How did 18th-century gubernatorial elections in Vermont compare to similar elections in other states?

How did 18th-century gubernatorial elections in Vermont compare to similar elections in other states?

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In an disorganized way I have been reading various things about the 18th-century history of Vermont and I wondered whether their way of choosing and installing governors was unique, or the same as what was done in other states, or to what degree it was similar.

Both during Vermont's years as an independent country and during the years immediately following, elections for legislators and for governor were held each year in October. Then the legislators assembled in whichever town was serving that year as the place where they meet. The governor whose one-year term was about to end presided over the opening of the legislative session. The legislature's first order of business was to count the votes for governor. That took all day. When the total was known, if one candidate out-polled all others combined, then that person, if present, got sworn in as governor and then presided over the rest of the legislature's session. If no one had a majority (as happened in 1789) then the legislature chose someone to serve as governor. Apparently the governor's term did not end on a pre-specified calendar date, but rather whenever the process of electing his successor was complete and the successor was sworn in. If the successor was not present (as happened in 1790) then the outgoing governor continued to preside until his arrival.

My question is to what extent all this resembled or did not resemble the processes used in other states?

(To clear away possible confusions, I should add that Thomas Chittenden was elected every October from 1778 through 1788, and then again from 1790 to 1796. He died in August 1797 with about seven weeks left of his term. Moses Robinson was governor from October 1789 to October 1790. Vermont's admission to the Union on March 4, 1791 happened during Chittenden's first term after his comeback. Vermont's admission did not interrupt his term, nor those of any other officers of the state; the 1786 Constitution of Vermont simply continued in effect.) (Chittenden was also elected in March 1778 as the first-ever governor of Vermont, it having been decided that thereafter legislative sessions, and therefore governors' terms, would begin in October.)

Here’s How Third-Party Candidates Have Changed Elections

America’s two-party political system makes it difficult for candidates from outside the Republican and Democratic parties to win presidential elections. Since 1920, in fact, only four third-party candidates—Robert La Follette in 1924, Strom Thurmond in 1948, George Wallace in 1968 and John Hospers in 1972—have been able to win even a single electoral vote. That doesn’t mean, however, that third-party candidates haven’t altered the outcomes of presidential elections over the course of American history.

1912—William Taft vs. Woodrow Wilson
Theodore Roosevelt challenges the sitting president and creates the Progressive Party.
The title for highest share of votes ever earned by a third-party candidate in American history is still held by Theodore Roosevelt during the election of 1912.

After serving nearly two full terms in the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt opted not to break tradition and run for a third term in 1908. But, when Roosevelt’s close friend and hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, failed to advance his reform-minded agenda during his first term, Roosevelt challenged the sitting president for the 1912 Republican Party nomination.

Although Roosevelt overwhelmingly won the most votes during the primaries, the Republican National Convention nominated the more conservative Taft to stand for re-election. A bitter Roosevelt broke with the GOP to form the Progressive Party, nicknamed the 𠇋ull Moose Party” because Roosevelt often declared himself 𠇏it as a bull moose.” The party advocated the direct election of U.S. senators, women’s suffrage, tariff reductions and social reforms.

Roosevelt and Taft ended up splitting the Republican vote, which led to an easy victory by Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt finished in second after winning six states and 27 percent of the popular vote. Taft was a distant third followed by another third-party candidate, Eugene V. Debs. The Socialist Party nominee received nearly one million votes in the fourth of his five bids for the White House.

Texas billionaire Ross Perot surrounded by a sign-waving crowd of supporters at his presidential campaign rally. (Credit: Shelly Katz/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

1992—George H. Bush vs. Bill Clinton
Independent Ross Perot throws his hat into the ring, takes it back and then throws it again.
After supporters gathered enough signatures to place him on the ballot in every state, Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot surged to the top of the polls in the spring of 1992. Advocating for a balanced federal budget, campaign finance reform and congressional term limits, Perot capitalized on low public support for President George H.W. Bush.

Despite his support, Perot made the sudden decision to drop out of the race in July 1992, saying that he no longer believed he could win the presidency with the improving performance of Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. He later said the decision was based on his belief that the Bush campaign planned to spread rumors about his daughter and sabotage her impending wedding. Weeks before Election Day, Perot made the equally surprising announcement that he was resuming his campaign. The independent candidate’s poll numbers remained high enough to permit his inclusion in the presidential debates with Bush and Clinton.

With his folksy manner and half-hour infomercials on broadcast networks, Perot received 19 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for Clinton and 37 percent for Bush. Some Bush campaign officials believed Perot spoiled Bush’s re-election by drawing more votes from Republicans than Democrats. However, in a one-on-one contest, Clinton consistently led Bush in public polling from the summer of 1992 onwards. According to an analysis of the second choices of Perot supporters conducted by Voter Research & Surveys for major news organizations, Perot’s third-party run did not alter the outcome of the election. One national exit poll found that Clinton would have beaten Bush by a half-million more votes had Perot not been on the ballot.

In 1996, Perot made a repeat bid for the White House as a candidate for the Reform Party, which he established a year earlier. In that election against Clinton and Republican Bob Dole, Perot garnered just over 8 percent of the popular vote.

A man wearing a t-shirt supporting Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader at the polling statio, 2000. (Credit: Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

2000𠅊l Gore vs. George W. Bush
Ralph Nader and the Green party earn votes, but it all comes down to Florida.
The election was so tight that it took a 36-day legal battle and a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court ruling before Al Gore conceded, although he won the national popular vote by more than a half-million votes.

The race not only centered on the candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties, Al Gore and George W. Bush, but on third-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader. An American lawyer, political activist and consumer advocate Nader was Green Party candidate.

Nader hoped to earn 5 percent of the popular vote, which would have given his party access to federal matching funds in the following presidential election. Nader fell short of his goal, receiving 2.9 million votes and less than 3 percent of the popular vote. However, some believe Nader’s third-party candidacy siphoned enough votes from the Democratic nominee, Vice President Al Gore, to swing the victory to Republican George W. Bush.

The difference was Florida, which Bush won by fewer than 600 votes to give him a 271-to-266 Electoral College edge. Had even a small percentage of the nearly 100,000 votes garnered by Nader in Florida shifted to Gore, the Democratic candidate would have won the election. In addition, the 22,000 votes won by Nader in New Hampshire were three times the size of Bush’s margin of victory in that state. If New Hampshire had flipped to Gore, that too would have given him the victory.

An absentee ballot featuring voting options for the 2016 US presidential election. (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

2016—Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump
When outsiders dominated the presidential campaign.
From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders to Gary Johnson to Jill Stein, political outsiders dominated the 2016 presidential campaign from its outset. But they weren’t just running on third party tickets.

Not only did businessman and political novice Donald Trump surge to the Republican nomination, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who served as an independent in the Senate, received 46 percent of pledged delegates during the primary campaign for the Democratic nomination.

With Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton both suffering low approval numbers, third-party candidates received considerable attention throughout the campaign. Running on the Libertarian ticket for the second successive campaign, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson received nearly 4.5 million votes, which accounted for just over 3 percent of the popular vote. That was the best third-party candidate performance since Perot. Green Party nominee and Massachusetts physician Jill Stein, also running in her second consecutive presidential election, made an appeal to disaffected Sanders supporters and earned just under 1.5 million votes. In addition, independent Evan McMullin appeared on the ballot in 11 states and received over 700,000 votes, including more than 20 percent of the vote in his native state of Utah.

According to some political analysts, third-party candidates aided Trump’s election. They pointed to the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Stein’s vote total exceeded Trump’s margin of victory. Had Stein’s votes in those three states flipped to Clinton, she would have won the Electoral College in addition to her popular vote majority. However, according to Politico, Stein has rejected the claim by pointing to exit polls that not only showed the majority of her voters would have stayed home instead of casting ballots for Clinton but that a sizable number of her supporters preferred Trump as a second choice.

How State Governors Work

In all states, the governor is elected by the people in a statewide election. Once a governor's term has expired, he or she has to run for re-election, and will sometimes face opponents from his or her own party. That election is called a primary. Voters across the state typically register with one party or another then cast their vote for the candidate who will run as a Republican, Democrat or an Independent.

The winner of that primary will go on to face the primary winner from other parties in the general election. In some states, the lieutenant governor runs on the same ticket as the governor -- much like the president and vice president do -- but in others, they run separately.

People from all backgrounds can choose to run for governor, but the strongest contenders are usually those with previous political experience. In the recent governor's race primary in Texas, the candidates included the current governor, a U.S. senator and the former mayor of Houston.

Candidates travel all over the state to spread their message, speak to voters and raise campaign money. Many private citizens also run, but since the costs to run a campaign are so high, it's usually reserved for people with lots of money and connections. Just as an example, in 2018, the cost of running the California governor's race topped $67 million [source: LA Times].

Governors serve for four years once elected -- with the exception of Vermont and New Hampshire. In those two states, governors serve two-year terms. In 36 states, governors are limited to two consecutive terms [source: Ballotpedia].

Now let's look at how a governor's office is organized, and how they're able to get the job done.

2014 Candidate Elections Overview

Although contributions to state-level candidates in 2014 did not eclipse the total fundraising record set in 2010, last year’s totals reveal the cost of many candidacies for state offices are increasing with every election observers should closely examine these previous campaigns for a preview of what may unfold in 2016 races.

State house/assembly candidates were more awash with campaign money than ever before—a groundswell of campaign money long in the making—and candidates for the upper chamber are are on a similar trajectory. Several races proved that an explosion in campaign contributions could erupt in any election. For example, never before had candidates for governor of Illinois raised as much as they did in 2014 1 similarly, Tennessee 2 and Montana 3 were home to the most expensive state supreme court elections in their histories.

One undeniable theme emerges in this overview: Democrats struggled mightily in their fundraising efforts, losing out to Republicans in almost every facet of campaign finance. Although organized labor accelerated its campaign contributions, donors from other sectors were not as generous to Democrats in 2014 compared to 2010. The GOP fundraising advantage during the last three cycles goes hand-in-hand with the success Republicans experienced at the ballot in state-level elections in recent years. 4

The Institute’s analysis of the money raised around campaigns for state-level offices in 2014 includes the following notable findings:

  • Candidates raised $2.2 billion, just under the $2.5 billion raised in 2010, 5 the previous comparable election year. However, 2014 outpaced contribution totals in other comparable elections.
  • Republican candidates raised about 10 percent more than Democrats ($1.2 billion to $959.9 million), and their financial advantage encompassed races for governor and other statewide offices, as well as state legislative seats.
  • While contributions to statewide candidates did not reach the levels set in recent years, a handful of states witnessed a spike in fundraising, some at unprecedented levels.
  • The two most expensive gubernatorial races accounted for more than a quarter of contributions to all gubernatorial candidates, and in both contests, the winner’s own money played a significant role.
  • State house/assembly candidates received $640.8 million in contributions, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by $14.5 million. State senate candidates raised $384.9 million, $45.6 million less than the highest total reached in 2012.
  • Candidates in partisan judicial races attracted $9.3 million and averaged the highest contribution total per candidate ($243,970). That said, fundraising in North Carolina’s nonpartisan races and Tennessee’s retention elections were at 15-year highs.
  • Candidates continued to rely heavily on their own money and other candidate contributions 6 ($197 million) and political parties ($187.5 million), though contributions from those sources declined from the last two comparable elections.
  • Small contributions exempt from disclosure requirements (unitemized donations) decreased by almost 45 percent compared to the 2010 midterm elections.
  • Republican candidates outraised Democrats from almost every economic sector in 2014, but organized labor—always a major source of campaign cash for Democrats—gave more money to state-level Democratic candidates in 2014 than any election cycle since the 1999-2000 cycle.

Figure 1: Total Fundraising by Candidates for State Office, 2006-2014

Gubernatorial Contests

Gubernatorial candidates on the ballot in 36 states raised $865.8 million, falling below the total in previous comparable elections. Candidates raised $897.1 million in 2006, and fundraising peaked in 2010 at $1.1 billion. The same seats were on the ballot in all three elections, save for a special 2010 election in Utah to replace Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Republican candidates for governor continued to raise considerably more than their Democratic counterparts. Democrats have not outraised GOP candidates in gubernatorial contests held in a midterm or presidential election year since 2008. The divide was most pronounced in 2010 when Republican candidates bested Democratic candidates by $327.6 million. In 2014, Republicans raised $493.7 million compared to $357.7 million that went to Democratic candidates for governor.

Figure 2: Total Raised by Candidates for Governor & Lieutenant Governor, 2010 and 2014

Illinois hosted the most expensive gubernatorial election, with candidates collectively raising $127.3 million. Bruce Rauner, the Republican challenger who ousted incumbent Patrick Quinn, raised 70 percent of that total. Rauner also led the nation in self-financing, giving his own campaign $37.5 million. Meanwhile, Quinn raised $33.6 million in 2014, $9.6 million more than he raised in 2010 when he won his first full term as governor.

Candidate self-financing was a major factor in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race as well, which attracted just under $100 million, the second-largest total for all 36 gubernatorial races in 2014. Tom Wolf, the successful Democratic challenger, gave himself $10 million (about a quarter of his 2014 total), enough to ensure a $4.2 million edge over incumbent Republican Tom Corbett, who raised $36.9 million.

