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Fair Elections Update

November 14, 2002

To: Friend of Fair Elections

Fr: Rob Richie, Executive Director
The Center for Voting and Democracy, [email protected]

- Election 2002 Index: Starkly Revealing Statistics
- Monopoly Politics: Predictions in 359 House Races for 2004
- Editorial Consensus  to Take on Political Gerrymandering
- Ongoing Rise in Support for Instant Runoff Voting


(For more information about any issues discussed here or about how to become a member of our Center, visit or email us at [email protected] . To subscribe/unsubscribe from these updates, which are sent on a monthly basis in non- election seasons, please see message's end.)

 * * * * * * * * * * *

This November elections may well have a momentous impact on federal policy in the next two years, with Republicans having gained secure control of both branches of Congress and the White House for the first time in half a century. But they also underscore the need for fundamental reform of our political system.

Voter turnout rose, but again was abysmally low in most states, falling below 40% of all voting age Americans despite national congressional elections and numerous competitive gubernatorial races. Most legislative races lacked any meaningful competition. Only four U.S. House incumbents lost to non-incumbent challengers in their severely gerrymandered districts, the average House races was won by a victory margin of more than 40% and more than four out of every five U.S. House races was won by landslide margins of 20% or more and more than nine out of every ten races was won by a margin of more than 10%. In state legislative elections from 1998-2002, two of every five winners faced no major party opposition, including 37% of this year's winners.

Women and minorities remain severely under-represented, with this year's status quo election standing in stark contrast to the 1992 surge in women and racial minorities after the last round of legislative redistricting. Compared to 1993, there are two fewer African-Americans in Congress and fewer states with women in their U.S. House delegations. Minor parties tried harder than ever, but again made no significant gains, and the major parties will control all 50 governor's mansions for the first time in more than a decade even as a growing number of Americans, especially youth, express interest in viable alternatives outside the major parties. To read the Center's post-election analysis, see .

Below are revealing statistics that I hope you will consider sharing with others on your email lists. After the statistics are items about our 359 projected winners in the November 2004 U.S. House elections, the rising tide of opposition to political gerrymandering, an update on rising interest in instant runoff voting and a review of major media coverage received by our Center, including commentaries and articles in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and New York Times .


Increase of women in U.S. House in 2002 elections after the 2001-2 round of redistricting: 0 

Increase of women in U.S. House in 1992 elections after the 1991-2 round of redistricting: 19 

Increase of racial minorities in U.S. House in 2002 elections after the 2001-2 round of redistricting: 3 

Increase of racial minorities in U.S. House in 1992 elections after the 1991-2 round of redistricting: 22 

Number of African-Americans in Congress in 2003: 37 

Number of African-Americans in Congress in 1993: 39

Number of U.S. House races won by less than 20% in the 2002 House elections, after 2001-2 redistricting: 76 

Number of U.S. House races won by less than 20% in the 1992 House elections, after 1991-2 redistricting: 169 

Number of U.S. House races won by candidates facing no major party competition in 2002: 78 

Number of U.S. House races won by candidates facing no major party competition in 1992: 8 

Percent of U.S. House incumbents who defeated non- incumbent challengers in 2002 elections: 99% 

Voter turnout among adult Americans in 2002 elections: 39% 

Voter turnout among adult Germans in 2002 elections: 75%


In 1997 we started predicting winners in U.S. House races based only on information from previous elections and whether an incumbent was seeking re-election. This year, we developed a simple, one-size-fits-all projection model that made our projections entirely objective. When applied to the 1996-2000 House elections, our model was correct in identifying which party would win in all but one of 930 projections. It also correctly projected the minimum victory margin in more than 97% of races without factoring in anything about incumbent voting behavior, challenger quality or campaign finance.

Our model projected 333 winners for the November 2002 elections. Every single projection was accurate, and 98% accurately projected the minimum margin of victory. For a full report, see

As an indicator of why the partisanship of districts can be such a determining factor in who wins and loses, open seats races (those races without incumbents) in 2002 were very revealing. In this year's 49 open seat U.S. House races, only five were won by a party whose presidential candidate in 2000 didn't carry the district -- and three of those remaining five were in districts where the 2000 presidential margin was extremely close, one still could be reversed (Colorado-7) and the fifth was impacted by the race of the Democratic nominee (Georgia-12, where a black Democrat lost in a white-majority district).

