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How Ted Cruz Won His Senate Seat With Just 632,000 Votes in a State of 27 Million

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On Monday, March 23, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced the launch of his 2016 presidential campaign, making him the first high-profile, major party candidate to do so. Cruz is known as a polarizing figure on Capitol Hill; his hardline stances on issues like immigration, climate change, and health care reform have made him the subject of countless headlines since he assumed office in 2013.

Even in Texas, he is a hardliner. So how does someone so polarizing get elected?

Ted Cruz was chosen to be the next junior senator in Texas by less than 4 percent of the eligible voting population by virtue of winning his low-turnout (under 12%) Republican primary. This is a fact about almost all primary elections today that is often missed by media talking heads and politicos.

Cruz didn’t place first in the 2012 Republican primary; he placed second behind then-Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. However, Dewhurst, who received roughly 45 percent of the primary vote, was not able to garner enough votes to avoid a runoff. Cruz placed second with approximately 34 percent of the vote.

The 2012 summer runoff election produced an even worse turnout — 8.5 percent — the lower the turnout, the more ideologically extreme the voters tend to be.

And in that runoff, Cruz garnered 57 percent of the vote, while Dewhurst received a little over 43 percent. Cruz then advanced to the general election, where voters got to choose between him and Democrat Paul Sadler. In a Republican-dominated state, this ‘election’ wasn’t a real competition.

In short, Ted Cruz got 631,812 votes in the primary to effectively win a seat that represents 26.97 million people.

This is the reality of our current partisan elections. Republican voters, who still make up a solid majority of the Texas electorate, were not going to vote for a Democrat. Sadler, for example, was called the “sacrificial lamb” in the election because the minority party was not even considered consequential — and neither were any voters who didn’t participate in the Republican primary election(s).

The current system treats any votes outside the majority party as meaningless. Democrats have little power to sway statewide elections in Texas, much like Republicans don’t have influence in districts controlled by Democrats.

Under a nonpartisan system, however, like the new systems in Washington state and California, the results would likely have been much different. In these states, all candidates and voters, regardless of party affiliation (or lack thereof), participate on a single primary ballot. The top two vote-getters (again, regardless of party affiliation) advance to the general election.

In an op-ed published on The Hill, Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the Daily Kos, claims that top-two is a failure after two election cycles in California.

Moulitsas claims the system produces an unrepresentative government by citing one example in 2012 where too many Democrats ran in the 31st congressional district, a district where the constituency tends to lean Democratic. This resulted in two Republicans advancing to the general election because of how the votes were split.

“How is a right-wing Republican representing a manifestly liberal district a service to democracy? It’s not. In fact, it makes a farce out of our representative system,” he writes.

However, what Moulitsas fails to mention is the Republican, Gary Miller, no longer represents that district. Democratic U.S. Representative Pete Aguilar was elected in the 2014 election.

He also fails to mention that 90 percent of elections across the country today are actually ‘decided’ in low-turnout primary elections due in large part to partisan gerrymandering.

So, under the traditional partisan primary systems, we have representatives all over the country being ‘elected’ at the primary stage of the election when just 10 percent of voters nationwide are participating.

How does that serve democracy?

Under California and Washington’s nonpartisan systems, candidates cannot solely appeal to voters affiliated with their party because the party’s voters are no longer the sole factor in deciding the election. Most of the time, voters outside the majority party end up deciding who wins the race, which means majority party candidates have to listen to all voters or risk losing the election.

Cruz’s hardline, ideological positions on issues and his unwillingness to work across the aisle would have appealed to some voters, but would be a difficult sell in a nonpartisan election.

Then again, most representatives today don’t ever have to consider voters outside their party.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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688 comments
bobj72
bobj72

Cruz is a White-Cuban [Canadian] who simply Speaks some Spanish.  With the total TX Minority population @ 55% - 60% Minority [Hisp. 40%, Blk 12% & Asian 5%] it's important to have a Minority Senator (Preferably A Mexican - since Mexicans represent 70% of the Hisp. population.)

Cruz will be up for re-election in 2018 and it's IMPERATIVE The DNC Invest the $$ necessary for The Most Formidable Democratic Candidate to compete Against Cruz. 

Luis Barreto Lugo
Luis Barreto Lugo

NEXT TUESDAY THE OHIO STATE WITH THE USA WAR VETERANS SUPPORT Donald Trump WILL BE THE WINNER ALL 66 DELEGATES, BE ENOUGH TO ENSURE THE CLEVELAND CONVENTION NOMINATION WE ARE SIX DAYS AWAY

James Woodard
James Woodard

I agree. And soon before the nation is destroyed by Partisan Politics.

