As we wake up on the 6th of November, 2013, the Commonwealth of Virginia has concluded its election cycle. And most of the results are in. But it is not the results so much as the rhetoric around them that I want to discuss.
There are a number of Monday Morning quarterbacks that will be slicing and dicing the win of Terry McAuliffe. There are many who will be crowing that the challenger, Ken Cuccinelli kept the vote close. And in fact, the margin between the two candidates is only 55,420 votes. Barely the margin of error. Mr. Cuccinelli, in his speech was even heard to say that this was a referendum on the Affordable Care Act and the message was heard loud and clear in Washington. It is at this point that I put my hand up and ask, “did you even look at the numbers?”
Mr. Cuccinelli, a favorite of the Tea Party, has been arguing, despite other legal opinions to the contrary, that the ACA is a violation of the Constitution and the rights of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He ran his campaign on it and as Attorney General of Virginia brought the first suit against it before the votes in Congress had been fully counted. As I said he lost by a little over 50,000 votes. According to the numbers, a bit more than 2% of the total vote. But before we start lifting up the new governor elect, or paying attention to the loser’s trumpeting, we need to look closer.
Mr. McAuliffe won the election with 1,064,016, Mr. Cuccinelli had 1,008,596. In total only 2,217,907 people voted in the election for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 2 million people. Let me put this in perspective. The population of the City of Richmond, the capital of the Commonwealth, is 210,309. The population of the County of Fairfax, the population is 1.119 million. The entire population of the Commonwealth is 8 million. The total voter turn out for the election of Governor – the man who will run the Commonwealth of Virginia for the next four years was half of the total population of her most populated county. If I added up the population of the entire National Capital Area, I would have a population in excess of two million people.
Now, there are those that will complain that not everyone in Fairfax, or Richmond, is eligible to vote, and that is a fair argument, so I went to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s voter registration site and downloaded the number of voters. It is quite an interesting spreadsheet. Based on the number of active voters in the Commonwealth, there should have been about 4 million people vote. So less than half of what the Commonwealth identifies as active voters bothered to vote. But to address the pundits who will argue that this election was a referendum of the viability of the Tea Party, or a vote against the ACA, or even a vote for normalization, I ask you to consider this. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to their own registrations, there are over 5 million registered voters in the Commonwealth. So while the turnout could be argued to be high for an off-year election, it was not even 50% of eligible voters. The new governor was elected with barely 1/5 of the voters in the Commonwealth casting a ballot. This is not a mandate. It is barely a majority (as 1/5 voted against him). Yet clearly 3/5s of all eligible voters did not care enough to vote.
The take away is this. This election was little more than a blip. Yes, we who live in the Commonwealth will have to live with the results for the next four years, but as the yelling and screaming about who won rebounds around the nation, remember this – it really does not mean anything. So do not read anything into this. It was just a local election.