Gubernatorial candidates who won their races raised $516 million—about 48 percent more than the amount raised by the losing candidates—from donors that invested heavily in both incumbents and challengers. Incumbent governors seeking reelection received $356.3 million, of which more than three-quarters went to the candidate that prevailed. Challengers received $256.7 million, more than half of which was raised by those who went on to defeat the incumbent. Conversely, candidates running in open races received $210.6 million, 54 percent of which went to the loser.

Figure 3: Total Contributions to Gubernatorial Candidates, by Win/Lose Status, 2014

Compared to 2010, gubernatorial fundraising increased by 50 percent or more in nine states. In Illinois, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Arizona, the surge in fundraising was aided considerably by the influx of a candidate’s personal funds. Nebraska witnessed a 536 percent increase over the 2010 race, in large measure because a handful of well-heeled donors invested in candidates during both the primary and general election phases of the campaign. Other states, like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Kansas, featured incumbent governors in races classified by the Cook Political Report as either toss-ups or leaning toward one ticket in the race ratings immediately preceding the election. 7

Candidates with the most money won in all but six elections for a state’s highest office. Sean Parnell, the Republican Governor of Alaska, was the only incumbent to lose reelection despite a financial advantage, but it was a slim advantage and he faced off against a joint Independent-Democratic ticket in a rather unorthodox election. 8 In Connecticut, Idaho, and Maine, challengers to incumbent governors had more money in the bank but lost the election. Open races in Arkansas and Maryland resulted in financially-disadvantaged candidates winning the election. In Maryland, Republican Larry Hogan publicly financed his campaign, 9 resulting in his opponent out-raising him $16.1 million to $6.5 million, but Hogan still won the election.

Lieutenant Governor Races

Of the 16 states that hold separate lieutenant governor elections, 11 were held in 2014. These candidates received $68.4 million in contributions, more than twice the total reported in the Overview of Campaign Finance, 2011-2012. Texas featured the most expensive lieutenant governor campaign, where a total of $43.2 million was raised, including $18.3 million to the victor, Republican Dan Goeb Patrick.

Campaigns for State Legislatures

The mounting costs of state legislative campaigns were abundantly clear in 2014. Altogether, legislative candidates raised about $1 billion nationwide, almost $38.8 million more than legislative candidates raised in 2010. State senate candidates raised a total of $384.9 million, averaging $150,043 per candidate state house/assembly candidates raised $641 million—the highest total for any election year since 2000—with each candidate averaging $60,770. In 2012, legislative candidates only raised $10.2 million more than did candidates in 2014, despite there being almost 200 additional senate seats on the ballot that year.

Figure 4: $1 Billion in Contributions to State Legislative Candidates, by Office, 2014

More than 10,300 legislative candidates reached the general election in 2014, 10 totaling $936.8 million in contributions. Within this group, the average contribution total increased to $179,916 for state senate candidates and $69,842 for state house/assembly candidates.

Republican legislative candidates on the general election ballot averaged almost $7,000 more than Democratic candidates, and nationwide these GOP candidates raised close to $50 million more than their Democratic counterparts. There were 4,665 Democratic candidates who reached the general election, raising a total $438.2 million, with an average of $93,923 per candidate. The 4,845 Republican candidates on the general election ballot raised $487.1 million, averaging $100,539 per candidate. A GOP fundraising advantage was reported in the Overview of Campaign Finance, 2011-12, but An Overview of Campaign Finances, 2009-10 found a Democratic edge.

Figure 5: Total and Average Fundraising by Legislative Candidates in 2014 General Elections, by Partisan Affiliation

Legislative candidates who prevailed in the general election averaged $121,719 in contributions, bringing their collective total to $740.5 million general election losers, meanwhile, raised $196.3 million, averaging $46,443 per candidate, which is 62 percent less than the winners. These averages are slightly lower than the figures presented in the Overview of Campaign Finance, 2011-12.

Figure 6: Average Raised by Legislative Candidates in 2014 General Elections, by Status

As seen in 2012, the most expensive 2014 house/assembly race was the reelection of Joe Straus, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, who raised almost $9 million despite the lack of a Democratic opponent. The most expensive race for a seat in the upper chamber was in California’s Senate District 34, totalling $6.3 million. There, Republican Janet Nguyen raised $3.5 million, defeating a primary opponent who raised $87,371 and a Democratic opponent in the general election, Jose Solorio, who raised $2.7 million.

Table 2: Total Raised by State Legislative Candidates in the General Election, 2014
StateSenate AverageSenate TotalHouse/Assembly AverageHouse/Assembly Total
Alabama $308,141 $17,255,924 $111,675 $17,197,968
Alaska $69,846 $1,746,154 $38,405 $2,803,597
Arizona $58,965 $3,419,961 $55,663 $5,454,939
Arkansas $116,435 $2,794,436 $40,602 $5,724,906
California $899,235 $35,969,404 $563,804 $87,953,498
Colorado $67,307 $2,692,278 $34,439 $4,786,962
Connecticut $81,695 $6,045,397 $22,937 $6,812,344
Delaware $56,104 $1,065,981 $27,462 $1,922,348
Florida $258,846 $8,541,916 $128,035 $26,631,211
Georgia $94,925 $6,739,667 $54,737 $12,096,925
Hawaii $51,327 $1,231,850 $39,069 $3,438,111
Idaho $23,117 $1,248,302 $21,038 $2,524,538
Illinois $628,003 $16,328,087 $304,743 $50,587,322
Indiana $141,494 $5,942,750 $70,535 $11,356,078
Iowa $121,797 $5,480,876 $77,604 $12,494,199
Kansas $52,116 $104,232 $24,423 $5,055,664
Kentucky $112,240 $3,142,732 $71,506 $11,011,908
Louisiana $32,478 $32,478
Maine $23,627 $1,795,622 $5,545 $1,685,613
Maryland $138,502 $11,080,166 $66,925 $16,061,936
Massachusetts $105,317 $6,529,660 $49,072 $12,120,840
Michigan $167,809 $13,928,138 $75,526 $17,597,470
Minnesota $20,191 $5,370,691
Mississippi $7,820 $31,281
Missouri $515,135 $12,877,372 $58,172 $15,648,321
Montana $15,794 $773,914 $8,164 $1,542,944
Nebraska $96,070 $4,419,211
Nevada $306,056 $6,733,234 $87,597 $7,358,120
New Hampshire $62,543 $2,876,964 $848 $611,576
New Jersey
New Mexico $51,433 $5,451,875
New York $354,989 $40,823,696 $80,761 $21,724,816
North Carolina $242,476 $19,640,579 $107,139 $19,392,230
North Dakota $12,353 $494,138 $7,006 $560,491
Ohio $378,795 $11,363,848 $118,161 $23,513,966
Oklahoma $156,101 $6,244,033 $67,435 $9,238,591
Oregon $297,832 $10,126,302 $145,900 $17,508,013
Pennsylvania $598,019 $27,508,875 $110,135 $33,481,185
Rhode Island $30,628 $1,745,778 $23,235 $2,509,342
South Carolina $113,251 $113,251 $30,284 $4,845,413
South Dakota $14,737 $766,301 $12,390 $1,338,118
Tennessee $147,875 $4,732,006 $63,862 $9,323,804
Texas $443,790 $23,520,864 $224,911 $55,103,219
Utah $82,337 $2,387,763 $25,680 $3,980,400
Vermont $8,662 $485,085 $3,187 $736,230
Virginia $451,183 $4,511,828 $126,606 $1,266,055
Washington $221,862 $10,649,382 $81,957 $14,752,290
West Virginia $98,164 $3,828,404 $27,069 $5,251,360
Wisconsin $129,247 $4,265,148 $38,908 $6,108,508
Wyoming $9,098 $172,860 $8,342 $700,706
TOTAL $179,876 $354,175,899 $66,856 $582,669,122

Judicial Elections

Elections held for 71 high court seats and 208 appellate seats in 35 states attracted $30 million in campaign contributions. Supreme court candidates received $20 million, while candidates running for appellate court seats received about half of that total. Overall, this represents relatively moderate fundraising when compared to judicial elections since 2004.

Figure 7: Contributions to Judicial Candidates, by Type of Election, 2014

Table 3: Average Raised by Judicial Candidates, by Type of Election, 2014
Type of ElectionAverage Contribution Total
(all judicial candidates)
Average Contribution Total
(only candidates that raised money)
Partisan $197,252 $243,970
Nonpartisan* $103,121 $139,786
Retention** $13,248 $174,867

* Candidates nominated in partisan primary elections but run in nonpartisan general elections are classified as nonpartisan candidates.

** Candidates running in retention elections that identify party affiliation are classified as retention candidates.

The Institute juxtaposed average contribution totals for all judicial candidates and averages among judicial candidates that raised money. The averages increase considerably upon excluding candidates that did not raise campaign funds because many judicial candidates never report any contributions to the state. The difference is most pronounced for retention election candidates, as 122 of 132 justices running for reelection did not raise any money.

Of no surprise, partisan races averaged the highest candidate contribution total among all candidates and only candidates that raised money. Forty-seven candidates running in partisan races got $9.2 million—about 31 percent of all funds raised in judicial contests—and averaged $197,252 per candidate. The average increases to $243,970 per candidate if we exclude candidates that did not raise any money. A total of 183 candidates ran in nonpartisan elections and averaged $103,121 per candidate, bringing the total to $17.1 million. The average among nonpartisan candidates that raised money is $139,786. Meanwhile, 132 justices running in retention elections drew only $1.4 million. The proliferation of contributions in partisan races is a trend noted in previous election overviews written by the Institute, but the difference was much clearer in previous cycles. 11

The average contribution total among retention candidates that raised money was a whopping $174,867, which was 20 percent higher than the average for candidates running in nonpartisan competitive races. The retention election average is influenced heavily by three supreme court justices in Tennessee that collectively raised almost $1.2 million after Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey led a campaign to unseat the justices. 12 That total is even more surprising given a complete lack of fundraising by judicial candidates in Tennessee in the previous 15 years. Of note, an Illinois supreme court justice raised over $309,331 in his retention election and five justices in Alabama raised $277,392 in their retention elections.

North Carolina also proved that partisan elections are not a requisite for copious fundraising in judicial races. In the first election after the General Assembly repealed public financing and increased contribution limits for judicial candidates, 13 nonpartisan candidates in the Tar Heel State netted $5.4 million altogether, the highest total for that state since 2000 and the second highest total for any state in 2014.

Table 4: Total Raised by Judicial Candidates, 2014*
StateType of ElectionHigh Court RacesIntermediate Court RacesTotal
Texas Partisan $4,636,331 $2,284,094 $6,920,425
North Carolina Nonpartisan $3,924,278 $1,493,004 $5,417,282
Ohio Nonpartisan** $2,539,392 $2,551,488 $5,090,880
Michigan Nonpartisan** $4,982,888 $4,982,888
Louisiana Partisan $777,111 $1,061,577 $1,838,688
Kentucky Nonpartisan $134,169 $1,284,194 $1,418,363
Tennessee Retention $1,152,350 N/A*** $1,152,350
Georgia Nonpartisan $273,086 $322,761 $595,847
New Mexico Retention & Nonpartisan** $463,126 $463,126
Arkansas Nonpartisan $357,569 $56,967 $414,536
Montana Nonpartisan $376,361 N/A*** $376,361
Illinois Retention** $309,331 $309,331
Alabama Retention** $41,163 $236,228 $277,391
Washington Nonpartisan $175,216 $87,629 $262,845
Minnesota Nonpartisan $170,499 $2,860 $173,359
Idaho Nonpartisan $163,371 $163,371
Oregon Nonpartisan $7,600 $10,048 $17,648
Wyoming Retention $9,600 N/A*** $9,600
Wisconsin Nonpartisan N/A $6,095 $6,095
Mississippi Nonpartisan $300 $300

* This table only includes states in which candidates reported contributions. The following states featured judicial candidates that did not raise any money: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

** Michigan supreme court candidates are nominated as partisan but run as nonpartisan in the general and subsequent elections appellate court candidates, however, run in nonpartisan primaries and nonpartisan general elections. Ohio judicial candidates are nominated as partisan but run in nonpartisan general elections. All of the candidates in the aforementioned states in 2014 are considered nonpartisan for this analysis. Illinois judicial candidates initially run in partisan elections but subsequently run in nonpartisan retention elections. The only Illinois candidate in 2014 ran in a retention election. New Mexico judicial candidates are first selected on a merit system, then run in partisan elections at the next general election and subsequently in nonpartisan retention elections. Thus, there are candidates classified as both partisan and retention in this analysis. Alabama judicial candidates run in retention elections and are classified as retention candidates for this analysis, despite their party identification being listed on the ballot.

*** Montana and Wyoming do not have intermediate appellate courts. Tennessee has both a Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, but no appellate justices faced a retention election in 2014.

Other Statewide Races

Contributions to candidates for all other statewide offices 14 in 2014 reached $271 million, a 16 percent reduction from 2010, a peak year for other statewide candidates, and $27.4 million less than such candidates raised in 2006.

