Monday, January 26, 2009

Two New Congressional Districts Back on the Table

When I posted last week's entry on DailyKos (here), it came up in the discussion that a bill had been introduced in the last Congress to give DC a voting representative. That bill would have also added an additional representative to be apportioned among the states, for a total of 437 voting representatives in congress. In a comment last week, KDuffy wrote
I looked it up and it failed in the senate by only 3 votes.
Well, it's baaack. It was reintroduced on January 6th as District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009. It's to be debated tomorrow in the Judiciary Committee (as mentioned by Kagro X in This Week in Congress). It would add 2 new congressional seats, giving 1 to DC.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the District of Columbia shall be considered a Congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.
After the 2010 census, the additional seat would be apportioned along with all of the other seats. For the 111th (current) and 112th Congresses, whichever state (which would have to be Utah) gets the additional seat would elect that representative at large.
the additional Representative to which the State identified by the Clerk of the House of Representatives in the report submitted under paragraph (2) is entitled shall be elected from the State at large
And the result? If this bill passes, there is one more seat to go around, so looking at last week's post you can see that it becomes more likely that Washington State could get a 10th seat. There are still numerous possibilities. For example, North Carolina and Oregon could get new seats and California retain all of its seats, with Washington still barely losing out. So, for the next 2 years, don't tell your friends it rains all the time in Seattle. We want them to move here just in time for the census. Then they'll discover the rain and move back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More on the 2011 Reapportionment

Last week I wrote about the projected 2011 reapportionment of congressional seats, referring to DavidNYC’s article from December. This week I took a closer look at the data and I was struck by how volatile the projections are. (Note that the link to the EDS study in DavidNYC’s article is outdated. Correct one is here.) From that Election Data Services study is a table showing, for projections based on longer or shorter term trends, which seats are the closest to changing states.
Seat #2000 – 20082004 – 20082005 – 20082006 – 20082007 – 2008
430FL - 27th PA - 18thSC - 7th SC - 7th PA - 18th
431CA - 53rdSC - 7thTX - 36thPA - 18thCA - 53rd
432PA - 18thTX - 36thPA - 18thTX - 36thSC - 7th
433TX - 36thOR - 6thOR - 6thNY - 28thNY - 28th
434NY - 28thNY - 28thNC - 14thNC - 14thTX - 36th
435SC - 7thFL - 27thNY - 28thOR - 6thOR - 6th
436OR - 6thNC - 14thWA - 10thCA - 53rdWA - 10th
437WA - 10thCA - 53rdCA - 53rdWA - 10thNC - 14th
438NC - 14thWA - 10thMN - 8thMN - 8thMN - 8th
439MN - 8thMN - 8thFL - 27thLA - 7thIL - 19th
440MO - 9th MO - 9th MO - 9th MO - 9th MO - 9th
441IL - 19th IL - 19th IL - 19th IL - 19th FL - 27th
The seats are listed in order, so “seats” 436 and above are virtual seats – they would exist only if congress had more. This shows which state is next in line. The values are the margin of population (that’s individuals) by which a seat would be gained or lost. (Note that the values in a column are not strictly ordered. This is because of the population size of the states. If these were percentages, they would be strictly ordered.) In their document EDS says
Some of the margins are the closest ever observed since Election Data Services, Inc. began doing apportionment studies nearly 30 years ago. For example, using the 2006 to 2008 trend analysis, Oregon would gain a 6th seat (and the last one issued, number 435) with just 2 persons to spare. Using the same trend analysis, California would lose a seat (its 53rd) by a margin of only 18 people.
And look at that, Washington Staters, given the “Mid” and “Short” trends, Washington State is in the running for getting another district!!! Bottom Line: it’s likely to be very close, and you can expect some states will be complaining that the Census Bureau wasn’t counting right. A recount? Maybe Norm Coleman can use his experience to sue for Minnesota, if his current contest is over by then… Seriously, it looks to be very close between California, Oregon, North Carolina, New York, Washington, South Carolina, Texas and Minnesota. And throw in Pennsylvania and Florida, with a chance of changing the current projection. 5 of those 10 states will get the last 5 seats. The table below shows the difference in seats gained or lost from 2000 if they get one of those seats or not:
Seat Gain/Loss from 2000
StateDoesn't get 1 of last 5Gets 1 of last 5
New York-2-1
North Carolina0 +1
South Carolina0+1
Should be interesting...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Redistricting in 2011: Projected Reapportionment and Texas

