December 15, 2012

"How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House."

Headline at the NYT, where the first 2 paragraphs talk about Wisconsin. Is Wisconsin a clear majority-Democrat state rigged at the district level to elect Republicans?

It's hard to analyze exactly how bad or unfair this is. Either party, when it controls redistricting, takes advantage, and Democrats have the special problem that is referred to in the article as "“unintentional gerrymandering": "the natural geographic patterns that lead many Democrats to choose to live in dense, urban areas with very high concentrations of Democrats, effectively packing themselves into fewer districts." (Strangely worded, no?)

It's not hard to see that Democrats' majority in Wisconsin is caused by a concentration of Democrats in Milwaukee and Madison, and the representatives from these districts can lean way left without risking defeat in the next election. Is it necessarily evidence of a problem that elsewhere in the state, the elections are closer and Republicans can win?
In states where Republicans controlled the [redistricting] process, [a study] found, their candidates won roughly 53 percent of the vote — and 72 percent of the seats. And in the states where Democrats controlled the process, their candidates won about 56 percent of the vote and 71 percent of the seats.
That doesn't mean the Republicans are more advantage-taking than Democrats, though, because of the way the population is dispersed.
An analysis by The New York Times of states where courts, commissions or divided governments drew the maps found a much smaller disparity between the share of the popular vote and the number of seats won in Congress. In those states, the analysis found, Democrats won slightly more than half the vote and 56 percent of the seats, while Republicans won 46 percent of the vote and 44 percent of the seats.
Isn't this because the Democrats, when they control, choose not to cut up those urban districts? And which states ended up in that comparison group and why? I'd like to know more detail. Why is there no more detail? Articles like this clearly serve the political purposes of the Democratic party, stoking the belief that the Democrats really deserve much more power than is reflected in actual legislatures. 

26 comments:

Hagar said...

I think I remember the California Democrats crowing that they had effectively eliminated the Republican Party as a factor in State politics by their re-districting after the 2000 elections.

So, how has California as a one-party Democrat state worked out for them?

Mitchell the Bat said...

Maybe maps will help you keep an edge in the house. Maybe not.

But one of those Chef's Choice electric knife sharpeners will definitely help you keep an edge in the kitchen.

[Insert plug for Althouse Amazon Portal (AAP), here.]

campy said...

Is it necessarily evidence of a problem that elsewhere in the state, the elections are closer and Republicans can win?

It's always a problem when a rethuglican can win an election.

Fortunately, those opportunities are becoming rarer and rarer.

Balfegor said...

Isn't this because the Democrats, when they control, choose not to cut up those urban districts?

Yes, but I think a lot of the average is because historically the Democrats have put a high priority on segregating out minority-majority districts to ensure the election of minority (usually Black) democrats (more recently, I think many Democrats have got queasy about the practice, both because they are diluting electoral strength and because it's kind of racist). The article has 0 hits for Black, African, and Minority. The phenomenon of racial gerrymandering is so well-known that I suspect this must have been a conscious omission.

C R Krieger said...

Maybe the solution is to redistrict with spokes radiating out from Milwaukee and Madison, providing more diversity of voters in the districts.

Regards  —  Cliff

jim murray said...

WOW! OMG!
The New York Times may be biased left!

jim murray said...

WOW! OMG!
The New York Times may be biased left!

Paco Wové said...

"the natural geographic patterns that lead many Democrats to choose to live in dense, urban areas with very high concentrations of Democrats"

Larval Democrats disperse across the landscape, acutely sensitive to the pheromonal signals emitted by settled Democrat colonies. Once detected, the larvae cease their peregrinations, and become one with the collective.

Paco Wové said...

Another brick for the "R.'s only control most statewide offices because of their evil gerrymandering!" argument. It always seemed to me that this analysis stops too soon; the reason that R.'s are controlling redistricting is because, surprise surprise, the voters put them in that position. The D.'s just have to wait 8 years for the populace to recognize their brilliance, and the problem goes away.

AlphaLiberal said...

I detect a lack of knowledge of the process and history here in Wisconsin.

