The state of a non-state

The result of a special election in Delaware’s 10th Senate district, way up there in New Castle County, was discouraging to First State Republicans who were thisclose to regaining the State Senate for the first time in decades. Instead, the Democrats reached into their vastly deep pockets and bought themselves a seat, spending about $100 a vote to hold on to the State Senate in a district they were already about 6,000 votes in based on registration. (While they didn’t have a majority of the registered voters, they had the most significant plurality. In fact, the results indicated either unaffiliated voters slightly favored the GOP or the Republicans did a little better turning out their voters – just not good enough.)

Perhaps the most interesting takes were from libertarian Delaware-based writer Chris Slavens. Taking to social media, he opined the time was now to work on an old idea for which the time may have come: a state of Delmarva that takes in the remainder of the peninsula. My thought on this: what would the makeup of this new state really look like – would it be a red state?

Let’s start with the basics: based on the 2015 Census estimates this state would have a total of 1,444,288 people.

  • 945,934 in Delaware (556,779 in New Castle County, 215,622 in Sussex County, 173,533 in Kent County)
  • 453,226 in Maryland (102,382 in Cecil County, 102,370 in Wicomico County, 51,540 in Worcester County, 48,904 in Queen Anne’s County, 37,512 in Talbot County, 32,579 in Caroline County, 32,384 in Dorchester County, 25,768 in Somerset County, 19,787 in Kent County)
  • 45,128 in Virginia (32,973 in Accomack County, 12,155 in Northampton County)

Having that number of residents would allow for two Congressional seats, with the most likely and logical divisions being either New Castle + Kent County (DE) or New Castle + Cecil + Kent (MD) + the northern extent of Kent (DE). It’s most likely they would split evenly, with a Democrat representing the Wilmington area and a Republican winning the rest.

On a legislative level, there’s somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison because of the nature of each state’s districts – Delaware’s 41 representatives and 21 Senators represent smaller districts than the 12 Delegates and 4 Senators who come from Eastern Shore counties in Maryland. (In reality, there’s a small portion of Harford County that gives the Eastern Shore its delegation of 12 and 4, as the 35th District straddles Cecil and Harford counties.) Meanwhile, the Eastern Shore counties in Virginia are represented by one Delegate and one Senator they share with the other side of the bay. It’s only a fraction of a Delegate district.

Regardless, in terms of raw numbers, Delaware’s Senate is split 11-10 in favor of Democrats – however, Maryland balances it out with a 3-1 Republican split among its districts to push the GOP ahead 13-12. But Eastern Shore Virginia voters send a Democratic senator to Richmond so the parties split 13-13 in this case.

As for their lower houses, the Democrats control Delaware by a 25-16 margin but that would be tempered by the 11-1 edge Republicans have on the Maryland Eastern Shore. With a 27-26 advantage, Republicans would control the Delmarva House 28-26 when the one Republican Delegate is added from Virginia.

That closeness would also be reflected in election results. In 2016, the Delmarva race would have been watched to practically the same extent as New Hampshire, which also had four electoral votes and was razor-close. Based on the totals in all 14 Delmarva counties, the result would also have mirrored that of the Granite State:

  • Hillary Clinton – 322,702 votes (47.58%)
  • Donald Trump – 320,387 votes (47.24%)
  • Gary Johnson – 21,690 votes (3.2%)
  • Jill Stein – 8,351 votes (1.23%)
  • all others – 5,094 votes (0.75%)

In most states, the margin would have triggered an automatic recount. But imagine the attention we would have received from the national press on this one! Hillary carried New Castle County, of course, but the other county she carried was on the other end of the “state” and population range - Northampton County, which is the smallest of the 12.

Even the Congressional race would have been close. I am using the three Congressional race results (Delaware – at-large, Maryland – 1st, Virginia – 2nd) as a proxy for a Senatorial race.

  • generic Republican – 316,736 votes (48.8%)
  • generic Democrat – 308,891 votes (47.59%)
  • generic Libertarian – 14,739 votes (2.27% in DE and MD only)
  • generic Green – 8,326 votes (1.28% in DE only)
  • all others – 398 votes (0.06%)

This despite a voter registration advantage for the Democratic Party, which holds 441,022 registered voters (43.24%) compared to 317,263 Republicans (31.1%) and 261,735 unaffiliated and minor party voters (25.66%). Note, though, that the unaffiliated total is bolstered by nearly 34,000 Virginia voters, none of whom declare party affiliation.

