Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Democrats Take Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff (D), left, is poised to defeat incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) in the Georgia runoff elections. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) is projected as winner over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R).

Jan. 6, 2021 — In a rather surprising finish, it appears the Democrats will win both of yesterday’s Georgia runoff races and clinch a 50-50 majority in the US Senate (with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote).

Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) has been projected a 50.6 percent winner over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) to claim the special election, while documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff (D) is poised to defeat incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R).

The races are extremely close, as correctly predicted in polling. Rev. Warnock’s margin is currently 53,430 votes from a current turnout of 4,401,162 votes with a projected 98 percent of the vote reporting. The Ossoff spread is even closer. He leads Sen. Perdue by 16,370 votes of 4,401,064 cast ballots, a margin of 50.2 – 49.8 percent. The latter race has not been declared, but it is clear, when looking at where the outstanding ballots remain, that Ossoff will increase his percentage.

The runoff campaigns, made necessary under Georgia election law that requires majority support to win office, came down to a turnout battle within the evenly split state. Democrats did just slightly better than Republicans in getting their votes to the polls, and that made the final difference.

It is likely that the African American vote that appears key. In the early voting trends, black voter participation comprised an estimated 32.6 percent of the voting populace in the runoffs versus 29.8 percent in the regular election. Clearly, this increase was enough to change the outcome of both campaigns. In the regular election, Sen. Perdue missed winning outright by just one-quarter of a percentage point, and the entire Republican special election field outpolled the entire Democratic candidate group by just over 47,000 votes.

We clearly have a record voter turnout for this Georgia runoff election. In the past, these types of contests have produced drop-off rates of approximately one-third of the number of people who voted in the regular election. In this 2020 runoff, understanding that the numbers will increase by approximately 90,000 more votes when all ballots are processed and counted, the turnout will likely reach in the neighborhood of 90 percent of the total number of people who voted on Nov. 3.

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Georgia Runoffs Underway Today

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2021 — At long last, the 2020 US Senate election cycle will end today, and the determination of which party will hold the chamber’s majority for the next two years will likely become known late tonight.

To recap, Sen. David Perdue (R) and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff (D) battle for the in-cycle seat with the winner being awarded a six-year term. The special election winner, the race between appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D), will serve the final two years of the term that resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) won back in 2016. The seat will be in-cycle for the full six-year term in 2022.

The 2020 regular election outcome, current polling, and the early/mail voting count all suggest very close results to unfold this evening.

To re-cap:

2020 Regular Election Tallies – Nov 3, 2020

Seat A
Sen. David Perdue (R) 2,462,617 49.73%
Jon Ossoff (D) 2,374,519 47.95%
Shane Hazel (Lib) 115,039 2.32%
Total Cast 4,952,175
Seat B
Raphael Warnock (D) 1,617,035 32.90%
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) 1,273,214 25.91%
18 Others (D/R/I) 2,024,112 41.19%
Total Votes
Total R Vote 2,426,120 49.37%
Total D Vote 2,377,712 48.38%
Total I Vote 110,529 2.25%
Total Cast 4,914,361

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The House Convenes

By Jim Ellis

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) barely retained the Speakership in a narrow vote.

Jan. 4, 2021 — The 117th House of Representatives was called to order yesterday in an unusual Sunday commencement session, and even on the first day the House membership is not complete. The elected body includes 433 members. The NY-22 seat is still undecided, and the LA-5 district is now vacant due to the shocking death of Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow (R).

The vote for Speaker in favor of incumbent Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was 216-209. Two Democrats, Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Jared Golden (D-ME), did not support Pelosi, voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), respectively, while three others voted present. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), all re-elected with closer than expected margins, only acknowledged their presence in the chamber while responding to the vote for Speaker.

Two members were unable to participate in yesterday’s ceremony. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach), due to cancer treatments, and fellow Sunshine State Rep.-Elect Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Miami), because of a positive COVID test, were absent for the first session.

Three other seats will soon be vacant. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) have all been appointed to or nominated for positions in the Biden Administration.

Rep. Richmond will resign on Jan. 20 to run the White House Office of Public Engagement. This position does not require Senate confirmation. Reps. Fudge and Haaland must receive Senate confirmation for their nominations as secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Interior, respectively. They will resign from the House upon receiving such approval for their new positions.

The NY-22 election is still undecided, now two full months after Election Day, and it may still be some time before the winner is actually determined. As the counties are finally finishing their vote totals after Justice of the Oswego County Supreme Court Scott DelConte ordered seven of the eight local entities to review and properly submit the challenged ballots to the court. Justice DelConte ruled that the seven counties failed to adhere to New York election law in processing and accounting for the challenged ballots.

The totals continue to fluctuate, as Tenney has seen her 12-vote lead swell to 29, before her fortunes changed to trailing by 14 tallies. Perhaps more importantly, DelConte has been ruling in favor of Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s (D-Utica) challenges, which could be a prelude to the final outcome. More than 2,000 ballots were contested by the competing parties.

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The Losing Regions – Part II

All the best for a great holiday break. The Political Updates will return on Monday, Jan. 4.