The last time redistricting was done, both parties had attorneys in both chambers. This time, only Republicans had attorneys.

So, "they all do it" is a statement of belief, not fact, here. Although when I see the Illinois lines where Dems dominate, it's pretty outrageous, as well. (But that's Illinois!)

The end result is anti-democratic and the people are not being represented.

When you add this hyper-partisanship to the other Republican efforts to restrict voting by people who tend to to vote Republican, we see a very clear effort from Repubs to legislate themselves into a perpetual majority and make Wisconsin a one party state.

Those examples include the Voter ID poll tax, requirements that delay the voting process and lengthen lines, the attack on unions, restrictions in voting hours and days and more.

AlphaLiberal said...

Typical:
"The New York Times may be biased left!"

When confronted with news that conflicts with opinion, attack the source.

When confronted with facts that conflicts with opinion, disregard the facts.

Modern conservatism is running a high fever and very very sick. Their power to reason has been replaced with ideological rigidity that Mao would approve of.

Roger J. said...

Professor--its an interesting piece, and frankly it is going to take me some time to wade through it--thanks for posting it. I didnt have anything else to do this weekend, and this will keep me busy.

Hagar said...

One-party Republican states would be a bad thing, but I do not think there are any such at present.

One-party Democrat states do exist and are bunched together at the bottom of the worst governed states in the Union - California in a class by itself, then New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Mexico, eetc.

sane_voter said...

The Dems have been doing this for eons, and its why it's taken decades for the GOP to get a relative proportion of state house and senate seats to more closely reflect the will of the people. It is absurd for one side to practice gerrymandering and the other to be even-handed. Personally I would like all states to do what Iowa does with very competitive districts. but alas, it is not to be.

In terms of the worst gerrymandering, CA, NJ, and IL lead the pack.

cubanbob said...

What escapes the Solons at the NYT and Alpha is that in order to gerrymander there has to be an initial point where the gerrymandering party first won on its own merits the legislature and governorships. No initial organic victory, no possibility to gerrymander.

A problem for democrats is that deep blue states are almost homogeneously democrat and therefore there isn't much to rig other than to favor one particular candidate

edutcher said...

Shilol will be dredging this up as an example of how crooked the "cons" really are.

To which we can all say, "Boo frickin' hoo".

Seeing Red said...

Yesterday Insty linked to what happened in Washington State - the state Senate is power-sharing.

Dems are the face, Pubbies control Ways & Means & what bills get to the floor.


30 states have Republican governorships.

It's really getting interesting.

Seeing Red said...

--One-party Democrat states do exist and are bunched together at the bottom of the worst governed states in the Union - California in a class by itself, then New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Mexico, eetc.-

CA IL NY - so much debt we may never be able to pay it back.

Seeing Red said...

According to census figures, CA has the most poor.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Seeing Red:

California has the most illegal aliens, and a superior climate, but not better than Mexico and other Central and South American nations.

n.n said...

It compensates for fraud. It acts as a firewall to limit the effects of progressive corruption at the local and state levels. At the national level, the same limit is enforced through the electoral college.

Astro said...

The history of it has been pretty well scrubbed from the internet, but when Cynthia McKinney (Dem) was first elected to Congress from Georgia her districted stretched from Atlanta to Savanna, a distance of about 250 miles, yet was less than a half-mile wide in some spots. It looked like a tumor that was metastasizing. The districts were drawn by the Georgia State House which was then Democratically controlled. If you were keen on gerrymandering, it put all other efforts at gerrymandering to shame.

leslyn said...

It certainly worked in MN. Witness Michelle Bachmann barely squeaking by in what was supposed to be a "safe," redrawn Republican district--against a virtual unknown who had almost no money.

leslyn said...

Seeing Red said... "According to census figures, CA has the most poor."

Duh. That's because of size of population. Per capita, Mississippi is most poor. Followed by the other southern red states, including Texas.

leslyn said...

It worked for Michelle Bachmann. She just squeaked by in a supposedly "safe" Republican district which had been newly redrawn. Her opponent was virtually unknown and had little money.

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Now why did that comment disappear down the rabbit hole earlier?