Thoughts On The Virginia Election

I spent a significant portion of my life in Virginia. I never thought that I would see either a socialist or transgender member of the House of Delegates, and both won. That this will cause gnashing of teeth and wailing at Liberty University is an extra bonus. Anyway, some thoughts:

  1. I was very cautiously optimistic about Northam, but this was a blowout. Didn’t see that coming. Gillespie was annihilated in places like Loudon County, which are establishment Republican areas (though not Trumpist ones).
  2. When you gerrymander, the gerrymandering works as long as your underlying assumptions about voter turnout hold up. If they don’t, the opposition can rout you.
  3. To understand the magnitude of the swing in the House of Delegates (it looks like Dems might gain a one-seat majority in VA House), it’s equal to a U.S. House swing from 290-145 to 214-221. That’s a blowout.
  4. Right now, Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has to be drinking heavily (it’s five o’clock somewhere!). It does not look good today for Republicans in ‘purple’ or blue-ish districts. At all.
  5. Related to point #2, it just became much harder to Republicans to pass their awful tax bill. There are too many Republicans in competitive districts who are dreading what could happen.
  6. Bannonism/Trumpism got rocked tonight. Nobody likes that asshole Trump, all the ‘heartland whisperer’ stories notwithstanding. That said, Republicans might conclude that what’s needed is a true believer, full-bore bigot. Please do this Republicans.
  7. Turnout, turnout, turnout. Looking at the results, especially in the House of Delegates, Democrats showed up in much higher than expected numbers. Danica Roem, the transgender candidate beat her opponent ~55/45. That was the same margin of victory for the Republican in 2015. The difference? In 2015, the Republican received ~7,000 votes and won; in 2017, he received ~9,000 votes and lost.
  8. Gillespie did well in rural, white areas–his turnout was high. But when Democrat-leaning areas show up, they can deliver the win in all but the most conservative states.
  9. Democrats now can veto Republican redistricting plans for the first time since 1991. This matters and might even throw a couple of Congressional seats to the Democrats.
  10. According to exit polls, the most important issue was healthcare (37%) and these voters broke Democratic 78/21.
  11. Virginia managed to count 2.4 million paper ballots in three hours. Given that there are five too-close-to-call House seats, I’m very glad there’s a paper record.
  12. Fox News is barely covering this. While it’s tempting to laugh, there will be a huge swath of voters who have no idea how badly they’ve been routed. Pretty much the definition of epistemic closure.

A good night last night.

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7 Responses to Thoughts On The Virginia Election

  1. Joe Shelby says:

    On turnout – it was up 16% collectively over 2013, including much higher numbers of hispanic-American voters (especially up here in Loudoun, which it seems was specifically targeted by Gillespie in a “sanctuary cities” rant (as I said on the other thread from Monday). Seems they took it personally to come out and take him down over that. Racism not only failed to bring out enough votes in the South of the state, but specifically brought out ANTI-racist votes here in the north, and in VA Beach City which totally flipped from 2013/2016 by a huge amount.

    Charlottesville turnout was 31% higher than 2013. Again, they took Gillespie’s turn to the right in this last month seriously and said not no but hell no. (Oddly, in the rest of Albemarle itself, turnout was down…but maybe that was part of a general trend: Republican-leaning independents didn’t come out to vote, akin to Democrat-leaning ones not coming out throughout the “rust belt” in ’16). The rain throughout the state may have been a factor, of course, in keeping rural turnout down.

  2. Joe Shelby says:

    Loudoun today is not significantly Republican at all, in my opinion (living here and watching it progress in the last decade and a half). Quite the opposite, it has been trending to the left for some time now, with the GOP primarily holding on to such large majorities on the board entirely by gerrymandering. Comstock “won” Loudoun only by about 300 votes – her larger victory entirely driven by the counties to the west, again gerrymandered to protect Wolf’s seat a decade and a half ago.

    Sterling’s older neighborhoods are very significantly hispanic, and many are 2nd generation (meaning more of them vote, when encouraged to). In richer areas like Algonkian and Purcelville, there’s been a growing backlash against the board and the Republicans at the state level because it has been clear how damaging they’ve been to education through the NCLB era. The west of the county is more old-school conservative (things are fine, don’t change them) and that has them voting against the reactionary policies that the GOP has been driving at the national level or in other states like North Carolina.

    I almost see some of the county’s strikeback as also being against the GOP tax plan. Loudoun today is exactly the demographics that would be most damaged by it in the current form, both in terms of paying more taxes and in dependency on services that would be cut to pay for it.

  3. Reblogged this on Wide Awake But Dreaming and commented:
    “To understand the magnitude of the swing in the House of Delegates (it looks like Dems might gain a one-seat majority in VA House), it’s equal to a U.S. House swing from 290-145 to 214-221. That’s a blowout.”

  4. Ruthmarie Hicks says:

    The only big problem with the blowout yesterday is not trivial. Mainstream democrats are going to be drunk with hubris seen no need to make a change towards a more progressive platform. Bringing in new blood from the progressive wing just died – at least as far as 2018 is concerned.

  5. krow10 says:

    Gerrymandering still has a pretty big effect. Virginia General Assembly vote totals as of a few minutes ago:

    Democratic: 53.1% (1,300,884)
    Republican: 43.8% (1,073,850)
    Write-In: 1.5% (36,196)
    Independent: 1.1% (26,567)
    Green: 0.3% (6,404)
    Libertarian: 0.3% (6,292)

    And if one were to take the posted results as final, we get:

    Republican: 51% (51)
    Democratic: 49% (49)

    So a +9.3% for Democrats becomes a +2% for Republicans, a skew in favor of Republicans of 11.3%.

    machine readable ( ) at 2017-11-08T17:31:51-05:00

    • krow10 says:

      I went ahead and computed the simplified efficiency gap as described by Prof. Jackman* and it was a little lower than I expected:

      EG = (S – 0.5) – 2*(V-0.5)

      S = seat share = 0.49
      V = vote share = 0.53

      Then the EG = -0.072 = -7.2%.

      * (See Section 6, pp15-19 for the derivation.)

      • krow10 says:

        OK, figured out why. If you calculate EG for Republicans you get:

        S = 0.51
        V = 0.44
        EG = 0.13 = 13%

        This is because I was counting vote share as a fraction of total votes. A more meaningful measure would be to count the vote share relative to total (Democratic + Republican) votes — (essentially ignoring 3rd party, independents and write-ins.)

        Thus for Ds:
        S=0.49 (same)

        For Rs:
        S=0.51 (same)

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