America Votes 32: 2015-2016, Election Returns by State


Rhodes Cook

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    The 2016 election was surreal, strange, and unique. For starters, the presidential contest between Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton reflected a strong mood for change and rejection of the status quo. Trump, a brash political newcomer, surprisingly defeated Clinton, who in the minds of many boasted one of the best political resumes of any presidential candidate in recent American history.

    Yet beyond the presidential level, it was a status quo election. Republicans held the Senate, the House of Representatives, and a large majority of the nation’s governorships, with only modest shifts in the partisan numbers at any of the three levels.

    Taken together, it was a banner election for the Republicans, giving them control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time since 2006, as well as furthering their dominance at the state level. Yet for a Republican Party seemingly built more for opposition than governance, the 2016 election recalled the old adage: “Beware what you wish for, you may get it.”

    2016: Republicans Rule the Roost

    Little went wrong for the Republicans in 2016. They won the White House, maintained control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and lengthened their advantage in the states, where they finished 2016 with nearly two-thirds of the nation’s governorships. The chart below reflects partisan seat totals immediately before and after the 2016 general election. The pre-election House totals include Democratic vacancies in Hawaii and Pennsylvania, and a Republican seat in Kentucky, which are each credited to the party that held them before they became vacant. Two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats are listed in the “Other” column, Angus King of Maine and Bernard Sanders of Vermont. There is one independent governor, Bill Walker of Alaska.

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    An Election Like None Other

    There is little doubt about it. The 2016 presidential election was like none other in American history. Russian hackers, the FBI director, even Access Hollywood, a television show devoted to the goings-on in the entertainment industry, all played significant roles.

    But throughout the year, the spotlight was firmly trained on Trump, who confounded virtually everyone in the nation’s political community by not only capturing the Republican nomination, but the White House as well.

    Trump was a totally different breed of candidate than what politicians and the media were used to. He burst onto the political scene in 2015 as a brash New York real estate developer, the star of a reality TV show, and a political novice, albeit a savvy and very wealthy one. He belittled his rivals, railed against the media, debunked the credibility of both major parties, and questioned the legitimacy of the American electoral process itself.

    Trump was easy to underestimate, running his campaign by his own rules. Still, signs of Trump’s eventual success were evident early, as he breezed through the crowded Republican primary field, while Clinton struggled to surmount the upstart populist candidacy of Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.

    In one of the more skillful feats of recent times, Trump —who liked to flaunt his great wealth—was able to sell himself to “forgotten” working-class Americans as a consummate deal-maker who would put his skills to work for them. “I am your voice,” he proclaimed.

    His campaign was wrapped up in a nationalistic veneer, with the slogan: “Make America Great Again.” And being a political newcomer, Trump was able to run as an outsider, an agent of change in a year where many voters felt the country was on the wrong track.

    In contrast, Clinton touted an impressive political resume: First Lady of the United States (as wife of former President Bill Clinton), senator from New York, and secretary of state under Barack Obama.

    Clinton allied herself closely with Obama, who was leaving office with both a presidential approval rating above 50% and an economy in much better shape than when he had taken office nearly eight years earlier.

    Counting the 2016 Vote

    Republicans dominated the electoral scene in 2016 by making their votes count in a way that the Democrats did not. Republican Donald J. Trump lost the nationwide popular vote for president to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million, but he carried the all-important electoral vote. In Senate races, Republicans had an aggregate deficit of 11 million votes, but were able to stay in control of the Senate by winning 22 of the 34 seats that were up in 2016. (The GOP nationwide Senate vote deficit was due in large part to the Republicans’ inability to advance a Senate candidate to the general election in California. There, under the state’s unique election rules, two Democrats competed in the general election). In the House, Republicans were able to make a modest 1.4-million advantage in the nationwide congressional vote count and turn it into a solid 47-seat advantage. The totals below are based on official returns from the 2016 presidential election in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, House elections in the 50 states, Senate contests in 34 states, and gubernatorial races in 15 states (with three of the elections for governor held in 2015, and 12 in 2016, including a special election for governor in Oregon). No blank or void ballots are included in the totals below.

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    Clinton was also mounting a history-making candidacy. If elected, she would have become the nation’s first female president. But an agent of change she was not.

