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Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 01:10 PM PDT

DRA Status: NJ, RI, MT, AK, OR

by roguemapper

Yes, I'm still at it! On Sunday I sent off a data set for 2008 New Jersey presidential figures to replace the one currently on Dave's Redistricting App. I also sent off a file with presidential results for Rhode Island. So, while the usual caveat applies that they aren't yet uploaded to DRA and won't be until Dave has the time to do it, I want to go ahead and post a few remarks while it's all still fresh in my mind.

New Jersey: My long New Jersey ordeal is over! New Jersey has an unusual hybrid election system where mapping and reporting duties are shared by counties and municipalities. The degree to which counties or municipalities determine precinct boundaries also varies between the counties, as do the guidelines that are used, and the reliability of their VTD reporting to the Census Bureau. There are also differences in which county or municipal departments do what (County Clerk v. Board of Elections; Municipal Registrar v. Planning Dept., etc).

Might I add, I'm astounded at the degree of pointless bureaucratic redundancy throughout New Jersey, which I can tell extends to virtually every level of government beyond just elections and doesn't seem to have any correlation with whether an area leans Republican or Democratic. I just thought I'd throw that out there! The short of it is that, for my purposes, New Jersey was a nightmare to properly map for DRA.

So, on that note, here are the fixes to expect in the new data set. I don't know to what degree this actually affects the 2008 presidential results on the congressional district level. I expect that it will have a significant effect on a number of legislative districts. Also, as is usually the case, I didn't bother with the 'average' election data.

1) The current data set doesn't include the "Other" votes for minor candidates. I added them.

2) The current data set includes absentee votes for some counties and not for others. I've included all the votes except for a handful of countywide federal ballots in Morris and Sussex counties (428 and 68 total votes respectively).

3) I've corrected minor reporting errors in three counties (Atlantic, Essex, Monmouth) so there will be slight differences in my countywide total from those on the NJ SOS website.

4) The current data set has zero votes for "East" city wards. This is especially noticeable in Newark. I think this was a GeoID translation error having to do with the letter "E" being in the GeoID. In any case, I've obviously added the vote figures for those precincts.

5) There are 64 municipalities in the current dataset, including several large cities, where the total Obama/McCain votes for the town or ward are just distributed to VTDs by Voting Age Population. This usually involved towns or wards with precinct splits or mergers not reflected in the VTD map. Whatever the case, I have allocated the votes to their proper VTD. I only do distributions between neighboring precincts where necessary to account for shapefile errors, as detailed below.

6) I didn't count them up, but there are a number of municipalities scattered across the state with almost no votes assigned to them in the current data set. I'm not sure why that happened. For instance, the current data gives Lakewood Township in Ocean County just 72 Obama votes and 725 McCain votes. The correct figure is 8242 Obama votes, 19173 McCain votes, and 144 Other votes. I thought it might be one precinct getting distributed to the entire township but the figures don't match for that (e.g., there is no individual Lakewood precinct with 72 Obama & 725 McCain votes). In any event, this is obviously fixed in the replacement data set.

7) There are many townships where the number of precincts stayed the same between 2000 and 2008 but where precincts were renumbered (e.g., Precinct 12 from 2000 had become Precinct 9 by 2008, etc.). For a number of townships/wards the census VTD numbering was not updated. In other words, the VTDs are numbered as the precincts were in the 1990s, not in 2008. The data set currently on DRA assigns precinct votes in these cases based on the old incorrect numbering, especially in a number of city wards. My replacement data set assigns precinct votes to the correct geographic census VTD.

8) Finally, there are shapefile errors all over the state. One type was easy to identify: where the VTDs are the 2000 precincts, not the redrawn precincts used in 2008. I flagged these early on and got 2008 maps to make the necessary adjustments. The other type jumped out when I thought I was done in January. I did my usual final check of turnout by VAP and flagged several dozen more shapefile errors all over the state. I had to go through another round of collecting maps to fix those, which took another couple months (NJ clerks range from very friendly and helpful to downright hateful).

Some of these errors are very subtle, involving a boundary street that votes entirely in one district but that is split between census VTDs (putting one side of the street in the wrong VTD). This can be trivial or it can be a major discrepancy, in some cases shifting over 1000 voting age residents to the wrong VTD. The short of it is that, while I surely missed some of these where the effect on the vote counts was trivial, I've fixed those I was able to identify, and certainly all the ones that make a meaningful difference at the legislative or congressional district level.

