Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The 2010 Election Turnout

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, we often mentioned that campaigns are always decided by the turnout model, especially in mid-term voting. Since a lower number of people participate in non-presidential elections, and 2010 was no exception, the groups of voters coming to the polls then determines which party wins and loses.

The preliminary 2010 turnout patterns, remembering that ballot counting in some states is not quite finished, clearly points to the fact that Republicans were in fact way more energized to vote, as the pre-election polling continually predicted.

The landslide, particularly at the U.S. House and state legislative level, occurred because Republicans did very well in states that have either been trending toward their opposition in the last two elections, or are normally reliable Democratic performers. The fact that many of these states turned out fewer voters in 2010 than they did in 2006, despite population gains, provides us clear evidence.

Of the Democratic states where Republicans made strong inroads, we see the same turnout pattern occurring. The Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter participation rates show unmistakable evidence that the Democratic voter base was demoralized. Since the results in these states, by and large, heavily favored the GOP and turnout was down from 2006, it is clear that the turnout dip was disproportionately felt on the Democratic side.

In Michigan, turnout was down a whopping 19.7% from 2006. This also translates into a 36.7% drop-off from 2008. With Republicans winning the Governorship, two US House seats, and both houses of the legislature, it is clear that the lower turnout was very likely exclusively within the Democratic voting sector.

Pennsylvania also was down, again indicating that Democrats simply were not voting at a normal level. The Keystone State saw turnout drop 2.7% from ’06, with a 35% drop-off rate from the presidential election. Here, the Republicans gained the Governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, five congressional seats, and the state House, while holding the state Senate. In Wisconsin — where the GOP won the Governorship, defeated a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator, gained two congressional seats and both houses of the legislature — turnout fell into a similar pattern as the aforementioned states, but not to the same degree. There, it dropped just 1% from 2006, and was off 28.5% from 2008.

Though a small state, South Dakota is also in this category. They elected a Republican Governor and defeated a popular Democratic at-large U.S. Representative. Total turnout was down 5.8% from ’06, but with only a 17% drop-off from the last presidential election.

Ohio, though not traditionally a Democratic state but which has performed as such in both 2006 and 2008, also fit the lower turnout pattern. There, the Republicans defeated an incumbent Governor, held an open U.S. Senate seat, gained five congressional districts, the state House and held the state Senate. 2010 turnout was off 6.1% from ’06 and 37% from the presidential election.

Another reason for the GOP landslide was that turnout experienced a boost in the more traditional Republican states. Arizona, which witnessed a strong Republican comeback when compared to 2006 and 2008 with wins at the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+2) and state legislative levels, saw a huge increase in turnout when compared with the last mid-term election of 2006. There, turnout rose a huge 24.8% over 2006, but the drop-off from 2008 was still significant at 33.3%. This shows a disproportionately low turnout in ’06, thus proving that demoralization among the Arizona Republican voter base of that year was severe.

Two states that didn’t fit the pattern were the more Republican state of Tennessee and the Democratic state of Illinois. Though GOP gains were major in TN, turnout actually dropped a huge 15.7% from 2006, and was off 39.6% when compared to the presidential race. In Illinois, Democratic in nature and a state that one would expect to fit the lower turnout pattern, saw voter participation increase 7.9% from 2006. Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here, but did not convert the Governor’s office as was expected prior to the election. The GOP went on to gain three congressional districts.

More definitive answers will be determined when all of the 2010 voting numbers become final and official.

Counting Continues in Alaska; Three House Races Remain

Alaska: Election authorities are finished counting about 89% of all ballots, including the write-in and absentee votes, in their unfinished U.S. Senate race. If current trends continue, it appears that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be re-elected. Republican Joe Miller defeated Murkowski in the August 24th Republican primary, but a strong grassroots write-in campaign coupled with Miller’s political implosion apparently will combine to make the Senator only the second person in history to win a seat by write-in. The only other such instance in a Senate campaign was Strom Thurmond’s victorious effort in South Carolina back in 1954.

Murkowski is capturing 98% of the write-in tallies. More than 160 people are qualified to receive write-in votes, and it was obvious that the Senator would record the overwhelming majority of them, but it was unclear until the counting began whether she would get virtually all of them. That appears to be the case.

