Category Archives: Election Analysis

How Low Can You Go? Below 50% …

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 22, 2021 — Now that the 2020 vote totals are finalized, analysis can be conducted to unearth what clues the election just completed provides for the 2022 cycle.

In looking at all 435 US House districts, we see that 168 electoral contests were decided with the winner receiving less than 60 percent of the vote. A total of 53 campaigns featured the victor receiving 52 percent or less. These 53 results yielded 27 Democratic wins and 26 for the Republicans. Of those, eight, four for each party, produced a plurality result with neither candidate obtaining majority support. It is these latter eight elections where we concentrate our focus.

A ninth seat, that of Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), did yield a majority winner, but with a scant six-vote margin, which was obviously the closest election of the 2020 cycle. Democrat Rita Hart is challenging the outcome before the House Administration Committee claiming that 22 uncounted ballots would give her a nine-vote victory, but so far, the situation has not been addressed. It goes without saying that Iowa’s 2nd District will be a major target for both parties in 2022.

Below is a quick synopsis of what one would think are top electoral targets for 2022, but, as you will see, many of these seats will either drop from the competition board or become a lesser target due to redistricting and other factors.


IA-3: Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) – 48.9%

Rep. Axne was re-elected to a second term in a virtual rerun of her 2018 campaign against then-Rep. David Young (R). As one of four top Iowa Democratic office holders, rumors are already surfacing that Rep. Axne could run for the Senate or governor, particularly if octogenarian Sen. Charles Grassley (R) decides to retire. Axne is not closing the door on a statewide run.

If she does run for the Senate or challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), a 3rd District congressional race becomes very different. Additionally, it appears that this Des Moines-anchored seat will have to yield approximately 60,000 residents to the adjacent seats in redistricting. The three other Hawkeye State CDs all need more population, from between 5 and 40,000 people per seat. Losing this many 3rd District inhabitants could make the seat less Democratic depending upon how the lines are drawn.

Iowa has the reputation of having the fairest redistricting system. A state legislative committee staff is given authority to draw maps based upon the straight census numbers without deference to the incumbent’s political standing or personal residence. The legislature, without amendment, must then approve or disapprove of the committee staff’s new map.

Regardless of the redistricting outcome, the IA-3 race again promises to be a national congressional campaign.


MN-1: Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) – 48.6%;

MN-2: Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) – 48.2%

The two plurality Minnesota seats will undergo drastic redistricting changes as their state appears set to lose a CD in reapportionment. With the 1st District requiring more than 125,000 additional inhabitants and the 2nd as many as 90,000, the two southern Minnesota seats will look very different in 2022. Additionally, with the legislature being the only one in the country where each political party controls one legislative chamber, the configuration of the next congressional map could be drawn in many different ways.

Obviously, both Reps. Hagedorn and Craig are in vulnerable political situations, with the former wanting to see more Republicans added to his district, while the latter needs an influx of Democrats coming her way.

Regardless the redistricting picture, these two seats will again likely be prime electoral targets.


NV-3: Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) – 48.7%

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District has been the site of close elections throughout the previous decade. Containing part of southern Las Vegas, the seat covers all of the state’s southern triangle region that lies between California and Arizona.

Nevada will not gain a seat in this year’s reapportionment as it has in the past two census decennials. There will be significant movement among the districts, however, with the 3rd being the prime focus. The latest population figures suggest that CD-3 will have to shed approximately 90,000 residents to other districts.

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Perdue Making Moves in Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R)

Feb. 19, 2021 — Defeated Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R) is taking the first steps toward making a quick political comeback. This week he filed a new 2022 US Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission to explore his prospects against new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who will be standing for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election. Perdue says he will make a final decision about launching his candidacy next month.

One of the former senator’s arguments to support a new campaign is that he “won” the November general election, which, he points out, drew a record high turnout.

Using the term “won” might be a stretch because we obviously know that Georgia has a runoff system even for the general, which must be satisfied to actually win, but he did finish 88,098 votes ahead of Jon Ossoff in the first election in which 4,952,175 people cast ballots. This total, however, was only enough for 49.73 percent of the vote, a scant 0.27 percent from clinching the seat.

The Jan. 5 runoff turned out differently, as these types of elections often do when an incumbent fails to achieve majority support in the first vote. That is, the second-place finisher frequently wins.

In January, now that the final votes are tabulated and certified, Ossoff produced a 54,944-vote edge from a participation factor of 4,484,902 voters, meaning 467,273 fewer individuals took part in the runoff election. This drop-off rate of only 9.4 percent, however, is the lowest ever for this type of a secondary electoral contest. The typical participation rate falls by at least one-third.

Therefore, Perdue’s argument that he “won” the record turnout election is less credible when understanding that the runoff had a small drop-off rate, and its turnout as part of the super-charged 2020 election cycle is well beyond a standard midterm participation factor.

Additionally, while a Perdue 2022 entry might dissuade other potential Republican nomination contenders such as former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who campaigned closely with Perdue as part of their Republican team effort, it apparently isn’t yet stopping at least one other potential rival.

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More Redistricting Delays – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 20, 2021 — Yesterday, we covered the Census Bureau announcement that delivering new population data to the individual states will again be postponed, and what effect receiving numbers in October, if then, will have on the redistricting process.

Today, after previously analyzing the states that appear poised to gain seats, we look at those that will probably lose districts. At this point, estimates project that 10 seats will be transferred. This, however, is only a projection as the current published numbers do not include the final changes in the previous decade’s last year.

