Tags: gerrymandering | elections | democrats | republicans

Thanks to Gerrymandering, Future Not So Rosy for Dems Despite Wins

Image: Thanks to Gerrymandering, Future Not So Rosy for Dems Despite Wins
Kelly Convirs-Fowler greets her supporters as results come in Nov. 7, 2017 in Virginia Beach, Va. (David B. Hollingsworth/AP)

By    |   Monday, 13 November 2017 02:05 PM

Even with the Democratic victories in Virginia and elsewhere in last week's elections, experts say that gerrymandering will make it difficult to translate clear majorities of popular support into significant changes in the distribution of seats in the legislatures, The New York Times reported on Monday.

A Los Angeles Times editorial explained clearly the problem. In the last three previous elections in Virginia, Republicans won two-thirds of the seats, although Democrats won a slight majority of votes in each case.

Even as Democrats had their best showing overall in more than 30 years last week and won well over 50 percent of the statewide votes, this did not apparently result in winning even a majority of the seats in the Virginia House of Delegates —pending the results of some recounts.

The editorial points out the bottom line is that gerrymandering works by allowing a party to retain control of a legislature even as voters clearly chose the other side, and that will also hold true in next year's midterms

"If Democrats win 52, 53, 54 percent of the national House vote, we're likely to see Republicans hold onto control," University of Chicago professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, an expert on gerrymanders, told The New York Times. "Unless there's a true wave, I think Democrats will be disappointed in 2018."

Republicans reject the idea that gerrymandering is helping them.

"What you've got there is a classic fig leaf by the Democrats to explain their ineptitude and lack of focus and ultimate lack of ability to convince the voters they have a plan to move forward," said Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter.

In any case, Democrats have more problems than just gerrymandering. The party's base in largely clustered in a smaller number of congressional districts, even when the districts are drawn in a fair way.

In addition, differences between the party's establishment and its activist base threaten to produce a divisive primary season, and President Donald Trump remains popular in large parts of the country, especially rural areas, where the appeal of Democrats has faded in recent years.

Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general who is heading a Democratic effort to challenge gerrymandering, told the Times he had no doubt about the challenge ahead.

"It's almost going to take a historic wave to overcome the gerrymandered map in a handful of states," Holder said. "When you have a massive Democratic wave in Virginia and the question of who has the majority in the House of Delegates is still up in the air, I think that shows how daunting the task is going to be."

Holder also cites as a problem the impact of state-level voting procedures in threatening to disadvantage lower-income and minority voters.

Former New York Republican Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who headed the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2006, admitted that the congressional map was far better for the GOP now than it was a dozen years ago, the last time a Democratic wave election managed to take control of the House.

"Redistricting has strengthened both state chambers and the Congress, and that is much more significant in 2017 than it was in 2006," Reynolds told the Times. "Look how many seats are in play. It's not that many."

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Even with the Democratic victories in Virginia and elsewhere in last week's elections, experts say that gerrymandering will make it difficult to translate clear majorities of popular support into significant changes in the distribution of seats in the legislatures, The New...
gerrymandering, elections, democrats, republicans
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2017-05-13
Monday, 13 November 2017 02:05 PM
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