So, there you have it. I presume that Dave will indicate on the DRA homepage when the new data is uploaded. If nothing else, NJ should move from the list of states done by others to the list of states done by me.

See after the jump for an update on where things stand on the remaining states.


Should I keep adding election data to DRA even if it's 6 years old?

90%65 votes
5%4 votes
4%3 votes

| 72 votes | Vote | Results

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Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:20 PM PDT

Arkansas ready for DRA

by roguemapper

I finally have an Arkansas data set ready for Dave's Redistricting App. To put it mildly, sorting out the 2008 election data for the state was a nightmare. In any event, I'll be forwarding it to Dave after I take a last glance over it tonight. I don't know when it'll actually get uploaded, but here are some relevant notes while it's fresh in my mind.

[Edit] The 2010 precinct data is an average of the votes for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and Commissioner of State Lands. These were the three closest statewide races and all three went narrowly Republican.[Edit]

A few relevant notes.

1) There is a scattering of voting districts where the 2008 figures add up to more than the 2010 voting age population. These are all in the Delta and appear attributable to two reasons. First, the Delta has been losing population, up to a quarter in some areas, with much of the loss toward the end of the last decade. Second, I had to do early vote distributions in a number of counties and it's clear that in several Delta counties these were heavily concentrated in urban areas. In any case, I only decided to 'tweak' the figures for two counties (noted below) where the deviation was systematic. In general, I avoid making arbitrary adjustments to my standard methodology. The number of votes affected are ultimately trivial in the broad scheme of things.

2) Pine Bluff: I used the list of precincts and polling locations to do the initial vote assignment. However, in many cases where neighboring precincts used the same poll location there would be one precinct with way too many votes and the other with way too few. I don't know if this is a reporting issue or a mapping issue (it seems to be a combination). I redistributed these precincts by VAP. In a few cases, this involved a heavily black and a heavily white precinct. I further adjusted these figures to match the partisan breakdowns of nearby precincts with the same racial composition. I did the exact same distributions for both 2008 and 2010.

Precinct 212 was double counted by the state (but not the county) in 2008. I excluded the duplicate votes. That's why my statewide total is different from the official total.

3) Russellville: In 2008 all of Russellville voted at Tucker Coliseum, so I just distributed those votes to the 32 relevant voting districts by VAP. In 2010 the precinct counts were reported separately but the precincts did not remotely match the census voting districts. I got a precinct map and distributed votes by VAP on the block level.

4) West Memphis & Helena: For the 2008 election, Crittenden County (W. Memphis) and Phillips County (Helena) did not assign early votes by precinct. When I did my standard distribution, the rural precincts ended up with far too many votes. In short, I reweighted the early vote distribution to put most of the early votes in the urban/suburban voting districts.

5) Hot Springs: The election precincts and census voting districts also don't match up very well at all in Garland County. I had to use a street file to find the sub-precinct boundaries and distribute the votes accordingly based on VAP.

And a general note: Arkansas has made an impressive move to standardize its election reporting, which is now quite orderly. Sadly this was not the case in 2008. Some counties distributed all votes by precinct, some did absentees but not early votes, some did early votes but not absentees, some did neither. In 2010, almost all counties did a full precinct distribution. If in doubt, go with 2010, which is probably the more useful data set in any event, since those were actually close elections and the precincts more consistently matched the census VTDs (meaning far fewer adjustments were required on my part).

Finally, I'll be forwarding minor fixes for New Hampshire (Hampton and Hampton Falls are currently flipped) and for Oklahoma (the boundaries for precincts 201 & 202 in Logan County are wrong on the census maps, so I needed to do a distribution).

I also did a data set for 2012 Puerto Rico governor. I don't know how it'll be labelled on DRA, but Padilla (Popular Democratic Party) will be blue and Fortuño (New Progressive Party) will be red, because Padilla is a registered Democrat and Fortuño is a registered Republican.


Hi everyone. After a long hiatus I'm once again prepping election data for Dave's Redistricting App. Right now I'm wrapping up Arkansas with just two counties left to sort out (Garland & Phillips). I plan to do 2008 president and 2010 governor for Arkansas.

