Senate Republicans were able to hang onto power after Tuesday’s midterm elections, picking up at least two seats and maintaining the majority.
But the situation has left many people, including those in other countries, wondering how it is possible that Democrats accumulated over 10 million more votes than Republicans but failed to take control.
More than 45 million Americans voted for Democratic Senate candidates vs. about 33 million for Republican contenders, according to figures updated around 11 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday.
As the animated TV graphics clearly showed, though, it was Republicans who ended the night in control of the Senate — not the Democrats. “An extraordinary electoral system,” tweeted an incredulous state secretary in the German state of Hesse.
How is this possible?
As my colleague Max J. Rosenthal explained, only a third of Senate seats come up for reelection each time there are congressional elections (that’s every two years). This year, 26 of the 35 of the seats being contested were held by Democrats, so more Democratic voters showed up to the polls. A lot of those voters cast ballots in states where Democrats were safe — think New York, Virginia or Minnesota — so there wasn’t much media coverage.
And in California, where they use a “top two” system, it was two Democrats on the ticket this year, meaning they received all votes cast.
“It has a unique system in which the top two candidates advance to the general election, regardless of party,” explained The Post’s Aaron Blake. “This year, that was two Democrats. That means all 6 million votes counted (with many more to come) go to the Democrats. Given California is by far the biggest state, that badly skews the national ‘Senate popular vote.’”
The U.S. Constitution required many compromises in order to bring every state on board, and that included representation:
One of them was to create a legislature with two chambers, one that gave each state equal representation and one that based representation on a state’s population. Having a Congress solely based on population, which some people argue for today, was one of the stalled ideas that led to this compromise.
That system remains in place today in large part because it’s part of the Constitution, which is difficult to amend. Opponents wouldn’t be able to change the system simply by passing a new law.