Gary Halter
Gary Halter

Primary and general elections are different. Primaries select the parties candidates for the general elections. When you vote in the November election you are voting for the candidates that were selected in the primary elections. My statements are not theory they are facts based on election data over many years. A good example of this is Ted Cruz. He was elected with only 4% of the voters in Texas. An off year election. You can check this out on the Texas Sectary of 'States web page. Go to elections division and election data for many years is available.

James Woodard
James Woodard

At Eighty there can't be many of my kind left.

Patricia Craft
Patricia Craft

This is true . Kelly Strole and everyone knows Goldman Sachs is crooked as they come

LaNita Canaday
LaNita Canaday

COPY AND SHARE AS MUCH AS WE CAN. WE NED TRUMP AS OUR PRESIDENT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. GET OUT AND VOTE FLORIDA,MISSOURI,ILLINOIS,OHIO,NORTH CAROLINA LANDSLIDE FOR TRUMP. CRUZ AND RUBIO ARE NOT THE CANDIDATES THAT AMERICA NEEDS. WE NEED TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP TO BRING BACK OUR AMERICA BECAUSE POLITICIANS HAVE RUINED IT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. NO JOBS, MORE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, MORE OF TAX PAYERS PAYING FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO LIVE HERE FREE BECAUSE OF OUR POLITICIANS. WE NEED A OUTSIDER TO HELP AMERICA BECOME AMERICA AGAIN. BUT WATCH YOUR BALLOT IF ELECTRONICLY PUT IN WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING...WATCH YOUR BALLOTS. REVIEW THEM BEFORE PUSHING THE VOTE BUTTON. HEADS UP! ___Please READ and SHARE ALARMING glitch on the polling machines. After completing all sections, the machine MAY GIVE YOU an option to review your ballot. THE MACHINE MAY AUTO SELECTED,CRUZ, BUSH, RUBIO as YOUR candidate for nominee - NOT TRUMP as U had clearly marked. YOU NEED TO GO back and FIX YOUR VOTE to show TRUMP as the presidential candidate of YOUR choice before casting my ballot, but WHAT IF U HAD NOT VERIFIED before hitting the cast ballot button??? If you are voting early - PLEASE DOUBLE and TRIPLE check your ballot before hitting the Cast Ballot button. If you are waiting until March 15st to vote, please be aware that voting turnout will be high and there may be an even greater chance of voting machine glitches. MAKE SURE your vote goes to support Donald J. Trump!

Hank Purnell
Hank Purnell

I hope this loser does not get the nomination.

Forest De La Luz
Forest De La Luz

And here i am scrambling for pocket change while homeless...

Forest De La Luz
Forest De La Luz

A vote for trump is a vote for me to purchase my first firearm and wait for the Counter Revolution to start. American needs to be balanced out. Theres money in politics and it must be systematically routed out. Otherwise you just have an Oligarchy. Ya thats right. Thats a word you've probably never heard before, Mona.

Joe Ciliberto
Joe Ciliberto

For those seeking CHANGE, you CAN'T TRUST TRUMP, he is in bed with THE CLINTON CARTEL. For HONEST change support BERNIE SANDERS. Try it, you'll like it.\U0001f525\U0001f525\U0001f4aa WE are still here and we're not going away. STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT & JUST.\U0001f525\U0001f4aa#Bernie

Forest De La Luz
Forest De La Luz

I know youre probably hetero and so am i but... I love you even though i dont know you...❤️

Forest De La Luz
Forest De La Luz

Omg why havent i met more of your generation that have your views?!

Akboss
Akboss

You totally left out the facts that Dewhurst was supposed to be the GOP shoe in. He ran a dirty mudslinging campaign against Cruz which turned many people away from the GOP and Dewhurst. 

The TEA party did a lot of pounding the pavement for Cruz and got out enough conservative voters that cared to vote.


Shawn should have researched this article more than he did. Dewhurst is lucky he has ANY political office. Funny how after he lost he silently fill out the rest of his term and never ran again....


But then Cruz is the devil so it makes it ok to not fact check anything .......

