Pennsylvania Voters: What Did They Say?

Transpartisan Note #89

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

By fewer than 700 votes Conor Lamb looks like the surprising Democratic party winner of the March 13, 2018 Pennsylvania district #18 special Congressional election.  This race, southwest of Pittsburgh — where President Trump won by 20 points — raises three key Transpartisan questions.

First, what about the non-voters?  As in many current elections voters split evenly.  Of 532,000 district residents over 18 (PA’s voting age) 223,378 voted and 309,000 did not.  In the 2016 general election 293,684 voted (100% for the Republican incumbent), and 237,000 did not vote.

Non-voters, intentionally or not, make a political statement — pox on both your houses.  Knowing more about them helps candidates, voters, and political parties.  In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a forty-year old Nevada law placing a none-of-the-above line on Nevada ballots.

In 2012, Republican Dean Heller beat Democrat Shelley Berkley for a Nevada U.S. Senate seat by 12,000 votes.  45,000 voted ‘none of these candidates’.  In race after race across the country, non-voters exceed the margin of victory.  Their non-vote counts.  Non-voters include many Transpartisans.

Second question: What about Gerrymandering?  How will the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order abolishing District #18 affect this November’s midterm congressional election?  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against one of the nation’s most gerrymandered state systems.

In the 2016, Pennsylvania races with a 53% Republican vote won 13 of 18 Congressional seats.  With 45%, Democrats won five seats.  A 13 of 18 win requires 72% of a non-gerrymandered state.  Dems get unbalanced wins in gerrymandered Maryland.  Fed up Transpartisans say pox on both.

Third question, what, if anything, does Pennsylvania’s 18th mean for the 2018 midterms? Harry Enten of CNN says in seven special elections before this one, Democrats outperformed their partisan baseline by 16 percentage points.  Lamb outperformed the partisan baseline by 22.

Analysts of every stripe weigh in. Some suggest a blue wave shifts the house. Others say a strong Trump base and stay-at-home voters hold the house.  We suggest that while pursuing their various analyses they also consider that a Transpartisan message, by any candidate, might draw votes from the non-voters.

Transpartisan non-voters offer an untapped or modestly tapped resource for every candidate seeking elective office.  Effectively addressed, Transpartisans tip the scales toward winning. Unite America organizes to elect independents as one strategy for harnessing the none-of-the-above constituency.

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