Gerrymandering makes for interesting mail! Here are some excerpts from activists, a journalist, political scientist, and a few redistricters. ...
Reince’s plan, Carrico’s folly
Here’s an article by Steve Coll on gerrymandering in the New Yorker. The subject is not dying away – quite the opposite.
Some of you thought that the effect I have detected – antidemocratic outcomes in PA, OH, MI, NC, VA, FL, and IN in 2012…
…was somehow peculiar to their population patterns. I’ve been doing analysis showing that the effect wasn’t there in 2010, just two years earlier. I could polish that up to show later.
However, now it’s unnecessary. Republicans have basically owned up in a strategy memo:
As the 2010 Census approached, the RSLC began planning for the subsequent election cycle, formulating a strategy to keep or win Republican control of state legislatures with the largest impact on congressional redistricting as a result of reapportionment. That effort, the REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP), focused critical resources on legislative chambers in states projected to gain or lose congressional seats in 2011 based on Census data.
Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn. Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.
To fund the initiative, the RSLC raised more than $30 million in 2009-2010, and invested $18 million after Labor Day 2010 alone. Specifically, the RSLC…
Spent nearly $1 million in Pennsylvania House races, targeting and winning three of the toughest races in the state.
Spent nearly $1 million in Ohio House races, targeting six seats, five of which were won by Republicans. Notably, President Obama carried five of these six legislative districts in 2008.
Spent $1 million in Michigan working with the Michigan House Republican Campaign Committee and Michigan Republican Party to pick up 20 seats.
Spent $1.1 million in Wisconsin to take control of the Senate and Assembly.
So there you have it. Read the whole thing – it’s illuminating.
This week there’s a new layer: Virgnia state Senator Charles Carrico is sponsoring a plan to allocate his state’s electoral votes by district. This would lead to a mismatch between the statewide popular vote and EV outcomes – just as it has for their Congressional delegation. For instance, the popular vote there was Obama 51%, Romney 48%. But under the new plan, the electoral outcome would be Romney 9 EV, Obama 4 EV.
What’s interesting about this scheme is that it basically pits the interests of the national Republican party against the interests of Virginia voters. Virginia is both a large state and a swing state, and was therefore of great interest to the Obama and Romney campaigns.
Last year, individual voters in Virginia had a lot of influence in the national election. Look in The Power Of Your Vote in the right sidebar. You will see that they were more influential than voters in all but a handful of states.
Such a mechanism is not inherently antidemocratic: in our current system, overall national opinion is measured by Electoral College rules that are largely uniform – and end up mostly in line with the popular vote.
However, Carrico’s rule change would have two effects. One is the outcome desired by RNC chair Reince Priebus: control over electoral vote allocation by the redistricting process. In this scenario, the flaws of the Electoral College are magnified, not reduced.
This leads to the second effect: only one or two districts in Virginia would be up for grabs. Virginia’s power would therefore be reduced to that of South Dakota. No offense to South Dakota, but I don’t think Virginia voters will like that. However annoying it is to live in a swing state in an election year, it’s better than being ignored.
One analysis of this type of rules change misses the point entirely, pointing out that changing all states to Nebraska/Maine allocation rules (1 EV for each district, plus 2 EV for the state’s vote winner) would have produced a Romney win in the last election, 273-265. However, note that the push for change is only occurring in swing states – the same ones where gerrymandering has succeeded to such new extremes. In this respect, a theme has emerged that dates back to Bush v. Gore in 2000, and has continued with voter-ID laws: the goal is to win near-tied situations. It’s an impressive long-term strategy.