Dubious Democracy

A FairVote project issued biannually since 1994, Dubious Democracy provides a comprehensive ranking of the level of competition, rate of voter participation, and voter consensus for winning candidates in congressional elections in all 50 states. 

Dubious Democracy provides one clear picture: Although our constitutional framers gave the House of Representatives clear accountability to the American people, that accountability has been rendered all but meaningless by winner-take-all election rules.

Dubious Democracy 2020

Our Dubious Democracy 2020 report highlights the chronic lack of competition in U.S. House elections across the nation and how it damages democratic accountability. Of the most recent round of U.S. House races in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., only one in three races was decided by 10 points or fewer. One in 16 seats were uncontested by a major party. On average, the margin of victory for winners in contested elections was 28 points. While this is a national problem, individual states’ performance on these key measures of democracy and accountability vary greatly. 

 

In addition to individual seats being uncompetitive, election results have also been far from fair. Under a fair, proportional system, a party should earn roughly as many seats as votes cast for them across each state. Nationally, elections met that mark in 2020, with Democrats earning 51% of votes for Congress and also earning 51% of seats. However, this national figure masks troubling trends in many states. States with three or more Representatives had a median partisan skew of 17%. States with large partisan skews include Utah, where Republicans earned 100% of seats but only 61% of votes, and New Jersey, where Democrats earned 83% of seats with only 57% of votes.

 

We ranked all 50 states on “Voter Voice,” based on their performance on sub-measures including margin of victory, amount of landslide victories, voter turnout, voter consensus for winning candidates, and partisan skew. In higher-ranked states, citizens are more likely to have their voices heard and more likely to make a difference in election outcomes. We also ranked all 50 states on each of these sub-measures. The full dataset is available in this spreadsheet

 

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As each state is responsible for drawing their own Congressional maps and setting voter eligibility requirements, every state can improve its standing and the health of their democracy. 

 

Nationwide, replacing winner-take-all elections with a system of proportional representation would solve many of the problems that make democracy dubious in so many states. To provide real choices and improve representation, we need to pass the Fair Representation Act and move to multi-member congressional districts with fair elections based on ranked choice voting.

 

Find tables of state rankings on each of the sub-metrics below.

Margin of victory

Landslide victories

Voter turnout

Voter consensus

Partisan skew

See the full dataset here: Dubious Democracy 2020

 

 

Past Dubious Democracy datasets

Dubious Democracy 2018

Dubious Democracy 2016

Dubious Democracy 2014

Dubious Democracy 2012

Dubious Democracy 2010

Dubious Democracy 2008

Dubious Democracy 1982-2010 full report

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