Off-year Voters Deliver Victory for Democracy and A Drubbing to Trump

            Democracy in America is under attack. Unlike the normal disputes over economic, social and foreign policy; this year the integrity of the system itself is under attack. Donald Trump claims that Hillary Clinton received millions of votes from illegal voters in the 2016 presidential race.

            Partisans of Bernie Sanders, aided by the new book by Donna Brazile, the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and the campaign manager who couldn't figure out how to turn Al Gore's 538,000 vote margin into a victory in 2000, claim that the Democratic nomination was stolen by bias in the DNC. Hillary's 4 million vote margin in the primaries doesn't count.

            And Hillary herself is claiming that Russian interference cost her the election. None of these claims are true, so what's going on?  As both the Republicans and Democrats lose popularity with the voters, undermining confidence in the electoral system is the only way these two minorities can retain monopoly control of the political process.  It is a massive, bi-partisan effort to make the independents so disgusted that they voluntarily stop voting.

            With confidence in elections undermined, including casting aspersions on the integrity of the vote count and the accuracy of the voting technology, they hope voters will accept as legitimate the officials chosen by the security services (FBI or military), or the judges and prosecutors, anyone but the voters themselves.

            However, on November 7th, the voters struck back with a vengeance. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy was elected governor bringing an ignominious end to the Christie disaster.

Low turnout

            Phil Murphy won with the lowest percentage of the electorate in the history of New Jersey, a hair over 20%.  The turnout was a historic low of 36%. In absolute votes, Murphy's win with 1,154,978 was the lowest in twenty years, since Christie Whitman narrowly won re-election with 1,133,394. The difference is that there were more than 1.32 million more registered voters in 2017 than there were 20 years before. Even worse, the winning candidate for governor in 1957, the year Phil Murphy was born, received 1,106,130 votes,  just 48,848 less than Murphy's total even though the electorate was less than half the size it is today.

            A look at the historical record demonstrates the weakness of Murphy's victory.The highest vote total of any governor candidate in New Jersey, 1,414,613 was received by Brendan Byrne in 1973, the first year that 18 year-olds had the right to vote. But the candidate who received the highest percentage of the electorate, 43.5% was the 1,411,905 votes garnered by William Cahill in his landslide win over former Democratic Governor Robert Meyner four years earlier when there were more than 2.5 million fewer voters than now.

            For demographic and other technical reasons, it is reasonable that winning candidates for governor would receive a smaller percentage of the registered voters: young people vote in smaller numbers, and court decisions require voters to remain on the rolls until two successive federal elections have passed before their registrations can be removed. These technical factors inflate the number of currently registered as opposed to those in the past, but the magnitude of the decline as illustrated in absolute vote totals can not mask the effective voter suppression that has been gathering steam in New Jersey for the past fifty years.

            But, by electing Democrat Murphy with an anemic turnout, the voters put paid to Trump's absurd claim that Clinton's almost three million vote margin came from fraudulent voters. See, a Democrat won in New Jersey with almost one million fewer votes than Clinton received, but by almost the same 55%-41% margin. When almost two out of every three voters does not cast a ballot, it is hard to believe that there are millions of ineligible people clamoring to get into the voting booth. If the candidates do not excite the eligible voters, what is the mechanism by which the illegal voters are motivated?

Virginia and Gerrymandering

            While New Jersey was witnessing the lowest turnout ever and the lowest gubernatorial vote percentages ever, Virginia, the only other state to hold an off-year governor's race, saw the highest winning vote total in history (1,408,832).  As a percentage of the registered voters, Democrat Ralph Northam's victory was the highest in twenty years.

            But the big news from Virginia is that the gerrymandered House of Delegates where Republicans held a 66 to 34 margin before the election, was 51 to 49 after the election, in spite of the fact that the Republicans had drawn gerrymandered district lines that were considered impregnable.

            The real message from Virginia is that both parties should contest all races. In 2015, 71% of the Virginia House of Delegates ran without major party opposition. The two parties colluded to cut up the map. Some 44 Republicans ran without Democratic opponents, and 27 Democrats ran without Republican opponents.

            In 2017, while the Republicans passed on one more race, meaning that 28 Democrats ran unopposed, the Democrats ran 36 more candidates in Republican-held districts. The Democrats won 15, giving them 49 of the 100 seats, and came tantalizingly close enough in three more to have almost taken control. It is significant that Democrats were winning in both high turnout and low turnout elections in 2017, a clear warning for the Republicans next year.

            And no one should be surprised if the Democrats take the House of Representatives next year because the last three presidents: Clinton, Bush II, and Obama all lost their party's control of the House in the second year of their presidencies: 1994, 2002 and 2010.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf