Posts Tagged ‘Congressional Districts’

How the GOP locked in control of Congress

October 12, 2016

Democrats stand an excellent chance of keeping control of the White House and a reasonable chance of regaining a majority in the Senate, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives not only for the next two years, but for the next 10 years or more..

That’s because of a successful plan, code-named REDSTATE, that Republican operatives implemented starting in 2010.  By targeting money at key state legislative races, they ensured Republican control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.

rat666c-838x621Then they used Big Data to draw legislative and congressional districts in such a way as to guarantee Republican majorities, even when Democrats won a majority of the state’s popular votes.

David Daley described this in his book, Rat-F**ked: How the Democrats Won the Presidency But Lost America.   I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read an excerpt and interviews, to which I link below.

Gerrymandering goes back to the early days of the Republic, and has been used by Democrats and Republicans.  What’s new about REDSTATE is the use of Big Date—detailed demographic information and computer analysis—to make gerrymandering more precise and impregnable than ever was possible before.

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The U.S. Congress without gerrymandering

January 19, 2016
1242px-113th_US_Congress_House_districts_color.svg

Double click to enlarge.

The map above shows U.S. congressional districts as they are today.

The map below shows U.S. congressional districts as they might be using a computer-generated algorithm to make the districts compact.

gerrymandering_compact

Double click to enlarge.

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Gerrymandered Congress vs. majority rule

November 10, 2012

During the 2012 congressional elections, Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives received a majority of the total popular vote, but Republicans retained their substantial majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

cult mapHow is this possible?  The main reason is gerrymandering — drawing of congressional district boundaries so as to give one party an advantage.  Republicans and Democrats both do it.  What’s possibly the weirdest district in the United States—Maryland’s third—was drawn to benefit a Democratic incumbent.  But at the present time it is Republican gerrymandering that has skewed the congressional election results the most.

Another factor is the creation of districts in which minority groups are in the majority, so as to make sure minorities are represented in Congress.  This means African-American and Hispanic voters, most of whom usually vote Democratic, are concentrated in just a few districts.   The Democratic Party would be better off if African-Americans and Hispanic voters were distributed over more districts, where their votes could be combined with the votes of non-Hispanic white liberals.

To my mind, this is just as bad as a Presidential election in which one candidate gets a majority of the popular vote, but another gets a majority of the electoral vote.

gerrymander067It will be hard to correct his on the state level.  No party that is in power will voluntarily reduce its chances of winning elected office.  The answer will have to be a grass-roots movement to amend state constitutions to allow for non-partisan commissions and court review of district boundaries, based on objective criteria for compactness and respect for historic jurisdictional boundaries.  You probably could program a computer to draw up congressional districts, and do a better job than now.

Until the gerrymandering problem is addressed, I think it would be a bad idea to change Electoral College representation as as Maine and Nebraska have done so that all but two electors are chosen by congressional district [1] instead of statewide.  If that had been in effect, Mitt Romney would have carried Pennsylvania and Ohio even though Barack Obama won a majority of the popular vote there.

Click on Why Americans Actually Voted for a Democratic House for an explanation of how gerrymandering distorted the 2012 election result.

Click on Narrowing In on Absurd Gerrymanders for an explanation of how GIS software is used to gerrymander congressional districts, and how it could be used to create fair districts.

Click on The Redistricting Game for a report on a computer game that shows how gerrymandering works.

Click on America’s Most Gerrymandered Congressional District for background on Maryland’s Third District.

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