Congressional districts will be reapportioned among the states after the 2010 census. Current projections for gainers and losers look something like this: This article by DavidNYC references EDS’s projections using 5 different models. For most states, the result is the same with all of the models. The biggest gainer will be Texas, with a likely 4 seat gain. Arizona looks to gain 2 seats and Ohio to lose 2 seats. Florida might gain 2 or maybe only 1. Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah will all gain 1. A number of states will likely lose 1. Interestingly, Oregon may gain 1 and California may lose 1.

So, what happens in 2011? Each state with more than 1 congressional seat will have to adjust the boundaries of its congressional districts. And all the states must adjust their legislative district boundaries. The process varies from state to state according to each state’s constitution and laws. In most states the legislature in responsible for drawing the new districts, but some states have commissions responsible for the job. Here's is an overview from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Interestingly, some states have commissions for the legislative districts, but still direct the legislature to draw the congressional districts. Only 6 states have commissions for congressional districts. Here's a chart. None of the big states are on the list, but Arizona, which will likely gain 2 seats is. Also, New Jersey, which will lose a seat, has a commission. NCSL has produced a draft document Redistricting Law 2010 that serves as a guideline for the states going into this round or redistricting. I haven’t waded thru the entire thing, but there’s an appendix on redistricting principles, which is interesting as it lists the redistricting principles gleaned from each state’s laws. In some cases, there is very little to those principles. Another appendix listed the authority for redistricting in each state. Except for the 6 states with commissions, for congressional districts it’s always the legislature who has the authority.

So who controls the legislatures after the 2008 elections? Overall Democrats made gains in 2008. Here’s an interactive map where you can see the legislative breakdown for a selected state, pre- and post- election. And this page allows you to select pre- and post-election maps for all the states together.Many of the states that matter most (have the changes in number of congressional seats) are still Republican controlled or split. For example, Texas, who stands to gain the most, is still Republican controlled. So are Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, who will gain 1 (or maybe 2 for Florida). Ohio (which will lose 2), and Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan (which will each lose 1) all have split legislative control. And Missouri (which will lose 1) is Republican controlled. So, these are all states where the 2010 legislative battles are important. Out of those, though, which are close enough so that a small swing in seats could make a difference?

StateHouse (D-R)Senate (D-R)
South Carolina53-7119-27
It’s pretty clear that Texas is super-important. And also super-important to hold onto the Pennsylvania House and the Indiana House is close enough that it needs to be protected from swinging to the Republicans.

Now what legislatures that Democrats currently control and that will lose or gain seats are close enough to warrant particular attention?

StateHouse (D-R)Senate (D-R)
New York109-4132-29

Louisiana is the only one that’s tenuous, but the next legislative elections are in 2011. Otherwise there’s not much that is likely to change.

What about Texas? The 2008 election gave us this result, which is a nice gain. But both chambers of the legislature and the governorship remain Republican. Recently, the speaker of the Texas house, Tom Craddick, was deposed, which is a nice win, but it’s unclear what effect that will have.

But the really interesting aspect about Texas is the demographic changes. Crisitunity over at Swing State Project shows us these really interesting numbers from his July 21st post. This is population gain between 2000 and 2007.

TotalWhite gainAf-Amer gainAsian gainHispanic Gain

So, Hispanics represent 2/3 of the total, Whites about 1/6 and African-Americans and Asians making up the remaining 1/6. In Crisitunity’s August 4th post he looks at Texas in more detail.

