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September 14, 2010 10:19 PM UTC

Redistricting + Demographics = Good News for Democrats

  • by: Colorado Pols

There’s an interesting story at Huffington Post from Dylan Loewe about the potential for redistricting to mean big advantages for Democrats nationwide:

Using Nate Silver’s gubernatorial projections and Louis Jacobson’s state legislative predictions, we find that Democrats will be in a better position during this redistricting in at least 8 states, and, depending on the outcome in November, could very well be in better shape in as many as 11 states. Republicans, on the other hand, will find themselves in an improved partisan environment in just 6 states. They can get to 8, but only if they win the gubernatorial races in California and Maryland. The rest of the states are expected to have partisan advantages that are more or less the same as they were in 2001.

The states where Republicans are expected to be better positioned (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and South Carolina) are midsized states, with an average of only about 8 congressional districts each.

The states where Democrats are expected to improve, on the other hand, (Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Virginia, and Michigan) include a significant number of very large states, with an average of about 17 congressional districts.

This breakdown alone would suggest that Democrats will have the ability to draw a map that is more favorable to them.

Over the last ten years, 80 percent of the population growth in this country has come from minorities, overwhelmingly in metropolitan areas. When states like Texas are awarded new congressional districts (they are expected to get four this cycle), those districts will have to be drawn in the same metropolitan areas where such high minority population growth is occurring. Barack Obama won 80 percent of the minority vote. He won every major city in Texas except Fort Worth. This means that these new districts are going to be drawn in areas that are going to be highly populated with Democrats, ones that are almost certainly going to send Democrats to Congress. This, of course, will play out beyond Texas. In fact, of the 10 new districts expected to be allocated, there is reason to believe that at least 8 of them will end up in Democratic hands.

Colorado is not expected to gain an additional Congressional seat in redistricting, but when the district lines are adjusted to account for changing demographics, what will that mean for seats like CD-5 and CD-6 that currently have 2-to-1 Republican registration advantages?


22 thoughts on “Redistricting + Demographics = Good News for Democrats

    1. No way to do that.  Douglas and El Paso have grown way more than the rest of the state.  Those two counties will need to be cut up as they are too large.  This will make the 7th and the 4th more Republican.  Unless you want to split up Denver.  See my post below and try the redistricting program I link.  It’s fun and I assure you I tried your scenario.  It was #2 of 7.  It doesn’t work.

  1. Colorado statewide Republicans lead Dems 35.4% to 33%.  Neither CD-5 (which is close) or CD-6 have a 2 to 1 ratio of Republicans to Dems.  In fact, the District in the state with the widest disparity is CD-1 where the Dems have an almost 3 to 1 advantage.

  2. a) that the Republicans pick up over 2% of  Colorado statewide voter registrations in the last two years,

    b) that the Dems are set to lose control of the House,

    c) that the Republicans are favored to control 30 Governorships,

    d) that the Dems are favored in the Colorado Governor’s race where the state will not be adding a single member of congress.

    Things are all happy-happy, joy-joy for Colorado dems here at ColoradoPols.

    In the states that are adding seats, guess which party will be controlling the governorship?  Hint – not the Dems.  That is the real story.

  3. The Growth Counties here are Denver, Douglas, ElPaso and Boulder.  These counties have grown more than the average.  Denver can’t get any more or less Democratic but it will lose Cherry Hills and Greenwood Village which could be added to the 7th to make it better for Reps.  Boulder County growth is not all Democratic and it will stay with Boulder county anyway.  How will this help Dems?  You cut off the mountain communities which tend to be swing counties, how does that help Salazar.  Douglas County being larger just allows more Republican areas of Jeffco and Arapahoe (those few that are left) to be added to other districts which are less Republican.

    Try out this application:

    I did, numerous times.  You can’t make more Democratic Districts than we already have, and under the best of circumstances you end up making both the 7th and the 4th more Republican, no matter what you do.  Remember, 10 years ago the Democratic Plan for Congressional Districts was adopted by the Court.  Democrats have the near perfect plan right now.  No way things get more Democratic with a redistricting plan unless you do two things, split Denver and split Boulder and stay with the split of Pueblo.  No court is going to uphold that.  I doubt that the DOJ would allow the split of Denver now that it is a majority-minority district.  

    Damn.  I tried to tell all of you Democrats that the “majority-minority” district thing was wrong.  But you had to social engineer and now you’ve got Democrats packed based upon race and the Republicans can be spread out more evenly.

    There are a number of places in the South where Republican legislatures have been able to gerrymander seats to pack in African Americans to avoid having to put them into other districts where they might swing the balance of power.  I can’t tell you how happy Republicans were when they learned that they could use the “majority-minority” BS to pack Democrats into one District and claim they had to because of Federal law, all the while creating more Republican seats in the process.  What suckers the Democrats are.

