USA 2012 Archive

USA 2012: Another election mess

The mess that is US election administration was demonstrated most clearly at the 2000 presidential election, when the result hinged on an effective tie in Florida. Various courts intervened, rules varied depending on which official was issuing them, and ballot paper designs were proven to be deeply flawed.

Since then, issues have kept arising. In 2004, voters in Ohio were stuck in long lines in strongly Democratic areas which prevented many voters from voting.

While some states are better than others and small efforts have been made to improve election processes have been introduced since 2000, the standard of election administration across the United States remains woefully low.

In last week’s election, voters in Florida remained in lines to cast an early vote until 1am on election day, and voters who had planned to vote on election day remained in line until 1am the following day – after the presidential election had been called. In Arizona, hundreds of thousands of ballots remain uncounted a week after the election – meaning that Arizona’s Senate race remains undecided.

There are three main causes of these problems, which seriously damage the United States’ position as a credible modern democracy.

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USA 2012: All about demographics

The big story of last week’s US presidential election was the impact of demographic change on election results. While Mitt Romney won a large majority of the white vote, it wasn’t enough to win an election in a modern America with a rapidly growing ‘minority’ demographic (mainly consisting of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans).

The Republicans also suffered badly amongst women and young people, in particularly losing Senate seats due to offensive comments by Senate candidates exposing the extreme position of the party on social issues like abortion.

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USA 2012: Results wrap

Tuesday’s election was definitely a strong result for the Democrats, with Republicans picking up the scraps with a few victories.

The Democrats performed very strongly in the presidential race, with Obama achieving a slim majority of the popular vote and holding on to most of the states he won in 2008. He lost Indiana, North Carolina and the single electoral vote he gained in Nebraska. Obama is narrowly ahead in Florida, which would give him 332 electoral votes compared to 206 for Mitt Romney.

This victory isn’t quite as big as in 2008, but it’s not a tight result either. Obama in the end was declared the victory with the key states of Virginia and Florida when he pulled ahead in Ohio. Once you added in victories for Obama in Nevada and Colorado, Obama’s margin was such that he could have won even if Romney had won the three key states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

Obama is the first Democrat to win with a majority of the popular vote for two elections in a row since Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it four times a row in the 1930s and 1940s.

The result, as has been pointed out widely, was precisely what was predicted by Nate Silver at his FiveThirtyEight blog. He predicted 49 states and the District of Columbia correctly. He also called Florida to Barack Obama by a tiny margin – which is exactly reflected in the latest count in the only state left undecided.

While this is impressive, it has also been pointed out that most aggregators of polls predicted a similar result – overall the victory was for accurate pollsters, and the ability of aggregators like Nate Silver to use polling history to judge which pollsters can be trusted and which can’t.

Overall the result was a positive one for progressives and Democrats when you look at other races, although not uniformly so.

You can now download Google Earth electoral maps showing the new 2012 Congressional districts from the Tally Room maps page. The maps are quite large files and may not work on slower computers. I haven’t yet had time to ensure all seats are correctly coloured for the result of the election – most show which party won the most similar seat in 2010.

Read more about election results after the fold…

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USA 2012: Election results live

Barack Obama elected to second term, with at least 274 electoral votes.

50/51 states called

  • Barack Obama – 303
  • Mitt Romney – 206

5:18pm – That’s all for today from me. The only state left to be called is Florida. I’ll be back in the morning with a summary post including some coverage of Senate and House races.

4:16pm – I forgot to mention that the Republicans did pick up one Senate seat in Nebraska. The overall split is incredible. The Democrats are on track to win 24 Senate seats tonight, along with 2 Democrat-leaning independents and only 7 Republicans.

3:59pm – Senate summary: Democrats have retained seats in tough races in Wisconsin, Virginia and Missouri. The Democrats also gained Indiana and Massachusetts off the Republicans and Connecticut off an independent. Democrats also are looking like favourites to retain tough seats in Montana and North Dakota and look like they could gain another Republican seat in Nevada. Republicans also lost a seat to an independent in Maine. The final result looks likely to be 54 Dems (+3), 44 Republicans and 2 independents.

3:42pm – There are five states outstanding. Alaska won’t close for another 75 minutes, but those three votes will go to Romney. Apart from that, Obama is now leading in all four other states: Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada. Florida and Virginia are extremely close. His leads in Colorado and Nevada are larger, and a call is still waiting due to counting not having progressed as far. For some reason, NBC is not calling the single electoral vote in Maine’s second district. I haven’t been able to track down data explaining that race.

