FairVote's "Dubious Democracy" report about United States House of Representatives elections

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FairVote, formerly the Center for Voting and Democracy, publishes a study of representative democracy in U.S. House elections. The analysis, "Dubious Democracy," compiles voting data to assess "the level of competition and the accuracy of representation in House elections in all 50 states."[1] The study attempts to highlight a lack of real options in most elections, as well as a mismatch between voter preferences and the politicians who represent them.[1]

The 2010 study has data going back to 1982.[1]


FairVote uses several metrics to evaluate the competitiveness and representation of elections.[1]

  • The Democracy Index combines four of FairVote's other measurements: Average Margin of Victory, Landslide Index, Seats-to-Votes

Distortion, and Representation Index. The Representation Index is double-weighted for the Democracy Index, since it captures both voter participation and vote impact.

  • The Margin of Victory is the winner's percentage of the vote minus the second-place candidate's. "Dubious Democracy 2010" takes the average of these figures to find a state's average margin of victory.
  • Seats-to-Votes Distortion seeks to compare a party's percent gain or loss in seats with that party's percent advantage or disadvantage in votes.
  • The Landslide Index measures the percentage of a state's U.S. House races that were won by 20% or more.
  • The Representation Index multiplies voter turnout by the winning candidate's percentage of the vote to show the percentage of a state's eligible voters who voted for their elected representative.
  • Voter Turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who voted in a given election.
  • Incumbent Win Streaks ranks the states according to how long it's been since an incumbent has been defeated.

2010 findings

Of FairVote's metrics, the three most purely statistical are: Margin of Victory, Landslide Index, and Voter turnout.

In 2010, FairVote concluded that the nation as a whole had a Margin of Victory of 33%, a Landslide Index of 64.4%, and a Voter Turnout rate of 42.8%.[1]

Margin of Victory

South Dakota had the smallest average margin of victory, at 2.4%; Oklahoma's was the widest at 59.6%.[1] For comparison, South Dakota has one representative, and Oklahoma has five U.S. House seats.

Landslide Index

FairVote calculated that six states had no U.S. House races in which the winner won by at least 20%. These states, which all have three or fewer seats, were Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota.[1]

At the other end of the spectrum, the following states had landslides in all U.S. House elections: Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Vermont, and Wyoming.[1] Many of these states have just one House seat; Louisiana has the most with six.

Voter Turnout

In Minnesota, an estimated 55% of eligible voters cast their ballots in 2010, the most of any state. Oklahoma had the least engaged voters, with 29.9% turnout.[1]

External links