On Monday, the Virginia Senate narrowly passed (20-19) a new redistricting bill that will dramatically change the boundaries of the current Senate districts drawn just two years ago. The plan, passed by Senate Republicans on a party-line vote when a Democratic Senator was away on Inauguration Day, has been criticized by Democrats as an overt attempt to give Republicans an advantage in future elections by “packing” and “cracking” black communities in Virginia in order to dilute their voting power. Republican Sen. John Watkins, the legislator who sponsored the redistricting amendments, instead says the new plan would defuse possible Voting Rights Act legal challenges by creating a new minority-majority district and also cited improvements in district compactness.
The move by Senate Republicans is unusual, as such massive changes to a district map are typically reserved for redistricting sessions right after the decennial census. As a result, this recent redistricting drama has garnered much national attention this week and was a top-ten story on Politico.com Wednesday.
The Virginia Public Access Project has made the proposed HB259 plan available for viewing on their interactive maps:
Now that most states have finalized and submitted their official election results (yes, it does take that long), we can take a closer look into state and local turnout rates for the 2012 presidential election.
But first, an overview of the results…
As we all know, Barack Obama will be starting his second term after he is inaugurated in a couple of days. While it would probably be hasty to say that Obama received a huge “mandate” from the election back in November, it’s fair to say he defeated Mitt Romney handily, with room to lose battleground states and still win. In fact, one of the more surprising results from the presidential election is how little the electoral map changed from 2008. The county-level results for 2012 and 2008 below illustrates this point:
Obama’s margins over his Republican challenger shrunk in most battleground states and was enough to flip Indiana and North Carolina, the only two states to switch between 2008 and 2012. But despite the slow and tenuous economic recovery, high unemployment, a controversial health reform law, and a slew of other things Obama had going against him during the campaign, nothing much changed. This was also despite lower turnout rates across the country.
About two-thirds of Virginians voted last Tuesday!
65.3% of eligible Virginians voted in last week’s presidential election (based on unofficial results and an estimate of the number of eligible voters in Virginia*). This represents a modest decline from 2008, when 66.7% of eligible Virginians voted, but the drop off in 2012 is minor at less than 2% and turnout in 2012 is still on the high end for Virginia historically.
How does turnout across the state in 2012 compare to 2008?
Now that the votes are cast, we have some real electoral data to explore. My first question was how the distribution of Obama’s vote in Virginia in 2012 compared to 2008.
Using the unofficial results currently reported by Virginia’ State Board of Elections (with 2,573 of 2,588 precincts reporting), I plotted the percent of votes cast for Obama in 2012 and 2008 by county. The diagonal line shows the point at which vote shares in 2012 are the same as in 2008.
In my humble opinion, the biggest news coming out of the election last night was not Ohio. Instead, the polling results coming out of Virginia, that heavily favored Obama early in the evening, set the tone for the entire night. The story of what happened in Virginia exemplifies where our politics in this country now stand. Obama’s repeat victory in the Old Dominion underscores what was probably the biggest factor in the 2012 election: demographics.
For our regular readers, especially those who read our Red State, Blue State report back in July, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Ohio, Florida, and other swing states are used to the attention and have been “purple” for a long time now. Obama’s repeat victory in Virginia, however, a state that has voted consistently for Republican presidential candidates before 2008, is really big news. More than anything else, Obama’s victory in Virginia means that 2008 wasn’t a fluke, but rather represented a fundamental political realignment in the country.
That realignment is bad news for Republicans. The Republican party has serious demographic problems. Virginia’s shifting demographics, like that of the nation, have been dramatic in just the last few decades with Hispanics and Asians driving most population growth and changes in the electorate. Republicans have had considerable difficulty gaining the votes of these groups. In Virginia, most of the influx and growth in Hispanic and Asian populations is occurring around the Washington D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia (NoVa). It was therefore not surprising that NoVa was the focus of the national news media, and results from that region look more like those from 2008 than from 2004.
Last week’s release of the now infamous Mother Jones video of Romney’s comments on the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay income taxes has everyone talking about the U.S. tax system. Despite this election cycle’s relative dearth of substantive, detailed policy discourse, the campaigns and the media have indeed provided the public with a lot of useful information on the way taxes work in this country. The terms “Capital Gains” and “carried interest” have entered the common vernacular and it seems that everyone now knows about the “Buffet Rule” and the tax rates for certain types of income.
If any good has come out of Romney’s comments on the “47 percent,” it is that the public now has a better understanding of those folks who have been labeled by some on the right as “lucky duckies.” The left has been quick to argue that these lucky duckies are actually not so lucky; and by now many of us have seen or heard the statistics complied by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center: Continue reading
The big story right now in the money contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is how the Republican challenger has been out-pacing the President in fundraising in recent months. In July, Obama and the DNC raised a total of $59 million while Romney and the RNC raised $78 million. But like all statistics (especially financial ones) the true story behind the numbers is a lot more complicated.
For 2012 election-related commentary, please see these recent posts :
- Forget Ohio, it’s all about Virginia…and demographics
- Virginia Votes 2012
- Virginia Votes 2012: Turnout across localities
- Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008
As an extension of Michele’s recent post on turnout in Virginia, I decided to take a look at turnout rates at the national level. Using data from Michael McDonald’s U.S. Elections Project, CQ Press county election results, and the U.S. Census Bureau, I analyzed patterns in voter turnout rates for recent presidential elections.
Virginia’s statewide turnout rate in 2008 ranked as one of the highest in the nation. In 2008, Virginia ranked 13th in turnout compared to other states with a record-setting 67.0% of eligible voters showing up at the polls, much higher than the national average of 61.6% and higher than other southern states. Continue reading