates received 44.46% of the votes. Neither party actually received a majority of the votes cast.

Futility

Of the 37 governments seated from 1944 to 2016, neither party has obtained an outright majority of the votes 24 times. The other 13 times, the Republicans obtained the majority three times (1952-1956). People liked Ike a lot more than they liked Adlai. Democrat success tied to young, well-presented candidates (Kennedy, Kennedy’s assassination and Obama) or temporary collapse of their opponents (Watergate). The best performance by either party over the time considered occurred in 1964 when the Democrats claimed 56.69% of all relevant votes to 42.56% for Republicans. Four years later, they both dropped below 50% once again.

Regarding recent times, the Democrats managed the last majority in 2008 with 52.49% to 44.14% for the GOP. Put in practical terms, out of 536 elected offices (1 President, 100 Senators, 435 Congressmen), the Democrats deserved to fill 281 of them while the Republicans earned 237 seats. In 2006, the Democrats broke through to a majority of one with 269 seats to 250 for the Republicans. You then have to go back to 1978 to find either party having received enough votes to earn a majority of elected representation.

Currently, the parties have hit 49.75% for the Democrats and 45.84% for the Republicans. Other seats should probably be rounded out by 3 independent candidates, 8 Libertarians and 2 Greens. That would make for some interesting efforts at finding common ground.

So?

Political commentators are prone to making wholesale generalizations which attempt to explain results retrospectively. For example, a common trope that arises when the results support it is that voters prefer different parties to control the federal legislative and executive branches. Like most after the fact analysis, it assigns intent where such cannot be found. For one thing, I suspect most voters do not enter the booth with a wholesale strategy that they have been managing for years. Voting against candidates seems like the one tactic pursued by voters followed closely by choosing people whose names sound familiar.

If nothing else, the inability of either party to dominate voting at the federal level suggests that voters continue to break down the middle even as voting numbers have dramatically increased and generations have passed. Moreover, even as dominance by one party wanes in a region, it apparently rises in another. Otherwise, the numbers would not remain even across the board.

Some might argue that the numbers suggest a need for a third party. The Libertarians look like the most successful currently. I find the idea appealing, but the challenge is seeing how that actually changes matters significantly. Mostly, I want to see the stranglehold of the two main parties broken. Perhaps that is also the true message of their inability to maintain real dominance. We require alternatives to extended power reigns.

Heading to the finish

In a couple days, I will post some concluding thoughts. Before then, I will share my last bit of data regarding the shifting party allegiance within certain states. Has the South really gone from blue to red? Spoiler- yes.

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins

On Voting 11: Federal Elections Data As A Whole

Overall Popular Vote

Here we have the voting numbers that led to the occupants of the House, Senate and Presidency every two years when those office are refreshed.

Year Dem PV Rep PV Tot PV Dem % Rep % Tot Seats Dem Diff Rep Diff
1944 92,628,988 85,894,737 183,109,109 50.59% 46.91% 532 3 (16)
1946 76,393,303 78,213,637 158,389,503 48.23% 49.38% 532 (9) (3)
1948 90,107,319 83,660,454 179,944,471 50.08% 46.49% 532 0 (19)
1950 83,588,570 82,539,455 171,702,019 48.68% 48.07% 532 (7) (10)
1952 104,094,827 111,539,502 219,204,912 47.49% 50.88% 532 (13) 5
1954 96,470,174 102,340,243 202,084,384 47.74% 50.64% 532 (12) 3
1956 109,720,703 117,607,551 230,094,948 47.68% 51.11% 532 (12) 6
1958 105,855,067 101,780,041 209,613,317 50.50% 48.56% 536 3 (8)
1960 130,713,520 115,183,563 247,939,817 52.72% 46.46% 538 15 (19)
1962 121,081,386 109,589,771 232,544,235 52.07% 47.13% 536 11 (15)
1964 150,367,884 112,887,367 265,222,792 56.69% 42.56% 536 36 (40)
1966 133,469,133 108,766,413 244,383,471 54.61% 44.51% 536 25 (29)
1968 132,038,946 123,255,655 269,515,079 48.99% 45.73% 536 (5) (23)
1970 123,089,825 112,220,668 252,428,195 48.76% 44.46% 536 (7) (30)
1972 133,823,592 143,024,473 285,911,942 46.81% 50.02% 536 (17) 0
1974 124,374,438 123,733,102 257,155,434 48.37% 48.12% 536 (9) (10)
1976 153,841,625 131,058,596 293,584,245 52.40% 44.64% 536 13 (29)
1978 138,846,792 117,841,670 264,486,543 52.50% 44.55% 536 13 (29)
1980 151,680,453 145,905,604 311,413,170 48.71% 46.85% 536 (7) (17)
1982 143,726,104 134,137,786 289,836,085 49.59% 46.28% 536 (2) (20)
1984 162,229,238 165,050,970 332,456,796 48.80% 49.65% 536 (6) (2)
1986 145,350,671 149,378,290 298,935,430 48.62% 49.97% 536 (7) (0)
1988 167,918,072 163,223,279 335,634,920 50.03% 48.63% 536 0 (7)
1990 151,665,145 147,254,447 305,012,158 49.72% 48.28% 536 (1) (9)
1992 181,345,401 161,918,460 374,676,128 48.40% 43.22% 536 (9) (36)
1994 154,398,197 152,138,193 337,852,697 45.70% 45.03% 536 (23) (27)
1996 174,370,440 166,826,147 363,423,006 47.98% 45.90% 536 (11) (22)
1998 154,385,775 149,606,790 323,307,117 47.75% 46.27% 536 (12) (20)
2000 184,078,394 184,275,719 385,532,383 47.75% 47.80% 536 (12) (12)
2002 166,757,910 171,030,685 354,124,492 47.09% 48.30% 536 (16) (9)
2004 212,490,172 215,270,939 443,465,942 47.92% 48.54% 536 (11) (8)
2006 197,423,014 183,882,632 393,896,540 50.12% 46.68% 536 1 (18)
2008 245,485,743 206,419,377 467,698,891 52.49% 44.14% 536 13 (31)
2010 203,584,210 191,757,469 409,991,345 49.66% 46.77% 536 (2) (17)
2012 238,320,813 219,836,512 476,046,174 50.06% 46.18% 536 0 (20)
2014 201,515,436 197,440,363 414,566,226 48.61% 47.63% 536 (7) (13)
2016 249,991,303 230,306,303 502,453,858 49.75% 45.84% 536 (1) (22)