At this point, all of the succeeding states appear positioned to lose one seat. The individual state logistical data comes from a study that the Brennan Center for Justice just released.


Alabama

It appears that Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat depending upon who is counted and where they reside. This specifically refers to college students and non-citizens. President Biden’s executive order countermanding President Trump’s directive not to count non-citizens may have an effect upon Alabama’s status. Officials there may sue over the apportionment if, in the final count, the state loses one of their seven districts.

It is likely that Alabama redistricting will be pushed into 2022 irrespective of the apportionment decision because the legislature will be out of session when the data is finally delivered. The state’s May 24 primary could conceivably be postponed.


California

For the first time in history, California is likely to lose a seat in apportionment. The 2010 apportionment cycle was the first in which the state did not gain representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven seats.

The Golden State has a redistricting commission, but the data postponement may force the process into a secondary mode since the redistricting completion deadline is Aug. 15. Unless the deadlines are changed, the state Supreme Court will appoint a special master to draw the map. California’s March 8, 2022 primary may have to be postponed, and almost assuredly their Dec. 10 candidate filing deadline will have to move.


Illinois

The state legislature has the redistricting pen, but Illinois also has a backup commission empowered in case the regular process is not completed. A March 15, 2022 primary and certainly a Nov. 29 candidate filing deadline, however, could and will face postponement.


Michigan

Voters previously adopted the institution of a 13-member commission to draw maps. The commissioners, now appointed, consist of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters.

With an April 1, 2022 candidate filing deadline and an Aug. 2 state primary, the Michigan system should have time to complete the redistricting process without changing their election cycle calendar.
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More Redistricting Delays – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced just before the Presidents’ Day holiday break that there will be yet another long delay in transmitting the census data to the states. Without the new numbers, redistricting becomes unachievable.

The new target date is Sept. 30, postponed from their first postponement date of July 30. At this point, the postponed apportionment release date remains April 30, long after the statutory deadline of Jan. 1. Apportionment is the first critical step in the redistricting process since this informs the states how many congressional seats they will be awarded for the current decade.

The late September target (and there’s no guarantee even this date will be met) will make it difficult for many states to finish their redistricting on time, and could force the process into the courts if state legislatures are unable to convene or meet a legislative calendar in terms of allowing public input. Even now, at least several states will have to enact emergency legislation to change deadlines to avoid violating pre-existing legal redistricting deadlines.

The delays have already changed the political situation in New Jersey and Virginia. With both states having odd-numbered year state legislative elections, the two are always the first to receive their new census data. In both states, legislative elections will now proceed under the 2011 maps with previously enacted amendments. When the lines are eventually completed, it is possible that new elections, possibly for 2022, will be ordered in Virginia. New Jersey voters passed a referendum in November that allows redistricting to occur before the 2023 state legislative elections.

Another problem could be lawsuits filed against the eventual apportionment. Apparently, the principal problem for the delays is exactly which people to count and where they are placed. College students, for example, are typically counted at the university campus on which they reside. Now, however, so many are not attending in-person classes. Therefore, arguments are ongoing as to where this group should be counted, either at school or back at their primary residence.

Additionally, one of President Biden’s new executive orders reversed Trump Administration policies about whether or not to count non-citizens. This change of direction has also created further delays.

Based upon these controversies, and others, it is probable that at least one potential losing state – apparently Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat but may not depending upon the counting criteria – could sue over the apportionment conclusion meaning even further delays as various potential lawsuits wind their way through the judicial process toward final determination. All of this could conceivably mean redistricting is postponed until the 2024 election cycle.

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Newsom Recall Election Likely

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Feb. 15, 2021 — Proponents of the recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), with more than a month remaining until the March 17 deadline to collect the necessary number of valid signatures, are already close to forcing a removal election.

Five other attempts have been made to recall Gov. Newsom, but this is the first that had a serious prospect of qualifying. According to the latest poll of the state’s electorate, dissatisfaction with both the governor and the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the uprising.

Under California election law, state officials can be forced to stand for a recall election if a number of registered voters equal to 12 percent of the total number of votes cast in the most recent governor’s election, in this case the 2018 contest, sign a state certified petition. The total number of qualified signatures needed for the 2021 recall must equal a minimum of 1,495,709. Yesterday, the proponents reported that they have collected 1.47 million signatures. To ensure qualification, the organizing committee members have a goal of obtaining over 1.8 million signatures.

CALIFORNIA GOV. NEWSOME RECALL EFFORT:

 • Signatures Needed • Signatures Collected
 1,495,709 1,470,000
 • Signatures Reviewed • Signatures Validated
 485,650 410,087
 • Signature Approval Rate • Total Signatures Needed
 84.4% 1,772,169

At this point, the Secretary of State’s staff has reviewed 485,650 of the submitted signatures according to the FiveThirtyEight statistical website, and 410,087 have been ruled valid. This translates into an approval rate of 84.4 percent. If this ratio were to continue, the proponents would have to submit a minimum of 1,772,169 signatures. At their most recent reported gathering rate of over 100,000 signatures per week, they should easily reach their quota.

The University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies released their latest statewide survey (Jan. 23-29; 10,357 registered voters from online stratified random samples) and compared it with the results from their September 2020 poll. The results show a significant deterioration in the governor’s support base in the short period between the two research studies.

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