Table 5: Total Raised by Candidates for Other Statewide Races, 2006, 2010, and 2014
Attorney General $113,502,824 $143,630,950 $106,367,907 $363,501,682
Treasurer $42,525,857 $44,793,501 $33,446,439 $120,765,796
Secretary of State $32,356,281 $29,570,178 $30,767,199 $92,693,658
Comptroller $18,020,987 $24,146,365 $17,561,863 $59,729,215
Insurance Commissioner $22,402,920 $10,808,429 $7,432,106 $40,643,455
TOTAL $228,808,869 $252,949,423 $195,575,514 $677,333,806

The 2014 drop in funding to other statewide candidates generally holds true even for the most expensive offices. Candidates for attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, comptroller, and insurance commissioner raised a total of $195.6 million in 2014, nearly three-quarters of the total given to all other statewide candidates that year. Among candidates for the five most expensive offices, only those running for secretary of state raised more in 2014 than candidates for the same office in 2010, but it was still less than the 2006 total. In fact, candidates for these offices in 2006 raised more than did comparable candidates in 2014, both cumulatively as well as by specific office.

Democrats running for other statewide offices saw a sudden drop in contributions in 2014, while GOP candidates have enjoyed a small but gradual increase nationwide over the past three comparable elections. Democrats bested their Republican counterparts $157 million to $135.8 million in 2006 and $173.7 million to $142.5 million in 2010. In 2014, however, Republicans outraised Democrats $148.2 million to $113 million. Thus, the 35 percent decrease in Democratic contributions since 2010 played a substantial role in the overall decline in fundraising by other statewide candidates.

Incumbents were the only class of other statewide candidates to see an increase in contributions in 2014. Officeholders running for reelection collected $81.3 million in 2006, followed by $94.1 million in 2010 and $114.6 million in 2014. Candidates in open races always collected more than incumbents, but that total fell from $189.8 million in 2006 to $183.3 million in 2010, and $122.5 million in 2014. The amount going to those challenging incumbents was relatively small in all three election years when compared the amount raised by incumbents.

Who Gave to State Candidates?

The candidates themselves, along with their political parties, were among the biggest sources of funds for candidates of both parties in 2014. Generous economic sectors include finance, insurance and real estate organized labor and general business these donors were far more partial to one political party.

Figure 8: $1.5 Billion in Contributions to Major Party Candidates, by Economic Sector, All States, 2014

The GOP’s fundraising advantage was made possible by a diverse cross section of donors, as Republicans bested Democrats in money from almost every economic sector. The most generous sector other than candidate contributions was finance, insurance and real estate, which gave $57.4 million more to Republican candidates. That is the largest partisan divide seen from that sector in recent years. And the Republican advantage was hardly limited to that sector: agriculture, candidate contributions, construction, defense, energy and natural resources, general business, ideology and single issue groups, and transportation were all sectors that gave at least 60 percent of their candidate contributions to Republicans in 2014.

Democrats outraised Republicans in only three economic sectors: labor unions lawyers and lobbyists and donors from government agencies, public education, and other sectors. The Overview of Campaign Finances, 2011-2012, as well as the 2013 Elections Overview, found that all three sectors predominantly gave to Democrats. Organized labor has always favored Democrats, but the labor unions came out in full force in 2014, giving more to candidates than in any election year in the last decade.

There were some similarities between candidates of both parties in their 2014 fundraising. Candidate contributions were the second-largest source of money for Republicans and the third-largest source for Democrats. Likewise, political parties and legislative caucuses came in second for Democrats and third for GOP candidates. That said, both candidate contributions and party money were more prevalent in past elections.

There was also a considerable drop in the number of small (unitemized) contributions that are exempt from disclosure requirements in 2014 compared to comparable elections. Unitemized donations reached a high point in 2010 at $73.2 million, but fell to $40.6 million in 2014, which is only $715,174 more than candidates reported in 2012. Democratic candidates received $4.1 million more in unitemized contributions than Republicans, continuing a trend witnessed over the past decade.


Total fundraising in 2014 for state-level offices was not quite on par with the 2010 election, but the price tag for some offices continues to escalate. State house/assembly candidates are a prime example of this, and state senate candidates are embarking on a similar path. Although gubernatorial, judicial, and other statewide candidates were not setting fundraising records, specific races featured unparalleled fundraising. And in this acceleration of campaign contributions, Democratic candidates are not keeping pace with Republicans.

    McDermott, Kevin, “Rauner ousts Quinn in high-spending Illinois governor’s race,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 5, 2014, available from, accessed September 28, 2015. Sher, Andy, “Price tag on Tennessee Supreme Court justices retention election fight: $2.4 million,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, October 13, 2014, available from, accessed September 28, 2015. Dewan, Shaila, “Montana Judicial Race Joins Big-Money Fray,” New York Times, November 2, 2014, available from, accessed September 28, 2015. Bump, Philip, “Since President Obama took office, 85 of 98 state legislative bodies got more Republican,” Washington Post, August 26, 2015, available from, accessed September 28, 2015. The Institute started collecting special election data in 2011, meaning any money raised in special elections in 2010 or earlier will not be included in these numbers. The Institute classifies “candidate contribution” as any contribution from a candidate, including self-financing, as well as campaign committees, leadership committees, and joint candidate committees. Cook Political Report, “2014 Governors Race Ratings for November 3, 2014,” November 3, 2014, available from, accessed September 24, 2015. Mauer, Richard, “Walker, Mallott to join forces in governor’s race,” Alaska Dispatch News, September 1, 2014, available from, accessed September 24, 2015. Wagner, John, “Republican Larry Hogan to use public funds in campaign for governor of Maryland,” Washington Post, July 9, 2014, available from, accessed September 24, 2015. This does not include candidates that withdrew, died or were disqualified before the general election. According to the Overview of Campaign Finance, 2011-12, partisan races drew $40.5 million, which was about 85 percent of the total given to all judicial candidates. The Institute found in An Overview of Campaign Finances, 2009-10 that $33.5 million was raised around partisan races, roughly three-fourths of the total to all judicial candidates in that cycle. That said, the Institute used a different classification system in those reports. Schelzig, Erik, “Tennessee Supreme Court Races See Spending Spike,” Memphis Daily News, August 5, 2014, available from, accessed on September 24, 2015. Kotch, Alex, “With public financing’s demise, special-interest money pours into NC court races,” The Institute for Southern Studies, October 17, 2014, available from, accessed September 24, 2015. The Institute classifies any state-level, statewide office other than governor, lieutenant governor, supreme court justice, or appellate court justice as “other statewide office.” For many of these offices, the titles vary depending on the state.

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Republicans Now Want to ‘Audit’ Election Results in States That Trump Won

The Arizona state senate’s haphazard, controversial audit of 2020 ballots has become a popular destination for Republican lawmakers looking to undermine the results in battleground states that Joe Biden won. And now, audit-mania has spread even to the states that Biden lost.

In the wake of the Arizona audit’s success at grabbing publicity across right-wing media, Republican lawmakers in states that Trump won are demanding Arizona-style audits or other election inspections of their own.

The Republican hunt for voter-fraud evidence even in states that voted for Trump reveals how far inside the party the idea has spread that the election was stolen.

Focusing on fraud claims allows Republican officials to raise money and attention from devoted Trump supporters, according to former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye. It also helps lawmakers align themselves with Trump’s claims of widespread fraud, ingratiating themselves with the energized Trump grassroots as they try to claim more power in the party.

“This is about two things, and these are symbiotic,” Heye said. “The continued fealty for all things Trump, and placating the base or the portion of the base that still can’t accept a clear loss.”

Donald Trump won conservative Utah by more than 20 percent. But Utah state Rep. Steve Christiansen (R) traveled to Phoenix to see the Arizona audit in person anyway, telling The Daily Beast he’d like to see a similar audit of 2020 ballots implemented in his own state. Christiansen has asked a legislative committee in Utah to consider conducting its own audit of the state’s ballots.

“I wanted to make sure I got to Arizona while the audit was being conducted,” Christiansen told The Daily Beast.

The prospect of audits that could somehow dispute Biden’s electoral college win have become articles of faith for Trump supporters unable to get over the former president’s defeat, as Republican-held legislatures across the country use a sense that the election was stolen to push voting restrictions across the country. Some Republican voters have also become fixated on a “domino theory” about the election, which holds that if Arizona’s audit finds fraud in their election, other states that voted for Biden will fall like dominos.

Watch: U.S. Rep. Greene apologizes for Holocaust comparison

Still, that doesn’t explain why Republicans in states that voted for Trump are now calling for audits of their own. Asked why he wants an audit in a state that Trump handily won, Christiansen claimed he was concerned after seeing proven evidence of voter fraud across the country.

Asked for proof of voter fraud, Christiansen referred The Daily Beast to a much-disputed document produced by former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro. The Washington Post dubbed the 30-page dossier as perhaps “the most embarrassing document created by a White House staffer.”

“For me, it’s all about making sure we have free and fair elections,” Christiansen said.

Republicans outside of Arizona have seized on that state’s audit, even though the process—carried out by a little-known firm whose founder has flirted with QAnon conspiracy theories—has reportedly been riddled with mistakes and procedural changes. At one point, ballot inspectors were even hunting for “bamboo fibers” meant to prove the ballots were made in Asia and fictitious “watermarks” that some Trump supporters wrongly believe were included in ballots to catch fraud.

And yet, Trumpist stalwarts are undeterred. One America News host Christina Bobb has started suggesting to politicians visiting the Phoenix audit that their own states should have similar investigations, even ones that voted for Trump.

Jackson Lahmeyer, a 29-year-old Oklahoma pastor who’s attempting to primary Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) from the right, told Bobb in Phoenix that he had been “blown away” by the Arizona audit, describing it as a “logistical masterpiece.”

After Lahmeyer called for similar audits in other battleground states that voted for Biden, Bobb asked Lahmeyer whether Oklahoma should have an audit of its own.

“I would go so far as to say, it would be important in Oklahoma as well, even though Oklahoma wasn’t necessarily one of the contested states,” said Bobb, who has fundraised to pay for the Arizona audit, while claiming to report on it as a journalist.

Lahmeyer quickly agreed, calling the 2020 presidential race a “stolen election.”

On Monday, Lahmeyer clarified his views to The Daily Beast, saying he thinks Oklahoma either doesn’t need “as thorough an audit” or doesn’t need an audit at all.

Trump won North Carolina by more than one percentage point. But in that state, members of the state legislature’s conservative Freedom Caucus are demanding an inspection of the voting machines used in 2020 to see whether they could have somehow been subverted to commit election fraud.

In a statement, the Freedom Caucus said its members want to inspect voting machines to see if they have modems that could connect to the internet. In a statement posted to Facebook, state Rep. Keith Kidwell (R) said he wants the voting machines inspected by outside technicians, promising to put “the hard question to these guys about what is going on with the machines.”

North Carolina’s State Board of Elections told The Daily Beast it’s working on a response to the legislators. Kidwell and state Rep. Jeff McNeely (R), who has also called for an inspection of the machines, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Conspiracy theories already appear to have filtered into the North Carolina Freedom Caucus’s push for a voter fraud investigation. In an interview with The Gateway Pundit, an influential right-wing blog that frequently promotes hoaxes and has embraced the idea of a North Carolina audit, McNeely said he was familiar with the issue of what the blog described as “strange food trucks at polling places.”

The larger significance of the food trucks in terms of voting was left unexplained.

Watch: McConnell says it's 'highly unlikely' he'd fill a Biden Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if GOP retakes Senate

Details of trifecta changes

The 2020 gubernatorial and state legislative elections led to these results:

The 2019 gubernatorial and state legislative elections led to these results:

The state legislative and gubernatorial elections of November 6, 2018, led to these results:

  • The Republican Party lost four trifectas (in Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin), ending up with 22 in six states. They did not gain any additional trifectas.
  • The Democratic Party added new state government trifectas in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Nevada. They did not lose any trifectas, leaving them with 14.

Gubernatorial elections were held in New Jersey and Virginia in 2017.

In the state legislatures, elections were held for New Jersey State Senate, New Jersey General Assembly, and Virginia House of Delegates. Virginia did not hold any state Senate elections in 2017.

Partisan control prior to the 2017 elections
State Senate House Governor
New Jersey Democratic Democratic Republican
Virginia Republican Republican Democratic
Washington Republican Democratic Democratic
Partisan control after the 2017 elections
State Senate House Governor
New Jersey Democratic Democratic Democratic
Virginia Republican Republican Democratic
Washington Democratic Democratic Democratic

Election impact on trifecta status

  • New Jersey: With Phil Murphy's (D) victory in the gubernatorial election, Democrats gained a trifecta in New Jersey by also maintaining their majorities in both legislative chambers. Heading into the general election, Democrats held a 24-16 majority in the state Senate. In the General Assembly, Democrats held a 52-28 majority heading into the election. Although there were a large number of districts contested by Democrats and Republicans, both chambers remained controlled by Democrats.
  • Virginia: Virginia had the potential to become a Republican trifecta following the 2017 elections. Had Ed Gillespie (R) won the gubernatorial election, Republicans would have gained a trifecta in Virginia. Ralph Northam's (D) victory in the election meant that the state's trifecta status did not change. Heading into the general election, Republicans held a 66-34 majority in the state House. Democrats needed to gain 17 seats in order to take control of the chamber. Ballotpedia identified 13 races to watch in the Virginia House of Delegates elections: four Democratic seats and nine Republican seats.
  • Washington: Special elections took place in the Washington State Senate and Washington House of Representatives on November 7, 2017, in order to address eight vacated seats between the two chambers. Democrats gained a trifecta by winning control of the state Senate. The vacated seats included five seats in the state Senate and three seats in the state House. The November 7 special elections had a higher profile than most state legislative special elections in 2017 because the majority control of the state Senate was at stake. The competitive nature of the Senate District 45 race afforded Democrats the opportunity to gain control of the chamber. Democrats gained effective control of the state Senate by winning the District 45 race. Democrats already had a numerical majority in the Senate. However, because Senator Tim Sheldon (D) caucuses with the GOP, Republicans had effective control of the chamber going into the election.

