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Gerrymandered Districts to Remain as Supreme Court Passes on Opportunity to Reform

June 19, 2018

The New York Times reported that "The Supreme Court declined on Monday to address the central questions in two closely watched challenges to partisan gerrymandering, putting off for another time a ruling on the constitutionality of voting districts designed by legislatures to amplify one party’s political power."

The two cases in question were related to Wisconsin's redistricting plan as well as single congressional district in Maryland. As the Court had agreed to take on both cases, there was some expectation that it was ready to rule on this issue.

Barring any subsequent rulings on this topic, districts will next be redrawn after the 2020 Census, and will be first used in the 2022 Midterm elections. 

As they aren't going anywhere, here's a map look at the 10 most gerrymandered districts* in the country, based on a 2014 study

1. Maryland 3

2. Texas 33

3. Texas 35

4. Illinois 4

5. Ohio 3

6. Louisiana 2

7. Maryland 2

8. Louisiana 6

9. Texas 2

10: Maryland 6

This is the district upon which one of the Supreme Court decisions is based

You may note that 8 of the 10 worst offenders have Democratic incumbents. However, there are multiple types of gerrymandering, and both parties are guilty. Generally, one can look to who is in control of the state legislature at the time of redistricting to place 'blame'.  So, for example, Texas 35 was drawn to pack in Democratic voters, thus making it easier for Republicans to win more of the surrounding districts. On the other hand, Maryland 6, which encompasses the more conservative Western part of the state, was drawn to include enough Democratic-leaning areas to make that party more likely to win.

*We have omitted districts in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania from the list as they have been the subject of court-ordered redistricting since this study was done and no longer have the same boundaries as when the study was conducted



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Seven Congressional Vacancies: Special Election Update

June 15, 2018

There are currently seven vacancies in Congress. The next special election will be on June 30 in Texas' 27th congressional district. This will fill the seat of Republican Blake Farenthold, who resigned in April.

A brief update on each vacancy. 

TX-27 | Special Election: June 30 | Rating: Safe Republican

Early voting began this week and will continue through June 26th. Gov. Greg Abbott scheduled this on a Saturday preceding a major holiday, so turnout on Election Day itself will likely be light. Of the nine candidates on the ballot, only three who won in the state's primary will be on the November ballot for the two-year term beginning in January. If no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff in September. 

OH-12 | Special Election: August 7 | Rating: Leans Republican

Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor were nominated in Ohio's May 8th primary. A recent Monmouth University poll gives Balderson a 10 point lead, although about 25% of voters remain undecided. 

MI-13 | Special Election: November 6 | Rating: Safe Democratic

One of three special elections to be held concurrently with the midterm elections. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this safely Democratic seat is the intra-family rivalry between the two members of former Rep. John Conyers Jr. looking to replace him. The long-time congressman threw his support behind his son, John Conyers III when he resigned. However, Conyers III has been disqualified from the ballot after a challenge by his cousin, state Sen. Ian Conyers, who is also running. Should be a good time at the next family reunion...

PA-7 & PA-15 | Special Election: November 6 | Rating: N/A

These special elections will take place within the borders of the current PA-7 and PA-15. On the same day, all voters in Pennsylvania will cast ballots for representatives who will serve two-year terms in the state's redrawn districts beginning in January. In the recent primary, Pennsylvania Democratic voters nominated Mary Gay Scanlon for the new 5th district and Susan Wild in the new 7th district. The Party subsequently nominated Scanlon and Wild for the special elections, given the overlap between old and new districts. Republican voters nominated Pearl Kim in the new 5th and Marty Nothstein in the new 7th; the party has not yet selected candidates for special election. For the two-year elections, the new 5th district is Likely Democratic, while the new 7th is a toss-up.

NY-25 | Special Election: TBD | Rating: Safe Democratic

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet set a date for a special election for this seat that opened upon the death of Rep. Louise Slaughter. Voters will nominate candidates for the general election in the New York primary on June 26th.

OK-1 | Special Election: None | Rating: Safe Republican

No separate vote will be held for this open seat. Under state law, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will appoint the winner of the November 6th general election to complete the term.


New Interactive Senate Map Feature: Color Chooser

June 14, 2018

We've added a new way to create or update your 2018 forecast on the Senate Interactive Map. Until now, the only option was to click or tap a state repeatedly until arriving at the desired rating. This can be a bit cumbersome if you are building a map with all seven available ratings.

The new Color Chooser allows you to select a color/rating such that only one click is necessary on a race to get the desired rating. Check it out in the short video below.

More information can be found here.


Rep. Mark Sanford is Defeated; Trump-Style Candidates do Well in Tuesday Primaries

June 13, 2018

Hours after President Trump tweeted that "he is better off in Argentina"*, Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina became the 2nd member of Congress to lose a primary for reelection in 2018. Overall, it was a good night for Trump-style candidates. Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Virginia and Danny Tarkanian won in Nevada's 3rd congressional district. Tarkanian had been endorsed by Trump after he agreed to drop his challenge to Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada's U.S. Senate primary.

Full results from Tuesday's five primaries can be found here; select a state at the top of the page for details.