    There was a negative undertone to the entire campaign, due in no small part to the unpopularity of the two nominees. Clinton’s trustworthiness took a beating with the disclosure of her use of a private email server as secretary of state, an issue that was magnified by hackers, apparently Russian, who to the embarrassment of the Democrats fed their information to WikiLeaks for publication. Other hacks into emails of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign operation further undermined the Democratic effort.

    Clinton appeared to be weathering the assault until less than a fortnight before the election, when FBI Director James Comey turned a bright spotlight on the issue by indicating that the FBI was looking into a glut of newly discovered Clinton emails. Comey announced a week or so later that no incriminating evidence had been found, but it was an “October surprise” that many Democrats felt cost them the election.

    As for Trump, his unorthodox candidacy was a magnet for concerns that revolved around his boorishness, doubts about the depth of his knowledge of major issues, and head scratching about his “soft spot” for Russian strong man Vladimir Putin. His campaign seemed on the verge of extinction in early October when a decade-old tape from Access Hollywood surfaced that featured Trump in his own words bragging about his techniques as a sexual predator. Some Republican officeholders briefly suggested that he quit the ticket, until polls showed that Trump remained a viable challenger.

    2016: Close House Races

    There has been a declining number of highly competitive House races in recent years, with less than 5 percent of the nation’s congressional elections (21 of 435) decided in 2016 with less than 52 percent of the total vote. It was a significant drop from just six years ago, when 55 House contests were won with less than 52 percent. An asterisk (*) indicates an incumbent.

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    The House Since 1990: A Political Weathervane

    For much of the 20th century, Democrats relied on large majorities in the South to control the House of Representatives. But nowadays, it is the Republicans’ overwhelming advantage in the region that provides their critical House margin. The GOP finished the 2016 election holding nearly three-quarters of all Southern House seats, which represent 45 percent of the Republicans’ entire complement in Congress’ lower chamber.

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    Not surprisingly, each candidate went after the other with gusto. Trump repeatedly brought up Bill Clinton’s own checkered history with women and referred to Clinton’s wife as “crooked Hillary.” Meanwhile, she dismissed Trump as unqualified to be president, and described half of his supporters as belonging in a “basket of deplorables.”

    Still, as the campaign headed to the finish line, it was regarded as Clinton’s election to lose. National polls showed her narrowly, but consistently, ahead. So did those in most of the battleground states. The big question was whether Clinton would be joined in the nation’s capital by a Democratic Senate.

    But what was widely expected to be a good election for Democrats turned out on November 8 to be a great one for Republicans. For the first time in a dozen years they won both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, taking the White House and maintaining control of both the House and the Senate. The GOP also strengthened its hegemony in the states, where they emerged from the 2016 election with control of nearly two-thirds of the governors and state legislatures.

    Democrats were left with a handful of consolation prizes. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, thanks to a gigantic advantage of more than 4 million votes in California, and Democrats scored modest gains in both the Senate (two seats) and the House (six seats). But in both congressional chambers, they remained stuck in the minority.

    Democrats Fall Short

    For Democrats, it was an election squandered. The party had a plethora of opportunities in 2016 to win control of the Senate, where 24 of the 34 seats at stake were held by Republicans. And in presidential election years of late, Democrats have been able to run with the wind at their backs, swept along by an electorate much larger and more racially diverse than that in midterm elections, which Republicans have come to dominate.

    2016: Defeated Incumbents

    Of the governors, senators, and U.S. representatives who lost their bids for re-election in 2016, most were Republicans. That included the one governor, two senators, and nine of the 13 House members who lost their primary or general election. Still, their losses were not enough to threaten GOP control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, or dominance of the nation’s governorships. The chart lists the gubernatorial, Senate, and House incumbents defeated in the 2016 primaries and general election, the number of full terms they had served in that office at the time of their loss in 2016, the percentage of the total vote they had received in the previous general election (2010 for senators, 2012 for governors, and 2014 for House members), and their percentage of the total vote in the 2016 general election (for those who were not sidelined by the primaries).

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    Clinton did become the sixth Democratic candidate in the last seven presidential elections to win the popular vote, but a half dozen battleground states that were carried by Obama in 2008 and 2012 went for Trump, enough to give the Republican a solid 304–227 win in the Electoral College.

    The remaining seven electoral votes, a historically large number, were cast by “faithless” electors, five Democrats and two Republicans. A variety of individuals received their votes, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Sen. Sanders, and Faith Spotted Eagle, an anti-pipeline activist from the Sioux tribe. (Powell received three electoral votes; the others, one apiece.)

