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FairVote on Election 2009: Pundits Rush to Errant Judgment

Released November 4, 2009

Plus: Instant Runoff Voting has Big Day in Minnesota

For Immediate Release: November 4, 2009

Contact:
301-270-4616
Paul Fidalgo, communications director - paul(at)fairvote.org
Rob Richie, executive director - rr(at)fairvote.org

Rob Richie, elections expert and executive director of the nonpartisan elections think tank FairVote, warned pundits and prognosticators to think twice about their analysis of Tuesday's elections and their relevance to the national mood. "Just as Democratic successes in gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia in 2001 in no way predicted the GOP-dominated electoral outcomes in federal elections in 2002 and 2004, we should be skeptical that last night's Republican victories in those states will have any meaning beyond themselves," said Richie.

According to FairVote research, the most highly partisan states in terms of presidential elections (the deepest red and the darkest blue) have been more likely to elect governors of the minority party, not the majority party. For example, five of the ten most Democratic states in the 2008 presidential elections today have Republican governors even though they voted comfortably for Democratic candidates for president in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Among these 10 strongly Democratic states in presidential races, only Delaware has had a Democratic governor throughout the decade, while two of these states (Rhode Island and Connecticut) have only elected Republican governors since the mid-1990s. Similarly, the 13 most heavily Republican states in the 2008 presidential election were all won by Republican presidential candidates in 2000-2008, but currently have seven Democratic governors.

"President Obama may have been unable to change many voters' minds about Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds, but that will have little bearing on his potential ability to persuade voters to re-elect him in 2012, or in Democrats' ability to remain in power in 2010," explained Richie. "Presidential coattails have their limits, whether in governors' races or in Copenhagen for the 2016 Olympics. While both of those outcomes may be humbling for the president, yesterday's results are quite in keeping with election patterns in recent years-and say nothing about his chances for re-election in 2012."

Richie also addressed the implications of the race for the U.S. House in New York, saying, "The Republican defeat in New York's 23rd congressional district in fact may be more telling. Conservative grassroots anger did not translate into a Republican victory in a historically Republican district, and now New York and all of New England have a grand total of two House seats held by Republicans, down from 20 in 1994. That fact does not bode well for the Republicans' version of a 50-state strategy in 2010 and 2012."

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In other 2009 electoral news, instant runoff voting (IRV) had a big night in Minnesota's twin cities. St. Paul voted to improve their elections by adopting IRV (also known as ranked choice voting). Said Richie, "The voters of St. Paul have made a sensible choice in opting to bring their electoral system to the next level with instant runoff voting. Once put into action, the new system will save taxpayer dollars, offer more meaningful choices to voters, eliminate low turnout preliminary voting and remove fears of having votes 'wasted.'" Minneapolis used IRV for the first time in its city elections on Tuesday, and media reports indicated that voters handled their new system well.

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Established in 1992, FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that educates and enlivens discourse on how best to achieve a democracy that respects every voice and every vote. We pursue innovative research, strategic outreach and civic education in order to promote fair access to political participation, fair elections, and fair representation.

For more information, contact communications director Paul Fidalgo at paul(at)fairvote.org or (301) 270-4616. Rob Richie is available for comment at (301) 270-4616, rr(at)fairvote.org.

For additional background on today's release:

� FairVote Minnesota on Minneapolis and St. Paul: www.fairvotemn.org
� FairVote's June 2009 Innovative Analysis on gubernatorial elections and presidential elections