Tammie Trescone Schwartz
Tammie Trescone Schwartz

Ted Cruz, Rubio and Romney are directed by the establishment, and the billionaire family from Nebraska the Rickett's along with several other billionaires that are on a mission to take Trump out of the running. Paul Ryan, just a few days ago, received a standing ovation for his announcement of bringing 300,000 more muslim immigrants to our country on VISA's...Cruz voted for that!!!!! Rubio voted for that, Hillary is all for continuing Obama's mission, to smother us with immigrants, refugees and Muslim ways!!!! Wake up Americans you have your last chance to stop the government from destroying the population of Americans in our country!!!!!! If you don't vote for Trump, then you are paving the way for Americans to become forced to be controlled by Muslims and death to American's by the terrorists refugees....can you live with that, can you be proud of yourselves for destroying the future of your children and grand children!!!!! This is bigger that you think. Obama has 319 days left in office, and he has guided and protected Hillary, from the treason that she has committed against our country, because he knows if they play their cards right, she will be the next President, and she can fulfill the plans of Obama!!!!! Vote for Trump!!!!! All this information has been on facebook within the last two weeks....

Pat's Political Page
Pat's Political Page

Why would any hardworking Texan vote for a guy who hardly ever goes into work?

Claude M Judd
Claude M Judd

You guys are stupid....So he won but 4% back then, but his record in Congress since then speaks volumes. HIS PAC raised the money with few major donors. MSM is not a good source unless you are blind follower~

KelLaBranche
KelLaBranche

Good for him, but not good for the betterment of a robust and equitable democracy. An excellent example of why election laws everwhere need comprehensive review and revision by independent, nonpartisan authority, without conflict, to protect, primarily, the interest of the 'common' voting citizen. There is 50+ years of institutionalized, self-serving, two-party, legislative bias-creep that now controls the entire process.

Shirley Gromadski
Shirley Gromadski

We need to fix our system it is corrupt in a whole lot of areas!

Jack Moore
Jack Moore

Simple your vote count bottom line

Melissa Stockman-Maher
Melissa Stockman-Maher

The only funny part of SNL last night was the creepy Cruz parody, that awful laugh, it was perfect. What a freakshow!!

Gary DeFilippo
Gary DeFilippo

Well then you got what you wanted. An idiot who thinks misunderestimated is a word.

Warren Donaldson
Warren Donaldson

Gary DeFilippo thank God for miracles. Can't imagine President Gore or Kerry!

Warren Donaldson
Warren Donaldson

SJ Adams...I cannot defend Bush. He sucked! Even in hindsight... Bush was better than Gore or Kerry. Bush inherited failures of epic proportions. Leading to 2 wars and economic calamities. Clinton signed daddy Bush's NAFTA into law. We've been in a tailspin ever since. If not for Obama... Bill Clinton easily modern history's worst POTUS. BTW...I'm a Constitutional Conservative Democrat...bash the GOP all you like.

Charles Cunningham
Charles Cunningham

If you are going to call yourselves Independent Voter you should not lie about the facts. 27 million is the total population of Texas not the voting population. Had he of won with just 4% where were the democrats? At home. Try being honest.

Roger Mcclelland
Roger Mcclelland

This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If people dont go vote then we get what we get and for your info, the ones who make sure they voe every time are usually way more educated and make a much better decision. People will turn out pretty good for presidential races and thats how we get bad candidates like obama and hillary. These every now and then voters are usually stupid. Thzts why we are dealing with trump now.

Sharon Etter Weber
Sharon Etter Weber

Similar to Paul LePage in Maine...another teabag....he won with 38% due to a third person in the race!

Don Miller
Don Miller

But, those partisans voted! The nuts are running the chickenhouse now because the rest of us stayed home and did not vote!!! VOTE, now more than ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kelly Strole
Kelly Strole

Exactly. Why is that even an issue? I understand the theory, but to me it's just more of a control issue than an unfair issue. What is unfair, is winning the popular vote, but still losing the election because you won a state that had more people in it. Why should the state with the largest population matter more than the one with the smallest? It shouldn't. Winning a state, regardless of population, would become more important. If you get 9 out of the 10 people in state A to vote for you, you win that state. You now have 1 state. If your opponent gets 10,000,001 out of the 20,000,000 people in state B to vote them, they now have 1 state. And you both have 48 more states to go. Hell, since there are some territories that vote, add them to the mix. And always have an odd total number to prevent a tie. Your theory would suggest that, say, Puerto Rico could decide an election. My assertion is that if they are allowed to vote, why does it matter if it's this state or that territory that decides the race? Every single vote would matter no matter where it was cast. A lot of upside to it. Tell me, what's the downside?

James Woodard
James Woodard

Partasan Politics steals the rights of the people while denying their right to rule this nation. We are guided by a rich few who do not care what will happen to this nation.