3:15pm – Obama has also won Oregon, Ohio and Iowa, which gives him a majority in the electoral college.

3:06pm – Romney has been declared ‘apparent winner’ in North Carolina by NBC. Obama will likely win Oregon, and then needs Colorado and either Ohio or both Nevada and Iowa. He has lots of options.

3:00pm – Obama has won California, Hawaii and Washington. Romney has won Idaho. So far Oregon hasn’t been called.

2:50pm – Minnesota has been called for Obama and Missouri for Romney.

2:43pm – I haven’t put much thought into this until now, but it appears possible that Mitt Romney could win the popular vote and lose the election. He’s currently leading by 1.5 million votes. It’s possible that this lead is illusory and will fade when California, Oregon and Washington report in, but it’s a substantial start.

2:34pm – Obama’s most likely path to victory at the moment includes California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington as safe states that haven’t been called yet. Then he’s the favourite in Ohio and Colorado, and he then needs either Minnesota, Nevada or Iowa. This easily gives him a majority without a need for Virginia, Florida or North Carolina.

1:52pm – I think Obama has basically got Ohio and Colorado. New Hampshire was just called by NBC. Adding in the Western Democratic states, Obama is up to 268 EV. If Obama’s vote holds up in Minnesota I’d be happy to call that, and give him the result.

1:46pm – I would be very surprised if Obama didn’t win. He is leading strongly in Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire and Minnesota. Add in those four states and the Western states of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii and he’s on 278 EVs. While he still has a chance in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Iowa and interestingly Missouri, he doesn’t need any of them to win.

1:25pm – Obama is leading comfortably in Colorado and Ohio. If he picks up those two states he is home.

1:14pm – New Jersey has also been called now.

1:02pm – More seats called: Obama wins New York, Michigan and New Mexico. Romney wins North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

12:00pm – Obama has held Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, DC, Maine. Romney has held Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahama, Mississippi.

11:40am – Romney has now won South Carolina. Obama is leading 51-48 in Florida with 26% in. Romney is leading in Virginia and North Carolina but the numbers are very small.

11:32am – We have small numbers of votes in from Florida and Virginia. Obama is leading in Florida and Romney is leading in Virginia.

11:31am – I’m relying on the calls by NBC. They have called Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia for Romney and Vermont for Obama.

11:03am – I’ve switched to Seven Two who are showing broadcasts from US television – currently NBC.

10:40am – Small numbers of results are reporting from Indiana, Kentucky and New Hampshire. Romney is leading in Kentucky and Indiana (as expected). Obama is leading in swing state New Hampshire. Correction: those New Hampshire votes are tiny, based on a couple of towns that voted at midnight.

10:27am - I’ll be blogging all throughout the day today until we get a result. If you are following in Australia you can track when results are expected from each state on this handy guide produced by Antony Green at the ABC.

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USA 2012: Result prediction

Election results are expected to start coming in late on Wednesday morning, Australian time. I thought it would be interesting to put cards on the table and make a prediction about the result.

Real Clear Politics has a ‘create your own map’ tool where you can change each state and make a prediction about the result. You can then grab a link to your map and post it in comments below.

In my prediction, I’m assuming that all the ‘safe states’ apart from eight I identified in yesterday’s post go as predicted.

I have given Obama Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia. I’m predicting that Romney will only win Florida and Colorado. This produces an electoral vote breakdown of 294 for Obama and 244 for Romney.

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USA 2012: Democrats holding on to the Senate

After early signs indicating that the Democrats were in danger of losing control of the Senate this week, it now looks like the Democrats are set on maintaining their majority, with the most likely outcome seeing both parties maintaining the same number of seats in the Senate, although a number of seats are expected to change hands.

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The end of gerrymandering in California

I’ve blogged a few times over the last couple of years about the perverse processes used in most US states when drawing electoral boundaries for Congress and state legislatures.

In a series of referendums in 2008 and 2010, California’s voters approved the creation of an independent commission to redraw California’s boundaries after the decennial census.

New boundaries will be used for the first time next week for the House of Representatives. The previous boundaries were used from 2002 to 2010 (and you can download Google Earth maps of those boundaries from this page), and the new boundary will be used until 2020.

California’s previous boundaries were drawn to ensure that incumbents, both Democrat and Republican, were able to retain their seats, and these boundaries were very successful in preventing competitive races over the last decade.

These boundaries were severely gerrymandered – jagged boundaries interlocking with each other and covering different areas. This was a similar style to other big states such as Florida and Texas, where districts are transparently designed to produce a particular result.