In any case, the reason for this diary is because I'm exploring the prospect of getting election data for Oregon on DRA. The problem with Oregon is that, aside from Multnomah County, it doesn't participate in the Census tabulation by voting precinct. So, the precinct results need to be translated into census blocks. That means I need both presidential results by precinct and precinct maps for each county.

So, in short, I want to see if anyone out there has either precinct results or precinct maps for the counties that I still need. I'm not sure yet whether I'll do 2008 or 2012 or both. To get to the point, here's what I still need.

2008 Results: Baker, Malheur, Wallowa, Wasco

2008 Maps: Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Klamath, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Union, Wallowa, Wheeler, Yamhill

2012 Results: Baker, Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Tillamook, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco, Wheeler

2012 Maps: Baker, Crook, Gilliam, Grant, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Morrow, Union, Wallowa, Wheeler

James Allen has already been a great help to me with results and maps. If anyone has any of the above files for me, please send me a private message.



Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM PDT

DRA Latest

by roguemapper

Hi everyone. Here we go with another update on what I've been working on for DRA and what I plan to do next.

Before I get to that, a quick comment about 'found votes' in my DRA fixes. I've had several inquiries about why it is that my fixes of data sets previously on DRA always seem to turn up a disproportionate number of Obama votes. The answer is quite simple: By far, the errors that result in missing votes tend to involve urban precincts and so fixing the data invariably turns up more Democrats than Republicans. If it needs saying, my only goal is to provide the most complete and accurate possible translation of the 2008 election results into the 2010 census voting districts.

On another note, a few people have asked if I plan to put 2012 election data on DRA after Nov 6. Here's my provisional non-answer. If the 2012 presidential results are similar to the 2008 presidential results, then the precinct distribution of votes should also be quite similar, so 2012 data would be all but redundant in my view. If the 2012 presidential results end up being substantially different from the 2008 results, then I agree there would be some value to having 2012 data, but then the problem is that most states would be a nightmare to translate because they've reprecincted based on the 2010 census. It may very well be the case that it makes sense for select states, so the shorter non-answer is that I'll cross that bridge if I come to it (and assuming Dave thinks it's worth doing, of course).

That said, if any state plans to do another round of redistricting, for whatever reason, then I'll almost surely try to get 2012 election data up for that state, regardless.

Now, with that out of the way, here's the actual update after the jump!


Which should I prioritize?

63%31 votes
36%18 votes

| 49 votes | Vote | Results

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Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 08:09 AM PDT

DRA Update

by roguemapper

The long-awaited update is finally uploaded to Dave's Redistricting App. In summary, these are the states with revisions.

2008 presidential data has been added for Kentucky, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.

Revised 2008 presidential data has replaced the previous data for Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

I'll go over the revisions after the fold.

I have not yet had a chance to review the uploaded data so if anyone catches anything that looks like an error, please let me know. It may be a few days before I have a chance to review all of the uploaded data myself.

Meanwhile, this is what I'll be working on next.

Arkansas: I have a full 2008 precinct data set but it needs a good bit of prep work to translate it into the DRA voting districts. I simply have not had a chance to get to it. Unfortunately for Arkansans, it's not a swing state in this election nor does it have any competitive congressional races, so it's low on my priority list.

Florida: I want to add the minor party figures. This is now the only state I've done in full where they're missing. It's not high on the priority list, so I don't know if this will be in the next round of updates or in the one after that.

Iowa: I finally got a full statewide set of precinct shapefiles on Tuesday. This should now be a fairly quick state to complete. The main issue with Iowa is that rural election precincts are divided into multiple voting districts for census purposes, so there was no viable way for me to do it without 2008 precinct maps.

New Jersey: I had hoped to have the long-overdue NJ fix ready for this update. I've done a lot of work on New Jersey as it is. Tragically, my underlying data set got corrupted (short version: the formulas I use to cross check municipality totals with official results somehow got scrambled into the data itself). Anyway, I hope to rebuild my data set and wrap up the revision late next week.

Virginia: To my knowledge, the discrepancies are not major, and mostly involve missing early votes. I've collected the data I need for a revision. I just haven't had a chance to revisit the state. It's high on my to-do list though since it's a swing state. I'll probably do it before I go back to New Jersey, even though the NJ errors are far more extensive.

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Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 02:09 PM PDT

New 8-0 Maryland

by roguemapper

Here's my second attempt at an 8-0 Maryland map. My goal was to account for most, if not all, of the problems that were pointed out on my first attempt. So, I'm obviously interested in views on why this version wouldn't work either.

