Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

AP analysis: Pa. gerrymander gave GOP a big boost

CNN's Cillizza to Democrats post-Ossoff: There's no such thing as second place–you lost Democrats, beware: African-American voters might take a pass in 2018
Alfredo Watts | 27 June, 2017, 08:22

The Associated Press reports that the way the legislative district maps were drawn in 2011 gave the Utah GOP an electoral advantage they didn't necessarily earn.

The AP reviewed 435 U.S. House races and 4700 state legislative races nationally from previous year using a mathematical formula created to reveal partisan advantage.

The AP analysis addressed how much of that is caused by voter preference and how much is caused by partisan gerrymandering. The commission is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats appointed by legislative leaders and one independent chosen from a list compiled by the state Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Their mathematical model was cited last fall as "corroborative evidence" by a federal appeals court panel that struck down Wisconsin's Assembly districts as an intentional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters' rights to representation.

According to the AP analysis, Assembly Democrats enjoyed an outsized number of seats in relation to their share of the vote in 2016, when Republican candidates for the Assembly won about 15 percent more votes than Democratic candidates. When the Census was taken every 10 years, Democrats were in control of most statehouses and drew the districts to favor their party. For some candidates - such as Republican Rep. Craig Redmon in northeastern Missouri and Democratic Rep. Gail McCann Beatty in Kansas City - 2016 marked the third straight election in which they were the only choice on the ballot. Nevada Assembly districts were the nation's most Democratic-skewed lower chamber.

That would make for an expectation of about 65 percent, or 65 seats, going to Republicans in Indiana.

That and the excesses of the first two years of the Bill Clinton presidential administration led to the historic U.S. House election of 1994, when Republicans won a majority with a 54-seat swing in members from previously Democratic seats.

Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it - in the drawing of lines for hundreds of USA and state legislative seats.

After a decade of false starts, Ohioans voted overwhelmingly in 2015 to approve new rules for drawing state legislative districts that aimed to reduce gerrymandering. New Hampshire has only two districts, both of which were won by Democrats. In districts dominated by one party, election battles are fought mostly in the primaries; the victor from the majority party becomes a virtual shoo-in to win the general election.

Betty Sutton, another northeast Ohio Democrat who lost her congressional seat in that redistricting, said her district was "a ideal example of partisan efforts to rig the system". And they moved Republican-performing areas into closely divided districts held by Republican incumbents.

Torr argues gerrymandering, whether to build and keep political power or, as some in the minority party argue, to build competitive races, is damaging. The formula compares the statewide average share of the vote a party receives in each district with the statewide percentage of seats it wins.

"The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn", said John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in the 1980s.