NEW RESEARCH AREAS (Spring-Summer 2002)

Project I: Virginia General Assembly Election Returns, 1945-2002 (Spring-Summer 2002)  
Like many Southern states, Virginia politics and government have changed dramatically in the past forty years. One of the more significant changes has been the rise of the Republican Party and of two-party competition in the State. From 1897 to 1980, the Republican Party had a small and insignificant number of members in the General Assembly. In 1930, there were only ten of 140 legislators in the General Assembly who were not members of the Democratic Party. In 1961, there were six Republicans and 134 Democrats. In 1999, however, the number of Republicans equaled the number of Democrats. In 2002, the Virginia House of Delegates is dominated by a Republican supermajority and the Republicans also control the Virginia Senate.

A second significant change is the increase in the number of women who run for and who win election to the General Assembly. Women gained the right to vote in all states with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Women first voted in Virginia in the 1923 elections, and Sarah Fain and Helen Henderson were elected to the House of Delegates. Other women were elected in the next decade, but between 1934 and 1954, no women served in the General Assembly. In 1970, there was only one female legislator in the General Assembly, and the first woman elected to the Virginia Senate occurred in 1980. In 2001, the number of women state legislators in most states is still relatively small, but in Virginia they included seven of forty state Senators and sixteen of 100 members in the House of Delegates.

The third noteworthy change is the return of African-American state legislators to the Virginia General Assembly. After the Civil War, from 1866 to 1891, African-Americans were elected and served in the General Assembly. From 1892 until William Ferguson Reid was elected as a House Delegate in the 1967 elections, no African-Americans served in the General Assembly. After Reid's election, the number of African-American state legislators has increased slowly but steadily in every state legislature, including Virginia's. In 1989, Douglas Wilder was elected Virginia's Governor, the first African-American elected to this Executive office in any Southern state since Reconstruction.

1) How competitive have Virginia General Assembly election been between 1973 and 2001? House of Delegate elections? Senate elections?

a) How should competition be measured?

1) Percentage difference between 1st and 2nd place finishers?
2) Winning Percentage?
3) 2nd place percentage?
4) Number of seats contested by non-incumbent party?

2) Why are some General Assembly incumbents uncontested in their reelection campaigns?

a) Is there any relationship between prior electoral victory margins and the likelihood that an incumbent will be challenged in the next election?
b) Under what conditions do minority (non-incumbent) parties field challengers to the majority (incumbent) party?

3) How competitive were the elections in which women and African-American candidates ran? In which these candidates won? Did these candidates compete against incumbents or in open seats? Prior to 1982, in single-member or multimember districts? Where have they been the most successful?

4) How have electoral turnout rates varied across the districts?

a) How should turnout be measured?

1) Total district population?

1) Total district adult population?
2) Total district registered voter population?
3) Net votes (election 2) - Net votes (election 1)?
4) Net votes (most recent election) - Average net vote over past ten years?

5) Did competitive races have relatively higher voter turnout rates? Is turnout in House of Delegate races higher, lower or about the same when the Virginia Senate is up for election too?

6) Did races that effected a partisan change in the seat have higher turnout rates?

a) When the incumbent party lost a previously held seat, was turnout higher or lower than in previous elections?

7) How competitive were special, off-election year elections? Did the incumbent party have an advantage in these races?

8) How competitive are Virginia gubernatorial elections?

a) Add total Republican (Democrat) vote from every House of Delegates race. Did Republican (Democrat) gubernatorial candidate receive more or less votes statewide?

9) Explain the process by which the Republican Party gained control of the General Assembly.

Additional Reading

Atkinson, Frank B. The Dynamic Dominion: Realignment and the Rise of Virginia's Republican Party Since 1945. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University Press, 1992

Moncrief, Gary F., and Peverill Squire and Malcolm E. Jewell, Who Runs for the Legislature?, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Sabato, Larry. A Century in the Making: The 1997 Republican Sweep, Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia. Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, 1998.

Sabato, Larry. Virginia Votes, 1995-1998, Charlottesville: Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, 1999.