Now our model projects 359 winners for 2004, the most our model has ever projected. That number will decrease as some incumbents decide to give up their seats, but only marginally so. Every indication is that this historically non-competitive election may be the most competitive election of the decade unless there is a seismic shift in voting patterns or states decide to change their voting system or redraw their district lines. You can read more about our November 2004 projections and download our spreadsheet to just see who's safe and is who might face meaningful competition.

For those interested in money in politics, we have a suggestion: follow where the money came from after you see where it's going. Nearly all of our projected winners will end up with a good deal more money than their challengers -- probably the only projected winners who won't will face doomed self-financed candidates. Given that any wise special interest donor also knows who is sure to win, following the money provides opportunities to analyze just why certain incumbents end up receiving so much money from certain interests.

Finally, we should note that we don't make projections in those relatively few races that are close. This year, both parties split the close U.S. House races nearly evenly in every grouping -- those races won by less than 5%, those won by less than 10% and those won by less than 20%. This indicates that the on-ground campaigns of both parties cumulatively fought to a draw and means that neither party has an edge in targeting seats for gains until we learn where there will be open seats.


In recent days, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times have all published powerful editorial calling on states and/or Congress to reform how we draw districts in order to promote more competition. These writers generally tout Iowa's non- partisan approach to redistricting. See these editorials in the "what's new" part of our website .

We applaud this sentiment, but however beneficial Iowa's process of nonpartisan redistricting might be, it can't go far enough. Iowa is one of the relatively few states that is highly competitive in presidential elections. Most states have clear tilts toward one party, however, and even clearer tilts within their borders. Those inherent partisan majorities will result in numerous one-party districts in the fairest of redistricting plans. To give all voters meaningful choices and provide fairer representation for racial minorities, we must reform winner-take-all elections. As a modest step, we can adopt full representation plans in districts with three seats. Illinois used such a system for more than a century, and many state leaders of both parties support restoring it. One major reason is the value they place on cumulative voting resulting in nearly every district electing representatives of both major parties. The smaller party could win representation with the support of 25% of voters, the bigger party would generally elect two representatives from two different parts of its internal spectrum and voters ended up with better choices and more accurate representation of their district's views and interests.


The elections provided several examples of how instant runoff voting (IRV) would improve our politics. With a system requiring majority rule, we might have different governors and U.S. Senators in several states. With IRV -- a system the state already uses for some overseas election ballots -- Louisiana would already have elected its U.S. Senator rather to have to wait for a whole new election in the December holiday season. Everywhere independents and third party candidates could have been considered without being tagged necessarily as "spoilers."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is the latest major paper to provide a strong endorsement for IRV . The paper's November 12th editorial ends: "Rather than trying to stifle third parties, the Legislature would do well to adjust state election law so that multiparty politics can be practiced without sacrificing the benefits of majority rule. Instant runoff voting would nicely serve that goal."

IRV received a great boost this election in Massachusetts. Voters in two legislative districts gave a strong endorsement to IRV. Advisory questions in support of IRV won 67% in the 1st Hampshire District and 71% in the 3rd Hampshire District. Interest in IRV is growing rapidly in the state legislature, and some towns are seriously debating its use for town elections. In a Hampshire Gazette news story, state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg said that he "fully expects instant runoff proponents to eventually mount a statewide ballot question on it." For more on Massachusetts IRV activism, see the webpage of FairVote Massachusetts and the Center's report on the ballot measure successes.


The Center received a great deal of media coverage in the weeks around the election. News articles featuring quotes from the Center's staff ran on most major wire services, and commentaries appeared in major newspapers across the nation, including the Los Angeles Times on election day. The Center's staff and its president John B. Anderson also appeared on more than forty radio programs in this period, including several that are syndicated programs in cities across the nation.

To peruse these articles and more, please see our media coverage and items posted in "what's new"


We send out updates about once a month that generally highlight one or two developments about voting system reform and findings from our reports. If you do not want to receive these updates, let us know by replying to this message with the word "remove" in the subject or your message. If you would like to subscribe, please send an email to [email protected].

The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C.. It is headed by former Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson. We are devoted to increasing public understanding of American politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices and fairer representation. Our website ( has information on voting methods, redistricting and voter turnout. As we rely heavily on individual donations, please consider a contribution by mail (6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610, Takoma Park MD 20910) or on-line at

E-mail updates from prior months are archived

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Copyright 2002     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]