The state legislative and gubernatorial elections of November 8, 2016, led to these results:

  • The Republican Party added new state government trifectas in four states (Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire). They lost trifectas in Nevada and North Carolina, which left them with 25 trifectas.
  • The Democratic Party lost one trifecta (in Vermont), ending up with trifectas in six states. They did not gain any additional trifectas.
  • One of the six trifectas held by the Democratic Party, in Delaware, was at stake in a special state senate election 2017 to fill the seat that was vacated by Bethany Hall-Long when she was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Delaware. If that one seat flipped to Republican control, the Delaware Democratic trifecta would have been broken. Ώ]
  • Another of the six trifectas held by the Democratic Party, in Connecticut, is a thin trifecta. In the November 8, 2016 state legislative elections in Connecticut, Republicans added three seats in the state senate bringing the balance of power to 18-18. Ballotpedia is still counting this as a trifecta for the Democrats because in the case of a tie vote in the state senate, the tie is broken by the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. a position held by a Democrat. ΐ]

Potential trifecta changes

Ballotpedia identified 18 states where trifecta status could have changed as a result of the 2016 elections:

  • Colorado: For Colorado to become a Democratic trifecta, Democrats needed to win control of the Senate. Entering the election, Republicans held a majority by one seat.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: New Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: New Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: Remain Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: New Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: New divided government.
    • Verdict: New Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: Lost Republican trifecta.
    • Verdict: Lost Democratic trifecta.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: Remain divided government.
    • Verdict: Remain Republican trifecta.

    Potential trifecta losses prior to election

    Ballotpedia identified 13 trifecta states that could have become divided governments after the November 4, 2014, election: Α]

    In the table below, a "Yes" indicates that party control was considered up for grabs, while a "No" indicates races that were not deemed likely to change hands.

    State Positions that could change hands Pre-election party in power Post-election party in power
    Governor Senate House
    Arizona Yes Yes No Republican Republican
    Colorado No Yes No Democratic Divided government
    Connecticut Yes No No Democratic Democratic
    Florida Yes No No Republican Republican
    Illinois Yes No No Democratic Divided government
    Kansas Yes No No Republican Republican
    Maryland Yes No No Democratic Divided government
    Massachusetts Yes No No Democratic Divided government
    Michigan Yes No Yes Republican Republican
    Minnesota No No Yes Democratic Divided government
    Pennsylvania Yes Yes Yes Republican Divided government
    West Virginia No No Yes Democratic Divided government
    Wisconsin Yes Yes No Republican Republican

    Potential trifecta changes in 2014

    Possible new trifectas

      Arkansas: For Arkansas to become a trifecta, both legislative chambers needed to stay Republican and the governor's office needed to swing Republican.
      • Verdict: New Republican trifecta. Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson defeated Democratic candidate Mike Ross.
      • Verdict: New Republican trifecta.Nevada State Assembly turned Republican.
      • Verdict: No trifecta. The Democratic Party retained its state Senate majority.
      • For New Hampshire to become a Democratic trifecta, the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the governor's office had to stay Democratic and the New Hampshire State Senate had to swing Democratic. The Republicans held a 12-11 majority in the state Senate with one vacancy and all 24 seats up for election in 2014.
      • For a Republican trifecta, the Republicans needed to flip the governorship and state House control while retaining the Senate.
      • Verdict: No trifecta.Maggie Hassan (D) won the governorship, while the Republican Party retained the state Senate.
      • Verdict: No trifecta. The Republicans held partisan control of the Washington State Senate.


      Virginia's governorship swung Democratic on November 5, 2013, as Terry McAuliffe (D) defeated Ken Cuccinelli (R). This removed a Republican trifecta in Virginia.

      In May 2013, Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee changed his party affiliation from independent to Democratic, giving the Democratic Party a trifecta in Rhode Island. Β]

      Heading into the 2012 elections, there were 33 total trifectas in the United States. After the election, there were five new trifectas, bringing the total to 38 trifectas. However, following the election, power-sharing arrangements in two states reduced the total trifectas to 36.

      Trifecta complexities

      There were three states that complicated the labeling of trifectas in 2012 and 2013. These three unique situations brought the total trifectas from 37 to 36, decreasing the Democratic states by two and adding one GOP state.

      • In New York, the Democratic Party, by virtue of the elections, controlled all three levels of government. However, a power-sharing agreement was reached that gave control of the state Senate over to the Republicans five elected Democrats pledged to caucus with the GOP. This burst the Democratic trifecta, reducing the total trifectas by one state. Γ]
      • In Virginia, the state Senate was a tied chamber as a result of the 2011 elections. However, the tiebreaking vote was cast by the lieutenant governor, who was a Republican. Thus, control of the governorship and state legislature effectively rested with the Republicans. This gave Republicans an additional trifecta, increasing the total trifectas by one state.Δ]
      • In Washington, the Democratic Party, by virtue of the elections, controlled all three levels of government. However, a power-sharing agreement was reached that gave control of the state Senate over to the Republicans two conservative Democrats pledged to elect Republican leadership to the chamber. This burst the Democratic trifecta, reducing the total trifectas by one state.Ε]

      This was the status of trifectas before the 2012 election.

      This was the status of trifectas after the 2012 election.

      Heading into the 2010 elections, there were 25 total trifectas in the United States. After the election, there were seven new trifectas, bringing the total to 32 trifectas.

      This was the status of trifectas before the 2010 election.

      This was the status of trifectas after the 2010 election.

      How Bernie Sanders, an Open Socialist, Won Burlington’s Mayoral Election

      Parties of the Left and the Right do not fight the electoral battle on even terrain. Parties that defend the status quo draw on advantages that parties seeking radical social change cannot: big-dollar campaign contributions and dark money, the relative weakness of labor movements, capitalist control of major media outlets, and the constraining effects of “business confidence” that can undermine the passage of leftist policies. The deck is stacked against the Left before the campaigning and voting even begin.

      In Britain, as well as the United States and other former British colonies, left-wing parties confront an additional barrier to success: a “winner-take-all” electoral system that systematically prevents them from translating their votes into a proportionate number of legislative seats. In these systems, conservative parties routinely form majority governments without receiving a majority of the votes. And since left-wing voting strength tends to be concentrated in urban areas, major cities in these countries often go without effective representation in national and subnational governments.

      In his recent book Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide , Stanford University political scientist Jonathan Rodden analyzes how economic geography interacts with electoral systems to the disadvantage of the Left. Here, he speaks with Jacobin contributing editor Chris Maisano about the Left’s geography problem, the role of gerrymandering and voter suppression, and the prospects for reshaping political parties and electoral institutions.

      You open your book with a look back at the once powerful Socialist Party of Reading, Pennsylvania. One doesn’t often encounter James Maurer in a work of contemporary political science. How does the history of Pennsylvania socialism help us to understand why cities lose in the United States?

      I was trying to set up an analysis that really wasn’t only about the United States. I was trying to understand the ways in which the United States is similar to or different from other countries that industrialized in roughly the same time period, the late 1800s and the early 1900s. A lot of the same things that were happening in the industrial centers of Europe, with the rise of the labor movement and the mobilization of workers, were happening in the United States as well. All of this happened a bit later in the United States than in Europe, but there were many similarities. The United States ended up going in a very different direction, and I wanted to understand the roots of how that happened.

      It turns out that whether a country adopted proportional representation or stayed with a system of winner-take-all districts mattered a lot for working-class political mobilization. And I think understanding that story and laying out the history of why the United States ended up the way it did is important for understanding what is happening today.

      Your book weaves together a couple strands of analysis in order to lay out that history: a discussion of the patterns of economic geography in the major English-speaking countries, and how those patterns interacted with each country’s electoral system. What’s the main thrust of your analysis? How are economic geography and electoral systems intertwined?

      Economic geography developed in relatively similar ways in the early part of the twentieth century in lots of places that were industrializing. The parties that we think of today as left parties were largely formed and organized around the interests of workers.

      Those workers were usually quite concentrated in a space, because of the way the agglomeration economies associated with industrialization led to a concentration of production and, as a result, a concentration of industrial workers. That in turn led to a concentration of working-class housing, and it shaped the way the built environment was structured in lots of different countries. And that led to a long legacy of geographic concentration of voters for the parties of the Left.

      So left voters end up much more concentrated in space than voters for parties of the Right. And that really matters when you start drawing winner-take-all districts as we do in the United States and the UK and a variety of other countries that were colonized by the British.

      These winner-take-all districts are often relatively small. When we start drawing districts in a context where the main social support base of the Left is highly concentrated, it leads to a number of outcomes that I trace out in the book.

      One of them is difficulty in transforming votes to seats. Another is a problem with fracturing on the Left, and coordination dilemmas at the level of districts, of the kind that we just saw in the most recent British election. The Left ends up either divided or underrepresented, or some combination of those two.

      On the US left, explanations of our systematic electoral weakness tend to focus on things like gerrymandering or voter suppression. But you argue that the main culprit is the majoritarian winner-take-all electoral system. You also make an interesting case that certain forms of electoral engineering can actually promote the cause of fair representation.

      I don’t mean to discount the importance of gerrymandering. The way districts are drawn matters a lot. In fact, the book highlights the role of gerrymandering and tries to identify the settings in which it is most important. I also don’t discount the role of legislation that affects access to the ballot. But these efforts are not the entire story.

      In fact, the urban concentration of left voters actually structures not only the mechanics of gerrymandering but also of registration and turnout. Policies that might make it more difficult for people to maintain their registration and vote are especially relevant for people who change addresses frequently, and these are typically urban residents.

      The point is not that gerrymandering and ballot access are unimportant, but that political geography is central to understanding how these things matter. When it comes to gerrymandering, in some US states, if we run a lot of computer simulations and draw a large number of reasonable redistricting plans that would seem compact, nonpartisan, and “fair” to most people, we’ll still end up with a concentration of Democrats in cities, which will lead to their underrepresentation in the legislature.

      But there are some other states where the emergence and growth of cities have unfolded differently, and Democrats are less concentrated at the relevant scale for redistricting. In those states, if we see a real asymmetry between votes and seats, we can point the finger at intentional gerrymandering. Understanding these geographic patterns only helps us better understand the role of gerrymandering.

      In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democrats are quite clustered in cities, it would take some intentional effort to draw districts that achieve fair representation. Yet we can still see that the Pennsylvania congressional districts in the last round of redistricting were drawn in a way that pushed the Republican seat share even further than what it would have been in the absence of those efforts. The Pennsylvania courts were convinced of this when they struck down the Pennsylvania congressional map.

      You’ve been involved in court cases addressing the question of gerrymandering and how it affects the translation of votes into seats.

      There’s been a long-standing effort to try to find ways of convincing the Supreme Court that it is possible to quantify gerrymandering, and the Court has been skeptical about that. Efforts have focused on the construction of a single statewide indicator of gerrymandering, but none of those efforts took geography into account.

      A problem with a lot of what people had been doing in this space is that it was easy to demonstrate that the translation of votes to seats was quite unfavorable to the Democrats. But it was unclear whether that was an effort of legislators who were drawing districts in strategic ways, or if this was an outcome we would have expected even from a party-blind redistricting process, simply because of the asymmetric clustering of Democrats. The courts were quite aware of this problem, and it informed their skepticism.

      In my initial work on political geography, I viewed gerrymandering as a kind of a nuisance — something that got in the way of my efforts to isolate the role of political geography in shaping representation. With some collaborators, we started doing a lot of computer simulations of redistricting in different states, and we were able to show that it was often the case that these simulations ended up producing districts that were surprisingly bad for the Democrats.

      But we could also see that in cases where the actual enacted districts had been drawn by Republican legislatures, the partisanship of those districts was in some cases completely outside the range of the simulations that we did. We also noticed that in some instances where Democrats drew the districts, they were able to do a bit better than in the neutral redistricting plans.

      So we started using that observation as a way to demonstrate to the courts that it’s possible to disentangle geography and intentional gerrymandering. We first used this approach in a lawsuit in Florida. Subsequently, there has been an explosion of this type of research. We now have a community of collaborators among mathematicians and computer scientists and others who are trying to come up with better and more efficient ways to draw thousands — even millions — of alternative plans, altering various parameters, to see whether enacted plans end up looking like outliers relative to large samples of neutral plans. While the Supreme Court has thrown up its hands, this approach has been useful in state court. It has now been used in state court in Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and it has led to gerrymandered plans being thrown out.

