Legislative and Political Report

U.S. National Elections 2004—Why They Matter And How ALPA Pilots Can Affect the Outcome

Air Line Pilot, January 2004, p.30

The race for the U.S. presidency is in full swing, and November 2 looms large on the political calendar. For ALPA members, this election year is critical—and the time to act is now.

Recent decisions of the current administration and leaders in Congress have made many pilots’ jobs vulnerable to foreign competition and have submitted pilots’ retirement benefits to the shortsighted actions of their airline managements and the arbitrary decisions of government agencies.

In addition, labor unions have been burdened with onerous policies and processes that detract from the unions’ main charge—protecting their members’ professional rights and privileges and advancing their members’ job-related interests.

The stakes are high. Now more than ever, ALPA members are in a prime position to influence the 2004 elections and help advance their professional interests, if members wield their collective political might to fight for their professional futures.

While it is unlikely that ALPA members (and their households) alone could determine the election outcome, the 2000 presidential election underscores what a difference several thousand votes can make. Four years ago, the country was harshly divided politically, and George W. Bush became president by the slimmest of margins in the most controversial election in recent memory.

The nation waited weeks for a final decision as to who the next U.S. president would be. Al Gore had won the popular vote by 500,000 votes. Bush, however, won the majority of Electoral College votes and thus became president.

In the U.S. election system, the office of president goes to the candidate who wins the most electoral votes. To win the electoral votes in a state, a candidate must win the most popular votes in that state. The Electoral College is a winner-take-all system; the candidate who wins the majority of the popular votes within a state wins all of that state’s electors.

Supreme Court decisions and dangling chads aside, the 2000 election came down to several thousand votes in key "battleground" states. In some of these states, the number of ALPA members voting could have, at least mathematically, affected the final outcome. The best example was, of course, in Florida. In a near dead heat, Bush won the state by a vote so slim that the number of ALPA members residing in Florida was 10 times greater than the margin of victory.

And in the last election, the 14 "battleground states" represented 162 electoral votes. Moving just one state—even the smallest state—would have changed the election’s outcome. A shift of only three electoral votes would have changed the result.

Political outlook for 2004

Now, in January 2004, the political landscape is virtually unchanged. The nation is poised to be as politically polarized in 2004 as it was in 2000. In many states, the electoral votes likely will be won by the same party that won them 4 years ago.

The same 14 states have been identified as "battleground states" once again. As in 2000, the candidate who can carry these key states will in all likelihood be the next U.S. president. The one difference? Based on the latest census, the number of electoral votes has changed in several of those states. A pivotal state in 2000, Florida gained two electoral votes. With nearly 8,000 ALPA members living in that state and casting their votes, the result in Florida could determine the overall winner once more.

Advancing ALPA’s mission

A primary tenet of ALPA’s mission is to "be a strong and forceful advocate of the airline piloting profession,… to promote the health and welfare [of our members],… and to be the ultimate guardian and defender of the rights and privileges of professional airline pilots."

ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, in his opening remarks to the Executive Board during its October 2003 meeting offered a political course of action in which ALPA and its members "put forth a maximum effort to influence the outcome of the 2004 elections to ensure the most favorable political outcome for ALPA members’ job-related interests."

As the candidates head into the primaries and caucuses, the time is now for ALPA members to take up Capt. Woerth’s charge. Learn what the candidates’ platforms, positions and voting records are. Consider whether their objectives as president further pilots’ professional interests.

Consider whether they have supported pilots’ issues and fought for your rights and privileges. Most importantly, if they measure up, cast your vote for them. Remember: you’re not just voting for a president, you’re voting for your professional future.

Battleground States—2004

State    2000 Electoral College votes    2004 Electoral College votes    ALPA-member residents*
Florida     25     27     7,948
Iowa     7     7     210
Michigan     18     17     1,450
Minnesota     10     10     2,951
Missouri     11     11     1,026
Nevada     4     5     1,131
New Hampshire     4     4     891
New Mexico     5     5     293
Ohio     21     20     2,081
Oregon     7     7     471
Pennsylvania     23     21     2,530
Tennessee     11     11     2,779
West Virginia     5     5     131
Wisconsin     11     10     1,193
*ALPA member figures as of October 2003