Friday, November 10, 2006

GOP Redistricting Failure

Very interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal today, on how the GOP's post-2000 redistricting policy may have caused them to lose the House. The central point seems to me that the GOP tried to create too many GOP-leaning districts, which (because they weren't actually strong GOP seats), would up flipping to the Democrats.

First off, the scandal over redistricting is that it leaves too many Members of Congress immune to the wished of the voters. As has been repeatedly said, voters no longer pick their Members of Congress; now Members of Congress pick their voters.

But leaving that aside, if the goal is to maximize GOP seats (a strategy not challenged in this piece), then the problem was not that the GOP was too ambitious in trying to create too many GOP seats. Rather, it was that they did not go far enough in taking GOP voters from rock-solid Republican seats to make the GOP-leaning seats strong for the Republicans.

Since the article focuses on Pennsylvania for example, the problem (from a certain point of view) was not that the GOP created too many Republican-leaning seats. It was that they left Todd Platts's seat unnecessarily strong. Platts won re-election this year with 'just' 64% of the vote, after winning his previous three races with 73%, 91%, and 92%. A truly enterprising redistricter would have found a way to shift some of Platts's strong Republican voters to Curt Weldon, for example. Similarly, Joe Pitts, who's never won with less than 57% (this year) could clearly 'spare' some Republican precincts.

As I say, I think this is a terrible practice. But the WSJ does not demonstrate that it is a flawed strategy.

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