    1. would intervene in a plan passed by both houses of the legislature and approved by the Governor, with contiguous districts of approximately equal population.  County lines and majority-minority considerations are pretty minor considerations judicial review of redistricting plans for Congress in Colorado, since it is not subject to Section 5 review under the Voting Rights Act.

      The law does not require that Denver or Boulder be entirely in one CD.

      Some pretty godawful gerrymanders have been upheld, and a certain amount of county splitting in unavoidable when you have just seven districts and a large share of the state’s population is lumped into a small number of large population counties.

      The basic dilemma is between creating more winnable districts where the party at a disadvantage has some chance, or more safe districts.  The current plan created more winnable districts for Democrats, allowing them to win 5 out of 7 seats, but made it tricky to hold onto those five seats.

      It would be very hard from Democrats to let go of their hope and draw districts that created four safe Democratic districts, instead of five winnable ones.

      Incumbent protection is also a major consideration.  The way that Democrats (assuming that they control the redistricting process) redraw the lines depends a great deal upon who is re-elected to Congress.  If Markey wins in CD-4, there is going to be a strong desire to make that district safer, while making other seats that Democrats hold a little less safe.  CD-4 might give up some of its Southern territory in favor of CD-5 and CD-6, while picking up some of Aurora.  CD-7 could get Northern Denver to make up for the loss of Aurora.  CD-1 and CD-2 would compensate by moving South and picking up some of what is now in CD-6.

      If Markey doesn’t win CD-4, Democrats may want to make CD-4 more Republican in order to make another district more winnable.  For example, CD-4 might cede the urban I-25 corridor while gaining a lot more rural counties from CD-3 and CD-6, and then CD-7 might claim the urban I-25 corridor, balance that with some of Denver and cede JeffCo.  CD-1 and CD-2 could then share the territory that CD-7 gave up.

      More mischievously, lines could be drawn so that incumbent Republicans end up in predominantly Democratic districts.  This wouldn’t change eligibility to run; anyone in Colorado can legally run in any CD.  But, politically, it would force the incumbent to move to a new home or run in an unfavorable district.

      A second order consideration is the kind of Democrats or Republicans that will cohabit in a particular CD.  For example, districts could be drawn that would put farmers and suburbanites in the same GOP leaning district, or could segregate them into two very distinct districts.

      Demographically, Colorado has seen a decline in rural population, and growth in suburban population, as a share of the total, since 2000.  Politically, Colorado has seen first ring suburbs and I-25 bedroom communities turn more blue relative, while outer ring suburbs are, if anything, more red.  Morse is also testament to the islands of blue that still exist in Colorado Springs.

      1. Ohwilleke has the legal concepts right.  A majority-minority district is a district where the minority population is a numerical majority (fifty percent plus one or more) of the population in the district. Last time, even the split-Denver map only achieved a 29% minority district.  There certainly has not been enough of a population shift to get a majority-minority district now; and certainly not for Section 5 pre-clearance.

        As for the speculation as to motivations and preferences, Ohwilleke’s musings are just the tip of the iceberg.  Most notably, should the legislature draw the maps (are they are tasked with doing), there is no directive to consider the previous boundary lines when drawing new lines.  They could simply start with a new map.  I don’t think that’s likely, but who knows?

  4. Short term, the Tea Party may draw some energy. But long term, everything the GOP is doing – its obsession with immigration, its insulting of minorities, its branding itself as the party of old white men and their useful idiots (Sarah Palin) – is almost guaranteeing that it will become a permanent minority party within the next decade or two.

  5. Denver will lose at least one and maybe two Senate seats and three house seats.  Diana DeGette will have a district that is at least 20% outside of Denver.  

    Not trying to start an argument just do the math.  With Adams County and Aurora also growing overall the Democratic party may not lose but Denver Democrats will.  

    There could be some interesting incumbent vs. incumbent Denver primaries in 2012.

    1. Don’t confuse percentage growth with overall population.  Denver will likely stay level or possibly gain half a house seat.  This growth will come at the expense of the rural areas of the state.

      1. Denver’s population has stayed relatively stable while other areas have experienced a great deal of growth.  Rural areas have lost population.  That loss is not nearly as large as the population increase in Douglas, El Paso, Larimer, Weld and Mesa Counties.

        Denver by staying stable will lose seats.  

        I guess someone with more energy could take the current population of Denver, divide it by the current population of Colorado and see what that comes to.  It will show that Denver is losing seats. The numbers will be modified by the final census figures but as of now Denver stands to lose.  

        1. I agree (as does the state demographer) that other counties have increased population.  But their extra seats will not come at the expense of Denver.

          Per the demographer, the increases in County population from 2000-2008 are:

          108,185 – Douglas – 1.8 seats

          80,320 – El Paso – 1.2 seats

          74,042 – Arapahoe – 1.1 seats

          70,905 – Adams – 1 seat

          70,284 – Weld – 1 seat

          56,873 – Denver – .8 seats

          28,185 – Mesa – .4 seats

          15,997 – Jefferson – .2ish seats

          15,917 – Pueblo – .2ish seats

          *Note, Broomfield was a new county and not included.

