When Reform Michigan Government Now calls 53 percent base vote a Swing District, I get nervous. After 20 years of going hand-to-hand, neighborhood by neighborhood, I would suggest that when the base gets that big it’s a pretty tough row to hoe.
Again, we’ll have to do a little analysis. Generally a your base vote is about 80 percent — people are rather consistent in their voting behavior. In some districts it can dip to 75 percent, but that’s it. For State House seats, you can count on a fall off from the top of the ticket, usually about 2 percent. I’ll spare you the math, but here are the numbers you need in order to win for both 80 percent and 75 percent base vote :
Base/Non-Base (80)/Non-Base (75)
47 B / 63 NB (80) / 60 NB (75)
48 B / 59 NB (80 / 56 NB (75)
49 B / 55 NB (80) / 53 NB (75)
51 B / 45 NB (80) / 47 NB (75)
52 B / 41 NB (80) / 44 NB (75)
53 B / 37 NB (80) / 40 NB (75)
If you’ve ever been on the receiving ends of one of these “close” races, you know how tough it can be. Of course it can be done. The most notorious example was Rep. Jerry Kooiman’s win in 2004 (MI SH 75), where his base vote was in the 47 percent category, but who went on to sweep up everything in sight on the non-base vote.
So when RMGN starts talking about Swing Districts. A smart wonk will be able to put many effectively out of reach. Consider this a warning.