So if there were a state of Delmarva, there would be a very good chance it would rank as among the most “purple” states in the nation, with frequent swings in party control. (Because each state elects a governor in a different year, there’s no way to compare these totals.*) Most of the counties would be Republican-controlled, but the largest county would have its say in state politics. Yet it would not dominate nearly as much as it does in the present-day state of Delaware as the additional population leans to the right. Moreover, practically any measure coming out of the legislature would have to be bipartisan just by the nature of the bodies.

But if a state of Delmarva ever came to pass, everyone’s vote would definitely count.

* Based on the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race in Virginia (2013), the Hogan-Brown race in Maryland (2014), and the Carney-Bonini race in Delaware (2016) it comes out:

  • total Democrats (McAuliffe/Brown/Carney) – 292,196 votes (50.41%)
  • total Republicans (Cuccinelli/Hogan/Bonini) – 273,928 votes (47.26%)
  • total Libertarians – 7,342 votes (1.27%)
  • total Green (DE only) – 5,951 votes (1.03%)
  • total others – 235 votes (0.04%)

Note that Carney provided 248,404 votes of the Democrats’ total since he ran in a presidential year, while Hogan put up only 100,608 GOP votes to the total because he ran in an offyear election. (Virginia’s aggregate was less than 15,000 votes.) That’s why it’s hard to compare, because Hogan actually prevailed by a larger percentage margin than Carney did.

More for my friends north of the border

There’s always been some percentage of my readers who hail from the First State, even though I really never covered a whole lot in the way of politics for them. They may have enjoyed my perspective on national issues or realized that the economies of the Eastern Shore and Delaware are well-intertwined because of their common industry base in agriculture and the fact that several areas of each state may rely on the other for basic necessities – for example, people in Delmar, Maryland may go to the Food Lion just across the line in Delaware but the reverse is true if the folks in Delaware want to shop at Macy’s or go to a movie, since both are in Salisbury, Maryland.

Over the last year or so I have probably made most of my readers aware that I now work in Delaware, and the same holds true for my spouse. And particularly in my line of work, I would like the state to succeed as it keeps me employed.

So a week or so ago I decided that it was time to follow up on the Accountability Project I’ve done for a decade in Maryland with one for Delaware. Notice I said a week ago: thanks to the fact Delaware only has about 1/3 the legislators that Maryland does and far fewer bills introduced – plus a very nice tracking system for votes (albeit the tallying leaves something to be desired) - the process for wrapping up a two-year session (as both 2015 and 2016 are considered the state’s 148th legislative session) was rapid compared to doing one yearly session in Maryland. Tonight I did a soft opening and placed the widget on the sidebar, so anyone with interest in the Delaware General Assembly can see how I graded them.

But why now, well after the election? Well, first of all, I was a little busy. Second of all, I never really figured it would be as easy of a project as it was. But I also look at this as a baseline to establish a record for the next election, so they will have more meaningful lifetime scores when I do this for next session.

With the Delaware Edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, my plan is to do the next iteration in the summer of 2018, shortly after their session ends at the end of June. (One disadvantage I can see: it appears the governor has a much longer window to decide what to do with the passed bills, which may affect disposition.) In 2020 I may have a problem, though, as it’s been proposed to move the gubernatorial primary to April (with the presidential primary) meaning the vote would come mid-session. There may have to be a smaller 2019 edition if this comes to pass.

So this one is for you, Delaware. Read it and weep.

Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last)

For Maryland, the results for the 2016 finally in and official. There are a number of conclusions which can be drawn from them.

Originally I predicted that Evan McMullin would be ”eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide” while Darrell Castle would pick up about 1,100 votes. Turned out that McMullin exceeded expectations by about as much as Castle underperformed them, with the former garnering 9,630 write-in votes while the latter had 566.

