It’s not the lack of popular support for the Democratic Party’s policies or its candidates, which national polling shows is substantial. It’s the nefarious Republican gerrymandering that has skewed the results.
The Associated Press reports:
The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor.
Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage.
The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.
The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.
Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.
The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one. Measuring the effect of gerrymandering
Republicans held several advantages heading into the 2016 election. They had more incumbents, which carried weight even in a year of “outsider” candidates. Republicans also had a geographical advantage because their voters were spread more widely across suburban and rural America instead of being highly concentrated, as Democrats generally are, in big cities.
Yet the data suggest that even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.
“The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn,” said John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in the 1980s.
A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan’s state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found.
The AP’s findings are similar to recent ones from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which used three statistical tests to analyze the 2012-2016 congressional elections. Its report found a persistent Republican advantage and “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.”
‘PACKING’ AND ‘CRACKING’
Throughout U.S. history, Democrats and Republicans alike have been accused of drawing political districts in ways that favored their own interests.
It typically occurs in one of two ways:
—“Packing” a large number of voters from the opposing party into a few districts to concentrate their votes.
—“Cracking,” in which the majority party spreads the opposing party’s supporters among multiple districts to dilute their influence.
Another way of explaining it: When the party controlling the redistricting process sets out to draw lines, it has detailed information about the number of supporters the opposing party has, and where they reside. It sets out to shape districts so its opponents’ votes are wasted — spreading them out in some places so they are unlikely to win, and compacting them in others so they have far more votes than they need for victory. Both methods allow the party already in power to translate its votes into a greater share of victories — or, put another way, to be more efficient with its votes.
The “efficiency gap” formula developed by Stephanopoulos and McGhee creates a way to measure whether gerrymandering has helped a political party enlarge its power.
The formula compares the statewide average share of the vote a party receives in each district with the statewide percentage of seats it wins, taking into account a common political expectation: For each 1 percentage point gain in its statewide vote share, a party normally increases its seat share by 2 percentage points. So a party that receives 55 percent of the statewide vote could expect to win 60 percent of the legislative seats.
Taken from story by DAVID A. LIEB Associated Press