‘The most important election nobody’s ever heard of’

“Control of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court is on the ballot this spring, and the contest could decide the fate of abortion rights, redistricting and more in the critical swing state.
Should a more liberal-leaning jurist win the job in the April election, it would flip the balance of the state’s highest court for at least two years.”

Read the January 6 committee’s damning report on Trump’s election subversion efforts

“The report provides evidence the committee collected to assert that Trump knew throughout his campaign to remain in power that he’d lost, that he knew the conspiracy theories he publicly advanced about election fraud were false, that he pressured officials to back his bid to challenge the results despite being told he could be breaking the law, that he lied in federal court, and that he spurred on the insurrectionists even after he’d been told they were armed, some heavily. The violence and death of January 6, the report argues, was the culmination of that failed effort.

The nearly 850 page report was compiled following more than 1,000 interviews with figures with firsthand knowledge about the attack on the Capitol and the events that led up to it”

“Trump wanted to go to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse, is said to have had a physical altercation with a Secret Service agent, and broke things at the White House when his aides wouldn’t let him join the insurrectionists”

“Witnesses claimed Trump said Vice President Mike Pence “deserves” the threats of hanging he received while at the Capitol to certify the election”

“Far-right Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) all were said to have asked Trump for pardons for their roles in the January 6 riot; many have denied doing so”

What I Got Wrong In 2022

“While it is true that the president’s party almost always has a poor midterm, there have been exceptions. And the 2022 midterms turned out to be one of these “asterisk elections,” thanks in no small part to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. This year I should have been more prepared for the possibility that the ruling could throw a wrench into the election, especially after a draft of the decision was leaked in May. And even after the decision, it took me a while to become convinced that voter anger over Dobbs would prove durable enough to last until Election Day. It wasn’t until the fall that I revised my expectations from a “red wave” to a “red ripple.”

My biggest mistake here was not realizing just how common an “asterisk election” actually is. I often quoted one key stat: that the president’s party had gained House seats in only two of the previous 19 midterm elections. But there were four other midterms where the president’s party lost fewer than 10 House seats — so what happened in 2022 isn’t that rare. I also neglected to remember that the president’s party had lost Senate seats in only 13 of the last 19 midterms. In other words, midterms like 2022 happen about a third of the time — way too frequently to count them out.”

Kevin McCarthy Doesn’t Have Enough Fans Inside The House … Or Outside It

“While this political stalemate is notably historic, it can also feel a bit inside baseball. It got me wondering how Republican voters are feeling about the party and its leadership as a whole. It’s a bit too early to have polling on this week’s dramatics, but some recent surveys have captured the general mood of Republicans heading into the vote for speaker. In a late November poll from Deseret News/HarrisX, Republicans were pretty evenly split on whether they thought McCarthy should continue to be a party leader: Thirty-five percent said he should maintain his role as a leader, 33 percent said the party should move on from McCarthy, and 32 percent said they were unsure or didn’t know. This ambivalence about McCarthy stood in contrast to Republicans’ feelings toward other party leaders, which were much more cohesive. Most Republicans said that former President Donald Trump should remain a leader and that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ought to be replaced. Similarly, in another poll from November fielded by The Economist/YouGov, 39 percent of Republicans said McCarthy should remain a leader in the House, but a slim majority (51 percent) said they either didn’t know or didn’t care.
It’s not that McCarthy is wildly unpopular among Republicans, but he’s not exactly a fan favorite, either. In that Economist/YouGov poll, 45 percent of Republicans viewed McCarthy favorably, compared to 31 percent who viewed him unfavorably — not great, but not as bad as, say, McConnell, who had a 55 percent unfavorable rating amongst his party. A CNN/SSRS poll in December found McCarthy’s net approval was +30 points among Republicans, the second-lowest same-party net favorability among all first-time potential speakers in nearly three decades. That same poll also found 15 percent of Republicans had “never heard of” McCarthy, while 28 percent had no opinion of him. And the GOP rank and file’s relatively lukewarm feelings for McCarthy may be emboldening right-wing dissenters to continue their crusade against his speakership — polling suggests voters won’t be fussed too much whether McCarthy is speaker or not.”

Did Redistricting Cost Democrats The House?

“The 2022 election for the House of Representatives was so close1 that if any number of things had gone differently, Democrats might have kept their majority. And one of the biggest things that affected the battle for the House was redistricting — the decennial redrawing of congressional districts’ lines to account for the results of the 2020 census.
But was the impact of redistricting significant enough to swing the House to the GOP? As I wrote in June, the 2021-22 redistricting cycle didn’t radically change the partisanship of the national House map, so I mostly agree with those who say redistricting didn’t cost Democrats the House. But at the same time, those who say Republicans won only because they gerrymandered are also technically correct. How can both things be true? Allow me to explain.

One way to test the claim that “redistricting cost Democrats the House” is to assess whether Democrats would have held onto the chamber if redistricting had never happened. We at FiveThirtyEight have already calculated how many percentage points each district swung left or right thanks to redistricting. For example, a district that went from a partisan lean2 of R+2 to D+3 got 5 points bluer. Then I compared this swing to the current 2022 House margin in that district.3 Suppose a party lost by less than the district swung away from that party in redistricting. In that case, it’s likely that redistricting cost that party the seat.

Of course, this is a hypothetical — and imperfect — exercise. Some districts changed substantially and wouldn’t have swung uniformly like that had they not been redrawn.4 In addition, if they had not changed, different districts might have attracted different candidates and different levels of spending from national groups, each of which could have affected the result. But this method can still give us a rough idea of what might have happened in a redistricting-less world.

Using this method, we can see that Republicans flipped a net six seats because of redistricting.”

“But Democrats also caught a few bad breaks in states with ostensibly nonpartisan redistricting processes. For example, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission made the 2nd and 6th districts5 about 10 points more Republican-leaning. In Michigan, the state’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission redrew the 10th District6 to be light red. And court-appointed experts nudged the New York 17th and Virginia 2nd rightward enough that they flipped too. Meanwhile, Democrats on the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission voluntarily sacrificed the 7th District to protect vulnerable Democrats in other districts.

On the other hand, Democrats flipped a few seats thanks to redistricting. They drew some very Democrat-friendly maps in Illinois and New Mexico, enabling them to pick up the Illinois 13th and New Mexico 2nd. A court reconfigured North Carolina’s 13th District from a solidly red seat into a swing district that Democrats narrowly carried. And Republicans made the Ohio 1st District and Texas 34th District bluer, with the unfortunate (for them) side effect of handing those seats to Democrats.

But we also need to consider seats that didn’t flip but would have if redistricting had not occurred. And this is where Democrats benefited the most, gaining six seats on net — and canceling out Republicans’ gains from the flips that did occur.”

“Democrats also gained a net three seats from reapportionment, the process of subtracting congressional districts from states with sluggish population growth and giving them to states whose populations have exploded. Six of the seven districts that were eliminated by reapportionment were held by Republicans — slow-growth areas tended to be in rural and/or postindustrial areas, where Republicans usually dominate. But Republicans won only three of the seven districts that were created in reapportionment, for a net Democratic gain of three seats.”

“By my reckoning, Democrats actually gained three seats from redistricting overall. In other words, without redistricting, Republicans’ majority would be closer to 225-210.

“But wait,” I hear you saying. “There was no world in which redistricting wouldn’t have occurred in 2021-22. So isn’t it better to calculate how the 2022 election would have gone down if redistricting had gone differently, not if it hadn’t happened at all?” You have a point — but the problem is, there is no objective alternative map. The congressional map could have changed in a thousand ways depending on individual, state-level decisions.”

“[If redistricting went differently in a number of ways in favor of the Democrats,] Democrats probably would have won five more seats than they actually did.”

“five additional seats for Democrats would have been enough for them to hold onto a slim 218-217 majority. So yes, if every Republican gerrymander had been undone in court before the 2022 election, Democrats may have kept control of the House.

But that’s assuming no additional Democratic gerrymanders were thrown out in court.”

In Alaska, Ranked Choice Voting Worked

“ranked choice voting actually encourages voters to look beyond partisan markers and choose (or block) candidates based on their merits.
Under Alaska’s new election system, all candidates compete in a single primary contest—rather than in party-specific contests—with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election. That meant that the general election ballot for Alaska’s congressional seat contained four names on Election Day, with Republican Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye qualifying alongside Palin and Peltola.

In the general election, ranked choice voting is used to determine the winner. That means that every voter ranks their choices from one through four. As the votes are counted, there is an “instant runoff” in which votes cast for losing candidates are reallocated to reflect the ranks assigned by individual voters.

To see how this works in practice, let’s look at Chris Bye, who finished last in the first round of vote counting. He received 4,560 first-place votes. After being eliminated, those ballots were re-distributed to the other candidates. Begich was the second choice of 1,988 Bye voters, so he received those ballots for the second round. Palin was the second choice of 1,064 Bye voters, and Peltola was the second choice for 1,038 of them.

At that point, no candidate had more than 50 percent of the total, so an additional elimination was necessary. Despite getting a plurality of Bye’s votes, Begich was still in third place, so he was eliminated and his votes were reallocated to Palin and Peltola. Voters who had picked Begich as their first choice had their ballots distributed to their second-place choice (unless the second-place choice was Bye), while Bye voters who’d picked Begich second had their votes redistributed to whomever they’d picked as their third choice.

As you might expect since both were Republicans, a majority of Begich’s ballots ended up in Palin’s pile. But not all of them, and the Begich-to-Peltola pipeline was enough to push the Democratic incumbent over the 50 percent threshold.”

“she lost because not enough Alaskan voters picked her to represent them in Congress. It’s really as simple as that. Ranked choice voting rewards candidates who are viewed as being acceptable even if not ideal by the majority of voters. Palin, for the second time in a handful of months, failed that test.”

Tough-on-Crime Cash Bail Initiatives Win in Ohio and Alabama

“Ohio’s new constitutional amendment will allow judges to set a dollar amount commensurate with a person’s criminal record, the seriousness of their alleged crime, and their odds of appearing at court following pretrial release. The Ohio Senate ushered the initiative forward in direct response to a ruling from the state’s highest court, which said in early January that bail could only be used to ensure a defendant’s presence at trial—the constitutionally prescribed reason for its use.

In Alabama, voters were tasked with deciding if the state should be able to deny bail for certain offenses if the government can convince a judge that the defendant poses a threat to the community or cannot be trusted to return to court. Those offenses include murder; first-degree kidnapping, rape, and sodomy; sexual torture; first-degree domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, arson, and robbery; terrorism; and child abuse.”

“the debate has become increasingly politicized. Many reformers say that a dangerousness standard is racist, while law-and-order politicians are likely to present any bail reform as a driver of violent crime.
The answer is more nuanced than either major political party would want their base to believe.”