Kevin Miller
Kevin Miller

It is kind of a "chicken or egg" thing. They're apathetic so they don't vote, then they complain because the person who got elected doesn't do what they think they should even though they didn't bother to vote, or you get some low information voter that votes for the democrat or the republican because he or daddy always votes for democrats or always votes for repubs...their just too danged lazy to educate themselves or too appathetic to educate themselves so you end up with an election with few or no good candidates to pick from.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

Your idea violates the one person, one vote concept, i.e. the majority of voters in high-population States would have less influence on the outcome than would the majority in the low-population States.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

One's religion should inform one's politics but not vice versa. It's disconcerting to observe religion and politics conflated.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

More people would participate in the process if the process were reformed in a way that would convince them that their vote might make a difference.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

I think of the top-two primary system as somewhat less praiseworthy than Shawn Griffiths seems to think. Moulitsas’ failure to mention that 90 percent of elections across the country today are actually ‘decided’ in low-turnout primary elections due in large part to partisan gerrymandering does not invalidate his claim that the top-two primary system in California is a failure. Gerrymandering can be fixed. Also the defective nonpartisan top-two system can be fixed by becoming the nonpartisan top-six or whatever. Fixing both is still not enough fixing to be ideal. Representation can be further improved though a better election method than first-past-the-post. An approval plus grade voting method would decrease the chances that having more candidates of one party than candidates of another party would affect which party has the advantage of having the most winners. Moreover, representation could be even further improved by having multi-seat congressional districts instead of single-seat ones.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

Moulitsas’ failure to mention that 90 percent of elections across the country today are actually ‘decided’ in low-turnout primary elections due in large part to partisan gerrymandering does not invalidate his claim that the top-two primary system in California is a failure. Gerrymandering can be fixed. Also the defective nonpartisan top-two system can be fixed by becoming the nonpartisan top-six or whatever. Fixing both is still not enough fixing to be ideal. Representation can be further improved though a better election method than first-past-the-post. An approval plus grade voting method would decrease the chances that having more candidates of one party than candidates of another party would affect which party has the advantage of having the most winners. Moreover, representation could be even further improved by having multi-seat congressional districts instead of single-seat ones.

Jeff Hutchison
Jeff Hutchison

actually we are a federal republic in which we are a federation of states with a democratic form of government.

John Butterbaugh
John Butterbaugh

Gary DeFilippo,your values are obviously different than mine.

John Butterbaugh
John Butterbaugh

All of the Republican candidates would be better than Socialism which is what we have now. I'm looking for a candidate that's both a Christian and a Conservative and has a track record of both. Proven track record. Trump , in my opinion, has a track record of neither . By your fruits you shall know them. That's all we can and should go by. Your moral values influence all of your decisions in life. If you don't have that right, then all of your decisions in life will be based on an incorrect moral compass. Romans 3;23 says all have sinned and come short of the kingdom of God. Mr. Trump has stated that he hasn't done anything to ask God's forgiveness for. So according to the Bible, he is not a Christian. His mob affiliation , Womanizing , vulgarity , etc, is not the fruit of a good Christian. His track record, or fruit in the political arena is that more of a Democrat than that of a Conservative. Hillary even says that. It's not just one or two items, but on a host of issues. There again it goes back to a lack of a good moral compass to guide a person. Reagan said everybody becomes a conservative when running for President on the Republican side, but where is the proof before or after.? Trump still believes in Government run health care, the biggest transfer of wealth in our nations history. (socialism ) He thinks Canada is a good example of it working good. Really? The use of eminent domain for not just public but for private use, his blaming Bush for 9-11,(that's code pink stuff.) When out in Iowa, telling the farmers( I/e buying votes) that he is actually for more government subsidy for ethanol, just last year saying that his pro partial birth abortion sister would make a good supreme court judge, I mean the list goes on and on. I've been trying to wrap my arms around Trump, but the more I look into him the worse it gets. If somebody could convince me that he was a stanch Christian Conservative I would vote for him. but so far I'm not convinced. My vote is not swayed by polls but by my convictions. I'm not smart enough to know everything about politics , but I do try to educate myself on what's going on by listening to Rush, Mark Levin, James Dobson, David Barton from our Godly Heritage , and others that are trusted conservatives to get an idea of what's going on. Although I will support whoever gets the nomination, Rush made a statement that sums up really why I'm for Ted Cruz. Rush Limbaugh: "If conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote, there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz... this is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan."