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Gerrymandering has really helped Republicans, studies find

"There are significantly more pro-Republican maps at the moment than there are pro-Democratic maps"


Charlie May
June 26, 2017 7:09PM (UTC)

There has been plenty of blaming since the November election, but one topic has been largely overshadowed by the other contributing factors: partisan gerrymandering.

"Using a new statistical method" in order to more accurately calculate a partisan advantage the Associated Press took an in-depth look at the results of the 435 U.S. House races, and the roughly 4,700 state House and Assembly seats that were up for election. The result is that "Republicans had a real advantage."

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"The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts," the AP reported.

States that had districts drawn by Republicans after the 2010 census — for example, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia — had "significant" Republican advantages in both national and state House races, the AP reported. Even if the Democrats had turned out in larger numbers gerrymandering had hindered them. Democrats are also located in more cities and highly concentrated areas, while Republicans are more spread out.

"The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn," John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary, told the AP.

The AP reported that more and more reports are showing just how the GOP has rigged the electoral game:

A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan’s state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found.

The AP’s findings are similar to recent ones from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which used three statistical tests to analyze the 2012-2016 congressional elections. Its report found a persistent Republican advantage and “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.” The Brennan Center did not analyze state legislative elections.

The AP’s analysis was based on a formula developed by University of Chicago law professor Nick Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Their mathematical model was cited last fall as “corroborative evidence” by a federal appeals court panel that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as an intentional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters’ rights to representation.

Both major parties have long criticized the other for drawing districts unfairly. The process typically takes place in one of two variations: "packing," and "cracking," the AP reported.

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"Packing" occurs when "a large number of voters from the opposing party into a few districts to concentrate their votes." And "cracking" occurs when "the majority party spreads the opposing party’s supporters among multiple districts to dilute their influence, according to the report.

According to Stephanopoulos, "There are significantly more pro-Republican maps at the moment than there are pro-Democratic maps.” In the Pennsylvania for example, out of 18 congressional races, Republicans were able to secure 13 seats which is three more than expected due to the party's vote share, according to the AP.

Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College described gerrymandering in 2011 "the most artful" that he had seen. "There’s one answer for that," Madonna said of the Pennsylvania races, "one word: gerrymander."

 

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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