Project II: Virginia's Representatives and Senators
in the U.S. Congress, 1851-2002 (Spring-Summer 2002)

The institutions and practices of representative democracy are distinguishing characteristics of the American political system. Since 1776, over four hundred individuals have represented Virginia in the U.S. Congress. Who were these individuals? When and how did they win their seats? Who were the challengers they defeated? How long did these Virginia representatives serve in Congress. This research project is designed to provide an empirical foundation for answering these questions and the others identified below.

Research Paper and Discussion Questions

1) How has state legislative experience of Virginia's Members of Congress changed over time? For U.S. Representatives? For U.S. Senators?

2) Are state legislative leaders more or less likely to become Members of Congress today than they were twenty-five years ago? Fifty or one hundred years ago? What accounts for this change?

3) Is there an order of the career paths between service in the state legislature, as governor, and in the two branches of the U.S. Congress?

4) How has change in the size of the Virginia House of Delegates affected the state legislative experience of Members of Congress from Virginia?

5) What is the relationship between U.S. House service and U.S. Senate service? Are U.S. Representatives who become U.S. Senators more or less likely to have state legislative experience?

7) How did the Seventeenth Amendment affect the typical level of state legislative experience of candidates to become a U.S. Senator for Virginia?

8) How have electoral voter turnout rates changed over time for seats in the U.S. Congress?

Additional Reading

Bogue, Allan G. and Jerome Clubb, Carroll McKibbin, Santa Traugott, "Members of the House of Representatives and the Processess of Modernization, 1789-1960," Journal of American History, 1976, 63(2): 275-302.

Polsby, Nelson. "The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives," American Political Science Review, 1968, 68: 144-168.

Project III: Virginia State Convention Members
(Spring-Summer 2002)

Since 1776, Virginia has adopted six state constitutions--1776, 1830, 1851, 1867, 1901 and 1970. The first five state constitutions were written by special elected state constitutional conventions. The 1970 Constitution was studied and proposed by a nonelected constitutional commission, completed by the General Assembly in a special session in 1969 and 1970, and approved by voters in 1970.

In addition to the five state constitutional conventions, five other state conventions have been called and convened to address other political issues. The 1788 Convention was convened to consider ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which had been written at the Philadelphia Constitution Convention in the summer of 1787. In the 1861 Convention, state delegates convened to consider the decision to secede from the United States. The 1933 Convention ratified the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, which had been ratified January 16, 1919. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. In the wake of World War II, the 1945 Convention convened to alter the state's voting rules for military personnel. The 1956 convention was called in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision.

Discussion and Research Paper Questions

1) Research the history of each state convention. Why and where were they convened? How long did they last? What did they produce? Were the results of these conventions ratified by Virginia voters. What was the final vote tally?

2) Who were the members of these Virginia state conventions? How much political, legislative or executive experience did they have? Are there differences in the level of state governmental experience of the members of these state conventions?

3) How do these levels of state governmental experience compare with the average tenure rates and tenure distributions of the General Assembly at the same time?

4) Among state convention delegates, did one branch of the General Assembly typically send more members than the other?

5) Are there any substantive differences in the political experience of members of the five constitutional conventions (1776, 1830, 1851, 1869, 1902) and the other state conventions (1788, 1861, 1933, 1945, 1956)?

6) Were members of any of these state conventions elected or appointed? How many votes did they receive relative to the population of the districts they represented, and the State as a whole?

Additional Reading

Chandler, Julian A. C., Representation in Virginia, John Hopkins University Studies, 14th ser., VI-VII, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1896.

Gaines, William H. Biographical Register of Members: Virginia State Convention of 1861, first session, Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1969.

Grisby, Hugh. The Virginia Convention of 1776, New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Grisby, Hugh. The Virginia Convention of 1829-30, New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Jensen, Merrill, and John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino et al., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, Vols. VIII, IX, X.

McDaniel, Ralph. Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-02, John Hopkins University Studies, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1928.

Moger, Allen W. Virginia: Bourbonism to Byrd, 1870-1925, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1968.

Smith, James Douglas. The Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. M.A. thesis, University of Virginia, 1956.