ibusinesslines.com July 23, 2017

Analysis finds partisan map-making advantage in Ohio

26 June 2017, 07:20 | Laverne Osborne

Possible effects of gerrymandering seen in uncontested races

Dem rep: 'I never thought we were going to win any of these four seats'

Its analysis showed that although Democrats had a 51 percent to 49 percent vote edge statewide over Republicans, the GOP had a majority in 102 of the new House districts compared to just 61 for Democrats. But the percentage of people living in legislative districts without electoral choices has been generally rising over the past several decades. In 42 percent of all such elections, candidates faced no major party opponents.

Using a statistical method recently cited by a federal appeals court to identify gerrymandering, the AP analysis released Sunday found Republican-skewed districts were far more common than Democratic ones in U.S. House and statehouse districts nationwide in 2016.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said the large number of uncompetitive districts in his home state might be due less to gerrymandering than to naturally segregated demographics, with Democratic-inclined black residents living in different areas than Republican-leaning white voters. The data also doesn't identify any particular districts where the legislative map might give Republicans a boost.

About 75 percent of the state House races in Arkansas and SC lacked either a Democratic or Republican candidate.

Utah is one of the most conservative states in the country, and Republicans have long controlled the state Legislature. In districts dominated by one party, election battles are fought mostly in the primaries; the victor from the majority party becomes a virtual shoo-in to win the general election. The Legislature overrode the veto, and the state Supreme Court later found the plan constitutional. Democrats lost four seats to Republicans. The analysis suggests there was a slight Republican advantage in the 2016 election produced by the redistricting in 2011 of the state's seven seats.

Republicans won an average of 67 percent of the vote in Utah's House districts a year ago but won all four of Utah's U.S. House seats, giving the GOP almost one seat beyond what would be projected in a votes-to-seats ratio. But an Associated Press analysis shows the state's legislative districts were drawn in a way that may have given the GOP extra help. Barely one-fourth of the new districts were labeled as competitive between Republicans and Democrats.

The Wyoming Democratic Party, meanwhile, is more organized than ever before and doing a better job getting its message across to voters, Democratic Chairman Joe Barbuto said.

Republican critics of Democratic concerns over gerrymandering point to what they say is Democrats' poor campaigning, their concentration in cities-a sort of "voluntary gerrymandering", some say-and their lack of incumbents to explain the Republican voting advantage.

For Democrats to complain of gerrymandering is "pure nonsense", said Matt Walter, the Republican committee's president.

So, if the maps are fair, why do Republicans still dominate the state House?

An independent commission could liberate lawmakers to spend more time on other issues and remove any impression of conflict of interest, Barbuto said.

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