FairVote report highlights ‘Dubious’ Elections in U.S. House elections in North Carolina

Here’s the press release from FairVote

FairVote Report Highlights ‘Dubious’ Elections in U.S. House Elections in North Carolina

Analysis of Congressional Elections in North Carolina Shows History of Uncompetitive Elections Changed in 2010

Washington, DC – 5/9/2012 – A new report by FairVote shows that, due to winner-take-all voting rules, congressional elections in North Carolina’s general elections have been largely uncompetitive, with the exception of 2010. Often, the delegation does not accurately reflect the people of the state – including 2010, when a majority of seats were delivered to Democrats despite Republicans winning a majority of the statewide vote. The state’s new redistricting plan for Congress may well exaggerate that unfair reflection of voters, detailed in a FairVote analysis last year, as Republicans are poised to win ten of the thirteen House seats even if the statewide vote is highly competitive.

With Republican state lawmakers creating districts expected to be overwhelmingly one-sided, primary elections represent the best chance for voters to affect their representation. Redistricting led to Democratic incumbents Heath Shuler and Brad Miller retiring to avoid embarrassing defeats in the general election, and Republican Sue Myrick stepped down in her safely Republican district. The open seats offered voters in these districts the chance to vote in a competitive race, though such competition is not expected to carry over to the November elections, when only two seats are expected to be competitive. Three Republican nominations in safely Republican districts are going to runoff elections, with voter turnout expected to plunge after yesterday’s 34% turnout, largely driven higher by the Amendment One vote relating to gay marriage and primary races for governor.

Democrats Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell face uphill battles in their races this fall. Rep. McIntyre will face off against David Rouzer in a district drawn to favor Republicans even more, and Rep. Kissell similarly faces a more Republican district. The eight other incumbents won their primary bids easily and will almost certainly coast to another term in Congress. Consequently, their constituents will not participate in a meaningful way on deciding who will lead the U.S. House in 2013-2015.

FairVote’s report, Dubious Democracy, provides a comprehensive assessment of the level of competition and accuracy of representation in U.S. House elections in all 50 states from 1982 to 2010. Findings show that general elections in North Carolina are not competitive and fail to accurately represent the state’s voters. You can read the section on North Carolina here and the full report here.

Here are key facts about North Carolina’s U.S. House elections from our report:

Three in four eligible voters didn’t elect anyone: North Carolina did not fare well in fully representing its voters in 2010. Only 24% (less than a quarter) of eligible voters cast a ballot for a winning candidate and secured representation in the U.S. House. In contrast, 41% of eligible voters – still fewer than half – cast their votes for a winning representative in 2008.

Democrats lose statewide vote, but win majority of seats: In 2010, Democratic candidates took over half of the state’s U.S. House seats, even though they won only 45% of the statewide vote as compared to 54% for Republican candidates.
High number of wasted votes: In 2010, nearly 40% of votes were cast for losing candidates, which is the highest level of wasted votes since 1994.

Incumbents continue to win easily: Over the past decade, incumbents have won a stunning 97% of their general election bids. In 2010, only one incumbent lost, and almost half of these incumbent victories were by landslide margins of at least 20 points.
Men dominate North Carolina’s delegation: In 2010, three women (23%) were elected to the U.S. House—the highest level since 1998 but still far from gender parity.

Competition rises from general norm: Four races were won by less than 10% in 2010 – that’s equal to the total number of races won by less than 10% in all House elections in the state from 2002-2008.
Some highlighted national facts concerning the 2010 elections:

Sky-high incumbency rate despite wave election: Over 86% of incumbents running kept their seats, which is less than the 98% seat retention rate from 1998-2004 but still very high given public dissatisfaction with Congress.

Landslide wins continue: The average margin of victory in 2010 was a whopping 33%, and 64.4% of U.S. House races were won by landslide margins of at least 20%. Only 81 races (18.6%) were won by competitive margins of less than 10 percentage points.

Apathy and lack of representation: Just one out of every four eligible voters cast a ballot for a winning candidate. In other words, nearly three in four eligible voters did not vote in 2010 for anyone serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dubious Democracy: 1982-2010 comprehensively catalogues just how noncompetitive House elections have been in states around the nation nearly three decades. FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie said, “Although political campaigns and cable news constantly portray American elections as a horse race, the reality is that the majority of the time we have uncompetitive elections where the incumbent wins without having to make their case to voters.”

There are several options to confront meaningless, uncompetitive congressional elections in North Carolina and throughout the rest of the country. FairVote proposes an alternative – a fair voting system in multi-seat districts – to facilitate fair representation and foster competitive elections. You can find the fair voting plan for North Carolina here and for other states here.

Links for more info:

http://www.fairvote.org/mitigating-the-pernicious-effects-of-gerrymandering-in-north-carolina-the-super-district-alternative#.T6wUQr-vVhF

http://www.fairvote.org/dubious-democracy#.T6wUY7-vVhE

http://www.fairvote.org/north-carolina-profile-2/#.T6wUh7-vVhF


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