Potential Impact of the District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act on the 2008 Presidential Election
Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2007

To: Ilir Zherka, Executive Director – D.C. Vote

From: Rob Richie, Executive Director

Re: Evaluation of the Potential Impact of the District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act on the 2008 Presidential Election

OVERVIEW

FairVote is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. In this memo we respond to the potential partisan impact of the District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act (hereafter, DC VRA).

The Basic Facts: The DC VRA would grant Utah an additional U.S. House seat in the 2008 and 2010 elections before the next reapportionment. This additional seat would result in Utah gaining another electoral vote in the 2008 presidential election, thereby eliminating the chance of a tie in the Electoral College by creating an uneven number of total electoral votes, absent faithless electors. When the Electoral College is tied, the president is then elected by the U.S. House, with the delegation of each state casting one vote regardless of size. The U.S. Senate elects the vice-president separately.

Impact on the 2008 Electoral Vote -- A One-Vote Gain for Republicans: Looked at through a partisan lens, the DC VRA virtually guarantees that the Republican presidential ticket will gain another electoral vote in 2008 because of Utah’s strong Republican leanings. An election resulting in a 269-269 electoral vote tie under today’s apportionment would no longer be possible, instead being decided by 270 to 269. After 2008, the DC VRA would continue to prevent an electoral vote tie, but we cannot measure its impact on presidential outcomes because we cannot know which state will gain the extra U.S. House seat it creates. By virtually eliminating the chance of a future Electoral College tie, however, the DC VRA meets a clear public interest value, given the potential instability coming with such a controversial U.S. House vote and the highly questionable process of each state casting one vote regardless of population.

Impact on the Outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election – Almost Certainly None: A Republican gain of one electoral vote will only affect the outcome of the 2008 presidential election in the highly unlikely event of three circumstances, all of which would have to be true:

• an historically close presidential election in the popular vote: odds at least six to one against
• a division of states in this close election resulting in a 269-269 tie: odds at least 33 to one against
• Democrats in January 2009 being able to win support for their presidential candidate from 26 of the 50 U.S. House delegations as elected from different states in November 2008: odds at least two to one against in a year with an historically close presidential election

This memo explains the very long odds (see appendix) against this set of circumstances – a result that would happen at most once in the next 1,600 years of elections. Balanced against this remote possibility are the concrete realities that the DC VRA would provide the District with a House Member fully empowered to vote in all U.S. House votes for the first time in history and that the nation would avoid having a presidential election thrown into the chaos of a vote in Congress due to an Electoral College tie.

[ Download the full memo - PDF 108k ]
 
Voting in DC
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January 28th 2009
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