2004 U.S. HOUSE ELECTIONS WERE THE LEAST COMPETITIVE IN HISTORY

Posted on July 24, 2005

TAKOMA PARK, MD - A report being release online Tuesday, July 26 by FairVote – The Center for Voting and Democracy shows that last year was the least competitive year ever for U.S. House elections.

FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie commented, “Our constitutional framers gave the House of Representatives extraordinary powers – and of all the branches the clearest direct accountability to the American people. That accountability has been destroyed beyond all recognition.”
 
Dubious Democracy 2005 provides a comprehensive assessment of the level of competition and accuracy of representation in U.S. House elections in all 50 states from 1982 to 2004. It ranks each state on a “democracy index” based on factors such as average margin of victory, percentage of seats to votes, voter turnout and number of House races won by overwhelming landslides. The five states with the most democratic elections are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oregon and Colorado. The states with the least democratic elections are Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida, Rhode Island and Louisiana.

Some highlighted facts include:

  • Sky-high incumbency rates. Only five incumbents lost to challengers in 2004-- the second lowest in our nation’s history. Nearly nine in ten incumbents were re-elected by “landslide” margins of at least 20 percent. In seven states, no incumbent has been defeated since FairVote began collecting data in 1982.
  • Landslides. In 14 states, every race was won by a landslide margin of at least 20 percent in 2004. Only four states (all with less than three seats) recorded no landslide wins.
  • High victory margins. The average victory margin was a whopping 40 percent. Seven of every eight (83%) U.S. House races were won by landslide margins of at least 20 percent in 2004. Only 23 races (5%) were won by competitive margins of less than 10 percent.
  • 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 percent of eligible voters-- nearly two in three-- did not vote for a winning House representative.


The key factor for this lack of competition in House elections is America’s winner-take-all single-member districts. Other factors include partisan redistricting, campaign finance and incumbent privileges.

To see the entire Dubious Democracy 2005 report, visit the Voting and Democracy Research Center at www.fairvote.org/dubdem.

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FairVote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that studies the impact of electoral rules and systems on turnout, representation and electoral competition. Its president is John B. Anderson, former Congressman and presidential candidate.


 
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