Who Really Won?

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Real Majority?

The Gadflyer points out this little noticed fact again:

Although Republicans gained four Senate seats in the 2004 elections, Republican Senate candidates actually lost the nationwide popular vote. In 33 Senate races across the country, 41.6 million Americans cast votes for Democratic candidates, while just 38.1 million voted for Republicans.

Though only a third of the Senate was chosen in 2004, the 2002 election had a similar bias: Republicans won 65% of the available seats with just 50.1% of the popular vote (52% ignoring votes for third parties). In 2000, Democrats won 56% of the available seats with a bare plurality of the popular vote, but this was not enough to balance the results of 2002 and 2004. In all, over the past three Senate elections, Democrats have beaten Republicans by nearly 2 million votes -- yet Republicans hold a 55-seat Senate majority.

This is the second time in four years that the popular vote has failed to determine control of the federal government. In 2001, we inaugurated a Republican President even though a plurality of voters had chosen a Democrat. In 2005, we have a Republican-controlled Senate even though a plurality of votes were cast for Democrats.

These failures have the same basic cause: Democratic votes tend to be concentrated in large urbanized states. In the 2004 Senate race, Democratic candidates won three large states (Illinois, California, and New York) by more than 2 million votes each; Republicans had a million-vote victory in only one state (Ohio). Overall, in 2004 Democrats won 15 states by a total margin of 10.8 million votes, while Republicans won 19 states by a total margin of 7.3 million votes.

"By reference to the one person, one vote standard," write the political scientists Frances Lee and Bruce Oppenheimer, "the Senate is the most malapportioned legislature in the world."