Two-plus weeks after voting ended in the 2018 midterms, nearly all (but not all) of the winners of House races have been determined. Nearly all the votes have been counted — but again, not all. California still has an estimated 1.3 million ballots to tally, but those won’t shift the results much nationally. (It will determine who wins at least one House seat.)
What will be affected by those additional ballots is the national vote total. The 2018 election is already expected to be the highest-turnout midterm election in the past century, according to analysis by the United States Elections Project.
It’s already the highest-turnout midterm House election in history, according to Cook Political Report’s running tally of the House vote. More votes were cast in House races this year than in any presidential election before 2004.
Much of that is a function of population growth. But the midterm turnout stands out as exceptional for other reasons, too.
For example, as a percentage of the prior presidential election, midterm turnout is the third-highest in the past 90 years. (National vote totals weren’t available for the 1938 midterms.) The total number of votes counted so far is 81 percent of the 2016 total. Were another 2.3 million votes added to the total, the percentage relative to the prior presidential year would top the 1950 figure of 81.7 percent.
More interesting is the division of that figure by party. The number of votes cast for Democratic House candidates was 90 percent of the total votes cast for Hillary Clinton two years ago. The votes cast for Republicans this year was only 80 percent of what President Trump received.
More interestingly, the number of votes cast for Democrats this year is 94 percent of the total cast for Trump. It would take another 3.8 million votes to top Trump’s total, which won’t happen. But that’s the third-highest percentage one party has received in a midterm of the other party’s presidential candidate in the prior presidential election.
The difference in percentage of support between the parties was also broader than normal. Democrats received 7.9 percent more of the vote than did Republican House candidates, a wider margin than the Republicans have seen in any midterm in the past 90 years. It’s a higher margin than that by which any Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote since 1984.
In terms of raw votes, the Democratic margin has already topped the widest margin by which either party has earned more votes in a midterm, as noted by Cook Political’s Dave Wasserman. The prior record, an 8.7-million vote margin, was set by the Democrats in the post-Watergate 1974 midterms.
Wasserman has also highlighted a point we’ve made as the votes have come in: The representatives each party is sending to Washington next year couldn’t look much different.
With the defeat of Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), the Republican caucus will include only one nonwhite woman, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) — who also happens to represent the only stretch of the West Coast not represented by a Democrat.
We can put that another way. Ninety percent of the Republican caucus will be white men. Two-thirds of the Democratic caucus won’t be.
Or, put yet another way: If you run into a white man on the House floor next year, there’s a 2-to-1 chance he’ll be a Republican. If you run into a woman, there’s a 7-to-1 chance she’s a Democrat. If you run into a person of color, there’s a 10-to-1 chance that representative is a Democrat.
There, again, is that rumbling subtext to American politics: A surge in turnout benefited the Democrats and reflected a more diverse American electorate.
correction: This article was updated because I forgot that California's 21st District hadn't been called.