Everyone knows that Al Gore won more popular votes than George W. Bush and still lost the presidency. They also know that the Republicans control the House and Senate. But if you add up all the House and Senate races and total the result, which party actually won the most votes for Congress?
That depends on which party you ask. Since the ne plus ultra of final vote totals won't be calculated for a few more months, Democrats and Republicans each say their calculations are still subject to change. They each say their party collected, in total, more votes. That they each say this, of course, doesn't matter because we do not have a parliamentary system, so seeing who gets the most total votes is about bragging rights, not governing rights. But a Democratic group, the National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC), makes a strong case that right now they have the most comprehensive numbers. Their totals are: 46,373,084, or 48.2 percent of the vote for House Democrats; 45,972,206, or 47.8 percent of the vote for House Republicans; and 3,818,473, or 4 percent for other parties. The new House, in which Democrats picked up two seats, will still have a Republican majority of 221 and a Democratic minority of 212, with two Independents. How could a party overall get more votes and still not control the House? That's easy. A Democrat who wins an overwhelming victory will get more votes than a Republican who wins a squeaker, but they will both still be members of Congress. And many more Democrats than Republicans ran unopposed. While some Web sites list 14 uncontested races around the country having no votes because the districts did not track uncontested races, the NCEC says they got data for all but two of those races.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) also has preliminary vote totals for the House races. Their calculations result in 45,552,766, or 50.8 percent total votes for House Republicans, and 43,978,011, or 49.1 percent for Democrats. They were not able to clarify the method they used for calculating third party candidates, who seem to be excluded here. Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report says the Republicans won the House by 49.2 percent to 47.9 percent of the vote. Although no Republican group was able to provide vote totals for the 34 contested Senate races, the NCEC has what it calls unofficial results. In those races the Democrats got a total of 38,339,006 votes, the Republicans 37,806,693 votes. In this year's elections, the Democrats picked up four senate seats to give them a 50-50 split. (Please don't ask why Explainer didn't do these calculations herself. Explainer tried to, but her abacus broke.)
Explainer gets mail ...Explainer, yesterday you finally clarified how Nebraska and Maine allot their Electoral College votes not by winner take all but by who won each congressional district, etc. So if the whole country used this system, who would have won the presidency?
Explainer loves it when someone else has already done all the work! In this USA Today article from Dec. 15, the paper does those calculations and the result is ... exactly the same! Bush wins 271 and Gore 267. And, according to numbers just released from the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, the presidential tally is 50,996,064, or 48.3 percent for Gore, and 50,456,167, or 47.8 percent for Bush, with a Gore margin of 539,897 votes.
Explainer thanks Mark Gersh and Tom Bonier of the National Committee for an Effective Congress and Tracy Young of the National Republican Congressional Committee.