I was elated by the results of Virginia's 2017 election for the House of Delegates. The level of support for Democratic candidates was amazing. Surely, we'd be able to march into Richmond and make things right. Alas, my hopes were dashed when I realized that despite the overwhelming number of votes against them, the Republican Party still controls the House of Delegates. I set out to figure out why. I pulled data from a variety of sources (please be sure to check my source notes for details) and ran some analysis. It appears to me that gerrymandering will likely keep the House of Delegates in Republican hands for the foreseeable future due to an efficiency gap of nearly 16%. The way that the districts are apportioned means that a very large number of Democratic votes are wasted. The next re-apportionment happens after the 2020 census, but to be able to positively impact that, the Democrats need to control the House of Delegates or the U.S. Supreme Court needs to rule that this type of gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
Statements of Fact
From this data set, I believe these statements are true:
- 2,419,710 votes were cast for candidates on the ballot for all 100 Virginia House of Delegates elections.
- Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates received 53.9% of the total vote, but only 49% of the seats, while Republican candidates received 44.5% of the total vote, but 51% of the seats.
- The efficiency gap favors the Republicans by 15.93%.
- 40 races had only a single major party candidate on the ballot.
- 13 races had a 3rd party candidate on the ballot.
- Of those, 7 had only a single major party candidate on the ballot. The best performance was in District 24 where the independent candidate received 27.81% of the vote.
- Of the other 6 with 2 major party candidates, only one could have seen a different winner if the 2nd place finisher received all of the 3rd party votes. That was the 94th District, the one that ended in a tie. However, the 3rd party was Libertarian and those votes likely would have gone for the Republican candidate.
- 93 incumbents ran for re-election, 12 of whom lost (all Republicans).
It will be difficult, if not impossible for a party other than the Republicans to take control of the House of Delegates. 2017 was a wave election, unlikely to be repeated in the next election, which is the one that will select the Delegates who will perform the next reapportionment. It will take a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court to remedy this situation.