Sanford is the 2nd member of Congress to lose in a party primary this year. Fellow Republican Robert Pittenger fell in North Carolina's 9th district in early May. There are now 56 current members of the House not running for reelection in November. 

While these nominees are ascendant today, their victories may have negative general election impacts for Republicans:

  • While Democrat Tim Kaine was expected to prevail in November regardless of who the GOP nominated, the fear is that the controversial Stewart will suppress Republican vote, perhaps costing the party one or more of several competitive House seats in the state.
  • In Nevada, Danny Tarkanian keeps getting nominated but has yet to win a general election. While this is a competitive district, his nomination increases the likelihood Democrats hold the seat in November
  • Sanford won a third term by about 22 points, running about nine points ahead of Trump, who won by 13 over Hillary Clinton. That was the President's smallest margin of victory in any of the state's six Republican-held congressional districts. While nominee Katie Arrington will go into the fall as a heavy favorite, it is not completely out of the question that a Democrat could win here with no incumbent in the race. Sabato's Crystal Ball has updated this race from 'safe' to 'likely' Republican as a result of Tuesday's outcome.

* The reference is to an extramarital affair that occurred while Sanford was South Carolina's governor. He was reported to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but was actually in Argentina.


Primary Tuesday: Recap of Key Races; Link to Results

June 12, 2018

Five states are holding primaries today. A couple of the key races are highlighted below. Click or tap a state name for results from The New York Times. All times are Eastern.

Virginia: Polls close at 7:00 PM. There's a three-way battle for the Republican Senate nomination. Regardless of who wins, incumbent Tim Kaine is likely to be reelected in November.  In the House, six Democrats are vying to take on GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in a swing district near Washington, D.C. 

South Carolina: Polls also close at 7:00 PM. Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster, who took over when Nikki Haley became U.N. Ambassador, faces four opponents as he seeks the nomination for his first full term. McMaster has been ahead in recent polling, but seems likely to fall short of the 50% required to avoid a runoff. Whomever ultimately wins the nomination will be favored in the fall. The 1st congressional district may also prove interesting. President Trump has endorsed state Rep. Katie Arrington over incumbent Mark Sanford, who he said would be "better off in Argentina" in a Tuesday afternoon tweet.  

 

Maine: Polls close at 8:00 PM. As an independent, Sen. Angus King will not be on the ballot today. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries are single-candidate contests. King is expected to win a 2nd term in November. Gov. Paul LePage is termed out. There are competitive primaries in both parties; the results may not be known tonight due to Maine's use of ranked choice voting

North Dakota: Poll hours are set locally, but virtually all will be closed by 9:00 PM. A very competitive Senate race is shaping up for the fall. Incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has no primary opponent, while U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is expected to win the Republican nomination fairly easily. Cramer 

Nevada: Polls close at 10:00 PM. Several interesting elections today. There's both a Senate and gubernatorial race this year, both are expected to be highly competitive in November. In the Senate, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is expected to face incumbent Republican Dean Heller in November. A competitive primary in the Democratic gubernatorial race is expected between two Clark County Commissioners. On the Republican side, Attorney General Adam Laxalt is expected to emerge as nominee. He also received an endorsement from Trump on Tuesday

 

Turning to the House, there are competitive primaries in both the 3rd and 4th districts. Both districts are being vacated by Democratic incumbents. The 4th district was created after the 2010 Census. There have been three one-term Representatives here: Democrat Steven Horsford, Republican Cresent Hardy, and current incumbent Ruben Kihuen. As it turns out, the first two are running to reclaim the seat, and are likely to meet in the fall. In the 3rd district, the competitiveness of the fall race will come more into focus once the GOP chooses its nominee. There are 10 candidates on the Republican side, including controversial businessman Danny Tarkanian. 


Primary Tuesday: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia

June 11, 2018

Five states are holding primaries Tuesday. The poll closing times are listed in the table below, along with the number of congressional districts in the state - all are up for election in November - and whether there is a Senate and/or gubernatorial election in 2018.

If you live in one of these states, click or tap the name to find your polling location.

State Polls Close1 Runoff2 House Senate Governor
Virginia 7:00 PM   11 Yes  
South Carolina 7:00 PM 50%; June 26 7   Yes
Maine 8:00 PM   2 Yes Yes
North Dakota 9:00 PM3   1 Yes  
Nevada 10:00 PM   4 Yes Yes

1 All times Eastern
2 Percentage must be exceeded to avoid runoff; date of runoff election
3 There is a lot of local flexibility in poll closing times. This is the latest time for most locations.  If you are in North Dakota, check here for your polling place and hours.

Maine: Ranked-Choice Voting

Tuesday will see voters in Maine becoming the first in the nation to use ranked-choice voting (RCV) for statewide and congressional elections. It will apply to primary races with three or more candidates on the ballot. In those cases, voters will be able to rank as many of the candidates as they want in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the candidate who receives the fewest of these is eliminated. The ballots that chose the now-eliminated candidate first are recounted, with each voter's second choice being added to the first-round totals. If this puts someone over 50%, we have a winner. If not, there are additional rounds of allocation until one candidate achieves a majority of the votes counted in that round.

