The Daily Brew: The MOVs in the PCs

Welcome to the Monday, Feb. 22, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Average margin of victory in Pivot Counties has shifted 198% from Democrats to Republicans since 2008
  2. North Dakota Supreme Court rules on state legislative appointment
  3. Upcoming elections preview

Average margin of victory in Pivot Counties has shifted 198% from Democrats to Republicans since 2008

Ballotpedia is concluding its analysis of Pivot Counties in the 2020 presidential election with a look at the presidential margins of victories in these counties and how they have changed over time.

Pivot Counties are the 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in the 2016 presidential election. In 2020, we have used the following categories to describe these counties:

  • Retained Pivot Counties (181), which voted for Trump again this year, and 
  • Boomerang Pivot Counties (25), which voted for Joe Biden (D) on Nov. 3.

In 2008, Obama had an average margin of victory of D+12.3 across all 206 of these counties. In 2020, the average margin of victory was R+12.0, a 198% shift of 24.3 percentage points towards Republicans.

We calculated the average margin of victory by taking the average of all 206 Pivot Counties’ margins.

When looking at just the 181 Retained Pivot Counties, the margin shift from 2008 increases to 26.2 percentage points. Of those 181 counties, Trump won a larger margin of victory in 113 compared to his 2016 results. Trump’s margin decreased in 68 Retained Pivot Counties.

Though Biden won the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties in 2020, the average margins have also shifted 10.2 percentage points towards Republicans when comparing 2020 results to those from 2008.

The chart below shows the overall change in average margins of victory by Pivot County category between 2008 and 2020. 

The table below shows the margins of victory from each presidential election since 2008 using the categories above. The rightmost section shows the total change since 2020 both in percentage points and percent change. In Retained Pivot Counties, the average margin of victory has shifted 217% towards Republicans. In the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties that voted for Biden, the average margin has shifted 76% towards Republicans.

The Pivot Counties where Trump’s margin of victory increased from 2016 were located primarily in the Southeast and Upper Midwest, concentrated in states like Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Counties where Trump’s margin decreased in 2020 were located primarily in New England and the Northeast.

Woodruff County, Ark., a Retained Pivot County, had the largest margin change towards Trump in 2020 with an 18.8 percentage point shift. Ziebach County, S.D., a Boomerang Pivot County, had the largest margin change towards Biden with a 10.5 percentage point shift.

To read our other Pivot County analysis, see our articles on:

Read on

North Dakota Supreme Court rules on state legislative appointment

Regular Brew readers know that when I learn about a fascinating elections story, I can’t wait to share it. One of Ballotpedia’s writers identified an interesting situation involving a North Dakota legislator who lost his primary last year but is currently the state representative from his district.

After a state Supreme Court ruling last fall, North Dakota Rep. Jeff Delzer (R) remains in office at the start of the legislative session following a primary defeat in 2020.

In North Dakota, each of the state’s 47 districts elects two representatives to the state House. Challengers David Andahl and Dave Nehring defeated Delzer in the 2020 primary election and proceeded to the general election for the district’s two seats.

Delzer’s primary defeat highlighted divisions between the legislator and Gov. Doug Burgum (R). During the 2020 primary election, Burgum donated over $3.1 million to a political action committee opposing Delzer. Burgum and Delzer have disagreed over the state’s budgeting in the past. Burgum, as governor, proposes a budget every two years, but the legislature approves the final budget. Delzer, as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, directs those budgeting proceedings in the House.

These divisions became apparent again following the Nov. 3 general election. Andahl and Nehring won election to the district’s two seats, but Andahl passed away a month before the election, leaving one seat immediately vacant.

Under state law, when a legislative vacancy occurs, the former legislator’s district party can appoint a replacement. Burgum argued that state law was unclear about instances where a candidate dies before the election and argued that he, instead, held appointment authority.

On Nov. 4, Burgum appointed Wade Boesham (R) to the seat. On Nov. 18, the District 8 GOP appointed Delzer. The following week, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that state law applied in this case and that the district party held appointment authority.

Delzer and Nehring were sworn in to represent House District 8 on Dec. 1.

Read on 

Upcoming elections preview

Tuesday means elections! We’re watching several races that are happening tomorrow, Feb. 23. Here are some highlights:

  • Texas House District 68 (special general election runoff): Craig Carter (R) is facing David Spiller (R). Carter and Spiller advanced from the general election on Jan. 23, earning 18% and 44% of the vote, respectively. The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on Dec. 19, 2020. Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House.
  • New York City Council District 31 (special election): Nine candidates are competing in the election to replace Donovan Richards, who left office after he was elected Queens Borough President in November. Richards served on the city council from 2013 to 2020.
    • The Feb. 23 election will be the second election in New York City to use a ranked-choice voting system. In 2019, New Yorkers passed a ballot measure that instituted ranked-choice voting in special elections to local offices.
  • Ohio village council recall election: The special recall election will be held seeking to remove four Woodmere Village Council members from their seats. Woodmere is a town in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with a population of 884 people as of the 2010 census. 
    • The recall effort began in October 2020. Recall petitioners cited the council’s failure to install a sidewalk along the village’s main road and its inability to keep the village’s website up-to-date as grounds for the recall. Petitioners also accused the four council members of pitting residents against each other. The recall opponents alleged that a lack of transparency about the contents of the recall petition misled the residents who signed it. Petitioners were required to obtain 45 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.




About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.