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March 07, 2005

Colorado Election Numbers

Ben Degrow cites Ted Halaby's campaign letter for National Committeman, and its notation that Republicans outpolled Democrats by 36,000 votes in state legislative races.

As they say on that other radio network, "Let's do the numbers."

I totaled up the State House of Representatives votes going back to 1996. This was by far the worst aggregate showing for Republicans in the list. For simplicity's sake, I only counted percentages for the Republicans and Democrats. The only time other parties have a decent showing is when one of these two is absent from a race.

In percentage terms, the Republicans beat the Democrats by 1 point this year. Going backwards, they won in prior years by 13, 13, 16, and 23 points in 1996. The Democrats didn't win a majority in either House or Senate races, and most of their candidates won by running as centrists, so this hardly constitutes a "new progressive majority" by any standard. Indeed, as the Democrats seem to have as hard a time counting their own votes as they do counting election ballots, it's not even clear there's a progressive majority within their own party.

But it also means that the move was more than the "technical win" cited by Dick Wadhams and other party activitst. (This doesn't mean there isn't a lot of party-building work to do; it just makes it a necessary but insufficient condition for winning.)

Ben also points out that the aggregate vote, much like the national popular vote, is meaningless when it comes to doling out committee chairmanships (or Presidencies). In fact, the Republicans in the state have historically won 3-5 seats fewer than would be predicted by their vote total. (Since Colorado apportions legislative seats by a nonpartisan commission, my guess is that it's highly unlikely this is a deliberate result. In Minnesota, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, they've run several seats ahead of their vote total for the last few elections.)*

Both Ben and Clay are supporting Bob Schaffer for the post, and it would certainly help heal some of the divisions from the last election. One question is: how much will Schaffer's undercutting of Ramey Johnson be held against him?

*In calculating the expected number of wins, I use Bill James's "Pythagorean Method," which pretty accurately predicts a baseball team's wins based on the number of runs scored/run allowed. He uses the square of the number of runs, and comes much closer to actual records. Since each seat would represent a "win," my working hypothesis is that this formula works better than a straight percentage. I'm actually going to spend some time rounding up numbers from around the country and seeing what works best.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Colorado does not redistrict by nonpartisan commission. Redistricting is handled by a bi-partisan committee of legislators, and must be passed through the legislature like any other law. Which means in the 1980 and 1990 redistricting rounds, it had to pass two republican-held chambers and be signed by a democratic governor. In the 2000 redistricting round, it had to pass through a democratic-controlled Senate and republican-controlled House, and be signed by a republican governor. The legislature failed to accomplish this by the end of session, and so the process had to be adjudicated in the courts - by a highly partisan, democratic judge that chose a set of maps drawn by the state Democratic Party.

He is correct, although the state redistricting has usually gone smoothly, and wasn't the source of 2002's rancor.

Posted by joshuasharf at March 7, 2005 12:38 PM | TrackBack

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