In a Parallel Universe Live 8 Democrats and 3 Republicans


    Democrats like KathyinBlacksburg reacted with consternation yesterday when details began to surface about the (predictable) incumbent protection plan. In the world of redistricting, anything is possible. In a parallel universe where Democrats control the state government and majority-minority districts are abolished, it wouldn’t take too much effort to produce an 8-3 Democratic map. Below is a quick map I put together of such a situation. All it takes is using Northern Virginia to anchor four districts stretching out into the exurbs and rural areas, and breaking up the majority-minority 3rd district and distributing those Democrats into surrounding districts.

    See more maps below the fold.

    Obviously this map is a work of pure fantasy, so I didn’t spend too much time refining the partisan machinations. Each of the 8 Democratic districts were won by Obama in 2008 by 9 or more points. When averaged in with all statewide results in the last decade, these districts become less Democratic, but the trend in these areas is clear.

    CD  2008  00-09Avg White Blk
    1  D+10.4  D+4.4  59.4  19.9 
    2   D+9.4  D+2.0  57.2  27.7
    3  D+13.4  D+4.0  53.8  36.6
    4  D+10.6  D+5.0  53.4  38.6
    5   D+9.4  D+1.2  68.5  19.7
    6  R+13.6 R+16.4  84.6   7.5
    7  R+16.6 R+19.8  70.0  21.4
    8  D+12.8  D+4.6  54.3  14.2
    9  R+21.2 R+14.8  86.7   9.6
    10 D+12.4  D+8.0  67.1   6.6
    11 D+12.6  D+5.0  58.0   7.5

    For a Democratic-drawn map, compactness and majority-minority districts are dangerous. Compactness threatens to pack urban voters together, creating supermajorities of Democrats. Likewise, majority-minority districts pack black voters into insurmountable fortresses, rendering neighboring districts conservative and lily-white.

    Each of the 8 Democratic districts is “anchored” by a swath of urban votes. In Northern Virginia, the 10th has Arlington and Falls Church, the 11th Reston and Herndon, and the 8th and 1st share Alexandria and eastern Prince William County. Charlottesville and Richmond are linked to create the new 5th, Newport News and Petersburg anchor the new 3rd, and the new 2nd is carried by Hampton and Norfolk. As many rural whites are packed into the 6th 7th and 9th as possible, with the rest of them diluted into the remaining 8 districts.

    Urban crescent inset:

    Northern Virginia inset:

    Redistricting is one of the dirtiest processes in politics, subject to the most mischief–but it doesn’t take a magician to make redistricting magic.

    • My question is, what in your opinion is the best possible map we could realistically have hoped for given that Republicans control the governor’s mansion and the HoD, plus MIGHT control the State Senate after November? Seems to me that Democrats have almost no leverage, other than the DoJ and the Voting Rights Act I suppose. What do you think?

    • sallybee

      …is contiguous.  One of the principles the governor enunciated to the commission is that any part of a district separated by water must be connected by a bridge.  It looks like in your map that to go from the Eastern Shore (3rd) one would have to travel through the 2nd to get to the rest of the 3rd.

    • kindler

      While I’d rather be governed by Dems, my strong preference would be fair and logical districts designed by a computer. (If they can win Jeopardy, they ought to be able to design rational districts!)

      As you said, redistricting is one of the dirtiest jobs in politics, and it’s where both parties show themselves at their most shameless, protecting incumbents at all costs and reducing the power of ordinary citizens’ votes. This country desperately needs a bipartisan movement for non-partisan redistricting.  

    • antonio_m_elias

      Of localities and regions in many places.  I notice you gave up on Western/Southwestern Virginia – despite Martinsville, Roanoke, and much of Montgomery being great for Dems.

      Also – Chesterfield all in one district – wow.  There are some fantastic, heavily populated, deep-blue precincts in Chesterfield near Richmond that could make that 5th district of yours far nicer for a Democrat.

      But alas it’s all fantasy.  It should all be nonpartisan anyways.