U.S. House importance for 2012

In 2012, the U.S. presidential election will be contested with a new electoral college (538 votes), based on the redistribution of congressional seats (435 of them) according to the 2010 U.S. Census. However, in the event of a tie (269-269) the back-up system for electing the President kicks in.

The current House of Representatives at the time of the 2012 election, that's the people who are elected next month, will have to decide on a state-by-state basis, which candidate they want to win. For example, Delaware, which has one Representative, will have one vote decided by that representative, but California, which has 53 Representatives will have it's one vote decided by a vote of the 53 delegates.

It's worth noting that if the 2012 election were today and the current House of Representatives members were choosing, then the partisan breakdown would be Democrat 32 votes, Republican 16 and a tie for Hawaii and Idaho.

Using Nate Silver's Fivethirtyeight.com most recent forecast of the House elections, I've drawn up a spreadsheet showing how the latest forecasts could tip the state delegation counts.

Assuming the election goes according to the current estimates (which is unlikely, because things are bound to change at least a little in the next couple of weeks), we could see a switch to 29 Republican votes, 18 Democrats and three tied (Idaho again, Mississippi and New Hampshire).

If I were advising the Democrats on where to throw any extra cash lying around for this election, I'd pick the close contests in the following states:

Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia. I wouldn't spend too much, because the odds of a tie in the electoral college are very low. Also, there are too many seats in play to defend adequately, to some extend luck and local resilience is needed.

If you want the specific seats I'd defend, here they are: AZ8 and possibly AZ5; CO3; MS4 (to keep the tie); NV3; NH2 (to keep the tie); and WV1.


toto said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes-that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Article II, section 1 of the Constitution, stipulates that in the event of a tie, the House of Representatives decides who will be president.

With National Popular Voter there would never be a tie in the electoral vote, because the compact always represents a bloc consisting of a majority of the electoral votes. Thus, an election for President would never be thrown into the House of Representatives (with each state casting one vote) and an election for Vice President would never be thrown into the Senate (with each Senator casting one vote).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska -- 70%, DC -- 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota -- 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington. These seven states possess 76 electoral votes -- 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

Antoine Clarke said...

Thanks for the comment toto.

One problem with a National Popular Vote is that it would be incredibly easy to rig. But I think it misses the main problems of US elections.

All one has to do is issue an exit poll from Georgia which suggests that the Democrat candidate has won there. This can easily be done by accidentally using a slightly wrong sample and reporting the most favourable margin of error. Because voting doesn't end until the following week in the case of Washington State (when the last votes have been "found" in King County), anyone thinking of voting Republican West of the Mississippi/Missouri can stay at home.

The same effect for the other side would be achieved by getting FOX to issue an exit poll showing that Maryland has gone Republican.

The US electoral system is not a national one: on paper a candidate has to be "born" in the USA yet neither Senators John McCain nor Obama could - at the time they launched their campaigns - show documentary proof that they met this requirement. Sen McCain was not born in the USA and I'm guessing Sen Obama's parents put something silly like 1960s parents would on his "religion: atheist" or "father's occupation: revolutionary".

No French president could be on the electoral register, let alone a candidate with that sort of sloppy system (of course France doesn't have such a silly restriction of national born in the first place).

People turning up in Ohio to register on the day, some judges deciding that illegal immigrants can vote (in Arizona), others saying they cannot, the whole set up is a farce that would be shameful in Pakistan.

French citizens can vote in ANY country with a French consulate (such as Beijing, New York and Buenos Aires), but they have to register several months beforehand, they have to bring a national identity card for inspection. No opinion polls (especially not exit polls) may be released during voting and all polling stations must close at the same time in France. NO VOTES ARE COUNTED BEFORE EVERYONE HAS STOPPED VOTING (which avoids Washington State style "discoveries" of bundles of ballots, as in 2004).

I suspect that support for the NPV will be high when the Democrats lose an election with more popular votes than Republicans, but it will drop if 2012 produces an opposite effect. As such, it seems to me to answer the question of how to make Al Gore President in 2000, and perhaps Joe Lieberman in 2004, but not to address the fundamental weaknesses of US elections.