For those interested, here's a painfully long video explaining the process: 

Whether this is the only Maine election to be conducted by RCV will also be decided on Tuesday (but not by RCV). 


Rep. Keith Ellison to Run for Minnesota Attorney General

June 6, 2018

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison entered the race for Minnesota attorney general Tuesday. It was the final day candidates could file. Ellison will forego running for a 7th term in the U.S. House, a race he would have been an overwhelming favorite to win.

Ellison's Minneapolis-area district is safely Democratic. He won reelection in 2016 by a 47% margin, while Hillary Clinton won here by 55%. It is the 39th most Democratic district in the country as measured by the Cook Political Report PVI.

There are now 55 current House members not running for reelection in November.


Results and Aggregate Party Vote in Competitive California Congressional Districts

June 6, 2018

Going into yesterday's top-two primary, 11 of California's 53 congressional districts were seen as at least somewhat competitive this fall by Sabato's Crystal Ball. In the California system, all candidates appear on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election, regardless of party.

The table below shows the outcome of those primaries. Vote tallies are aggregated from The New York Times results page as of about 9:00AM ET on Wednesday morning, June 6. California can take several weeks to finalize their numbers, so these totals are subject to change.

  • All nine incumbents seeking re-election finished with the most votes* in their respective races.
  • While some races have yet to be called, it looks like all 11 races will see one Democrat and one Republican move on to November
  • CA-10 and CA-48 will probably be the closest races in terms of Democrats not making the top-two. CA-10 a bit more unexpected than CA-48.
  • The aggregate vote is important as it has proven to be a good predictor of the general election. For clarity, the chart shows the total of all Democrats and all Republicans on the ballot

The GOP avoided a top-two shutout in statewide races, as Republican John Cox secured 2nd position, behind Democrat Gavin Newsom, in the gubernatorial primary. Two Democrats will likely move on in the U.S. Senate race, including incumbent Dianne Feinstein. There was concern among Republicans that having no candidates in the statewide races might suppress turnout in November.

The elections for Senate and governor are both seen as safe Democratic in the fall. The aggregate vote Tuesday backs that up.  Democrats received 61% of the vote, Republicans 38% in the gubernatorial race.  In the Senate race, Democrats received 62%, Republicans 35%.

* Votes were not tabulated in CA-21, as only two candidates were on the ballot


Poll Closing Times and Link to Results for Tuesday's Primaries

June 5, 2018

Eight states are holding primaries Tuesday. The poll closing times are listed in the table below, along with the number of congressional districts in the state - all are up for election in November - and whether there is a Senate and/or gubernatorial election in 2018.

State Polls Close1 Runoff2 House Senate Governor
Alabama 8:00 PM 50%; July 17 7   Yes
Mississippi 8:00 PM 50%; June 26 4 Yes3  
New Jersey 8:00 PM   12 Yes  
Montana 9:00 PM   1 Yes  
New Mexico 9:00 PM   3 Yes Yes
South Dakota 8/9:00 PM4 35%; August 14 1   Yes
Iowa 10:00 PM   4   Yes
California 11:00 PM   53 Yes Yes

1 All times Eastern

2 Percentage must be exceeded to avoid runoff; date of runoff election

3 In addition to the regularly scheduled race, a special election will be held to fill the remainder of Thad Cochran's term. Voters will not choose nominees for this race on Tuesday. Instead, all candidates will appear on a single ballot on Election Day. If nobody earns a majority, a runoff will be November 27

4 Polls close at 7:00 PM local time


California Top-Two Primary a Good Predictor of General Election

June 5, 2018

California holds its non-partisan primary today. All candidates appear on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, moving on to the general election in November. We discussed some of the implications of that type of ballot in a short primary overview yesterday.

While this type of primary may yield some odd outcomes, such as a major party being shut out of a general election race, it also may prove to be a very good predictor of what to expect in November. Analyzing about 25 years of top-two results, the New York Times finds that "the California primary elections on Tuesday might give us a better idea of whether Democrats are headed for a so-called wave election — or whether their recent slide in the generic ballot and the bump in President Trump’s approval rating mean they should worry."

The data shows that "Since 1990, the major party vote share in top-two congressional primaries in Washington (which also uses the top-two system) and California has differed from the general election result by an average of just three percentage points."

This data seems logical in that, other than the sheer number of candidates, a non-partisan primary ballot is essentially a general election race. Barring a major shift in the political environment between now and November, aggregating the Democratic and Republican vote today would seem to be as a good a predictor of the general election as anything available.

National Implications

There are 11 congressional districts in California expected to be at least somewhat competitive, according to Sabato's Crystal Ball.  Nine of these are held by Republicans. Seven of those nine GOP-held districts were won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.  While the vote in California isn't predictive of the rest of the country, Democrats will almost certainly have to gain seats here to take back the House. Therefore, today's aggregate vote may go a long way toward showing how many of the state's 53 districts are truly in play this fall. 

Click or tap the image for an interactive map with all the current House ratings from Sabato's Crystal Ball.

 



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