Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
Elections for governors of Virginia and New Jersey, and two federal House by-elections, both in Ohio, will be held next Wednesday AEDT. Polls close at 10am AEDT in Virginia, 10:30am in Ohio and 11am in New Jersey. If 2020 vote counting patterns are repeated, I would expect early results in Virginia to favour Republicans, but in Ohio to favour Democrats.
I believe there will also be legislative elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, and local government elections. The highest profile of these is for New York City mayor, which Democrat Eric Adams is set to win after narrowly winning the Democratic primary earlier this year.
Joe Biden’s ratings continue to slide. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, he’s now at 51.0% disapprove, 43.7% approve (net -7.3); his net approval has dropped a further 2.3 points since my last article, two weeks ago.
Economic concerns explain Biden’s current problems, with headline inflation up 5.4% in the year to September. In the September quarter, US GDP grew at an annualized 2.0% (0.5% in quarter on quarter terms), disappointing analysts who expected higher growth. The economy was up 6.7% annualized in the June quarter.
In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of Virginia polls, Democrat McAuliffe leads Republican Youngkin by just 0.1%, down from 2.5% last fortnight. A Fox News poll out Friday AEDT had Youngkin leading by eight points; while Fox News is very right-wing, its polls are well regarded. Biden won Virginia by ten points in 2020. In New Jersey, four recent polls gave Democratic incumbent Murphy a four to 11 point lead (Biden by 16 in 2020).
Democrats have been unable to make progress in advancing either the bipartisan infrastructure bill or the Democratic infrastructure bill through Congress. It is not likely that either of these infrastructure bills can pass before next Wednesday’s elections.
US gerrymandering: there are no good guys
Every ten years, a US Census is conducted, and maps for US House seats are based on the Census. But the US has no national body like Australia’s AEC to draw boundaries. While some states, notably California, have an independent commission, most states allow politicians to draw boundaries.
If one party has control of both chambers of the state legislature and the governor, they can gerrymander away, though occasionally courts will intervene. Seats must have equal numbers of people, but can have ugly maps.
In comments to my last article, I posted a proposed Democratic gerrymander of Illinois that would create a 14-3 Democratic split of Illinois’ House seats (13-5 previously with Illinois losing a seat).
2020 and 2010 were both Census years. Republicans’ big victories at the 2010 midterms gave them full control of many populous states, and enabled them to draw maps that allowed them to comfortably retain the House in 2012 despite Democrats winning the popular vote that year by 1.2% (see my 2012 report for The Green Papers).
But Democrats are no innocents. Republican control of the New York state senate in 2010 kept Democrats from gerrymandering NY, but Democrats won the state senate in 2018, and are likely to aggressively gerrymander NY for a far more lopsided split than the current 19-8. Democrats would love to gerrymander California (currently 42-11), and I have seen comments that suggest they could wipe out Republicans with a gerrymander. But California has used a nonpartisan commission since 2010.
Democrats justify their gerrymanders by arguing that Republicans do it too, and that unilateral disarmament would cost them seats. But by continuing to gerrymander, Democrats undermine the case for electoral reform.
Japanese election on Sunday
Japan’s elections have been boring, as the conservative LDP and its Komeito allies have governed since 1955 with only two brief interruptions: 1993-94 and 2009-12. In 2017, the 465 total seats were elected using 289 first-past-the-post seats and 176 proportional seats. Polling for Sunday’s election indicates another easy win for the LDP. This is an election for the lower house only; upper house elections are held separately.