Democrats should control the House of Representatives come 2013, but they won’t. A popular line right now among conservatives is that the US electorate voted to uphold the “status quo” by electing a divided government, with the House going to Republicans and the Senate and Presidency going to Democrats. This is a flawed argument because it’s working off an assumption that congressional districts are fairly drawn. They are not. Most states allow the controlling party to district their seats. That has led to a strong tilt toward Republicans that far outweighs actually voting patterns per state. See this nice little spreadsheet I made outlining the actual voting totals for house races statewide vs the final outcome.
There are a number of things wrong with the US electoral process. The most commonly criticized is the Electoral College. I won’t go into much detail on is, but basically it allocates votes for President not based on popular vote but by seats in congress – and by giving all seats (votes) to the winner of each state. This lead to George W. Bush winning the 2000 Presidential election while losing the popular vote by over 500,000 votes nationwide. It also lead to Barack Obama winning in a “landslide” this year, when he really should have only won by about 271-256, with about 14 going to third party candidates. That’s going by popular vote.
If you extrapolated the Presidential popular vote to the House of Representatives, then you would also have a Democratically controlled House. But of course people aren’t voting for the President. They’re deciding on specific house races. This is where it gets complicated, and the conservative argument plays on the complication. Their argument is a lot of people must have split their ticket. If there were more people who voted for Republicans in the House than for Mitt Romney (which turns out to be true, but not by enough), then the conservative “status quo” argument would be correct.
It’s not. If you look at the total votes cast for the House of Representatives in 2012, the argument dies. These numbers are incomplete, but by current count 54,545,412 people voted for Republicans vs 55,345,440 people who voted for Democrats for the House of Representatives. By that number, there should be 18 or 19 more Democrats in the House than there will be in 2013. Some factors will change these numbers, and certainly skew them. I’m calling the races that are still undetermined for the candidate leading in the polls right now for example. All of those happen to be Dems, but it’s important to note that in these races overall vote totals won’t change much. There are also nine total seats that were unchallenged – 4 Democratic and 5 Republicans. Because these didn’t have any vote totals, they also skew the results. The ledger on that tells me to add one to the Republican count overall, so it should be 17 or 18 more Dems in the House. This, of course, completely ignores the fact that about 600,000 residents of Washington, DC don’t get to vote for a House candidate but do vote for President. Disregarding DC, however, the Democrats should either be up by one seat in the House (a 218-217 majority) or down by one (a 217-218 majority).
If you take it down to the state level, you can see the worst offenders. There are a number of states where Democrats have redrawn the maps in their favor – California being the obvious big one. Overall, however, the ledger goes wide for Republicans. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even North Carolina voted for more Democratic congresspeople than Republicans but sent many, many more Republicans to Congress.
Anyone who says the country voted for a divided government is probably wrong barring some big numbers coming in that change these totals. More people voted for Democratic House candidates than Republican. The only thing that saved John Boehner’s Majority was probably gerrymandering.
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