As I see it, this has as much to do with press coverage and awareness of the McMullin campaign as it did where he stood on the issues – but it’s interesting that McMullin did the best in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick counties as a percentage of the vote. In those three counties he had over 1/2 percent of the vote as a write-in. These were also counties where Trump received less than 50% of the vote – in all, his 35% of the vote was driven down by just five jurisdictions where he was under that mark: the usual suspects of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, along with Charles and Howard counties. (In essence, the inner city and capital regions.) On the other hand, Castle’s performance was more consistent with his small average – he actually did best in Somerset and St. Mary’s counties by percentage, although in Somerset’s case it’s just 6 votes of 9,900 cast. The “eight” in the title refers to the 8 votes Castle received in Wicomico County. So there are seven others who agreed with me.

But if you look at this race from the perspective of breaking a two-party duopoly that seemed very evident in this race – as both candidates did their share of moving to the left on certain issues, making themselves indistinguishable as far as rightsizing government goes – there is a huge lesson to be learned: ballot access is vital.

If you take McMullin, who entered the race too late to make the ballot in most of the 42 states where he actually contended (there were several where he even missed the cutoff for write-in access) and analyze his vote totals nationwide, he’s received between 60 and 70 percent of his votes from those 11 states where he was on the ballot. Granted, Utah by itself – a state where he was on the ballot - will make up about 1/3 of his overall total once all the write-ins are tabulated (hence the possible range on ballot vs. write-in) but the disparity between states where he was on the ballot and listed as a write-in is quite telling.

It’s even more steep for Castle, who put the Constitution Party over the 200,000 vote plateau nationwide for the first time. The 24 states where he had ballot access ended up accounting for 186,540 of what should end up being between 204,000 and 210,000 votes. (With seven states that have not yet or will not report write-in totals under a certain threshold, Castle is at 202,900 nationwide, so 204,000 seems plausible.) There were 23 write-in states for Castle, so the difference is quite stark.

[By the way, 200,000 votes may not seem like much, but at last report two other candidates I considered, James Hedges of the Prohibition Party and Tom Hoefling of America's Party, had 5,617 and 4,838 votes, respectively. The vast majority of Hedges' votes came from Arkansas (where he was on the ballot and edged Castle by 96 votes with 4,709 vs. 4,613) and Mississippi (715 as a write-in), while Hoefling got nearly half of his total from the two states he was on the ballot (Colorado and Louisiana.) In Maryland they had 5 and 42 write-in votes, respectively.]

And if you compare the Constitution Party to the Libertarians, the vote totals over time have been far smaller but Libertarians have had ballot access in most states since 1980. Considering the Constitution Party only made it in half the states (and missed in four of the six largest, with only write-in status in Illinois, New York, and Texas and no access in California) they overcame a lot just to get as far as they did.

As the Republican Party moves farther and farther away from conservatism toward the adoption of populist planks, softening on social issues, and the idea that government simply needs to be more effective and efficient rather than limited - a philosophy that will probably take further root as they’re going to have Donald Trump’s hand-picked chairperson to lead the GOP come January – those of us on the political right may have to search for a new home. (Obviously I’ve had this thought in mind, too.) The Constitution Party may not be perfect – I don’t agree 100 percent with everything in their platform but that’s true of any political party – but perhaps it’s time to bring them to the point of being a viable place for those who believe in all three legs of the Reagan-era conservative stool.

To have ballot access in 2020 in Maryland, the Constitution Party would have to follow the same route the Libertarians and Green Party have often had to: collect 10,000 signatures to secure access for the remainder of the gubernatorial cycle. If they can secure 1% of the vote in a statewide election they maintain access – based on their showing in the 2014 election, the Libertarians automatically qualified for this cycle but for several beforehand they went through the petition process.

It’s somewhat easier in Delaware, as the Constitution Party already has a portion of the number of 600-plus voters registered with the party they need to be on the ballot. Perhaps the place to look is the moribund Conservative Party of Delaware, which has a website full of dead links and no listed leadership – but enough registered voters that, if the two were combined under the Constitution Party banner, they would have enough for access with about 100 voters to spare.

While I’m not thrilled that the candidate I selected after a lengthy time of research and bout of prayer received just eight votes in Wicomico County, I can at least say there are a few of like mind with me. It’s seven fewer people I need to educate because they already get it and won’t compromise their beliefs. As for the rest of the conservatives in the nation, the task over the next four years is to convince them they don’t have to settle, either.

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