      You often return to Pennsylvania in the book as a case study of how these issues play out in real time. What is it about Pennsylvania that makes it so useful as a lens through which to address how geography interacts with representation and the drawing of districts?

      There are lots of reasons for that. My story starts in the era of early industrialization. Pennsylvania is a good example of an early-industrializing state where contemporary Democrats are concentrated in nineteenth-century industrial centers.

      There are other early-industrializing states like Massachusetts and Connecticut where it’s harder to see some of the effects I talk about, because the overall Democratic vote share is so high. Even exurban and rural Massachusetts voters typically vote for Democrats. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is frequently a swing state.

      I also think a comparison of western Pennsylvania and eastern Pennsylvania is a really useful one. The Democrats’ problem is especially pronounced in western Pennsylvania, where almost all of their support nowadays is concentrated in Pittsburgh. The eastern part of the state is a bit more complex and interesting because of smaller industrial agglomerations outside of Philadelphia, and the fact that the Philadelphia suburbs are trending Democratic in recent years.

      These would be places like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Reading?

      Yes, the list goes on. Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown — all these places are strongly Democratic. Many of these places experienced a relatively large swing toward the Republicans in the 2016 election, but the urban core of those cities is still very Democratic. And on a smaller scale, they show this same relationship we see in other places, which is that the city center, somewhere right around their City Hall, is overwhelmingly Democratic — something on the order of 75 or 80 percent — and then as one moves out into the inner-ring suburbs and through the periphery into the rural areas, there’s an increase in Republican vote share. That’s the pattern we see in all kinds of different cities.

      So, if the underlying problem for the Democrats is the way in which winner-take-all interacts with the geographic concentration of their voters, and not things like gerrymandering or voter suppression, then why don’t Democratic officeholders or activists agitate more for major electoral reforms?

      This has been a long-standing question. It’s been a problem for labor parties in Britain and Australia, for example, since the early twentieth century. Literature on this in the 1950s and 1960s pointed out that labor parties suffered from this problem, which of course leads to the question of why labor parties don’t, as soon as they get into power, change the rules.

      The answer to that question has a lot to do with the self-interest of the elites in those parties, who are concerned about what would happen under a system of proportional representation, which would very likely lead to a fragmentation of the Left. If they move too far to the right, they’re fending off challenges from far-left parties. If they move too far to the left, they get challengers from the center, and as politics becomes more multidimensional and we get the emergence of issues like the environment, Green parties are always lurking and potentially threatening them.

      So elites from the mainstream parties are often very worried that a shift to proportional representation might lead to a fragmentation on the Left, and with good reason. It can be in their self-interest to maintain the majoritarian system — and especially when they win, actors in politics tend to like the rules under which they were victorious.

      We saw that with Justin Trudeau in Canada, who ran in 2015 on a platform in which he was rather explicit about his claim that if the Liberals won the election, it would be the last one held under the majoritarian electoral system. But when it won under those rules, the party changed its platform and is now committed to maintaining the existing system.

      The UK Labour Party campaigned for years on overhauling Britain’s winner-take-all system, but as soon as they swept the Liberals aside in 1918, they were converted to the virtues of winner-take-all.

      Exactly, and then the two parties’ positions about electoral reform switched almost immediately. Labour was demanding proportional representation, as was the case for labor parties in many other countries. But once they swept the Liberals aside and thought they could be the dominant party of the Left, well, suddenly their incentives changed. The Liberals became the champions of proportional representation, and to this day, the Liberal Democrats and other insurgent parties on the left side of the political spectrum are the champions of proportional representation. That’s certainly true for the New Democratic Party and the Greens in Canada, and so forth.

      I want to focus on the UK for a moment, because what happened in the recent general election there relates to many of the issues and questions you raise in your book. The Conservatives crushed Labour on the strength of a largely suburban, rural, and small-town vote, while Labour retained a hard-core base of support in London and other major urban centers in England.

      What’s your reading of what just happened in the UK, and how did all of these trends that we’ve seen over the last couple of decades affect the Labour Party and its chances of doing well in the election?

      There are ways in which that election does seem like a classic case of much of what I’m talking about, but there is another aspect of that election that is still very hard to grapple with. That is Brexit, which loomed so large for many voters. It’s a little too early to conclude that this is a realignment election because of the shift of some of the old industrial areas from Labour to the Conservatives. It’s possible that it was a short-term vote that really was about “getting Brexit done.” So there are some questions about the future of British political geography left unresolved.

      But in general, the observation that fits nicely with the analysis in the book is that the mainstream party of the Left has a difficult task: it must deviate from the ideological preferences of its urban base in order to win the median district.

      It’s important to point out that the median district is what determines whether you control Parliament or not. The ideological distance between your core base of support and the pivotal swing constituencies, which in Britain and the United States are often suburban, can be quite large. If the urban core supporters drive the platform, it is possible to end up with a platform that makes it difficult to win those places. And this creates fragmentation on the Left, such that the Lib Dems and Labour end up unable to coordinate and their voters end up splitting the vote.

      So when you look at the nationwide vote share and start adding up votes for the various parties, the parties that one might classify, in the current British ideological space, as parties of the Left actually received more votes than the Conservatives. But again, they were fragmented across various parties, and the Conservatives knew going in that in order to form a large parliamentary majority, all they needed was a vote share in the low 40 percent range. And that’s an interesting scenario, when the right side of the political spectrum is unified and the left side is fragmented.

      I think that’s not a bad way to describe what’s happening. It’s complicated by Brexit and the multidimensional nature of these issues. But the votes of the Right were more coordinated on one party, and the ability of Conservatives to squeeze out the Brexit Party was an important part of how that was achieved. But the Left was unable to achieve that, of course. With the Scottish National Party, the mainstream party of the Left now in much of Scotland, it ends up with a rather intense fragmentation that makes it very hard to even imagine what the next step might be for consolidation on the Left.

      You don’t devote specific attention to this in the book, but the decline and political marginalization of the labor movement in all these countries drives many of the problems parties of the Left face today. It seems like these problems of coordination and stitching together a broad-based geographical coalition would be easier if unions were stronger, were able to command the loyalty of working-class people outside metropolitan areas, were able to recover, at least to some extent, their previous levels of strength and organizational density.

      You’re right, the decline of organized labor doesn’t get that much attention in the book. But it is there in the background, and it’s understood that this is an important part of the transformation of the Left.

      All the difficulties we’ve just been talking about in selecting a platform and weaving together very diverse constituencies, the decline of labor is a part of that. And the decline of private-sector unions relative to public-sector unions in particular has been important. Public-sector unions still play a relatively important role in the United States and elsewhere. This adds another wrinkle to some of the difficulties the Democrats might face in places where they are trying to please some of their core constituents who are members of public-sector unions. Workers who have not been members of labor unions for a generation now might see the Democrats as catering to public-sector unions and producing nice pensions for local public-sector workers and not doing so much for them, because they just have no connection to the labor unions to which their parents belonged.

      The political geography of partisan conflict in countries like the United States and UK has led to, as you put it in your book, a battle for the soul of the Left. One of the hottest controversies in the new socialist movements in these countries is what we might call the “professional-managerial class question” — whether a Left disproportionately composed of liberal urban professionals and downwardly mobile graduates is doomed to fail.

      As someone who’s presumably not politically or emotionally invested in these sorts of debates, what do you think of that proposition?

      I don’t have a clear sense of whether that’s true or not. It’s a difficult gap to bridge. It’s difficult to be the party of San Francisco at the same time that you’re trying to be the party of Scranton, but I don’t think there’s evidence that it’s impossible. I do think all of this becomes a bit easier in a multiparty system, where different parts of the Left can appeal to different constituencies.

      We’ve seen this happen in continental Europe, where the Green parties are really the city-center parties of the Left now, and the social democratic parties are still trying to focus on the industrial workers and, in some cases, new migrants. But they have to stretch themselves far less than a mainstream party of the Left in a place like the United States, which probably does at the current moment have to be a party of both Silicon Valley and postindustrial towns. Unless there’s some really major realignment, that’s currently what the Left is faced with.

      There are conditions under which that coalition can work. The New Labour period in Britain is an example of that. From the perspective of some folks on the Left, that’s not a good example of something that worked because it was so centrist. But this is the underlying tension. The majoritarian system forces the party of the Left, if it wants to win, to do what Tony Blair did and try to appeal to those suburban and middle-class constituents.

      The electoral institutions don’t provide much of a way out of that, but in the United States, it’s a bit more complex than even in Britain because we have multiple levels of competition. We do have statewide races in which it might be possible to, especially in a very urban state that has enough urban voters, not worry about the median voter in the median district and just try to win the statewide Senate or gubernatorial election or electoral votes with an unabashedly urban platform. But that can have a negative impact on your ability to win those pivotal legislative seats. So there’s a tension between strategies based on the median voter, and strategies based on the median district, that is especially strong in the United States.

      I certainly wouldn’t deny that the electoral system imposes some difficult dilemmas on the US left. But I do want to push back on the question of electoral strategy.

      As a socialist, I don’t find the New Labour or Blue Dog Democrat approach to be either personally appealing or politically wise. So what if another potential path exists, something along the lines of what Bernie Sanders has managed to achieve in Vermont over the past few decades? His personal and cultural profile is quite urban, and he’s never tried to hide his socialist politics, but he’s managed to consistently win in a very white and rural state.

      Is there just something unique and quirky about Vermont, or can the Left in other parts of the country replicate that sort of approach on a larger scale?

      That’s a great question. Regarding the first part of your question, I’d give a solid yes. There is something unique and quirky about Vermont. It’s something that lots of people who spend time there appreciate. It’s a very unusual state in a number of ways. One of the ways in which it’s unusual is true of Bernie Sanders himself — many of the residents of Vermont were not born there. I think this is an important distinction that matters in a lot of places. Vermont is a state that has seen a lot of in-migration, a lot of it from other parts of the urban Northeast. It’s one of those places, also like western Massachusetts, where even a lot of rural residents are relatively more liberal.

      There are parts of the state that are still quite conservative, and they typically vote for Republicans, but your question is about whether an individual with the right characteristics can bridge that urban-rural gap. There’s evidence that Democrats have been able to do that, of course, in places like Montana and elsewhere. It can still be done.

      It’s important to note that even though the correlation between presidential voting and voting in down-ballot races is very high, it varies a great deal from one state to another. Just to look at a couple of good examples, Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota and Sherrod Brown in Ohio win big majorities in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Even in 2016 in Pennsylvania, the geography of support for the Democratic candidates in the presidential and US Senate races was surprisingly different.

      So the American voter can be a little more flexible and unpredictable than we sometimes imagine. Gubernatorial races are probably the best examples of this. We see Democrats able to win in places like Kansas and Kentucky. Of course, in Vermont, one of the fascinating things is that ideologically flexible Republicans have been very successful in Vermont gubernatorial elections.

      That’s a long-winded way of saying that lots of different strategies are possible, and the one that you lay out seems plausible, under the right circumstances. But at the same time, the urban-rural division is quite stark, and it’s probably not going away anytime soon.

      One path toward repatterning political conflict in the United States is modifying party platforms to replace the current set of conflicts with a different one. The other major one that you address is replacing the current winner-take-all system with some form of proportional representation.

      This often seems like a nearly impossible task. But is there a potentially realistic path to achieving major electoral reform today?

      There are a lot of people working on this, and their focus has been on starting local and then trying to demonstrate success and use some of the experimental capacity that US federalism provides us with. There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a state from adopting a different set of electoral institutions at the state level. And, of course, lots of US cities are already experimenting with ranked-choice voting and other electoral rules, and there’s a long history of this type of experimentation at the municipal level. One can imagine some state experimenting with some form of proportional representation, perhaps in response to a referendum, so my guess would be the most likely place to see electoral reform would be in one of the western states that has a referendum process.

      I don’t expect to see either major party, or elites within these parties, pushing for this. For instance, if we look at New Zealand, their adoption of proportional representation was pushed by independent voter groups, not by the elites in the major parties. We saw something like that in Michigan regarding redistricting reform. You can imagine a group of people pushing for electoral reform in a similar way.

      It’s possible for electoral reform to be viewed not as some kind of a project of the Left. There are people on the Right as well who might find that they actually benefit from a more diverse set of choices. All social and economic issues are bundled into these two Democratic and Republican packages, which are very diverse and heterogeneous. But there are lots of Americans whose views just don’t fit perfectly with either party, and plenty of those people are on the Right.

      You can imagine electoral reform being kind of like redistricting reform, which can be of interest to people on all sides of the political spectrum. Elites are another matter, but voters are much more open-minded about these things.

      The adoption of proportional representation systems in other countries often occurred as part of a self-preservation strategy by established parties who faced insurgencies on the left, as the new labor and social democratic parties were organizing themselves and winning mass support among the working classes. One could imagine a scenario where an insurgent force on the left starts to challenge established Democrats for their seats in districts where there’s really no competition between Democrats and Republicans. And if the insurgents are consistently successful, the establishment Democrats could become much more interested in proportional representation or similar reforms as a way of preserving themselves and limiting their losses.

