On the tenth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Independent Redistricting, the long awaited for, much hoped for, yet ever-elusive good government reform that will reconnect politicians with voters, end polarization, and put Virginia back on track.
Well, no. If you want to really reconnect politicians with voters, you need to expand the number of districts so there are fewer people per district. End polarization? Political scientists have found little to no evidence that gerrymandering is driving polarization; you'll have to tackle housing preferences and the individual sorting of voters to do that. Independent redistricting will not even solve all the challenges and obstacles of the Virginia Democratic Party, as the first diary showed that there are many Democratic-leaning seats that the state party is not winning at this time.
So why talk about redistricting reform?
Because unlike campaign finance reform or expanding the size of the General Assembly, independent redistricting, or at least something more partisan-neutral, may be closer to reality than you think.
A phantom of darkness suddenly appears, gliding ominously over the ground toward you. Shrouded in the blackest cloak, its head and face are entirely concealed. One skeletal hand stretches out toward your, a boney finger directed behind you. From beneath the hood, you can feel the gaze of two ghostly eyes directing you to turn around. Doing so, you feel transported ...
On the first day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates that is the excuse for everything that goes wrong?
It may seem as exciting as a lump of coal, but the Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates gets a lot of attention from thankful Virginia Democrats. Why? Because these district lines have become the perfect excuse for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad performance of House Democrats in 2013.
Manage to pick up only one seat, on net, in the House of Delegates? No worries, blame the Republican gerrymander!
A total of 14 Barack Obama-won delegate districts still held by Republicans, and 16 won by Tim Kaine? Mumble mumble, gerrymandering ...
Terry McAuliffe won 11 delegate districts held by Republican Delegates, and Mark Herring still won 9, but .. Look over there, it's a gerrymander! Run for your lives!
This round's contenders include:
- Del. Bob Marshall's "Funny Money" bill (HJ 590) -- Sideshow Bob is the Rocky Balboa of freaky legislation, and he never fails to disappoint. This worthy contender, to study whether Virginia should print its own currency, is one for the ages -- I encourage you to read it in full, while enjoying such lines as "WHEREAS, many widely recognized experts predict the inevitable destruction of the Federal Reserve System's currency through hyperinflation in the foreseeable future..." Needless to say, this bill has been approved in subcommittee.
- Del. Marshall's "Cold, Dead Hands" bill (HB 2340), which would prohibit state employees from helping to enforce new Federal gun laws. Whaditellya? Like Michael Jordan, Sideshow Bob never just takes one shot at the basket. Of course, this bill is too mild for our friends at the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition, who point out that it fails to include a provision to arrest Federal officials who themselves try to enforce Federal laws. Well, good point, but Rome wasn't brutally massacred in a day. This bill, needless to say, has been reported out of committee.
Popular votes cast in Virginia U.S. House races for ...At ThinkProgress.org, Iam Millhiser estimates Democrats would have to win the national popular vote in the House by 7.25% to win a majority of House seats. With 2006 district lines, roughly that same national margin gave Democrats a 31-seat majority - but with 2014's gerrymandering, it would barely give Democrats control of the chamber. And with more safe Republican districts come more extreme Tea Party members - Republicans know they face just as big a threat in the primary as they do in the general election.
Democrats: 1,806,050 (49%)
Republicans: 1,876,699 (51%)
U.S. House seats won by ...
Democrats: 3 (27%)
Republicans: 8 (73%)
This is a problem that can only be solved on the national level. It does us no good if only some states go to nonpartisan redistricting - then power accumulates with the parties that control the gerrymandered states and you're just rewarding the bad actors.
Where We've Been
Going back over a decade ago, Virginia Republicans in 2001 had the "privilege" of controlling redistricting for the first time in the modern era. They leveraged this advantage into pressuring Virgil Goode, already a Democrat-In-Name-Only who had voted to impeach President Clinton, to officially leave the party and begin to caucus with the GOP. They also worked to shore up newly elected Congressman Randy Forbes in the 4th, who had won a special election by a very close margin.
Below, I've calculated the partisan lean of the post-2000 census drawn district based on the 2000 Presidential numbers relative to the national average. So a R +6 district is one in which George W. Bush ran 6 points ahead of his national showing (47.87%, or rounded to 48%), which as we all know was less than Al Gore's popular vote national...
First, 800 pound gorilla in the room is the Junior Senator from Virginia, soon to be Senior Senator, and former "His Excellency" Mark Warner.
There is a push in the party to get Warner to return to Richmond in 2013 as the only way to reverse the party's fortunes after setbacks in 2009 and 2011. You can see my comment on this possibility here. For this diary I'll just say that until we get a clear statement from Warner one way or another I wouldn't count on the Democratic lead up to 2013 to come alive with announcements.
Next, to borrow from Lowell, "why would any sane Democrat WANT to be governor of Virginia?"
UPDATE: It appears the data posted here, at least for House districts, is...uh, "funky." Do a "before" and "after" on the 45th, for instance. If this were really the case, I think we would have heard something from David Englin by now. :)
UPDATE #2: Dave Leichtman seems to have fixed whatever the problem was. All is now well in the world. :)
Once upon a time, we believed in one person-one vote. How quaint of us! Of course, historically, we got sidetracked from that with discounting the lives of African Americans and native peoples. But once we emerged from the segregation era, we believed that perhaps once and for all, the equality of people would be respected. We were so wrong. Minorities are a primary target of the gerrymanderers. And so are the rest of Democrats.
Remember, this is the era of GOPhers trying to keep people from voting in so many ways. They try to challenge them at the polls causing them to use provisional ballots that will never be counted. They send out folks to flier minority cars telling them not to try to vote or they will be arrested. They use phony felon databases to purge non-felons from the voter rolls. And, in Virginia, they refuse to restore felon voting rights. They keep those prisons-for-profit filled and the voter rolls smaller. And now, even more than before, they dilute Democratic votes via gerrymandering.
Take a look at this article on redistricting in Politico. In a maneuver Tom Delay would be proud of, the Virginia Congressional delegation has a redistricting plan for you. In a state roughly split 50-50 along Democrat/Republican lines, Dems get only 3 majority districts. That is to say, districts have been gerrymandered to assure Dems only get 3 districts and GOPhers get 8. /11 on into the future. It should be half. That is to say, half the districts should be majority Democratic districts, not necessarily with Democratic Congressional electeds. But Democrats have been spliced, diced and fragmented into oblivion.
Dr. Holsworth has been struck by the volatility in the last three national elections (2006, 2008, 2010). He characterizes them as wave elections where Democrats ran the table in the Senate in 2006, had the Obama wave in 2008, then in 2009, 2010 there were counter-waves that have been fairly dramatic. Virginia seemed to flow with the national tide. 19 state legislatures changed hands this past election. Holsworth says that this is a reflection of the nationalization of politics. This, he argues, means that the Tip O'Neill maxim can rest in peace. Though there remains some truth to that, it is no longer an extraordinarily good explanation of trends.
40% of the people who voted this past November say that they voted to send a message to President Obama. All of the Democrats found out that they had running mates in Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.