    The six states that switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 included Florida, plus a quintet of states strewn across the Frost Belt: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Iowa, Florida, and Ohio had last voted Republican for president in 2004. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had not chosen GOP electors since the 1980s.

    Altogether, the six states possessed 99 electoral votes, which, combined with those in reliably Republican states across the South, the agricultural Midwest, and the Mountain West, were more than enough to give Trump a solid Electoral College victory.

    Iowa and Ohio swung decisively to Trump, favoring him by margins of 9 and 8 percentage points, respectively. Florida was much closer, going Republican by 1.2 percentage points. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin went down to the wire, all decided in Trump’s favor by margins of less than 1 percentage point. The latter three were considered part of the Democrats’ “blue wall,” which, combined with loyal Democratic states in the Northeast and West, plus a handful of scattered others (Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia), were enough in the recent past to give Democrats an electoral vote majority. If Clinton had carried Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Obama had done before—she would have won more than the 270 needed to take the White House, even with the five “faithless” Democratic electors.

    But in a problematic decision, the Clinton team spent valuable time in the final stages of the 2016 campaign trying to pick off some demographically enticing, though traditionally Republican, Sun Belt states, such as Arizona and Georgia. Unfortunately for Clinton, the offensive forays did not pay off and came at the expense of holding Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The three fell to Trump by a combined margin of less than 80,000 votes.

    A Case Study: Michigan

    Trump won Michigan by barely 10,000 votes out of more than 4.7 million cast (a margin of just two-tenths of a percentage point).

    Democratic presidential candidates from 1992 through 2012 had carried the Wolverine State with margins ranging from 165,000 votes for Kerry in 2004 to nearly 825,000 for Obama in 2008. Four years later, Obama won the state by nearly 450,000 votes over native son Mitt Romney.

    Throughout 2016, Michigan was expected to be in the Democratic column again. Why then, did it get away? First, Clinton fell far short of matching Obama’s 2012 margin in heavily Democratic Wayne County, which is anchored by the predominantly African American city of Detroit. Obama had carried the county by more than 380,000 votes in his re-election race, a margin more than 90,000 votes larger than Clinton’s.

    Second, Clinton failed to match Obama’s showing in the Detroit suburbs. Both Democrats swept Oakland County with its pockets of affluence. But unlike Obama in 2012, Clinton lost the more blue-collar Macomb County, the quintessential home of Ronald Reagan Democrats. The result: A nearly 70,000-vote suburban edge for Obama over Romney shrank to a 5,500-vote advantage for Clinton over Trump.

    Even then, Clinton could have easily carried Michigan if she had shown a modest measure of appeal in the rest of the state. In 2012, Obama and Romney had battled to a draw in the rural areas, small cities, and industrial centers outside Detroit and its suburbs. But in 2016, Trump crushed Clinton by more than 300,000 votes in this terrain, just enough to carry the state.

    Trump’s formula for success was not unique to Michigan. Clinton’s inability to reassemble the Obama coalition in its entirety and Trump’s unusual strength in rural counties and blue-collar bastions turned out to be common themes in the battleground states.

    Third-Party Impact

    Nearly 6 percent of all ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election were for someone other than Trump or Clinton, the highest level of non-major party ballot activity since Ross Perot made his two presidential runs in the 1990s.

    Altogether, votes for third parties, independents, and write-ins totaled nearly 8 million of the almost 136.7 million presidential votes cast. That far eclipsed Clinton’s nearly 2.9-million vote advantage in the popular vote. Most of the third-party votes (nearly 4.5 million) went for the Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld (two former Republican governors), who posted by far the highest vote total ever for the ambitious third- party.

    Green Party candidate Jill Stein drew nearly 1.5 million votes, second only in party annals to the nearly 2.9 million collected by Ralph Nader in 2000.

    And independent Evan McMullin, who presented himself as a polite, low-key, anti-Trump conservative, received more than 700,000 votes, although his late-starting candidacy was on the ballot in only 11 states. (He did not enter the race until three months before the election.) Ultimately, nearly a quarter million of McMullin’s votes came from his home state of Utah, where he won more than 20 percent of the vote. The other votes cast in the 2016 presidential election basically went for an array of smaller third parties and write-ins.

    The third-party vote was large enough in 2016 that it could have acted as a balance of power in a number of battleground states.

    In Florida, which Trump carried by 112,911 votes, the combined total for third-party, independent, and write-in candidates approached 300,000.