      I’ve thought about that possibility, and it leads to an interesting question: Why don’t we see more insurgents running under some other label and challenging the Democrats in some of these districts? Maybe some of the answer has to do with the minutiae of ballot access laws and things like that, but I think the bigger-picture story is the presidential system in the United States and the lack of the type of party discipline you often get in a parliamentary system.

      That means the Democratic Party really can be many different things to different people, and you can have people who run in some of the most progressive districts as democratic socialists, but the “D” is still next to their name, and they are still in Congress as a Democrat.

      The very flexibility of the US party labels, I think, makes it so that it’s not really necessary to start a new party and start running in these districts under some other label. The same kind of individuals who might be interested in doing so can just run in the Democratic primary and try from within to change the brand of the Democratic Party. That’s what has been happening with the Squad and some of the other recent Democratic members of the legislature.

      And they have received a great deal of attention, which changes the reputation of the Democratic Party in ways that might not be so helpful for the party in suburban constituencies. In a parliamentary system, it’s easier to see why Greens or socialists might organize under a separate party label and try to squeeze out more moderate incumbents in progressive urban districts, but in the United States, the incentives for insurgents are to work within the existing parties.

      12 Facts About the Election of 1800

      The Broadway musical Hamilton will soon makes its Canadian debut—so now is the perfect time to talk about one of Act II's most pivotal songs: "The Election of 1800." The actual event was even more vitriolic than its onstage dramatization (which is plenty dramatic). Here’s what the Broadway show didn’t tell you about this epic, game-changing race.


      By 1800, a rift had divided the Federalists. Although President John Adams belonged to this party, he didn’t have its unified support. During America’s undeclared Quasi-War with France, Adams irked some of the more hawkish Federalists by sending a peace delegation to Paris in 1799.

      Outraged, some partisans went so far as to start looking for an alternative Federalist candidate to replace their current president in 1800. Their first choice? Adams’s predecessor.

      At 67, Washington was semi-retired from public life, but he was still one of the most popular figures in America. If the Virginian ran for a third term, he may well have won—perhaps in a landslide. During the summer of 1799, Federalist Jonathan Trumbull wrote the old general and implored him to enter the fray.

      Apparently, Washington didn’t like his chances, especially among Democratic-Republican voters. “I am thoroughly convinced I should not draw a single vote from the Anti-federal side,” he told Trumbull. On top of this, the former president was fed up with politics altogether: “Prudence on my part must arrest any attempt of the well meant, but mistaken views of my friends, to introduce me again to the Chair of Government.”

      Another plea arrived in Mount Vernon that December. This time, the writer was Gouverneur Morris, a prominent Federalist who’d helped author the U.S. Constitution. In his dispatch, Morris argued that “the leading Federal characters (even in Massachusetts) consider Mr. Adams as unfit for the office he now holds.” But Washington might have never read the message. On December 14—five days after it was dated—he passed away.


      As everybody knows, 21st-century Americans don’t directly vote for their preferred presidential candidate. When we show up to the polls, we’re really voting to choose our state’s electors. These people, in turn, are the ones who go on to cast their ballots in a follow-up election that officially picks the next Commander-in-Chief. Here's how it works:

      If you think this process is complicated now, be glad you weren’t around in 1800. Back then, there were 16 states. In 11 of them, everyday voters didn’t even get to choose their state’s electors. Instead, their state legislatures did that. Naturally, this legal setup had a huge impact on the White House race. By winning a majority (however slim) within one of those 11 legislatures, a given political party could often expect to cast every single electoral vote in that state’s possession.

      Consider New York, for instance. In 1800, Democratic-Republicans only slightly outnumbered Federalists in the state legislature—but on a raw popular vote count, the Federalists were actually in the lead. And yet, even with their thin majority, the Democratic-Republicans were able to hand Jefferson all 12 of New York’s electoral votes. (Stay tuned for more about that.)

      Over time, the practice of letting state legislatures choose electors died away. By 1833, every state except South Carolina had discarded the approach. In 1868, the state finally decided to let residents pick the electors. Before the century ended, Florida and Colorado would briefly adopt the old system, only to cast it aside just as their fellow states had.


      In 1800, the Democratic-Republicans had a secret weapon, and his name was James T. Callender. An 18th-century muckraker, Callender’s rise to fame began in his native Scotland. In 1792, he published a lengthy essay which scathingly denounced Britain’s political institutions (at one point, he condemned Parliament as “a phalanx of mercenaries”), which led the British government to charge Callender with sedition.

      Upon fleeing to Philadelphia in 1793, the Scotsman found a new group to lambaste: the Federalist party. Once Callendar had established himself as a Democratic-Republican journalist, he proceeded to skewer the Washington and Adams administrations in print. Then, in 1797, he dealt Alexander Hamilton a crippling blow. Through a set of pamphlets entitled History of the United States for 1796, Callender revealed that the former Treasury Secretary had an extramarital affair with a married woman named Maria Reynolds. Moreover, he accused Hamilton of improperly using government funds to either keep Maria’s husband quiet, or possibly fatten his own wallet. Hamilton was forced to give a response that was utterly self-destructive. In a published statement, the Federalist admitted—at great length—to the adultery, but vehemently denied any financial wrongdoings. Still, the damage had been done Hamilton’s reputation would never fully recover.

      Knowing what Callender was capable of, Jefferson helped the journalist skewer a new target in 1800. Using subsidies provided by the Sage of Monticello, Callender wrote an anti-Adams treatise called The Prospect Before Us. In this document, the president was depicted as an ill-tempered monarchist hell-bent on starting a war with France. “Take your choice,” it declared, “between Adams, war and beggary and Jefferson, peace and competency.”

      An advanced copy of the 187-page takedown was sent to Jefferson, who gleefully told Callender, “Such papers cannot fail to produce the best effect.”

      They did not, however, have the “best effect” on Callender’s life. In short order, The Prospect Before Us landed its author in jail. Accused of violating the Sedition Act, Callender was prosecuted and slapped with a nine-month prison sentence on June 4, 1800 [PDF]. By the time he was released in 1801, Jefferson had won the election. Here’s where the plot thickens: Once Callender’s incarceration ended, he demanded that the new president appoint him postmaster of Richmond. Jefferson refused. So in retaliation, Callender publicly claimed that the Commander-in-Chief had fathered several children by one Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s slave. Is this story true? The jury’s still out.


      Just as it is today, Pennsylvania was considered a swing state in 1800. By then, America’s political landscape had begun to take shape. Up in the north, New England could be relied upon to support the Federalists. Meanwhile, the southern states—with the notable exception of moderate South Carolina—were Democratic-Republican strongholds. The real battleground was the Mid-Atlantic. How New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania would vote in 1800 was anyone’s guess: Early on, some predicted that they’d back Jefferson, while others wrote them off as Adams’ territory. But in a startling twist, Pennsylvania almost abstained from the race entirely.

      In 1799, Democratic-Republicans had seized control of the state's House of Representatives—but Federalists still controlled the State Senate (albeit, by a tiny margin). The result was a partisan showdown. Usually, Pennsylvania was one of the states that chose based on popular vote, but the matter of how popular votes would be converted to electoral votes was still to be decided. The Democratic-Republicans wanted all 15 to be chosen on a statewide general ticket (which would probably give all 15 to their candidate), while the Federalists wanted the state divided into 15 districts with each district choosing an individual elector (conveniently, these districts were drawn in such a way as to help out the Federalists as much as possible).

      Given the stalemate, many—including Jefferson—feared that Pennsylvania simply wouldn’t vote at all. As historian Edward J. Larson observed in A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, “Nothing in the national Constitution actually required states to cast electoral votes.”

      Thankfully, Pennsylvania’s voice was heard after all. At the eleventh hour, the local House and Senate reached an agreement. By virtue of its population, the Keystone State was legally allowed to choose 15 electors. But it was too late to have a general election under either method. So, as a compromise, its legislature selected eight Democratic-Republicans and seven Federalists on December 2, 1800. Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated three months later.


      Were it not for Aaron Burr, Adams might have won the Empire State—and, consequently, a second term. In the spring of 1800, New York was scheduled to hold its legislative elections, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher: Whichever party outperformed the other in these races might clinch a legislative majority. Once this was done, the victorious faction could then dole out as it pleased all twelve of New York’s electoral votes.

      For both parties, winning big in the Big Apple would be critical. New York City had long been a Federalist town. To change that, Burr basically perfected the modern, citywide political campaign. Using his intellect and charm, the Revolutionary War veteran and Democratic-Republican won over a group of loyal followers who dubbed themselves “Burrites.” He also worked with a social group called the Tammany Society to hold regular party meetings for Manhattan’s Democratic-Republicans.

      If the name “Tammany Society” sounds familiar, it should: The organization would go on to become Tammany Hall, New York City’s infamous political Party machine. Established in 1789, it started out as a friendly club best known for throwing benign get-togethers like picnics. Soon, it attracted scores of immigrants, who used Tammany Society events to make new connections. Politics were seldom discussed.

      But as time wore on, the club got partisan. By 1800, it had emerged as a magnet for Jeffersonians in Federalist New York City. Under Burr’s leadership, the Tammany Society sent volunteers out to knock on doors and ask for funds. And that’s not all: As the elections approached, Burr’s hand-picked orators could be found denouncing Adams on street corners throughout Manhattan.

      This was exhausting work, and Burr knew it. Volunteers in need of a drink or nap could get both at the Burr residence. According to one observer (a New York merchant), “Col. Burr kept open house for nearly two months … Refreshments were always on the table, and mattresses were set up for temporary repose in the rooms.”

      The polls opened on April 29 and closed three days later. Thanks to Burr’s unparalleled organizational skills, his triumphant party swept the New York City assembly seats. All 12 electoral votes would now go to Jefferson. Understandably, Burr couldn’t help but gloat a little—after the dust settled, he told one Federalist, “We have beat you by superior management.” Duly impressed by his efforts in the Big Apple, the Democratic-Republican party selected Burr as its vice presidential candidate.


      Even Hamilton’s most ardent supporters questioned the wisdom of this decision. That the two men despised each other was an open secret within Federalist circles. Although he ostensibly supported Adams, Hamilton made no secret of his preference for Adams’s running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Previously, the second U.S. president had accused Hamilton of organizing a “British Faction” within the Federalist party. Behind closed doors, Adams also made disparaging remarks about the former Treasury Secretary’s illegitimate birth, referring to him as a “creole bastard.”

      On October 22, 1800, Hamilton unleashed a scathing anti-Adams pamphlet. Fifty-four pages long, the document rivaled Callender’s The Prospect Before Us in its brutality. After acknowledging at the onset that Adams did have “talents of a certain kind,” Hamilton proceeded to compose a laundry list of perceived character flaws, such as the president’s “disgusting egotism” and “distempered jealousy.” Weirdly though, Hamilton ended the whole rant by telling his fellow Federalists to support Adams anyway. Talk about a mixed message.

      The pamphlet was intended for circulation only among a very exclusive group of Federalists. But somehow, leaked excerpts appeared in Democratic-Republican newspapers. This forced Hamilton to publish the whole thing, much to the delight of Jeffersonians everywhere. James Madison for one could barely contain his schadenfreude. “It will be a thunderbolt to both [Adams and Hamilton],” declared the Virginian. When the dust settled, Hamilton’s diatribe had spectacularly backfired. On top of hurting the Federalist ticket in 1800, the essay mortally wounded its author’s reputation. As his friend Robert Troup wrote, most party insiders now saw Hamilton as being “radically deficient in discretion” and therefore unfit to lead. Soon enough, he’d recede from the national stage altogether.


      Philadelphia began a 10-year stint as America’s capital in 1790. On June 11, 1800, it officially lost this title to a little city on the Potomac. Rustic and remote, Washington didn’t exactly look like its modern self at the time: When Congress and the president arrived in D.C., neither the Capitol Building nor the White House had been finished yet.

      John Adams began settling into the latter on November 1. Fifteen days afterwards, he was joined there by First Lady Abigail Adams—who found the place underwhelming. “I [would] much rather live in the house at Philadelphia. Not one room or chamber is finished of the whole. It is habitable by fires in every part, thirteen of which we are obliged to keep daily, or sleep in wet and damp places,” she said.

      Regardless, the Adamses realized that their new home was, in Abigail’s words, “Built for history.” After he awoke from his first night’s sleep there, John waxed poetic about the mansion in a letter to his wife. “I pray to heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it,” he wrote. “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”


      The Constitution’s framers didn’t foresee the rise of major political parties. As such, the Electoral College was not designed with national tickets in mind. Under the original rules, every elector was given two votes of equal value. He would then cast these for his two favorite candidates. To become America’s next Commander-in-Chief, a presidential hopeful had to win votes from a majority of the electors. Whoever emerged as the runner-up would land that great silver medal called the vice presidency. And because candidates weren’t running as presidential-vice presidential tickets, it was important to ensure the primary candidate was the winner, and the secondary candidate was the runner up.

      If nobody clinched a majority in the Electoral College, or if there was a tie, the House of Representatives got to decide the winner. Simple as that.

