The Potential for Split Electors in Maine

There has been some discussion with regard to the prospects this year for Maine to split its allocation of electoral votes. Maine is one of two states (Nebraska is the other) that chooses its electors through the congressional district method. That is, the two at-large electors pledged to candidate whom receives the pluraility of popular votes statewide are chosen (representing the state’s two senators) and the elector pledged to the candidate whom receives the plurality of votes within each congressional district is chosen (representing each district’s representative). Since this method was instituted in 1972, Maine has never split its presidential electors.

The prospects for a split verdict in 2004 gained a bit of interest with this recent Survey USA Poll that included the following statement: “Note: Maine is not a ‘Winner-take-all’ electoral state. If Bush Wins ME CD #2, which we label here ‘Northern Maine’, and where he is now tied, Bush would receive 1 of the state’s 4 electoral votes.” The poll shows 135 respondents for Kerry and 135 for Bush in “Northern Maine”. Unfortunately, from the poll, we can not tell what geographic areas constitute “Northern Maine”.

Some numberical analysis: In 2000, the second congressional district was won by Gore by 5,660 votes (or 1.87%). The table below displays the data for Maine in 2000 by congressional district.

CD Total Vote Margin %Mar %Dem %Rep %Grn %Oth Dem Rep Grn Oth
1 348,951 27,675 7.93% 50.52% 42.59% 5.82% 1.07% 176,293 148,618 20,297 3,743
2 302,866 5,660 1.87% 47.43% 45.56% 5.56% 1.45% 143,658 137,998 16,830 4,380

From the data, a change of only 2,831 votes (about 0.9%) from Gore to Bush in the second district would have resulted in Bush winning one electoral vote from Maine.

In 2003, Maine performed its decennial redistricting, the result of which had a net result of shifting a significant number of Democrats from the first district into the second district. The court-ordered boundaries moved seven Kennebec County towns from the first district to the second (Benton, Clinton, Fayette, Litchfield, Oakland, Waterville, and Winslow). In 2000, these towns gave Gore a margin of 3,344 votes. The changes also moved three towns from the second to the first district (Albion, China, and Monmouth). These three towns gave Bush a margin of 78 votes in 2000. Overall, with the 2004 congressional district boundaries, Gore gains 3,422 votes, about 1.1 percentage points. A detailed town results table is available to members. The table below shows the 2000 results using the 2004 congressional district boundaries:

CD Total Vote Margin %Mar %Dem %Rep %Grn %Oth Dem Rep Grn Oth
1 335,467 24,253 7.23% 50.16% 42.93% 5.84% 1.07% 168,266 144,013 19,599 3,589
2 316,350 9,082 2.87% 47.95% 45.08% 5.54% 1.43% 151,685 142,603 17,528 4,534

As shown in the table above, the redistricting moved the margin of the two districts closer by about 1.8 percentage points.

A second take on this is to look at the voter registration. The table below shows the January 2004 voter enrollment from the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Comissions

CD Total Voters %Dem %Rep %Une %Grn Dem Rep Une Grn
1 492,995 30.6% 28.8% 38.4% 2.2% 151,025 141,937 189,252 10,781
2 464,490 31.6% 28.6% 38.0% 1.8% 146,806 132,790 176,669 8,225
Net Change 2000 – 2004
1 -3,226 -0.8% -0.8% 0.6% 1.2% -5,098 -4,689 1,904 6,044
2 13,522 0.3% -0.6% -0.2% 0.9% 5,524 1,188 4,318 4,219

From the table, the approximate 1.0 percentage point net change between Democrats and Republicans in congressional district 2 (from 2% Democratic advantage to 3% Democratic advantage) mirrors the 1.0% delta margin change in the 2000 election result using the 2000 vs. 2004 Congressional District boundaries (1.87% to 2.87% as shown in the tables above). However, the very large number of Independent voters overwhelms this small difference between Democratic and Republican registration. The data also show that the Independents in the first district more heavily favored Gore over Bush than their unenrolled counterparts in the second district (assuming that the voter turnout rates amongst the different parties are similar across districts)

Although the prospects for a split verdict in Maine are possible, the net effect of redistricting has reduced the probability. I expect that Bush would have to increase his national percentage by 3-5 percentage points to carry Maine’s second district.

4 thoughts on “The Potential for Split Electors in Maine

  1. J. J.

    Bush ran about 1.5 points over his state percentage in 2000, in the old CD 2. If there is an even split statewide, it’s pretty likely that he would carry it.

  2. Pingback: The Atlas Weblog » Blog Archive » Presidential Results by Congressional District

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