These were my objectives for this map:

1) Create two 51% AA VAP districts.

2) Keep all the other Democratic incumbents in a 60% Obama district that includes their residence (the main issue being Sarbanes/Ruppersberger of course).

3) Turn MD-01 and MD-06 into 55% Obama districts.

4) And do all that without splitting the Eastern Shore, without taking MD-01 into Baltimore, and without taking Southern Maryland away from MD-05.

Anyway, here's a statewide map, a view of central Maryland, and a close-up of Baltimore:

MD-01 (Harris-R)

Obama: 55.0%
McCain: 43.6%

Harris lives nowhere near this district (as it should be). In this version I've attached the Eastern Shore to Annapolis and the Bowie/Mitchellville area of Prince George's County.

MD-02 (Ruppersberger-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 37.9%

Ruppersberger gets most of the northern Baltimore area and the Port of Baltimore while canceling out the Republicans in Harford County.

MD-03 (Sarbanes-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.1%

This district now cancels out the Republicans north of Baltimore with Democrats in Ellicott City and the Silver Spring/College Park area of the DC suburbs.

Harris now lives here, fwiw, though I rather doubt he'd bother running in such a district.

MD-04 (Edwards-D)

Obama: 76.0%
McCain: 22.8%

51.0% black VAP
34.9% white VAP

This version of MD-04 is attaching heavily minority parts of Prince George's County with south Baltimore and some Republican parts of Anne Arundel County. Interestingly, while it becomes 1% less black VAP than the previous version, it also has a slightly lower white VAP.

MD-05 (Hoyer-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.6%

Since Annapolis goes to MD-01 in this version, Hoyer's district picks up the Democrats around Columbia in Howard County and around Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.

MD-06 (Bartlett-R)

Obama: 55.0%
McCain: 43.3%

This MD-06 version swaps out much of northern Frederick County for more of central Montgomery County.

MD-07 (Cummings-D)

Obama: 70.0%
McCain: 28.6%

51.0% black VAP
42.7% white VAP

The heavily minority areas of Baltimore City and Baltimore County now cancel out the Republicans along the Chesapeake Bay between Annapolis and Harford County.

MD-08 (Van Hollen-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.3%

The rest of heavily Democratic central Montgomery County is now negating the Republican vote from Carroll County and northern Frederick County.


Same questions as before: Is this a good mapping scheme overall? Are MD-01 and MD-06 sufficiently Democratic to flip the seats? Is there any reason to worry about any of the current Democrats under such a map? Should we settle for 7-1 when 8-0 is clearly within reach? Finally, have I again trampled on some sacred, time-honored, and inviolable axiom of Maryland redistricting that I'm not aware of? Thanks!


Should Maryland Democrats draw this map?

72%67 votes
27%25 votes

| 92 votes | Vote | Results


Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 12:34 AM PDT

An 8-0 Maryland Attempt

by roguemapper

Maryland maps have obviously been popular here lately, so I figured I'd try my hand at an 8-0 map. I have little doubt that I've either committed some parochial faux pas (but at least I didn't split the Eastern Shore!) or would somehow offend one or more congresspeople. So, I'm curious to get some feedback as to why this map wouldn't work.

In any case, these were my objectives, all of which were met:

1) Create two 52% African American VAP districts.

2) Keep all the other Democratic congressmen in a 60% Obama district that includes their residence (the residence part forces a much more convoluted map than would otherwise be necessary, because of Ruppersberger and Sarbanes being inconveniently situated).

3) Turn both MD-01 (Harris) and MD-06 (Bartlett) into Obama districts.

Here's a statewide map and a closer view, with the stats to follow:

MD-01 (Harris-R)

Obama: 52.0%
McCain: 46.4%

Harris doesn't actually live here anymore. Kratovil still does. To state the obvious, the point here is to attach the Eastern Shore to Baltimore.

MD-02 (Ruppersberger-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.2%

The basic principle is to wrap around MD-07 so as to pick up the Democrats of Howard County and then cap it off with some DC suburbs in the College Park area.

MD-03 (Sarbanes-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.0%

This district basically sidles in between the others. Since Sarbanes and Ruppersberger both live north of Baltimore, and since most of Baltimore has to be reserved for the MD-07 VRA seat and to flip MD-01 (under my mapping scheme) that means both MD-02 and MD-03 have to wrap around MD-07 to get to the DC suburbs.

