Monday, December 17, 2012

Presidential election results by congressional district.

Pic of 2008 Presidential election results by district. Courtesy of CQ Politics, 2009.

Cook Political Report editor David Wasserman recently tweeted the following:
Of course, what David is referring to is the "congressional district method" of awarding electoral college votes. Forty-eight of the fifty states award their electoral votes based on the winner of their state at-large. Maine and Nebraska award delegates according to the winner of each individual congressional district, awarding two bonus electoral votes to the statewide popular vote winner.

Wasserman's tweet struck me as intriguing given that Romney lost the national popular vote by a fair margin of 3.7 points. How could this be?

The most obvious answer is gerrymandering, the process by which political parties manipulate geographic congressional boundaries for political gain. But the bizarre result still had me wondering how the gerrymandering process would have effected presidential results throughout history, in the event all 50 states adopted the Maine/Nebraska EV rule.

Below is a chart comparing actual electoral college votes to what the vote would have been had all states adopted the Nebraska/Maine method of apportioning electoral votes:

1960-2000 results provided by polidata, here. 2004-2008 results compiled using

As the fourth column of the chart indicates, the 1990 Census allowed Republicans to snatch away from Democrats their long held advantage in congressional district redrawing. The Republican gerrymander advantage becomes even more apparent following the 2000 and 2010 redrawings.

The chart also indicates that only twice would the result by congressional district have effected the overall outcome of the race: in 2012 and 1960. Democrats won both of those races, while Republicans would have won under the Maine/Nebraska plan. In 1976, both Carter and President Ford would have won exactly 269 congressional votes apiece.


  1. How did you get the pre-1980 data from Polidata? I can't find that anywhere on their site.

  2. Sorry for the late reply on this. The oldest data comes from this link: Chart starts on page 8.

  3. Great site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also

  4. Consider another possibility: The urban/big city vote overwhelms the rural vote in many states, controlling the allocation of the EC votes. But the congressional districts are, by law, approximately equal in population, which negates the advantage of the urban vote. The Constitution set up the EC to keep the large populated states from overwhelming the smaller states. Allocating votes by congressional districts would be a return to the spirit of the Constitution, giving the less populated areas a vote for the President. As it is, in states such as IL, the Chicago vote completely overwhelms the rest of the state.

  5. Another thought is the removal of the EC, and going by the national popular vote, this seems the most democratic method.

  6. America is NOT a democracy, but a republic. So, a popular vote is NOT the best method for this country. There is a reason our founders did not implement a democracy. It has failed and ended very badly every time it has been tried. Frederick Douglass said the Constitution is the most emancipating document in world history. Coming from a former slave, his endorsement of the Constitution as the most liberating document in world history should be all that any American needs to support it. Returning to the real EC is the best way to keep America a free nation!!

  7. Are you delusional? Exactly what examples of democracy did our fore fathers have that showed a national popular vote for our leader was doomed to fail? Our founders also intended that the constitution be revised and rewritten on a fairly regular basis. They were smart are foresaw the problems that would arise from enshrining a document and its writers as all knowing. America is an experiment that got lazy. Had we continually revised the constitution we wouldn't be spending countless hours debating the context of a parable written in a dialect long gone by people who died 200 hundred years ago.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.