A look at how things might play out in key states in the redistricting tug of wars

By Jim Ellis
Dec. 24, 2020 — Continuing our two-part series of examining reapportionment projections for states expected to lose congressional seats, today we look at an additional four states with CDs on the chopping block: Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

At this point, it appears a total of ten states are in the losing category. Yesterday, we covered Alabama, California, Michigan, and Minnesota. The remaining two, Rhode Island and West Virginia, are moving to at-large and two district status, respectively, meaning their new maps become obvious.

The new apportionment, originally due at the end of this year but delayed due to COVID, could be released sometime in January.


Illinois

Illinois is a sure loser and one of the few states where the overall population is less (over 158,000 people) according the latest available numbers (July 2019) than registered 10 years ago. Therefore, Illinois is in the rare situation of losing congressional representation not because the population failed to keep pace with the rate of growth, but rather due to the entity actually having fewer people.

This leads to speculation that the state could lose two seats because even in such a scenario the per district population number would be under 800,000 individuals. A two-seat loss would still render the state with a lesser per district total population figure than some of the other states losing one.

All current 18 Illinois CDs need to gain population even under a one-seat loss scenario. Making such calculations we see that the new rudimentary per district population figure would be approximately 745,401 individuals, less than the number projected for most states. Typically, states losing congressional districts feature much higher numbers. This adds to the speculation that the state could drop a second CD.

If the loss is only one, as the current projection formula suggests, the southern part of the state would appear to take the hit. This means that Republicans, while holding only five of the state’s current 18 districts, would likely lose a seat. Aside from Rep. Cheri Bustos’ (D-Moline) 17th District anchored in the Quad Cities region, which has the largest population number to gain, over 79,000 people, the remaining seven of the top eight districts needing a population increase come from the Downstate region.

The figures suggest that combining the five central and southern districts of Reps. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville), incoming freshman Mary Miller (R), Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon), and Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) into four districts would be the most likely scenario unless the Bustos district is collapsed. Considering that the Democrats control the redistricting process, it is probable that the former scenario would be the one adopted.


New York

Like Illinois, New York, while having slightly more people than they did in 2010 (just over 75,000 more according to July 2019 estimated figures), could be on the cusp of losing two seats. Of their current 27 districts, 24 must gain population. Only the seats of Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), and Adriano Espaillat (D-Bronx) are in the position of shedding residents. All others need a population influx even to reach the approximated 748,213 figure that appears be present at this point for a 26-District model.

As in Illinois, a two-seat loss would still keep the per district number at well under 800,000, much less than other states that are projected to lose congressional representation.

Also as in Illinois, the non-urban area looks to need the largest population gain (meaning Upstate, in this case), would contain the area most prone to lose a seat. This means, also as in Illinois, that the party in a small minority, the Republicans, is most likely the one on the chopping block.

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The Losing Regions – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 23, 2020 — With the Census Bureau readying the national apportionment formula to present to the Clerk of the House at some point next month, it is a reasonable time to again look at the states projected to lose congressional districts and begin to determine where a dragging population could cost a region its current representation.

Today, we look at four states projected to lose a district: Alabama, California, Michigan, and Minnesota. Tomorrow, we will examine Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Rhode Island and West Virginia are also going to lose seats but because they are two- and three-district states, the new redistricting map becomes obvious, particularly in the former’s case.


Alabama

The Alabama population suggests that it is too small to keep its seventh congressional district, but such makes the remaining six districts very large, likely well over population figures of 800,000 residents apiece. It is an ironic problem for the states losing districts in that the remaining CDs actually become much larger. If Alabama is on the losing end in final reapportionment, the scenario of dropping a district and making the remaining seats much larger will certainly come to pass.

As with all redistricting, those in a corner of a state, i.e., either bordered by another state, body of water, or country are in the best shape because their districts can only expand or contract one or two ways. In Alabama, the 1st and 5th CDs, those of incoming Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are in the most favorable geographic positions.

The district appearing to lose the most population is Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-Birmingham) 7th CD, but this is a protected Civil Rights district meaning it must be protected. The seat could need to gain almost 150,000 people according to rudimentary calculations, and the most likely place for the increase comes from Montgomery County at the expense of the 2nd District and possibly the 3rd.

The 2nd District, even when bordered by states on two sides, appears the most vulnerable to collapse. Needing to likely gain over 140,000 individuals before almost certainly losing population to the current 7th District, the collapsing of the 2nd and 3rd Districts into one seat appears to be a potential outcome. This would place incoming freshman Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and veteran Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) in the same district.


California

For the first time in history, California looks to lose congressional representation. In the last census, the state remained constant for the first time. In every previous census apportionment, the Golden State had gained representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven new congressional districts. Now, it appears they will reduce representation from 53 to 52 seats, but still be the most populous state by a wide stretch.

The region not keeping up with the rate of growth appears to occur in the southern California expanse from Bakersfield through Los Angeles County and portions of Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. Such a region covers 18 congressional districts, 16 of which will need to gain population under a rudimentary calculation suggesting that each of the state’s 52 CDs will require approximately 760,000 residents. Of the 18 districts, Democrats represent 15 and Republicans’ three.

Only two of these 18 districts, those of Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Norma Torres (D-Pomona), are either at or slightly over the approximated population goal.

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