      A major flaw in the system emerged in 1800. Every elector was now either a Federalist or a Democratic-Republican. Presumably, they’d all vote for their party’s standardized presidential and vice presidential nominees. But voting in synch like this had serious consequences: When the Electoral College cast and tallied its ballots, there wasn’t a clear victor. With 73 votes apiece, Jefferson and Burr tied for first place. Trailing them was Adams, who received 65 votes while his running mate got 64. Why didn’t those two tie as well? Because the Federalists, anticipating this sort of problem, made sure that Pinckney finished slightly behind Adams. Accordingly, one—and only one—Federalist elector cast a vote for John Jay. Best remembered for his eponymous treaty, Jay served as both a Supreme Court justice and as the governor of New York. Also, as fans of Hamilton can tell you, he wrote a few of the very influential Federalist Papers. (Five, to be precise.)


      Let’s take a closer look at how Jefferson and Burr fared. You’ll recall that both of these men netted 73 electoral votes. Analyzing their performance reveals an uncomfortable truth.

      The Constitution’s notorious three-fifths clause handed a disproportionate amount of power to the slave states—both in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral College. Consider this: In 1800, Massachusetts (which abolished slavery 17 years prior) was home to around 575,000 free citizens. Down south, Virginia boasted a free population of only 535,000 or so. And yet, while the Bay State only had 16 electoral votes, slave-holding Virginia possessed 21.

      In total, this unfair clause gave the slave states 14 extra electors. Twelve of them went on to cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr, while the remaining two backed Adams and Pinckney. You do the math: Had the three-fifths clause not existed, Adams would have beaten both of his Democratic-Republican opponents by two votes.

      This fact wasn’t lost on American abolitionists. Before Jefferson’s inauguration, one Federalist newspaper—the Mercury and New England Palladium—charged that he had made his “ride into the temple of Liberty on the shoulders of slaves.”


      The electors gathered in their respective state capitals to cast their votes on December 3, 1800, which wouldn't be officially counted until February 11 of the following year. Still, before 1800 came to a close, the press was able to deduce that Burr and Jefferson had tied. As per Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives was tasked with breaking the stalemate—but at the time, the House was controlled by a lame duck Federalist majority. Smelling an opportunity, House Federalists schemed to destroy Jefferson’s presidential hopes by voting for Burr.

      But they couldn’t just make him Commander-in-Chief right then and there. By Constitutional law, when the House settles an Electoral College tie, its members don’t vote as individuals. Instead, one vote is given to the delegation from each state within the House. So in other words, all the representatives from, say, New Hampshire cast one solitary vote as a collective bloc.

      To win in the House, Jefferson (or Burr) would need nine votes. But on the first ballot, Jefferson received eight and Burr got six. Two states—Vermont and Maryland—were evenly split between Burr and Jefferson supporters. Hence, both of them abstained. Over a tiresome, five-day period, the House voted 35 times and failed to make any headway.

      Jefferson supporters were incensed by the gridlock. Pennsylvania Governor Thomas McKean, an ardent Democratic-Republican, declared that if the House didn’t back Jefferson, he’d send his state’s 20,000-man militia to march on Washington. James Monroe, then the governor of Virginia, was prepared to do likewise.


      Never one to sit idly by, Hamilton wrote to his Federalist colleagues on the Hill, warning them that a Burr presidency would prove disastrous. “In a choice of Evils, let them take the least,” Hamilton told one congressman. “Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr.”

      Among those whom he contacted was Federalist James A. Bayard, Delaware’s only representative in the House. At first, Bayard disregarded Hamilton’s advice and supported Burr during the first 35 votes. But then, going into the 36th vote, he decided to abstain. Moreover, the Delawarean convinced several other Federalists to follow suit. Thanks to Bayard’s maneuvering, the lack of a Delaware vote meant Jefferson would have won—but Maryland and Vermont also joined the Jefferson column when their Federalists abstained, breaking the tie and giving Jefferson 10 states.

      Why did Bayard suddenly cast his lot with Jefferson? A backroom deal may have been involved. Later in life, Bayard claimed that he’d contacted Jefferson three days before the decisive vote and made the would-be president agree to certain Federalist terms. In 1806, Jefferson called this allegation “absolutely false.” Still, it might explain why the Democratic-Republican Commander-in-Chief didn’t shut down Hamilton’s Bank of the U.S.


      For many years, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had been close friends. Together, they’d helped create the Declaration of Independence, worked in Europe as fellow diplomats, and had even stolen a piece of Shakespeare’s favorite chair. (Seriously.) But as their political careers diverged, the two became rivals. When Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801, Adams was nowhere to be found. Eight hours before the big event, he’d left Washington and started making his way back to the family farm in Braintree, Massachusetts. This made Adams the first president who chose to skip his successor’s swearing-in ceremony. (History repeated itself 28 years later, when John Quincy Adams boycotted Andrew Jackson’s inauguration. Like father, like son.)

      Adams and Thomas Jefferson didn’t make amends until 1811, when the former casually told some houseguests, “I always loved Jefferson, and I still love him.” Mutual friends forwarded this comment along to Monticello. Jefferson was thrilled. “I only needed this knowledge to revive towards [Adams] all of the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives,” he proclaimed. Over the next 15 years, the two ex-presidents exchanged more than 150 friendly letters. They both died within hours of each other on the same day—July 4, 1826.

      End Notes

      Even before Covid-19, the vast majority of Americans were entitled to vote by absentee or mail ballot. Generally, 34 states and the District of Columbia allow all registered voters to vote by absentee ballot in any election. footnote1_dynrwo6 1 AK, AZ, CA, C O, DC, FL, GA, HA, IA, ID, IL, KS, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY. For more on state laws on absentee ballots, see Brennan Center for Justice, Preparing Your State for an Election Under Pandemic Conditions, accessed July 22, 2020, (Virginia became the 34th “no-excuse” absentee voting state earlier this year when it passed legislation to eliminate its excuse requirement. footnote2_ip62bwp 2 2020 Virginia Acts of Assembly Rec. 1149 (2020), ) Of those 34 states, 5 — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington — conduct their elections principally by mail.

      Although 16 states generally restrict absentee voting to those who qualify for one of a limited number of excuses, the excuse requirement did not limit access to absentee ballots for most voters during the primaries. footnote3_4hz625d 3 Max Feldman, Eliza Sweren-Becker, and Wendy R. Weiser, COVID-19 Should Be a Legitimate ‘Excuse’ to Vote by Mail, Brennan Center for Justice, 2020, That is because only five states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas — did not let every person who fears spreading or contracting Covid-19 cast a mail ballot during at least one of their primaries, while Missouri required an excuse for its March 10 presidential primary but not its August state primary. footnote4_gazd2wp 4 The Louisiana legislature approved of the Secretary of State’s emergency plan to expand the absentee excuses for its July primary to permit absentee voting by those at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, those subject to a quarantine or isolation order or medical advice, those experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, and those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus. For more information, see Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin, “Secretary of State Emergency Election Plan for the July 11, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary and August 15, 2020 Municipal General Elections in the State of Louisiana,” April 20, 2020, But that did not apply to all voters who feared contracting or spreading Covid-19. On June 4, 2020, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed SB631 into law, permitting any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot in any 2020 election, subject to a notarization requirement. Individuals who have contracted or are in a statutorily specified at-risk category for contracting or transmitting Covid-19 are exempted from the notarization requirement. The law expires after this year, but did not apply in the March 10 primary. See Senate Bill No. 631, MO SB631, 100th General Assembly (2020), The General Assembly of the State of Missouri, June 4, 2020, As in 2016, Louisiana’s July 11 primary had the lowest turnout rate (14 percent) of any state’s presidential primary this year in which both parties were voting (excluding caucuses). Missouri and Mississippi also had relatively low turnouts at 21.2 percent and 23.7 percent respectively, though their primaries took place on March 10, the day before the pandemic was officially declared. footnote5_mkazxe6 5 Michael P. McDonald, “2020 Presidential Nomination Contest Turnout Rates,” United States Election Project, accessed July 22, 2020,

      Of the 17 states that required a restrictive excuse to vote absentee prior to the pandemic, 13 states changed their rules to let all voters who fear contracting or spreading Covid-19 to cast mail ballots during at least one of their post-March 11 primary or runoff elections. footnote6_qbenimz 6 AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, MA, MO, NH, NY, SC, VA, and WV. Five states did so by gubernatorial order, five through action by state election officials, and four legislatively. footnote7_801nlz9 7 By gubernatorial order (AR, CT, DE, KY, and NY): Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, “Governor Hutchinson Proclaims COVID-19 A Valid Reason to Vote Absentee,” August 7, 2020, Connecticut’s governor issued an executive order pertaining to the August 11, 2020 primary, then the legislature passed a law specific to the primary. Both had the same effect. See Governor Ned Lamont, “Executive Order No. 7QQ: Protection of Public Health and Safety During COVID-19 Pandemic and Response – Safe Voting During Statewide Primary,” May 20, 2020, State of Delaware Executive Department, “Sixth Modification of The Declaration of a State of Emergency for the State of Delaware Due to a Public Health Threat,” March 24, 2020, Office of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, “State of Emergency Relating to Kentucky Elections,” April 24, 2020, Office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, “Continuing Temporary Suspension And Modification Of Laws Relating To The Disaster Emergency,” New York Executive Order 202.2, March 14, 2020, By state election officials (AL, IN, NH, VA and WV): Office of Alabama Secretary of State, “Secretary Merrill Issues Update on March 31 Runoff Election,” March 31, 2020, Indiana Election Commission, “Indiana Election Commission Order 2020-37,” March 25, 2020, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, “Elections Operations During the State of Emergency,” April 10, 2020, Virginia initially expanded its excuse requirement to encompass Covid-19 concerns for the May primary elections prior to the enactment of permanent legislation eliminating the excuse requirement altogether. See NBC12 Newsroom, “Today is the last day to register to vote in Virginia’s June primary,” May 26, 2020, Office of the Secretary of State Warner, “Secretary Warner Encourages West Virginians to Vote Early and Absentee in the May 12 Primary Election,” March 19, 2020, Legislatively (CT, MA, MO, and SC): Governor Ned Lamont, “Executive Order No. 7QQ: Protection of Public Health and Safety During COVID-19 Pandemic and Response – Safe Voting During Statewide Primary,” May 20, 2020, An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19, MA. H. 4820 (2020), Modifies provisions relation to elections, MO SB631 (2020), 100th General Assembly of the State of Missouri, Absentee ballot provisions for June 2020 primary, SC S. 635 (2020), 123rd General Assembly of South Carolina,

      Looking ahead, 11 of the 16 “excuse” states thus far have expanded their rules to let all voters cast an absentee or mail ballot in November. footnote8_86nbib2 8 AL, AR, CT, DE, KY, MA, MO, NH, NY, SC, and WV. Six did so legislatively, while Arkansas did so by gubernatorial action. footnote9_aj5l028 9 CT, DE, MA, MO, NY, and SC. The remaining four states did so through action by state election officials. footnote10_o9bdns6 10 AL, KY, NH, and WV. As of publication, five states still require an excuse for most voters this November. footnote11_imqgfqx 11 IN, LA, MS, TN, and TX.

      How did 18th-century gubernatorial elections in Vermont compare to similar elections in other states? - History

      In the days since President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, he has relentlessly and falsely attacked the result in Pennsylvania and other battleground states as the product of widespread fraud. His assaults culminated last week in a 46-minute videotaped screed full of demonstrable falsehoods.

      Politicians routinely exaggerate or misrepresent the facts, but never before has an American president refused as Trump has to accept the unambiguous result of a free and fair election.

      Representatives from the Trump campaign have spouted fiery rhetoric about electoral fraud on a grand scale. But in courts of law, where proof is required and where there are penalties for lying, they haven&rsquot provided evidence or alleged that even one vote in Pennsylvania was deliberately cast illegally. Rather, their legal efforts have been aimed at disqualifying votes that all evidence shows were legitimately cast under rules they disagree with.

      As Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said in dismissing one campaign challenge last month: "Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

      Below, we&rsquove gathered and debunked some of the most prominent false claims about Pennsylvania&rsquos presidential election leveled in recent weeks by Trump and his allies.

      "They are finding Biden votes all over the place &mdash in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!"

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 4, 2020

      On election night, Trump appeared to have a strong "lead" in Pennsylvania, and he expressed confidence he would win the state. He even wrongly "claimed" Pennsylvania&rsquos Electoral College votes in a tweet before the race had been decided. But in the days ahead, as more mail ballots were processed and counted, Joe Biden pulled ahead and ultimately won the state by 81,000 votes, or about 1%.

      The slow counting of mail ballots, and the way it eroded Trump&rsquos early advantage, was the direct and expected result of Pennsylvania&rsquos election rules &mdash not fraud.

      The counting process took longer than in other states because elections officials were prohibited from starting their work before Election Day.

      Most of the votes counted that day were cast in person, and two-thirds of them were for Trump. That&rsquos in part because Trump spent months falsely attacking mail voting as susceptible to widespread fraud, which discouraged his supporters from using the method. Biden and Democrats encouraged their supporters to vote by mail, and in the end, Biden won more than three-quarters of Pennsylvania&rsquos mail ballots.

      In-person votes are counted more quickly than mail ballots. So Trump&rsquos early "lead" meant nothing other than that most votes for him were counted earlier than votes for Biden. That change in vote margins as mail ballots are counted is a phenomenon known as "the blue shift."

      "They didn&rsquot even allow Republican observers into the building to watch."

