This blog post is long over due…
During the most recent presidential election (as with every election in which New York votes democratic) I began seeing lots of posts across the internet about how we should split the state to ensure our vote really counts etc. I’ve heard this argument many times before (and there are others such as who pays for whom) so I decided to do a little investigation.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tried as hard as I could to keep this factual and not an opinion piece. I hope I did a good job. Feel free to let me know.
I started by taking a look at the red/blue map as published by the New York Times:
Immediately it became clear that the East/South-Eastern part of the state is a democratic stronghold. However; I was interested in the actual numbers so I pressed on. In the picture above it’s quite clear where the southeastern line is, so I used that to create a map of what I thought might be the results of a split:
I then used the New York Times posted results and began recording the individual numbers per county (in the process I even discovered an issue with the reported results for Herkimer county. There were far less total votes reported than there should be and a friend from that county followed up with the Herkimer county board of elections who corrected it a few days later).
Below is the table of data I collected & used for my calculations:
So if you read the data sheet enough, you’ll already know my conclusion (it’s all in the numbers & it’s all calculated in the spreadsheet). As it turns out the actual results are as follows:
If we were to split New York in half, the 2012 Presidential Election results would have been the same.
However; because of how the Electoral college works, there would have actually been 2 more Democratic votes in this election.
The number of Electoral college votes is the summation of the number of Senators and Representatives for that state. Each state gets 2 senators & a portion of the total allotted Representatives based on population.
Splitting the state would have caused a new state to enter the union thus 2 more senators, while splitting the current number of representatives between the two new states.
On a related note, using the district map provided by govtrack.us below:
I estimate the following electoral vote breakdown (how I arrived at these numbers is also in the spreadsheet above):
Current New York State
- Senators: 2
- Representatives: 27
- Votes: 29
- Senators: 2
- Representatives: 9
- Votes: 11
- Senators: 2
- Representatives 18
- Votes: 20
This doesn’t tell the whole story
I don’t get paid for this. I investigated what I was interested in, so I definitely left out a few things
- My data doesn’t include the elections for all positions.
- My data only includes the results for 2012 so it’s not historical.
- The split I chose is arbitrary based on where I thought the best split would be, in reality while looking at this it seemed downstate should include most of the eastern & northern part of the state as well, really turning this into an East/West discussion rather than Upstate/Downstate.
- There is an argument that less republicans vote because they feel their vote doesn’t matter. I don’t really buy this much because I feel it’s the same on both sides, I know plenty of Democrats and Republicans who didn’t vote in this election because they felt it was already in the bag, I feel the margin would probably just increase not change direction.
- The districts would likely not be split between the two proposed states as I suggested. It would probably cause a re-balancing of districts across the country and I’m not sure of the two states proposed would have more or less representatives than I suggested.
There are a few main points I’d like to leave you with.
1) If the states were split, there would actually be more democratic votes, not less. (this holds factually true for the 2012 Presidential Election, future elections, past elections & other positions are undetermined at this time)
2) If the states were split, more power would be given to downstate than they have today. Their democratic votes would not be held in check by upstate’s republican votes. So given the gap between republican and democratic votes in the downstate totals, it is likely that even with a major republic upswing in voting, downstate would remain democratic. This means their 20 (suggested) votes would be even more locked in than the 29 for the entire state are now.
3) If the states were split, upstate could possibly become a swing state. However; there is a 20% gap between republican and democratic votes in upstate so the argument that more republican voters would turn out if they felt it mattered would have to hold true (without more corresponding democratic voters turning out as well).