          If you’re talking about a % of state population, Denver went from 12.7% to 12.3% of the state population in the same chart.  

          With Stapleton and Lowery populations going up between 2008 and today, Denver will stay level, or possible go up a bit in terms of seats.

  6. The districts, IMHO, cannot be redrawn in any way that follows the rules and still comes up with an extra D seat in Congress.

    The most interesting possibilities in this report come from Florida, perhaps Virginia and others, where longtime domination of Republicans in the legislature have resulted in disproportionately Republican districts.  Ungerrymandering some of these states could result in a significant Democratic pickup in the House.

    1. Market defeats Gardner. If she falls (or narrowly survives) certainly CD4 could be drawn more favorably for Dem advantage.

      Obvoiusly we can’t gerrymander Dems into a 6th seat, but we could shift things to protect our more vulnerable incumbents.

  7. Only 33% of registered voters are dems.  As you add them to one district you take them away from another.  Right now you have three districts 01, 02 and 07 where there are more Dems than Republicans.  If you try to make it four, you deplete the advantage in the other three.

  8. The last redistricting created two distinct GOP “dumping grounds“… The 5th and 6th CDs. By “dumping” as many GOP dominant areas as possible into the 5th and 6th, the current plan makes the 3rd and 7th CD competitive for DEMs (as the current party affiliation of political office holders illustrates). Inversely, the same was done for the 1st and 2nd, ensuring two “safe DEM” CDs. As far as I recall, the 4th was not drawn for DEM advantage… I know in GOP circles there was concern about the growth in Southern Weld being a bleed over from Adams and that Ft. Collins seemed to be going more DEM and that the growth in Winsor may be influenced by that, but I don’t know anyone who foresaw a realistic takeover of the 4th by a DEM. And in my opinion, Betsy didn’t really win that seat, it’s just that MM was abandoned by the GOP and her campaign people were infected with a fatal strain of dumb ass.

    The GOP plan, that was not adopted in 2004, cut Pueblo in half, diluting the GOP population of CD-5, but sequestering the major DEM areas of P-Town, within the 5th, not the 3rd, where they currently offset the GOP voting population of Mesa Cnty.

    Under the same GOP plan, the GOP areas of Arapahoe Cnty (and Elbert btw) currently within the 6th, would have been entirely within the 7th. The 6th would have essentially been just Douglas and Jeffco, cutting out areas currently in the 2nd and 7th to again dilute the GOP voting population, but so too taking DEMs from their current districts in the 2nd and 7th.

    With that plan, that was not adopted, the 3rd was more geographically defined as the “West Slope District” and the 4th “the Plains District”.

    So before all you DEMs get all excited about redistricting… You need to remember, the current Congressional Districts are YOUR plan. Because of it you have a Senator Udahl and Congressman Perlmutter (under the idea Udahl would probably have lost in 2004, his closest race for the 2nd I believe). Sure, I believe Tancredo would have had to run for the 7th CD in 2004 and Both Ways Bob would have had to have run in the 6th (Tanc lived in Arapahoe and Bob live in the part of Jeffco sent to the 6th at the time I believe) but I’m not sure the challengers for each were up to unseating those “incumbents“. Salazar in the 3rd? Yeah, I think so… If I recall right, he wouldn’t have had a challenge at Assembly under the old plan. Betsy in the 4th? Yeah, 2008 would have still been 2008 when the GOP hunkered down into a losing campaign and abandoned MM. Thanks to geography, I still think Coffman would be in office, just in the 7th (Arapahoe you know), but who would be in the 6th??? Now that is a good alternate universe kind of question.

    I just don’t know if Senator Schaffer would endorse Dan Maes…  

    1. Udall would not have lost the 2nd even under the GOP redistricting plan or the midnight gerrymander attempt.

      The plan Democrats drafted after the 2000 census was accepted by the judge simply because it created a fair district plan, while the Republican plan was very GOP-lopsided.  (Translation: Democrats were willing to work with the GOP, but the GOP wasn’t willing to work with Democrats – big surprise.)

      1. I never said the current districts were unfair… I was just correctling Alva’s assertion that the current boundaries of the 5th and 6th were by GOP design.

        Are they current boundaries fair?

        An excellent question! In 2004 the DEMs took back the State House and Senate… Even though the GOP candidates actually garnished more total votes… So probably not very fair… Really.

        As far as Congressional Districts, I’ll tell you that it was nice having our elections in the 6th very much decided in August… Made for quite cheerly Novembers. I’m sure your Fellow Travelers in the 2nd and 1st felt the same way. By your logic then, there is no reason to re-district huh?

        It’s a fair division of the State huh?

        Just remember, our CDs are decided her in the state… Not in DC.

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