In recent weeks Democrats have won a number of late deciding races due to absentee and provisional ballots being counted (see every district in Orange County) flipping blue AFTER election night. But these votes were all cast in a decidedly left leaning electoral environment on November 6th.
Historically, after a midterm benefiting one party over the other the environment generally returns to normal. It is hard for a party to sustain a wave electorate. Especially when the dynamics shift to a Presidential election as opposed to a more scattered midterm environment.
This brings us to one of the two remaining undecided races of 2018, North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District (CA-21 looks like Democrats 40th pick-up). Specifically, recent allegations of absentee ballot fraud surrounding two heavily Democratic counties and a Republican contractor working for Republican Mark Harris’s campaign. According to reports, over 60 percent of absentee ballots in Bladen and another Democratic leaning county went unreturned because a Republican contractor collected these ballots and committed fraud.
The District’s Election’s Board has refused to certify the results of the election (Harris leads by 905 votes) as a result. State and county investigators are also digging into the allegations. The Election’s Board set a hearing for December 21st to consider the veracity of the allegations.
Predictably, Republicans have called for the results of the election to be certified. Democrats, who did not gain a single seat in the state despite winning the most votes, argue the only way to protect the integrity of the results is to conduct a do-over. Somebody should tell them to be careful what they wish for because they probably won’t get a do-over in an electoral environment like November.
America has featured two elections since November 6th. The first was the Mississippi Senate run-off on November 27th. While nobody truly expected the race to go blue there was chatter after November 6th’s results it could. A bumbling Republican campaign by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith did not help and probably is the reason she under-performed the state’s partisan lean. In the end, she still won by a comfortable 8 points.
Mississippi was not where Democrats were pinning their hopes though. They had their sights on a less marquee but no less significant election in Georgia, the Secretary of State runoff election.
Georgia trended blue this November with Democrats flipping a suburban Atlanta Congressional District (Newt Gingrich’s old seat), breaking the GOP’s super-majority in the legislature and losing the Governorship by a mere 50,000 votes out of 3.9 million cast. But, the party did not win a single statewide office that night and pinned its hopes on the Secretary of State contest (the only statewide race to go to a runoff).
The race pitted Republican Brad Raffensperger against former Democratic Congressman John Barrow. In November, Raffensperger won 49% and Barrow won 48%. Democrats kept staffers on the ground in the state specifically for the contest and the grassroots pushed hard for a victory.
The results were not kind to the party. Turnout (unsurprisingly) dropped precipitously for the contest and Raffensperger ended up winning the race with 52 percent of the vote. Unlike Mississippi, Georgia is a state trending purple but the party cannot seem to win statewide races even in the best environment. In a more neutral environment, the state’s partisan lean starts to show. This is an ominous sign for Democrats hoping for a do-over in the 9th.
The 9th District takes in rural majority-black and white counties on the state’s Southern border and also a large swathe of the purple Charlotte suburbs. Mark Harris upset the sitting Republican Congressman and is not a natural fit for the Charlotte suburbs. His opponent, Dan McCready, is a better fit for the district with his military background minus his partisan affiliation.
If we use Georgia’s Secretary of State contest as a baseline compared to the Georgia Governor’s race the GOP will outperform a race’s partisan lean by half a percentage point. Considering North Carolina’s 9th District has an eight point GOP lean in a neutral environment this means Harris should win by 8.5 points. But Harris is not a good fit for the district and of course nothing is ever neutral. Even so, a do-over would likely disadvantage McCready more than Harris.
The Democratic advantage seen on November 6th seems to have dissipated somewhat. If this were a suburban swing district the math might come out differently but NC-9 is still a red leaning district. Democrats need a wave or profoundly blue electoral environment to win it. An off year, do-over election is unlikely to yield the result they want.