Senate Electoral Maths and Maps

With the 2014 elections done, eyes turn swiftly to 2016. The Blog post on the Mid-Terms deals with the focus now on 2016 Presidential elections. This post, instead, looks at the maths and maps involved in 2016 – and it doesn’t look great for the Republicans.

Students often reference that 1/3 of Senate is elected every 2 years. What they often do not apply is that as the one-third is pre-determined, it does not follow that this is half Democrats and half Republicans. Indeed, in the 2014 mid-terms, the Democrats were always going to have a hard time in 2014 as they were defending more seats. Yet in 2016, the tables are turned and the Repubilcans will be defending 24 seats while the Democrats will only be defending 10 – this should clearly give them an advantage in terms of reduced potential losses, increased potential gains, as well as being able to focus money and campaigning in a much more restricted area than the Republicans.

This article also references the correlation between Presidential and Senate voting; student often study this as ‘straight-ticket voting’. This is the idea that some Americans will simply vote ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ on all available options on their ballot paper. With Hillary Clinton having the most favourable recognition at the moment, this would mean that if a Democrat presidential-candidate were to win in 2016, they would likely make large gains in the Senate too; given that they only have 10 seats to keep, the Republicans are therefore very vulnerable here.

This gives us two key things – firstly, great examples for the electoral system within the US, as well as some fodder for parties and the US Constitution. Secondly, the mantra that I have taught you – the conclusion to almost any 45 mark question is ‘it depends, usually on circumstances’. In this case, did the Democrats lose in 2014 due to Obama? Partly yes, but partly due to other reasons such as electoral maths and maps. The Republicans will be facing a similar prospect in 2016.