2004 Facts in Focus: The Least Competitive U.S. House Elections in American History
- Competition: The 2004 U.S. House election recorded
an unprecedented lack of competition. Fewer than 3% (12) of the 435
races were won by a margin of less than 7%; only 10 races were won by
tight margins of 5% or less. There has never been such a small number
of highly competitive races in American history.
- Incumbents: Only five incumbents lost to
challengers - only three outside Texas, where new partisan lines were
drawn in 2003. The only election in history with fewer challenger
victories was in 2002, when four challengers won. Only 12 incumbents
(3% of those seeking election) won by competitive margins of 10% or
less. Overall, close to 86% of incumbents were re-elected by margins of
at least 20%.
- Victory margin: The average victory margin was 40,
meaning the average two-party race was won by 70% to 30% of the vote.
Seven of every eight (83%) U.S. House races were won by landslide
margins of at least 20% in 2004. Only 23 races (5%) were won by
competitive margins of less than 10%.
- Seat changes: 13 of the nation’s 435 House seats
changed party affiliation in 2004. Outside of Texas, 397 of 403 House
seats stayed with the same party.
- Uncontested races: In the wake of plans drawn by
Democrats in Georgia and Republicans in Florida, nearly half of those
states’ 38 House races were uncontested in 2004. Nationally, almost a
quarter of all states had at least one uncontested race.
- Landslides: In 14 states, every race was won by a
landslide margin of at least 20% in 2004. Only four states (all with
less than three seats) recorded no landslide wins.
- Representation: Men hold more than 85% of the seats
in the U.S. House. Racial minorities’ share of House seats is half of
their share of the U.S. population.
- Apathy: Nearly one out of every 11 voters skipped
over their House race on the ballot. Despite a surge in turnout due to
the presidential race, more than 62% of eligible voters - nearly two in
three – did not vote for a winning House Member.
- Florida: Incumbents have won 139 of 140 races in
Florida from 1992-2004. 24 out of 25 (96%) House races in 2004 were won
- Massachusetts: Of the state’s 30 House races in
2000-2004, 16 were completely uncontested. Six more were won by at
least 40%, and the remaining 8 won by at least 20% landslides. The
state’s 65% overall margin of victory in House races was the nation’s
largest. Seven incumbents have won their last four races by landslides.
- Arizona: Voters adopted a redistricting reform
proposal in 2000 that established a commission to draw district lines,
yet competition actually decreased in the state in elections in
2002-2004. Fifteen of 16 U.S. House races in these two elections were
won by landslide margins of at least 20%, including four races by more
- Georgia: The average margin of victory for the
state overall was 61% -- more than six times greater than a margin that
could be considered competitive.
- California: 51 of the 53 House races held in 2004
were won by landslide margins that exceeded 20%. Of the 101 incumbents
who ran for reelection in 2002 and 2004, all were reelected, and 99 of
these 101 incumbents won by landslides.
- Iowa: Unlike many other states, Iowa’s districts
are not designed to create safe, single-party majorities. Despite this
relatively neutral approach to redistricting, the incumbent reelection
rate for 1982-2004 was 98%.
- Alabama: All seven U.S. House races were won by
landslide victory margins in 2004, with a statewide margin of about
48%. From 2000-2004, 20 out of 21 House races were won by landslide
victory margins, and 27 out of 28 races were won by comfortable margins
of at least 10% in 1998-2004.
- Louisiana: Incumbents have gone 36 for 36 since
1992. 1992 was the only election in elections between 1982 - 2004 when
an incumbent was defeated.
- Maryland: Since 1994, incumbents won 45 of 46
races, with 41 of those wins by landslide victory margins of at least
20%. All eight U.S. House races were won by landslide margins of 20% or
more in 2004.
- Michigan: Of 149 House incumbents who sought
reelection during the 1986-2004 period, only one lost in a general
election. 12 out of 14 Michigan incumbents won by landslide margins of
at least 20% in 2004.
- Missouri: All seven of Missouri’s incumbents have
won by landslide victories for at least two consecutive elections,
classifying them as “untouchable” for 2006. Three of those landslides
were won by margins exceeding 40%. Incumbents won 45 out of 45 seats in
- New York: The average victory margin was down from
53% in 2002, but more than half of races in 2004 were won by margins of
at least 40%. In 2002-2004, 35 of 58 races were won by these runaway
margins, and 10 races were completely uncontested. All of the
incumbents running for re-election in 2004 won. Of the last 323
incumbents running for re-election in New York, 315 won (98%).
- Ohio: No House races were decided by less than 10%
in either 2002 or 2004, and only two races were decided by less than
20%. 70 of 71 incumbents have been reelected.
- South Carolina: All of South Carolina's U.S. House
seats were won by landslide margins of at least 20% in both 2004 and
2002. Of the 57 incumbents seeking reelection in House races in South
Carolina from 1984-2004, 56 were successful.
- Tennessee: Incumbents were a perfect 95 for 95 in
their re-election bids in the 1982-2004 period The average margin of
victory in House races in 2004 was 48%.
- Virginia: Incumbents won all 51 of their races in
the 1996-2004 period by landslide margins of at least 20%. Of all 55
races in these elections, 53 were won by landslide. Of 44 House races
in 1998-2004, only 23 were contested by both major parties. Since 1994,
all incumbents have won their reelection races by landslides.