Undemocratic Election

8 August 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Dead Heat in Ohio Special Election


Yesterday's election to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives in Ohio won't have a declared winner any time soon. The seat in the solidly Republican 12th Congressional District fell vacant when Congressman Pat Tiberi resigned to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable. His party nominated Troy Balderson, who currently leads with 50.2% of the vote, while Democrat Danny O'Connor stands on 49.3%. The difference is about 1,700 votes while the absentee and provisional ballots number 8,000 or so. The result has a something-for-everyone quality. Given that the same candidates will run for the seat in November, the exercise also has a what-was-the-whole-point quality about it as well.

The rules in Ohio are that no provisional or absentee ballot can be counted for 10 days, to allow the post office and other delivery agencies to get the ballots to the Secretary of State's representatives who will then count them all at once. In order for Mr. O'Connor to catch up, those ballots will have to go his way by a ratio of just under 4:1. It's unlikely, but not beyond the realm of possibilities.

Another rule says that if the two top candidates are within half a percentage point of one another when all the ballots are tabulated, there is an automatic recount. This will delay matters even more. It is quite possible that the winner won't be known until after Labor Day.

Nevertheless, the Republicans can cheer because it looks like they held the seat. If Mr. Balderson holds onto his razor-thin lead, it is just as good as if he won 95% to 5%. Elections under the first-past-the-post system are binary in that way.

Another winner is President Trump who flew in to campaign for Mr. Balderson over the week-end. Whether his appearance did any good for the candidate or whether he merely energized Democratic voters will be a matter of debate for some years. However, he turned up, spoke enthusiastically for the nominee, and it looks like his man won. Mr. Trump has already claimed credit.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, Ohio's 12th CD has been Republican since 1938, with a brief Democratic interlude after the 1980 election. The current boundaries have gerrymandered the seat to heavily favor the GOP. In the last general election, Donald Trump carried the district with by an 11% margin, and Congressman Tiberi put up a 37% margin of victory. The fact that the press and prognosticators could not declare a winner an hour after the polls closed is a testament to the strength of the Democratic effort.

The party leadership is pleased because Mr. O'Connor is not a democratic socialist of the Bernie Sanders ilk. He ran a moderate campaign and almost pulled it off. Estimates are that as many as 80 House seats could be in play if the nationwide swing to the Democrats resembles the swing toward Mr. O'Connor.

Stepping back from the partisan spinning, there is something seriously flawed in the way Ohio filled the seat. Congressman Tiberi resigned in January, and a special election was required under Federal law. Governor John Kasich set the primary for the election in May (which was already the primary day for the general election) and the election itself for August. Now, the people have a congressman who will serve a few months before the general election, when another candidate may wind up the winner. That means the people of the district will not have a representative for about 9 months this year. Almost any other arrangement to fill the seat would have been better. Special elections are only democratic if they result in someone going to Washington in a timely fashion.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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