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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mississippi Ranks Number One

In the August 1 print edition of Ballot Access News, publisher Richard Winger rebuts Tara Ross's July 17 piece in the Weekly Standard, "How to Win the Presidency... With 15% of the Popular Vote." She contends that the Electoral College is what prevents Americans from fracturing their votes so that someone could be elected president with as little as 15 percent of the total.

Winger says, "... when the voters are electing a single individual to an office, most voters deduce which candidates are strong enough to potentially win. Then, they choose to vote for one of those candidates." Winger backs up this statement by presenting an interesting chart, "Lowest Percent Ever Received By A Winning Gubernatorial Candidate," in which he shows the lowest percentage for each of the 50 states.

Guess which state came in first. Mississippi! In 1831, the National Republican[1] Abram Scott was elected governor with 30.5 percent, evidently because of a rift between two factions loyal to President Andrew Jackson. One Jackson Democrat received 28.6 percent of the vote, while the other got 22.4 percent.

Back then, ballots were printed and distributed by candidates and their supporters instead of the government, so these two Jackson Democrats clearly had the wherewithal to do so. It was not until the late 1800s that state governments began providing the ballots.

Today, of course, when the state requires party primaries for an office, each party can only have one candidate on the general election ballot. It is only nonpartisan offices-- such as Mississippi's state and county judges-- for which it is possible for more than one candidate from the same party to oppose each other in an election which may decide who will hold the office.

Washington state was a close second on Winger's chart. In 1912, the Democratic nominee was elected governor with 30.6 percent of the vote. The Republican got 30.4 percent, and the Progressive Party nominee received 24.4 percent.

I picked up some other tidbits from the chart. Georgia's record-holder is the Democrat Lester Maddox, who won in 1966 after getting 46.2 percent. A write-in campaign garnered 7.3 percent for former Governor Ellis Arnall and prevented anyone from receiving 50-plus percent. The Peach State then had a proviso that, in such a situation, the state House of Representatives made the decision. The heavily Democratic House elected Maddox, despite the fact that the Republican nominee had received more votes-- 46.5 percent.

It was the 1966 election that led to Georgia's enactment of runoff general elections. The most recent such runoff in a statewide race came last December, when U. S. senator Saxby Chambliss(R) was re-elected.

The Republican Alfred M. Landon, who won in 1932 with 34.8 percent, holds the record for Kansas. The Democrat received 34.1 percent and an independent 30.6 percent. Landon, to be sure, was the GOP presidential nominee against President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, when Landon only carried two states, Maine and Vermont.


[1] Andrew Jackson was the first president to call himself a Democrat, and the National Republicans had broken away from that party earlier. When the Whig Party was started in 1833-34, most National Republicans joined it. Today's Republican Party, of course, was founded in the summer of 1854.


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