Midterm elec­tions re­veal ef­fects of ger­ry­man­der­ing

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News - BY DAVID A. LIEB

With an elec­tion loom­ing, courts ear­lier this year de­clared con­gres­sional dis­tricts in two states to be un­con­sti­tu­tional par­ti­san ger­ry­man­ders. One map was re­drawn. The other was not.

The sharply con­trast­ing out­comes that re­sulted on Elec­tion Day in Penn­syl­va­nia and North Carolina il­lus­trate the im­por­tance of how po­lit­i­cal lines are drawn – and the stakes for the na­tion be­cause that process helps de­ter­mine which party con­trols Congress.

Penn­syl­va­nia flipped from a solid Repub­li­can con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to one evenly split un­der a map re­drawn by court or­der, con­tribut­ing to the Demo­cratic takeover of the U.S. House. De­spite an al­most even split in the pop­u­lar vote, North Carolina’s con­gres­sional dele- gation re­mained over­whelm­ingly Repub­li­can un­der a map drawn by the GOP.

“We did ev­ery­thing we could,” Demo­crat Kathy Man­ning said. “But we just could not over­come the ger­ry­man­der­ing, and that’s the way the district was de­signed to run.”

Man­ning held more than 400 cam­paign events, con­tacted tens of thou­sands of vot­ers and had out­spent the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent in North Carolina’s 13th District – but still lost by 6 per­cent­age points in a district Repub­li­cans drew to fa­vor their can­di­dates.

Par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing has been car­ried out by both Democrats and Repub­li­cans through­out U.S. his­tory. But an As­so­ci­ated Press sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis based on 2016 elec­tion data found that more states had Repub­li­can-tilted dis­tricts than Demo­cratic ones. Some of the largest GOP con­gres- sional ad­van­tages were in North Carolina and Penn­syl­va­nia, where Repub­li­cans fully con­trolled re­dis­trict­ing af­ter the

2010 Cen­sus.

A fol­low-up AP anal­y­sis us­ing pre­lim­i­nary 2018 elec­tion data shows the Repub­li­can sta­tis­ti­cal edge was cut in half un­der Penn­syl­va­nia’s new cour­tordered con­gres­sional map but grew even larger in North Carolina.

Repub­li­cans and Democrats in this month’s elec­tions split the to­tal votes cast for ma­jor party can­di­dates in North Carolina’s 13 con­gres­sional dis­tricts about evenly, with Repub­li­cans get­ting 51 per­cent (a fig­ure that is slightly in­flated be­cause one GOP in­cum­bent ran un­op­posed). Yet Repub­li­cans won 10 of those races, about three-quar­ters of the to­tal seats.

That equates to a proRepub­li­can tilt of nearly 26 per­cent un­der an “ef­fi­ciency gap” anal­y­sis that pro­vides a sta­tis­ti­cal way of mea­sur­ing the par­ti­san ad­van­tages that can stem from ger­ry­man­der­ing. That fig­ure was up from about 20 per­cent in 2016.

By com­par­i­son, Democrats in Penn­syl­va­nia re­ceived 54 per­cent of this year’s to­tal two-party vote for con­gres­sional can­di­dates, in­clud­ing one race where a Demo­cratic in­cum­bent ran un­op­posed. Democrats and Repub­li­cans each won nine seats un­der a map drawn by the Demo­cratic-con­trolled state Supreme Court with the as­sis­tance of an out­side ex­pert.

That marked a sig­nif­i­cant shift from the 13-5 Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion dur­ing the three pre­vi­ous general elec­tions un­der a map en­acted in 2011 by the Repub­li­can-led Leg­is­la­ture and gov­er­nor.


Wil­liam Marx, who teaches civics in Pitts­burgh, was a plain­tiff in the Penn­syl­va­nia law­suit that suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the Repub­li­can-drawn con­gres­sional maps.

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