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Why Americans Actually Voted For A Democratic House

By Ian Millhiser  

"Why Americans Actually Voted For A Democratic House"

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Speaker Boehner: The Supreme Court built that

Although a small number of ballots remain to be counted, as of this writing, votes for a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives outweigh votes for Republican candidates. Based on ThinkProgress’ review of all ballots counted so far, 53,952,240 votes were cast for a Democratic candidate for the House and only 53,402,643 were cast for a Republican — meaning that Democratic votes exceed Republican votes by more than half a million.

Two caveats are necessary in considering these numbers. The first is that all ballots have not been counted, so these numbers will change somewhat as more returns trickle in. (Because the remaining ballots are more likely to be from Democratic-leaning west coast states, it is likely that the Democrats’ margin will increase somewhat over time.) The second caveat is that these numbers include several California districts where two members of the same party ran against each other, and they do not include districts where a single candidate ran unopposed. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the nation is very closely divided over which party should control the House, with Democrats appearing to enjoy a slight edge.

The actual partisan breakdown of the 113th Congress will be very different, however. Currently, Republicans enjoy a 233-192 advantage over Democrats, with 10 seats remaining undecided. That means that, in a year when Republicans earned less than half the popular vote, they will control a little under 54 percent of the House even if Democrats run the table on the undecided seats.

There is a simple explanation for how this happened: Republicans won several key state legislatures and governors’ mansions in the election cycle before redistricting, and they gerrymandered those states within an inch of their lives. President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points, but Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats:

Similar stories played out elsewhere. Obama won Virginia, and Democrats took 3 of 11 House seats. Obama won Ohio, but Democrats carried only 4 of 16 seats in Ohio’s House delegation.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), however, cannot simply thank Republican state lawmakers for enabling him to keep his job. He can also thank the conservatives on the Supreme Court. Partisan gerrymandering exists for one purpose: to cut off the ability of people who disagree with a state’s ruling party to influence future elections. It is a a clear violation of the First Amendment, which absolutely prohibits viewpoint discrimination. Yet the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to end this discrimination in its 5-4 decision in Vieth v. Jubelirer, where the conservative justices tossed out a lawsuit alleging that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn to maximize Republican representation in Congress.

Americans voted for a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, and, barring significant shifts in the vote tally, a Democratic House. Instead, they will get a House majority similar to the one that held the entire nation hostage during last year’s debt ceiling hostage crisis. If the American people wanted this to happen, they would have said so at the polls on Tuesday. Instead, Republican state lawmakers took away their right to democratically legitimate leadership — with a big assist from the conservatives on the Supreme Court.

ThinkProgress intern Nate Niemann contributed to this report.

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