Tuesday’s election in Virginia was a stunning victory for Democrats. Their governor candidate, Ralph Northam, won by 9 percentage points, after polls showed his lead shrinking to 3 or so in the race’s final days. They also won the other two statewide races, for lieutenant governor and attorney general. And they cut deeply into the Republicans’ advantage in the House of Delegates, winning three open seats and taking out at least 13 incumbents. With recounts in a number of races underway, it’s entirely possible they could seize control of the chamber for the first time in two decades.
That looks like a triumph, and it is. But it also demonstrates in one state just how much the game of elections is rigged in Republicans’ favor.
Why is that? Consider the mountain Democrats had to climb in order to even have a chance at controlling the state legislature. Virginia is a swing state, but one that has turned decisively blue, particularly since the more diverse urban and suburban areas of the state (like the Washington suburbs in the north) have been growing much more rapidly than the rural areas of the state where Republicans dominate. The last three Democratic presidential candidates won Virginia, and both the state’s senators are Democrats as well. Yet before Tuesday, not only did Republicans enjoy a narrow 21-19 advantage in the state senate, they controlled two-thirds of the seats in the House of Delegates, holding the chamber by a 66-34 margin.
Democrats might manage to take control of the House of Delegates once the counting and recounting is done. But when you add up all the votes cast, you find that Democratic candidates won 54.7 percent of the two-party vote, while Republican candidates won only 45.3 percent. Yet Republicans may well retain control despite having lost the popular vote by such a significant margin.
That’s an affront to majority rule, yet it’s repeated in state after state and at the federal level — again and again to the benefit of Republicans. It has partly to do with the fact that Republican voters are spread around more efficiently, while Democrats are often concentrated in cities, in effect “wasting” votes (if you win a race 95-5, you’ve used up a lot of votes that could have been more advantageously deployed elsewhere). But it’s also because Republicans successfully gerrymander districts to maximize their advantage. Because Republicans had a great election in 2010, …read more
Source:: The Week – Politics