The new boundaries in California are completely different – seats tend to be far more compact – covering a much smaller geographic area and reflecting local communities. Looking at the new boundaries, it’s immediately obvious what a massive affect these changes have made.

The following maps show the old and new boundaries for the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay area.

Congressional districts in the Los Angeles area, 2002-2010.

Congressional districts in the Los Angeles area, 2012.

Congressional districts in the San Francisco Bay area, 2002-2010.

Congressional districts in the San Francisco Bay area, 2012.

The new boundaries have already had some interesting effects, with incumbents running against each other.

California has also recently instituted the ‘jungle primary’ system, where all candidates from all parties compete in a single primary, and the top two candidates, regardless of party, proceed to the general election. This has meant that there will be a number of races this week where two sitting Democratic members of Congress will be running against each other for the same seat.

USA 2012: Are the toss-ups really that close?

Earlier today I blogged about how the number of battleground states has dwindled down to only eight states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin.

All eight of these states were won by Barack Obama in 2008. Two states won by Obama in 2008, Indiana and North Carolina, are considered to be likely to fall to Romney and while there is an Obama campaign presence in those states, they appear to have been largely written off. Apart from these ten states, every other state is expected to be won by the same party as in 2008.

Considering how close this race looks, it is easy to write off the race as ‘too close to call’. Overall the race nationally appears to be very close. However when you look at key state polls, a trend emerges. It is clear that Obama has a solid, if slim, lead in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes.

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USA 2012: The shrinking middle

It’s not new to write about the flaws of the electoral college: how it makes some states important and makes other states irrelevant, and how it produce perverse incentives in terms of policy. However what has become clear as we enter the final stretch of the 2012 is that the electoral college system is becoming more problematic in the age of precise and scientific campaign techniques.

The major parties have become remarkably good at targeting over the last 15 years. They have a better of sense of who can be won and who cannot, and are able to target their resources far more effectively.

When you combine these techniques with the electoral college, you see elections where fewer and fewer states are contested as battleground states.

Over the weekend the New York Times published a piece about how the number of states seriously contested by both parties has shrunk dramatically since close elections in 1960 and 1976. Indeed, the change is evident when comparing the 2012 race to the last three elections.

There are ten states that have been targetted by the Obama and Romney campaign for nearly all of their general election campaigning. As the campaign has wore on the seriously-contested states have narrowed to a bare eight states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin. The states of North Carolina and Indiana were both won by Obama in 2008 but are generally considered out of reach.

The eight states considered tossups are coloured grey (click to visit Real Clear Politics’ ‘create your own map’ tool)

The Times piece compares this to 1960, when Kennedy and Nixon visited almost every state, and in 1976 the biggest states were almost all swing states. This map is even tighter than the map in 2000, 2004 and 2008, which were historically tight elections in terms of the number of states up for grabs.

It has serious consequences for the election. Turnout is lower in safe states, and the most important election in the United States is becoming increasingly dominated by the parochial issues of a handful of states.

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USA 2012: one week to go

A week from now, American voters will decide what is looking like being an extremely close presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama appeared to be on track for a comfortable victory as he gained a solid lead over Romney following the Democratic convention in September. This seemed steady until the first presidential debate in October, when Mitt Romney gained a decisive victory over President Obama.

Shortly after the debate, Romney’s poll numbers improved, and the race has been largely steady since then.

Different factors can point to different possible results, but the overall picture makes it pretty clear – this race is about as close as it can get. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Romney leading Obama by 0.9%. Five Thirty Eight’s forecast predicts an Obama win by 1.7%, and gives Obama a 74.6% chance of victory.

In the key states, this close race is played out. Romney appears to have a narrow lead in the swing state of Florida, while most of the attention appears to have focused on winning the state of Ohio. Some polls favour one candidate over another, but overall the picture is very unclear.

This election follows two elections in the last twelve years when the race was close to being a tie. George W Bush won in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Bush won the popular vote in 2004 but came close to losing thanks to a very close race in Ohio.

With these polls, it seems quite likely that this race could come down to one state, or could result in an electoral college result which doesn’t match the popular vote winner.

While this race gains all the attention, both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are closely contested. The Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives with a wave of victories in 2010. While they are likely to maintain their majority, a number of their seats are under serious threat.

Meanwhile the Democrats were at serious risk of losing their majority in the Senate. However it now appears likely that the Democrats could increase their numbers in the Senate, with a number of Republican Senate seats at risk.

Over the next week I plan to post a few more times about features of the US election, and next Wednesday, Australian time, I will be blogging as the results come in.

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