Does Legislative Representation Properly Represent the Votes of the Electorate? (Part 2)
Last week I looked at how the results of the November 6 election were reflected in party affiliation of the candidates elected to the House of Representatives. Today, I want to continue in that same theme, but with a different state: Pennsylvania. Why Pennsylvania, you ask? I think that the answer will become self-obvious as I get a bit deeper into the analysis. Just remember that the question is whether Congressional representation properly represents the will of the people as reflected by the votes that were cast.
Note that all of the vote total information in this post comes from the website of the Pennsylvania Department of State (as of November 12, 2012).
Before diving into the Pennsylvania races for the House of Representatives, let’s first take a brief look at how the vote totals broke down for the statewide contents in Pennsylvania (minor parties omitted):
|President||Mitt Romney (R)||2,595,174||46.8%|
|Barack Obama (D)||2,887,221||52.0%|
|Senate||Tom Smith (R)||2,430,995||44.6%|
|Bob Casey (D)||2,921,798||53.7%|
|Attorney General||David Freed (R)||2,241,524||41.6%|
|Kathleen Kane (D)||3,027,541||56.1%|
|Auditor General||John Maher (R)||2,469,766||46.5%|
|Eugene Depasquale (D)||2,643,072||49.7%|
|State Treasurer||Diana Vaughan (R)||2,330,049||44.0%|
|Robert McCord (D)||2,782,891||52.6%|
Democratic candidates won every statewide race and only one of those had a margin of less than 5 points (Auditor General).
So, knowing nothing else, what would you predict for the breakdown of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in the House of Representatives? A little “back of the napkin” math, working from a presumed vote spread of about 52% for the Democratic candidates (rounded up), would suggested that Democrats should have won 9 or 10 of those 18 seats.
But here is the reality:
|1st CD||John Featherman (R)||39,752||15.0%|
|Robert Brady (D)||226,189||85.1%|
|2nd CD||Robert Mansfield, Jr. (R)||31,668||9.4%|
|Chaka Fattah (D)||302,746||89.4%|
|3rd CD||Mike Kelly (R)||159,630||54.7%|
|MIssa Eaton (D)||119,905||41.1%|
|4th CD||Scott Perry (R)||179,340||59.7%|
|Harry Perkinson (D)||103,387||34.4%|
|5th CD||Glenn Thompson (R)||172,616||62.9%|
|Charles Duman (D)||101,866||37.1%|
|6th CD||Jim Gerlach (R)||187,008||57.1%|
|Manan Trivedi (D)||140,659||42.9%|
|7th CD||Patrick Meehan (R)||203,977||59.5%|
|George Badey (D)||139,067||40.5%|
|8th CD||Mike Fitzpatrick (R)||199,283||56.7%|
|Kathy Boockvar (D)||152,515||43.4%|
|9th CD||Bill Shuster (R)||165,992||61.6%|
|Karen Rambsburg (D)||103,338||38.4%|
|10th CD||Thomas Marino (R)||168,745||65.9%|
|Philip Scollo (D)||87,449||34.1%|
|11th CD||Lou Barletta (R)||163,733||58.5%|
|Gene Stilip (D)||116,315||41.5%|
|12th CD||Keith Rothfus (R)||167,396||51.5%|
|Mark Critz (D)||157,364||48.5%|
|13th CD||Joseph Rooney (R)||92,415||31.0%|
|Allyson Schwartz (D)||205,287||69.0%|
|14th CD||Hans Lessman (R)||71,805||23.1%|
|Mike Doyle (D)||239,656||77.0%|
|15th CD||Charles Dent (R)||161,231||56.6%|
|Rick Daugherty (D)||123,735||43.4%|
|16th CD||Joseph Pitts (R)||154,337||55.0%|
|Aryanna Strader (D)||109,026||38.9%|
|17th CD||Laureen Cummings (R)||103,319||39.5%|
|Matthew Cartwright (D)||158,422||60.5%|
|18th CD||Tim Murphy (R)||204,784||63.8%|
|Larry Maggi (D)||115,975||36.2%|
Some observations (I did the math so you don’t have to):
- Democrats won just 5 of the 18 seats (with Republicans, obviously, winning the other 13).
- The total number of votes cast in House races was very similar to the total number of votes cast in the other statewide races.
- The lowest winning percentage by a Democrat was 60.5%; the others received 69%, 77%, 85.1%, and 89.4% of the votes cast in their districts.
- By contrast, only four winning Republicans received at least 60% of the vote (65.9% being the highest).
- But here is the amazing statistic: The Democratic candidates received 2,702,901 total votes; the Republicans received 2,627,010 votes. Yes, those numbers are correct. Read them again.
- In other words, the Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives received 50.71% of all votes cast compared to just 49.29% for the Republicans. And yet the Republicans won 13 of 18 races.
Now think about those results for a moment. Democrats won every statewide race, with around 52% of the vote. But they lost 13 of 18 House races, even though they earned nearly 51% of the vote.
Would it surprise you if I told you that for the 2010 redistricting, Pennsylvania’s legislature was controlled by Republicans with a Republican governor? The online journal Real Clear Politics labeled the job that Pennsylvania’s legislature did “the Gerrymander of the Decade”.
Now I’m not suggesting that only Republicans engage in gerrymandering for political purposes. Both sides do it, though I do suspect that an analysis would show that Republicans either do it more or at least more effectively.
In any event, the ability of state legislatures to draw lines that serve not to give voice to the broadest segment of the population, but rather, to insure electoral victories for the chosen party, is a real problem in the overall fairness of our legislative process.