Sunday, December 26, 2010
THOUGHTS ON CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING AND GERRYMANDERING
Watch the legislatures of the several States now that redistricting is afoot! The Cook Political Report recently made public a couple of charts that reflect political volatility in the marketplace of partisan ideas and ideologies.
Cook's first chart, the 2012 COMPETITIVE HOUSE RACE CHART, lists by party those districts and Members of Congress vulnerable to being picked off. Cook lists three categories, likely, lean, and toss up, for each party. The second chart is Cook's report on HOUSE MEMBERS WHO WON WITH 55% OR LESS.
Missouri, known for being a traditional bell weather state has one District listed as "Lean Democratic" by Cook. That is Missouri's Third Congressional District which Cook gives a Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of D+7.
In Missouri three Members of Congress won their 2010 races with 55% or less of the vote. Kansas City's Emanuel Cleaver held off his Republican opponent Jacob Turk to win a fourth term. This will be Cleaver's fourth term. He has now defeated Turk three times. Cleaver's winning percentage in 2010 was 56.1% The Cook PVI for the Fifth Congressional District in Missouri is D+10.
Republican Vicky Hartzler bested long time Democratic Representative Ike Skelton to win her first term in Congress. Republican redistricting efforts paid off for them in Missouri. I recall when Missouri's Fourth Congressional District was a small pocket of counties immediately to the East and South of Kansas City's Jackson County. Missouri's Fourth Congressional Index has a PVI of R+14.
Today the Fourth Congressional District goes deep into the heart of Southwest Missouri. It includes places like Lebanon, Missouri which used to be in the Seventh Congressional District. The Seventh Congressional District is a Republican Stronghold having produced Representatives Roy Blunt, Gene Taylor, and Durwood G. "Doc" Hall.
Russ Carnahan has been the Democrat representing Missouri's Third Congressional District since 2005. After Dick Gephardt retired Carnahan won the seat in 2004. This will be Carnahan's fifth term. He squeaked by his Republican opponent, Edward Martin, Jr., with a winning percentage of 48.9%. The last time the district lines changed in Missouri was 2003.
The Census Bureau has made available an online map to let you see which states will gain seats and which states will lose. It is located at: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/.
Missouri is going to lose a seat in Congress after the redistricting dust settles. This will set up a contentious redistricting between the Governor, Democrat Jay Nixon, and his Republican controlled legislature. You can bet that in Missouri Republicans will want to continue whittling away at Democratic districts. Nixon will try to shave Republican areas back from seats currently held by Democrats.
The process will be more complicated in other states such as Arizona and Texas. These states have both the legislatures and the executive offices controlled by Republicans. Their dilemma is that each have to add seats and how do they splinter the vote so that the newly districts created are not Democratic? Much of the calculus for the population increase in these states is attributable to Hispanic voters, primarily non-Cuban Latinos. Due to the harshness of the Republican stance on Latinos, especially in these two states, drawing those lines will be difficult.
Expect to hear much discussion in the next two years about Gerrymandering. That is the process of drawing district lines to maximize your party's dominance and minimize the oppositions chances at being elected. The term originated in 1812 after redistricting in Massachusetts resulted in a district somewhat resembling a salamander. The name of the Governor, Elbridge Gerry, combined with the reptile to give the process a name.
About.com provides an excellent tutorial for those wanting to learn more about the process of Gerrymandering. Read it online at: http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/gerrymandering.htm.