    In Pennsylvania, which Trump won by 44,292 votes, the total for the non-major candidates was almost 270,000.

    In Wisconsin, where the Trump margin was 22,748 votes, the vote that did not go for either Trump or Clinton was nearly 200,000.

    In Michigan, which Trump carried by just 10,704 votes, the number of ballots cast for Johnson, Stein, McMullin, and friends reached 250,000.

    Given the millions of votes that they received, third- party and independent candidates could have played a major role in determining the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet unlike Nader, who in the razor close election of 2000 is believed to have taken votes primarily from the Democrats, it is harder to make the case that Clinton was critically wounded in 2016 by the third-party vote. The election day national exit poll showed that if the race had been restricted to Clinton and Trump, with no other options, the popular vote result would have been largely what it was: a virtual wash.

    The Methodology

    The thirty-second edition of America Votes follows the same format as other recent editions in this series. The introductory text and variety of summary tables that accompany it seek to tie together basic elements of the 2016 election cycle. The section that follows presents national tables on voter turnout as well as the aggregate vote by state for president, Senate, and House in 2016. A gubernatorial table features results from elections for governor in 2015 and 2016.

    The turnout table uses voter registration and “citizen” voting-age population figures compiled by the Census Bureau. In the latter, the millions and millions of non- citizens age 18 years and older are not included, giving a truer sense of the voter turnout rate than if all persons of voting age were included.

    The overview material also features a summary of special elections held between the general elections of 2014 and 2016 that filled vacancies in the 114th Congress. There is also a list of changes in the congressional membership of the 115th Congress that occurred between the 2016 general election and August 18, 2017. Tables with the presidential vote by state from 1960 through 2012 follow. The overview material concludes with state-by- state results from the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, including tables at the end of this section with the aggregate primary votes for candidates in both major parties.

    The heart of the volume, 51 chapters—one for each state and the District of Columbia—follows this introductory material.

    Each state chapter begins with a list of the current governor, senators, and representatives, followed by tables with the statewide vote for president, governor, and senator from the end of World War II (1945) to the present. A map of the state shows its counties, major population centers, and congressional districts for members of the House in the 115th Congress. Other maps are included in states with at least one particularly large population center that features multiple congressional districts. County-by-county tables of presidential, gubernatorial, and Senate elections follow the maps. All these tables are for the 2016 general election, with the exception of gubernatorial contests in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which were held in 2015.

    In all cases, the county tables for presidential elections feature three columns of votes (Republican, Democratic, and Other, the latter of which includes the aggregate vote for third-party, independent, and write-in candidates). The same format is used in the county tables for gubernatorial and Senate elections, except those contests in which a third-party or independent candidate received at least 10 percent of the vote. Each non-major party candidate that reached that threshold has their own vote and percentage of the vote columns. All the county tables include 2010 population figures from the Census Bureau.

    After that, in each state chapter, is the vote for the House of Representatives arranged by congressional district. The implementation of the 2010 Census for redistricting purposes led to changes before the 2012 election in district boundaries in all states with more than one House member. In addition, there has been mid- decade redistricting in several states, with lines changing in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia before the 2016 election. House results for elections before 2012 (or whenever the district lines were last changed) are not included for any state except those with a single House seat.

    The conclusion of each state chapter consists of two parts. The first is a notes section containing a breakdown of votes cast in 2016 for each federal office and governor in the general election for third-party, independent, and write-in candidates. The total of scattered write-in votes is listed in states where they were included in the official returns. For those major party candidates who also ran on a third-party ballot line, which was possible in Connecticut, South Carolina, and most notably New York, votes are aggregated as Democratic or Republican.

    The second part of the conclusion of each state chapter deals with primary elections. It opens with an explanation of who could vote in the state’s primary in 2016 as well as voter registration totals at the time of the primary election. The latter is broken down by party in the 30 or so states where voters register by party. This material is followed by Democratic and Republican primary results for president, governor, senator, and House, as well as the results for runoff elections in states, mainly in the South, that held them.

    The lone exceptions to this format were in California and Washington, which in recent elections have held “top two” primaries (for governor, senator, and representative) in which candidates from all parties ran together on one ballot, with the top two, regardless of party, advancing to the general election. Louisiana has held a variant of this, with the same format as California and Washington, with the exception that the leading vote-getter could win election outright if he or she received a majority of the vote in the first round.

