emfizz.com July 25, 2017

Utah House map may give GOP advantage

26 June 2017, 07:21 | Gladys Abbott

The state House went from a 71-49 Democratic majority in 1994 to an 81-39 Republican majority after the 2002 election when districts were redrawn by Republican lawmakers.

Nevada and Colorado were the only two presidential "swing states" among just eight state legislatures determined to favor Democrats in 2016. "Hats off to the Democratic litigators".

The Associated Press analyzed all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly elections a year ago using a statistical method of calculating partisan advantage created to detect potential gerrymandering. The study is based on a formula that compares the statewide average share of each party's vote in the districts with the statewide percentage of seats it wins. Barbuto was in the Legislature the last time lawmakers redrew political boundaries in response to the 2010 census.

The Utah GOP won three more state legislative seats than they should have in 2016 because of partisan gerrymandering according to a new analysis. Political scientists would expect a party to receive 2 percent more seats for every 1 percent over 50 they get in votes.

Republican House candidates received 763,824 votes in 2016, compared to 694,720 votes for Democratic candidates.

The AP excluded state senate chambers from its state data because not all seats were up for election a year ago.

When gerrymandering so effectively boosts a majority party's chances, it can dissuade opposition parties from even fielding a candidate. University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith said Republicans are better at fielding candidates and running campaigns - particularly in about 30 truly competitive districts. One example he cited is the scenic Roaring Fork Valley that stretches roughly 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. There, Democrats hold four fifths of the House seats.

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"A favorite thing to do is to cry foul and say "gerrymander" very loud", Jones said.

"Partisan bias is distorting the composition of the U.S. House, and a handful of states are principally responsible for driving it", the Brennan Center found.

He'd like to see nonpartisan legislative staff draft initial maps and a supermajority consensus required by redistricting and reapportionment panels.

"Obviously if you're the party in power and your members wanted to draw districts that helped themselves get elected, to a certain extent that's naturally going to benefit the majority", Kottkamp noted.

Districts underwent dramatic changes that broke decades of precedent: The map shifted whole counties and some of the state's larger cities into new congressional districts, and pitted two Democratic congressmen against each other to remain in Congress. Mapmakers apparently analyzed voting patterns of individual wards.

The AP also calculated efficiency gap scores for the U.S. House elections, though experts caution those measurements are less statistically meaningful in states with few districts.

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