As you can see, there is a huge concentration of Hispanic growth in Harris County (Houston and its closest suburbs), to the extent that even if Republicans solely control the redistricting process they may have to concede the creation of a new Hispanic-majority district in central and south-west Houston (probably accompanied by pushing the current 7th further out into the western suburbs to maintain its strong Republican lean). There also looks like the possibility of a Hispanic-majority district in Dallas, particularly if it's a barbell-shaped district that takes in western Dallas and the central part of Fort Worth with a strip of suburbs in between (accompanied by pushing the 24th and 32nd further north into Collin and Denton Counties, fast-growing conservative exurbs to the north of Dallas). If Republicans control redistricting, they might not want to concede this district as well, but the population numbers might pave the way for a Voting Rights Act vote-dilution lawsuit that could force the creation of the district anyway.

So, it’s possible that, even with Republicans controlling the process, Hispanic voters could get 2 majority districts out of the 4 new seats. Democrats, of course, must take nothing for granted, but we would hope those districts would send Democrats to Congress in 2012. Let’s all keep watching this and Burnt Orange Report is a great place to do that.

Quick notes:

In future posts I'll try to dig into the Texas numbers a little more (pointers to resources welcome). And also share some thoughts on how many Dems and Repubs would we expect to come from each state, given recent voting patterns, and how far off are the states now. Enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2009


My goal with this blog is to raise awareness about redistricting, particularly at the congressional level. I am a Democrat (“big D”), so I have my bias (as do we all whether we admit it or not). But I also believe in improving our democracy (and yes, I know, we’re technically a republic). To improve our democracy I think we must limit or better yet eliminate egregious gerrymandering. If you look at the congressional district maps of most states, but especially the big states, you will find many indescribably contorted districts. From a gut common sense level, this does not make sense. But from a partisan perspective or from an incumbent-preservation perspective it does. And with fine-grain data and computing power, it is easy to fine-tune districts to meet specific goals. So from a common sense point of view I would like to see that changed. But I will not advocate for unilateral disarmament in this. Any significant change needs to be national. But that’s most likely a long term project, beyond the next mandated congressional redistricting. In the short term we have a national census in 2010 that will reallocate congressional seats among the states and require in almost all states with more than 1 congressional seat, even in those whose allocation does not change because of the 2010 census, redistricting before the 2012 election. So issues for the short term include who will lose and who will gain seats, who controls the redistricting process in the various states, and what can be done to prevent Republican gains thru redistricting (such as Texas a few years ago) and maintain and enhance Democratic gains. In this area I will attempt to point out significant or interesting developments that I find in the news, as well as other bloggers’ posts on the subject. Recently DavidNYC posted on the projected congressional reapportionment among the states. The projection points to Texas as the biggest gainer with 4 new seats and Arizona with 2. Ohio looks to lose 2 and a number of others will likely gain 1 or lose 1. Also, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a recent draft document on the upcoming 2010 redistricting. For the longer term perspective, I’ll point out organizations and individuals who are thinking about and working on redistricting issues. These include FairVote, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Annenberg Center at USC. And to top it off, I’m working on a software application for you to play with redistricting. I plan to make it available for free, hopefully in a couple of months. It won’t be as good as the commercial mapping package you could buy for $10K, but it will allow you to fairly simply create your own districts for a state and to get some “automatic” assistance in creating “fair” districts. A few others have been doing some work in this area. They include Brian Olson and Professors Michael McDonald and Micah Altman. So, I plan to post about once a week, generally on Fridays, but may post more when significant developments occur. I will also cross post diaries on Daily Kos. In upcoming posts I’ll dig deeper into what the National Conference of Legislatures is doing; I’ll look at the range of state and national proposals as discussed by Fair Vote; I’ll discuss some of the issues with having software that “automatically” creates districts. I hope you enjoy this blog. I'm interested in your comments and ideas and moreover hope that together we can change how we do redistricting in the U.S. Thanks.