    In the six New England states, where town government is often accented, tables list the vote for president, governor, and senator by larger cities and towns as well as by counties. In Rhode Island, the results are listed for all cities and towns.

    The America Votes series is compiled from official results obtained from each state and the District of Columbia. Although complete accuracy is always the goal, it can prove elusive in a work such as this. On occasion, states may belatedly report changes in their vote totals that occur after publication of this volume. And human nature being what it is, there is always an example or two (or three or four) of self-inflicted errors. The goal is always to keep these to a minimum. In light of the desire to make these reference volumes as useful as possible to readers and researchers, corrections of data are always welcome as are suggestions for new material.

    The creation of each edition in this series has always taken a fair-sized army of dedicated and talented people. Outside of CQ Press, a special tip of the hat is due Richard Winger and Robert Yoon. Winger, the publisher of a political newsletter, Ballot Access News, pointed out corrections that needed to be made to pre-2014 editions of America Votes. Yoon, a former CNN director of political research, spearheaded the creation of “CNN Election Night in America Research Guide 2016” that proved invaluable in compiling the presidential primary results in this edition of America Votes.

    Within the SAGE family, Andrew Boney, the Acquisitions Editor at CQ Press, once again efficiently guided work on this edition with his patience, good humor, and considerable expertise. Andrew was the Washington-based cornerstone of this edition. But creating each edition of America Votes can be likened to piecing together a massive jigsaw puzzle, which required able assistance, which was provided by David C. Felts, Sal Hewavita, Roylene Kulesza, Andre Messier, Laura Notton, Tamara Tanso, and Chris Wozniak. Very special thanks goes to John Engelken and Jeanine Marie for their heroic efforts in collecting and curating many of the voting returns for this election cycle.

    Rhodes CookSeptember 2017


    America Votes 31

    The following corrections should be noted for the previous edition, America Votes 31, covering the 2013–2014 election cycle.

    Page 1. In the 2014 Voter Turnout table, the first note at the bottom should read that Oklahoma and South Carolina each held two Senate elections on November 4, 2014 (not 2015).

    Page 3. In the 2014 Senate Elections table, the Hawaii race should have been designated as a special election with “(S).”

    Page 46. In the California Postwar Vote for Governor table, the Democratic candidate in the 1974, 1978, 2010, and 2014 elections was “Brown, Edmund G. Jr.” In the California Postwar Vote for Senator table, the Democratic candidate in the 1982 election was “Brown, Edmund G. Jr.”

    Page 71. In the Connecticut primary table, the last name of one of the Republican governor candidates should be spelled “McKinney.”

    Page 84. In the Florida General Elections: Other Votes section, governor candidates Glenn Burkett and Farid Khavari should be designated as “No Party Affiliation.”

    Page 103. In the Hawaii Postwar Vote for Senator table, the 2014 contest should have been designated as a special election with “(S).”

    Page 105. In the Hawaii primary table, the second set of races should be labeled on the left-hand side as Senator.

    Page 121. In the Illinois primary table, Sherry Procarione should have been designated as a “write-in” in the Republican Senate primary. In the 5th District Republican primary, Fredrick K. White should have been designated as a “write-in.”

    Page 155. In the Louisiana Postwar Vote for Senator table, the first 2014 line should be deleted since it features results from the first round primary. Complete results for that event are found in the Louisiana primary table on page 158. The second 2014 line was the decisive vote, a runoff election. It should be designated with two asterisks (**). Meanwhile, the two asterisks (**) associated with the 2010 Senate line should be deleted.

    Page 244. In the New Jersey 3rd District, the last name of the House member should be spelled “MacArthur (R).”

    Page 314, In the Rhode Island Postwar Vote for Governor table, the Plurality column on the 2010 line should be “R#” to designate that the winner (Lincoln D. Chafee) was an independent candidate.

    Page 405. In the Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial primary, Steve R. Evans received 94 votes as a write-in, while the number of scattered write-ins totaled 1,293. In the Wisconsin Republican 7th District primary, John Schiess received 2 votes as a write-in.

    America Votes 30

    The following correction should be noted for America Votes 30, covering the 2011–2012 election cycle.

    Page 125. In the Florida General Elections: Other Vote section, Randall Terry in the 20th District should be designated as “No Party Affiliation.”

    America Votes 22 (1996 edition)

    Page 403. In the Ohio General Elections: Other Vote section, there should be the following entry: “CD 17: 21,685 Natural Law (Cahaney).”

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