No party really has a majority

It’s almost certain that newly elected Republicans will go roaring into the U.S. House and the N.C. General Assembly beating their chests and claiming they have a majority and a mandate to run things. In reality, however, no major party earned a majority of the votes in the 2010 election, according to an analysis by the nationally-recognized ballot access expert Richard Winger writing in Ballot Access News.

Based on the vote counts for the highest office up for election, governor, U.S. Senator or U.S. House, the Republicans polled only 46.1 percent of the vote and the Democrats 45.6 percent. Libertarians polled at 1.2 percent, with the Constitution party at 1.1 percent, the Green Party at .6 percent.

North Carolina is an example of this no-major party majority. In straight party voting, Democrats got 51.1 percent, Republicans 48.1 percent and Libertarians .8 percent. Yet in the top-of-the-ticket race for U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Richard Burr pulled in 55 percent of the vote, Democrat Elaine Marshall got 43 percent and two percent went to Libertarian Mike Beitler.

Even though Burr won a decisive victory in the U.S. Senate race, the results in the state’s U.S. House races favored Democrats. Even though Republican candidates drew a higher percent of votes, 53.5 to 44.5, only one Republican challenger won, and that race is subject to a recount.

Less than half of voters, 43 percent, voted a straight party ticket. That percentage is coincidentally the same as the percentage of registered voters who actually voted. On the other hand, 98.6 percent of voters made a choice for U.S. Senator. The state constitutional amendment banning felons from being county sheriffs drew 91 percent of the voters.

Participation in judicial races was lower. The contest for a seat on the state Supreme Court drew 74.6 percent of voters. Interestingly the appeals court race that had 13 candidates drew 72 percent of voters. Apparently, most voters were not confused at all by the cluttered ballot. Voter confusion and a cluttered ballot are arguments state elections officials used to justify and defend North Carolina’s highly restrictive ballot access laws in the lawsuit challenging the laws brought by the Libertarian and Green parties.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in September and is expected to issue a ruling early next year. Whatever the court decides may impact any gerrymandering scheme the Republicans try to enact while redistricting the state’s Congressional and legislative districts.

Go to LPNC vs. The State for background on the lawsuit.