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 18, 2020

      One of Trump&rsquos most frequent complaints is that Republicans weren&rsquot allowed to watch Pennsylvania&rsquos largest cities count votes. Trump has said observers were barred from even entering the facilities where votes were being counted.

      That&rsquos not true. And in every county where Republicans raised objections, courts found that officials applied the observation rules evenly to both parties.

      Trump has directed much of his ire at Philadelphia, where at one point his legal team sought an emergency order to stop the count. But under sharp questioning from a federal judge, Trump&rsquos lawyers conceded that "a nonzero number" of the president&rsquos supporters had been allowed to watch.

      "I&rsquom sorry, then what&rsquos your problem?" U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond asked, sounding exasperated.

      Trump&rsquos team also complained that its observers were too far away. Initially, observers from both political parties were 30 feet away from the count. The city later allowed them to be as close as six feet away &mdash the best it said it could offer given the need for coronavirus precautions.

      In the end, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that state law only requires partisan monitors to have access to the room where votes are being counted. It does not grant them the right to hover over the workers conducting the count.

      Says more than one million Pennsylvania mail ballots were "created out of thin air."

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 28, 2020

      A week ago, Trump tweeted that more than a million Pennsylvania mail ballots had been "created" and counted improperly.

      The false conspiracy theory at the heart of the tweet involves data that State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) said he found on the Pennsylvania Department of State&rsquos website. Mastriano claimed the data showed a 1.1 million-vote gap between the number of mail ballots requested and the number returned.

      But the figures referenced in tweets by Trump and Mastriano conflate Pennsylvania&rsquos June primary election and the general election. And contrary to Mastriano&rsquos claim that the data have been deleted, they are still available.

      Trump and Mastriano compared the number of mail ballots cast in the June primary election with the number cast in last month&rsquos general election. The two figures have nothing to do with each other, nor are they evidence of fraud.

      "Why did Pennsylvania Democrats pre-canvass votes in liberal areas, but not let Republicans do the same?"

      U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), in a tweet on Nov. 10, 2020

      "Pre-canvassing" refers to the process of preparing mail ballots to be counted, which state law prohibits before Election Day. Republicans have argued that "curing" flawed ballots that arrive with problems such as missing signatures &mdash a separate practice that some Pennsylvania counties performed this year &mdash is also a form of pre-canvassing.

      A week after Election Day, one of Trump&rsquos allies in Congress accused Pennsylvania Democrats of doing this, while blocking Republicans from doing the same. But that criticism, lodged by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, is baseless.

      All counties were allowed to notify voters of such problems, but not all counties did. That was a choice made by county elections officials, not one imposed by Democrats. Some of the ones that gave voters a chance to fix problems do indeed lean Democratic, but there&rsquos no evidence that those counties treated voters differently based on party affiliation.

      A group of Republican candidates and voters filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate any mail ballots that were cured, arguing it wasn&rsquot fair for some voters to get a second chance when others did not. That lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the Commonwealth Court, and other courts have repeatedly shot down the argument that Republicans were disadvantaged by counties&rsquo uneven application of ballot curing.

      But some state lawmakers won&rsquot let it go.

      In a letter Friday to the state&rsquos congressional delegation, Republicans urged it to dispute the state&rsquos Electoral College votes because they think ballot curing violates Pennsylvania&rsquos prohibition against processing ballots early.

      However, the majority of mail-ballot requests &mdash even in conservative counties &mdash came from Democrats, so not curing them would disproportionately affect Democrats.

      Gov. Tom Wolf sought to modify the rules and give counties more time to process ballots before Election Day, but Republican state lawmakers blocked that effort. This is why it took days to learn that Biden won Pennsylvania.

      "Report: Dominion deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide. Data analysis finds 221,000 Pennsylvania votes switched from President Trump to Biden."

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 12, 2020

      Among Trump&rsquos supporters, the word Dominion has become synonymous with fraud.

      It started when the president falsely claimed on Twitter that Dominion Voting Systems, one of the most widely used election technology firms in the nation, "deleted" votes for him and "switched" thousands of votes cast in Pennsylvania to Biden.

      There is no evidence of this &mdash and Trump won in 12 of the 14 Pennsylvania counties that use the company&rsquos devices.

      Hours after Trump sent his tweet, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which oversees election security, released a statement defending the Nov. 3 election as "the most secure in American history."

      "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," the agency said. (Trump later fired its director.)

      Dominion released a statement that it "denies claims about any vote switching or alleged software issues with our voting systems," and Ellen Lyon, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said there is "no factual basis" for claims that thousands of Pennsylvania votes were compromised.

      "Specific allegations were made, and we have massive proof, in the Pennsylvania case. Some people just don&rsquot want to see it."

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 28, 2020

      Trump&rsquos lawyers vowed to present proof of widespread voter fraud when they asked U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann last month to invalidate Pennsylvania&rsquos election results &mdash but they never did.

      Brann stressed this point in his withering Nov. 21 opinion dismissing the case.

      "One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption," Brann wrote. "Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations un-pled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence."

      Brann is a former Pennsylvania Republican Party official and a member of the conservative Federalist Society who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama at the behest of Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican.

      When the Trump campaign made its case again before three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the judge who wrote the decision stressed the same deficiency.

      "The number of ballots that our Campaign is challenging in the Pennsylvania case is far larger than the 81,000 vote margin. It&rsquos not even close."

      Trump, in a tweet on Nov. 28, 2020

      To overturn the results of Pennsylvania&rsquos presidential election, the Trump campaign would have needed to challenge and successfully invalidate enough ballots to wipe out Biden&rsquos 81,000-vote margin of victory.

      The original legal complaint the campaign filed in federal court seeking to invalidate Pennsylvania&rsquos results included no evidence that even a single vote had been cast illegally.

      Trump campaign lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani acknowledged this during a Nov. 17 hearing before Brann.

      "This is not a fraud case," Giuliani said when Brann asked if he had proof to back up his claims.

      The campaign&rsquos amended complaint asserts &mdash without evidence &mdash that statistical analysis would prove some 70,000 mail ballots cast by Biden voters were improperly counted to seal his victory. But the campaign filed that amended complaint too late, and Brann declined to even consider it.

      Separately, the Trump campaign has asked courts to throw out nearly 12,000 mail ballots with errors such as missing signatures or incomplete home addresses as well as 10,000 mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but arrived up to three days after.

      Even if the contested ballots had been invalidated, Biden&rsquos victory would still stand.

      In Just Two States, All Prisoners Can Vote. Here's Why Few Do.

      When Sen. Bernie Sanders championed voting rights for prisoners during a CNN town hall, he spotlighted an intensifying national debate about why going to prison means losing the right to vote.

      In only two states, Maine and Vermont, all prisoners are eligible to vote. However, some prisoners in Mississippi, Alaska and Alabama can vote while incarcerated, depending on their convictions. Sanders is the sole presidential candidate to support the idea of prisoners voting, regardless of their crimes. His stance may reflect the reality that his home state of Vermont, and its neighbor Maine, have long-established procedures, and general public acceptance, of people voting from behind bars.

      The idea is percolating in other states, however. In June, six of the 13 councilmembers in Washington, D.C. endorsed legislation that would let the city’s prisoners vote. Legislators in Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Mexico and Virginia introduced measures to allow prisoners to vote earlier this year. None succeeded, but several others states are making it easier for people to vote once they leave prison. In May, Nevada’s governor signed a bill that automatically restores voting rights for parolees. And, last year, voters in Florida re-enfranchised nearly 1.5 million residents with felony convictions while Louisiana restored voting rights for nearly 36,000 people convicted of felonies. Lawmakers are still considering similar proposals in Connecticut, New Jersey and Nebraska.

      Still, most prisoners lose the right to vote while incarcerated. Roughly 15 states automatically restore voting rights upon release, but several states such as Alabama and Mississippi ban people from voting for life for some crimes.

      Why are Vermont and Maine outliers? They share several characteristics that make voting by prisoners less controversial. Incarcerated people can only vote by absentee ballot in the place where they last lived. They are not counted as residents of the town that houses a prison, which means their votes can’t sway local elections if they vote as a bloc. And unlike many states, the majority of prisoners in Maine and Vermont are white, which defuses the racial dimensions of felony disenfranchisement laws.

      Laws barring people with felony convictions from voting first began cropping up in Southern states during the Jim Crow era. Many voting rights advocates say the laws were a deliberate attempt to limit black political power. Of the nearly 6.1 million people estimated to be disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, nearly 40 percent are black, according to a 2018 report by the Sentencing Project.

      Joseph Jackson, founder of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, suspects the racial demographics in Maine and Vermont may account for the fact that prisoners in either state never lost the right to vote. In Maine and Vermont, black people represent a larger share of prisoners compared to their share of the general population, but are a minority of the state's prisoners overall, nearly 7 and 10 percent respectively.

      In Maine and Vermont, the state constitutions guarantee voting rights for all citizens, interpreted to include incarcerated people from the earliest days of statehood (in Vermont, a legal decision dates from 1799). Past attempts to exclude those convicted of serious crimes have failed in the legislatures. Currently, there is no organized opposition in either state to voting from prison.

      Corrections officials in both states encourage inmates to vote, but rely on volunteers to register inmates. In recent election years, voting advocacy organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP have coordinated with corrections departments to hold voter registration drives in the prisons. To bridge the information gap, they share one-pagers with information about the state candidates and explain their positions on key issues.

      Yet the barriers to voting, both external and internal, remain high. Incarcerated people are restricted from using the Internet and often cut off from news in the places they used to live. They are not allowed to campaign for candidates, display posters or show other signs of political partisanship.

      Experts and volunteers who try to encourage voting from prison suspect that very few actually exercise the rights they have. Neither corrections department tracks inmate voting or registration, so statistics on participation or the political ideologies of prisoners are unavailable. Because their votes are counted along with other absentee ballots, election officials in Maine and Vermont do not specifically tally how many incarcerated people vote.

      For John Sughrue, the law librarian at Southern State Correctional Facility in Vermont, voting is imperative, the only “effective tool” inmates have for bringing change to the prison system. Yet, he notes, only a tiny percentage of the people in the prison where he is incarcerated end up voting. Among the few interested in politics, discussing issues can be dangerous in prison as in the rest of the country, liberal and conservative inmates are increasingly polarized.

      “It seems the current political climate has rendered us inexorably divided,” he wrote via the prison email system.

      But the biggest issue, Sughrue says, is the shockingly high illiteracy rate among Vermont’s prisoners. In helping people with their legal cases, Sughrue realized many can’t read, and even those who can read struggle to write, which makes registering to vote and filling out a ballot practically impossible without help. The corrections departments don’t track literacy rates among prisoners, but in Vermont officials estimate nearly 20 percent of inmates entered prison with less than a high school education. Some studies estimate nearly 60 percent of people in prison are illiterate.

      Despite volunteers’ efforts to engage incarcerated voters, many inmates in Vermont don’t seem particularly interested, said Madeline Motta, who helped register Vermont prisoners in 2018. Motta says some of the inmates were surprised to find they could vote, assuming their felony conviction was an automatic disqualifier. Others were more cynical, and expressed a general distrust of anyone seeking public office. A handful felt as if there was no point. Motta and the other volunteers tried to explain the benefits of voting during registration drives.

      “We explained to inmates that elected officials are making decisions about your quality of life while you are incarcerated and once you are out,” she said.

      Motta estimates several dozen men registered to vote between the two prisons she visited, which house roughly 500 prisoners. Other volunteers had already registered some inmates, so even her count was inexact. In Maine, Jackson estimates the NAACP registered more than 200 voters last year, but he can’t say how many actually voted.

      Before the 2018 midterms, Kassie Tibbott traveled to five of Vermont's prisons registering voters. Tibbott runs the Community Legal Information Center at the Vermont Law School. She said she heard very little political chatter during her visits, but a handful of prisoners were buzzing over a state attorney race in Bennington. Tibbott recognizes that a lack of access to information may be partly to blame. Inmates can’t go online to research candidates. Many watch television and listen to the radio, but may not tune into the news.

      “They don’t know enough about the candidates, so why would they vote?” she asked.

      Voter disaffection is hardly unique to prisoners, said Paul Wright, executive director of Prison Legal News. Sixty-one percent of all eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, and in the 2018 midterms, usually a time of lower turnout, that number dropped to 49 percent, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

      Wright suspects that some of the apathy about voting stems from the relatively few candidates with track records on criminal justice that would appeal to incarcerated people or those with raw memories of encounters with police and prosecutors.

      At the local level, he pointed out, officials who play a major role in shaping criminal justice outcomes such as sheriffs, judges and prosecutors often run unopposed or on tough-on-crime platforms. Progressive prosecutors are a relatively recent phenomenon. So, like disaffected segments of the general electorate, inmates may believe their votes will make little difference.

      “We don’t have much of a democracy when it comes to candidate choice,” he said. “Making the conscious choice in refraining from exercising your rights is just as important as exercising them.”

      Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that inmates in just two states, Maine and Vermont, are allowed to vote. But in several other states, some prisoners are still eligible to vote, depending on their felony convictions.

      Watch the video: How Vermont has voted in Every Presidential Election


  1. Arashibar

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  4. Cadmon

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