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins

On Voting 10: Presidential Elections Discussed

Voting for the President

We have only one nationwide election, voting for the President of the United States, the chief executive of our nation. This is the one election that most clearly demonstrates the tensions inherent in our system of united states. The Founding Fathers ostensibly chose to imbue each state with a semblance of equal power in the Senate and in the Electoral College. They also chose to create a system for changing their rules in the future. To argue against the former is to suggest that there may be something faulty in the idea of dividing our nation into separate states. To argue against the latter is to grant the Founding Fathers a perfection which they did not claim for themselves.

As I have done above, let’s consider presidential elections from the viewpoint of a citizen. The reality is that we tend to vote for the candidate that we wish to see hold the office. We expect our vote to count. We don’t particularly care about the Electoral College unless it intervenes between our perception of the outcome and the actual result. The net of all this is that we are upset when we vote with a majority of our fellow citizens and our selection does not assume office do to the interference of the Electoral College. We could care less if the Electoral College certifies a result in line with the majority choice. We also prove generous enough to support the Electoral College when they certify our candidate over the majority selection.

Let’s do some interesting digging

We all know that Donald Trump won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote in 2016. When the Electoral College met, Trump received 304 votes out of 538.  Hillary Clinton received 227. The remaining electors (“faithless”) selected protest candidates. Recall that we assign electors to each state based on their total of senators and representatives. Essentially, this grants smaller states a bonus in presidential elections. The District of Columbia also receives 3 electors (went for Clinton). Therefore, putting the faithless electors back where they belong, we get totals of 306 for Trump and 232 for Clinton. Trump won 30 states worth of electors, counting  Nebraska, which allots elec tors proportionally, sort of. Maine does it, too, but they went for Clinton.

So, let’s drop the statewide bonuses, which are two for every state. That leaves Trump with 246 and Clinton with 192. That probably deserves a little contemplation.  Our representative democracy is dramatically out of balance as far as coming anywhere close to representing the will of the voters.

The other contests in which the popular vote did not decide the winner
  • 1824:

    John Quincy Adams became President rather than Andrew Jackson and others despite Jackson receiving a plurality of electoral votes and more of the popular vote where it counted. This is the outlier because some states still had their legislature choose the electors and no candidate actually won a majority of the electoral college. It went to the House for a final decision. Add to that a situation in which all the candidates were from the same party… I don’t know what to say about that.

    • Jackson did become President eventually.
  • 1876:

    Rutherford B. Hayes became President even though Samuel Tilden won the popular vote. Vote counts were disputed in enough states that the election was uncertain. A compromise was reached between the Republican and Democratic parties resulting in the end of the post-Civil War Reconstruction (essentially granting Democrats the ability to manipulate elections in southern states without federal oversight) while placing a Republican in the White House.

    • The final official electoral count was 185 for Hayes from 21 states and 184 for Tilden from 17 states. Remove the extra 2 electors for each state and Tilden is the victor, 150 to 143. I don’t know if that’s enough to change the outcome which was negotiated in back rooms with little interest in anything more than benefitting the political parties themselves.
  • 1888:

    Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to 168 for Grover Cleveland, the incumbent (as well as Harrison’s successor). The popular vote was 5,538,163 for Cleveland versus 5,443,633 for Harrison. Neither was a majority of the popular vote as two third party candidates claimed over 3% of that outcome. Democrat Cleveland won 18 states while Republican Harrison won 20.

    • Adjusting for the extra two electors per state, Harrison still handily wins 193 to 132.
  • 2000:

    George W. Bush received 271 electoral votes to 266 for Al Gore, despite the popular vote going 50,999,897 to 50,456,002 in favor of Gore. Note that one of the District of Columbia’s electors abstained, so that should make Gore’s total 267. Thirty states went for Bush. Neither won a majority of the popular vote as two third party candidates claimed over 3% of that outcome.

    • Adjusting for the extra two electors per state, Gore wins 227 to 211.
So?

The last three of these (1888, 2000, and 2016) seem reasonable for consideration. The prior two are too steeped in particular forms of corruption that worked particularly well in their times. Looking at 1888 and 2016, it becomes clear that the very act of interceding between the popular vote and the result with “extra” representation may alter that result. Resorting to a direct count (House of Representatives numbers), but assigned in a winner take all fashion by state, leads to results that differ from the will of the majority. Mathematically, this makes sense as soon as representatives are assigned by anything other than a one representative to one voter correlation.

This brings us back to the question of intent on the part of the Founding Fathers. We know that we can alter their directives. They definitely intended that, but it still seems important to grasp their intention when they created the Electoral College. They had some good ideas, so what were they thinking with this one?

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins