The Reform Michigan Government Now (RMGN) proposal comes with a lot of interesting details, but the one that gets me, is the notion that the state’s electorate basically splits 50-50, Democrats and Republicans.
Call me a contrarian, but does this match reality?
First, however, you need to understand how the base vote is calculated. As the proposal explains, The base vote for a given cycle is determined by adding the party votes for the four state-wide boards (Board of Education, University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State), then dividing it by the total of all votes cast by the major parties for these races. The proposal then averages this percentage over the past three elections. If you look at the past three elections, the average falls within the range of +/-2.5%. But it deserves a closer look.
In fact, this may be one place where the GOP cheers.
Here are the actual breakdowns by election (GOP/Dem):
2002 – 51/49
2004 – 48/52
2006 – 45/55
Avg – 48/52
Fair enough, right? But what do you think happens in 2008? Even if the Democratic Party holds the same average as 2004, the resulting Average (47/53) would be outside the range of +/- 2.5 percent assumed in a fifty-fifty split. And that’s actually good news for the Republicans.
Let’s say Obama merely matches Kerry’s numbers. If the 47/53 split were reflected in actual division of the districts, the Democrats would end up with 4-5 seat margin. If Obama does better; if we carry the State closer to how Granholm did in 2006, then the Democratic edge would be 6-7 margin. So what the 50-50 split does, is to reduce the potential edge of Democrats in the Legislature.
Off hand, I don’t think this is what the proponents are intending.
But there is another possibility. Maybe they’re thinking the presidential race will be tighter than Kerry-Bush in 2004. This is a much darker view of the electorate than what those of us on the ground have: it posits that gains in the Bush years in the base vote are going to be given back.
Again, should we think the proponents of RMGN are this pessimistic? The department of unintended consequences, evidently lives on in Lansing.