Numbers-wise, Miller is sitting with 82,180, but Murkowski has now surged ahead of him with 92,979. Miller has challenged about 10% of the Murkowski write-in votes, but has successfully disqualified only 1.52% of the disputed votes. Democrat Scott McAdams is way back with 54,147 and is eliminated from having any mathematical chance of winning.

Two More House Races Decided: Absentee ballot counting laboriously continues in California, but we have two more campaigns finally decided. Democratic incumbents Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) have both declared victory as the post-election counting is now putting them comfortably ahead of their very competitive Republican challengers.

There are approximately 11,700 ballots left to count in the 11th district and GOP challenger David Harmer would have to win 57% of these to overtake the incumbent, a number that is almost assuredly out of reach; 700 of these ballots are from Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, two heavily Democratic regions that will overwhelmingly favor McNerney. Given that, Harmer is forced to win more than 60% of the San Joaquin and Contra Costa County votes, which simply won’t happen.

In California’s 20th district in the Central Valley, the tabulated Fresno County absentee ballots have wiped out challenger Andy Vidak’s small lead and put Rep. Costa in front by more than 1,200 votes. The remaining ballots are predominantly from Fresno and Kings Counties, two areas that heavily favor the Democratic incumbent. It is very likely that the Costa margin will increase as the final tallies become known in the next few days.

Still TBD: The resolution of the two California races means there are only three House campaigns left to be called.

  • Two New York races, NY-1 and NY-25, both feature Republican challengers who are leading by small margins. Military and absentee ballots will be counted next week, as the deadline for submitting such votes was extended past the election. Republican challenger Randy Altschuler leads by 383 votes in NY-1; former Syracuse City Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle has an official 659-vote lead over Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei.
  • In the IL-8 contest between Rep. Melissa Bean and GOP educator Joe Walsh, the challenger continues to cling to a 553-vote margin. This one will likely end in Walsh’s favor, with a full recount procedure to follow.

Adding the two California Democratic victories, the House count now stands at 240 Republicans and 192 Democrats. GOP wins in the final three races would push their total to as high as 243.

Of Note: Recounts are underway in KY-6 and NC-2, but it is unlikely that the final results will change the outcome. Unless a major error is found in the previous count, Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) will retain his seat and challenger Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) will defeat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D).

Today is the deadline for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) to decide if he will pay for a recount in his race against attorney Blake Farenthold. The incumbent trails by just about 800 votes with everything counted.

Our State-by-State Scorecard

The following is a list as to how the state congressional delegations will divide based upon party preferences and their individual structures for redistricting. The red states highlight the places where Republicans have a majority in the congressional delegation; the blue where Democrats control:

  • Alabama: 6 Rs – 1D – GOP in total control of redistricting
  • Alaska: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Arizona: 5Rs – 3Ds; Independent commission; state will gain one seat
  • Arkansas: 3Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • California: 33Ds – 19Rs – 1 undecided; new commission for redistricting
  • Colorado: 4Rs – 3Ds; split control with Rs taking state House by one vote
  • Connecticut: 5Ds; Dems in total control
  • Delaware: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Florida: 19Rs – 6Ds; Rs in control, but new ballot initiative places severe restrictions on drawing redistricting maps; state will one or two seats
  • Georgia: 8Rs – 5Ds – Rs in total control; state will gain one seat
  • Hawaii: 2Ds – Dems in total control
  • Idaho: 2Rs – Independent commission
  • Illinois: 10Rs – 8Ds – 1 undecided; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Indiana: 6Rs – 3Ds – Rs in total control
  • Iowa: 3Ds – 2Rs – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Kansas: 4Rs – Rs in total control
  • Kentucky: 4Rs – 2Ds – Split control
  • Louisiana: 6Rs – 1D – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Maine: 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Maryland: 6Ds – 2Rs; Dems in total control
  • Massachusetts: 10Ds; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Michigan: 9Rs – 6Ds: GOP in total control; state loses one seat
  • Minnesota: 4Ds – 4Rs; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Mississippi: 3Rs – 1D; Split control
  • Missouri: 6Rs – 3Ds; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Montana: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Nebraska: 3Rs; GOP in virtual control
  • Nevada: 2Rs – 1D; Split control; state will gain one seat
  • New Hampshire: 2Rs; Split control
  • New Jersey: 7Ds – 6Rs; Independent commission; loses one seat
  • New Mexico: 2Ds – 1R; Split control
  • New York: 20Ds – 7Rs – 2 undecided; Split control; state will lose one or two seats
  • North Carolina: 7Ds – 6Rs; GOP controls; Gov has no veto over redistricting
  • North Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Ohio: 13Rs – 5Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose two seats
  • Oklahoma: 4Rs – 1D; GOP in total control
  • Oregon: 4Ds – 1R; Split control; could gain one seat
  • Pennsylvania: 12Rs – 7Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose one seat
  • Rhode Island: 2Ds; Dems in total control
  • South Carolina: 5Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • South Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Tennessee: 7Rs – 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Texas: 23Rs – 9Ds; GOP in total control; could gain as many as four seats
  • Utah: 2Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • Vermont: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Virginia: 8Rs – 3Ds; split control
  • Washington: 5D – 4R; Independent commission
  • West Virginia: 2Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • Wisconsin: 5Rs – 3Ds; GOP in total control
  • Wyoming: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor

Notes: Republicans have the majority in 33 states; Democrats 16; with one split delegation (MN).

Because of their off-year calendar for legislative elections, New Jersey and Virginia will be the first two states to begin redistricting, and will do so shortly after the new year.

California is listed as having only one outstanding congressional race because Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) has now pulled ahead of Republican attorney David Harmer by more than 2,200 votes and trends suggest that the incumbent will retain this seat.

Some Interesting House Stats

The new House of Representatives will feature at least 94 new faces in the 112th Congress. Right now, it looks as if 430 races are either decided, or just about done.

Republican Keith Fimian conceded to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), so the total of uncalled campaigns drops to seven. NC-2 – Renee Ellmers (R) defeating Rep. Bob Etheridge – will go to a recount but the spread there (almost 1,700 votes) appears to give the challenger enough of a cushion to secure victory. In TX-27, challenger Blake Farenthold (R) is almost 800 votes ahead with everything counted. Incumbent Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) has until Friday to request a recount, a procedure that he must finance. The chances that Ortiz will overturn the outcome of this election are slim. Virtually the same situation exists in KY-6, where Rep. Ben Chandler (D) holds a 600+ vote lead with everything counted. Challenger Andy Barr (R) will likely fall short, but is already suggesting that he seek a re-match in 2012.

The races that are legitimately still undetermined begin in California where districts 11 and 20 still are not finished with the initial ballot count. Democrats Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa appear fairly well positioned to hang on, however, when projecting the number of outstanding votes and overlaying from where they are coming. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) is now less than 400 votes behind, so this one is still in doubt. Additionally, the two New York districts, 1 (Rep. Tim Bishop (D) vs Randy Altschuler (R)) and 25 (Rep. Dan Maffei (D) opposing Ann Marie Buerkle (R)) are still very much undecided, though the two GOP challengers lead both campaigns.

Let’s look at some of the new House statistics (all are unofficial until the outstanding races are decided):

  • Number of incumbents re-elected …………………… 336
  • Number of pure freshmen ………………………………… 91
  • Number of ex-members returning ………………………. 3
  • Incumbent running in a different district …………….. 1
  • Freshmen who are previous office holders ………… 54
  • Freshmen never holding public office ……………….. 40
  • Freshmen Republicans …………………………………….. 85
  • Freshmen Democrats ………………………………………… 9

Republicans Win Hidden Election, Too

Now that the numbers in all gubernatorial races and most of the legislative contests are known, it appears that the Republicans are in their best-ever shape for congressional redistricting.

Looking at the configuration of multi-district states, the GOP will draw the 2011 maps – meaning they have total control of the process – in 17 states, representing 195 US House seats. Democrats now maintain only six such states, meaning they will draw just 44 districts. Fourteen states, containing 101 CDs, have divided government, suggesting that each party commands at least one leg of the redistricting stool. The three “legs” are the governorship, a state Senate, or state House. Six states, now led by California (53 districts) – Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and New Jersey are the others – are controlled by various redistricting commissions, members of which will draw a total of 88 districts. Finally, seven states: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, are at-large and each elects only one member of the House. Thus, redistricting is not a factor in these places.

Some people refer to the zero-numbered election years as “hidden elections” because in many cases the people winning gubernatorial and legislative offices will draw maps that elect congressmen for the next decade. Hence, winning last week’s hidden election may allow the GOP to sustain the House majority for not just this current term, but for the next 10 years.