In any event, this district works by taking north-central Baltimore and attaching it to northern Montgomery County and the Silver Spring/College Park area bordering DC.

MD-04 (Edwards-D)

Obama: 75.0%
McCain: 23.9%

52.0% black VAP
35.2% white VAP

Here I'm basically attaching the heavily minority parts of Prince George's County to the Republican leaning areas of Anne Arundel between Annapolis and Baltimore.

MD-05 (Hoyer-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.8%

Hoyer gets Annapolis in exchange for parts of Prince George's County that are needed to shore up other Democrats.

MD-06 (Bartlett-R)

Obama: 52.9%
McCain: 45.4%

This is the usual maneuver of attaching the Panhandle to heavily Democratic Montgomery County. I suspect one objection to my map may be that this MD-06 version isn't Democratic enough. What do y'all think?

It's worth noting here that if all the non-VRA Dem districts were dropped to 58% Obama instead of 60% Obama, then that should make it possible to push both MD-01 and MD-06 up above 55% Obama.

MD-07 (Cummings-D)

Obama: 74.9%
McCain: 23.7%

52.0% black VAP
39.0% white VAP

This seat mainly shifts away from Howard County and more toward Baltimore County so as to give MD-02 and MD-03 enough room to get down to the DC suburbs. It also gives up some parts of Baltimore City to help flip MD-01 and to shore up MD-03.

Harris now lives in this district. That's not an accident.

MD-08 (Van Hollen-D)

Obama: 60.0%
McCain: 38.1%

Here I'm negating the Republican vote northeast of Baltimore by attaching it to heavily Democratic central Montgomery County.


So, needless to mention, feedback is very welcome! Is this a good mapping scheme overall? Are MD-01 and MD-06 sufficiently Democratic to flip the seats? Is there any reason to worry about any of the current Democrats under such a map? Should we settle for 7-1 when 8-0 is clearly within reach? Finally, have I trampled on some sacred, time-honored, and inviolable axiom of Maryland redistricting that I'm not aware of? Thanks!


Should Democrats draw something like this map?

39%9 votes
60%14 votes

| 23 votes | Vote | Results

Due to several requests I am adding this notice.
Permission to Use: Anyone is more than welcome to use, reproduce, and distribute this document or any portion therein for whatever purpose they see fit with or without attribution. If editing or alterations to the original document or its content are made, then please make that clear. This notice does not supersede any content rights retained by nor do I represent in any official capacity whatsoever. Thanks!
Update: I have revised the DPI values for the 2011 legislative redistricting charts after realizing that the vote totals provided by the General Assembly differ from the official results provided by the State Board of Elections. For my original chart I used the NCGA breakdown for individual districts along with the SBOE statewide vote totals in my calculation, which resulted in DPI values that were slightly too low. In other words, the correct values are somewhat more favorable for Democrats. While the NC Senate does not change significantly, three NC House seats drop from Likely GOP to Lean GOP and one NC House seat drops from Lean GOP to Toss Up. The 2008 election charts have not changed because for those I used only NCGA data to begin with.

This is the long-delayed second part in a series examining the North Carolina redistricting maps that were enacted by the Republican General Assembly during the last week of July. The first part, examining select aspects of the illegality of the initial Rucho-Lewis proposal is here.

The reason why this second part has been so delayed is because, whereas the original proposal more closely adhered to the previous districts, the revised map enacts more radical changes to a number of districts. Obviously enough, that makes analyzing the new districts considerably more challenging in several respects. More specifically, I wanted to have 2008 and 2010 congressional vote figures on hand for most of the districts before I commented on them in greater detail.

In any case, I'll cover each of the thirteen new districts in turn and then take a brief look at the ramifications of the legislative maps as well. I suspect some will regard the following remarks as overly (if not wildly) optimistic. To be clear, I think the odds are at least even that North Carolina will end up with a 10-3 GOP delegation as that the state will end up with an 8-5 GOP delegation after the 2012 elections (with McIntyre & Shuler as the likeliest holds). That said, I think there is at least an opening for Democrats in a number of districts that are currently being written off by most observers. So, while I would certainly not be surprised if the Republican maps achieve what they intend, I also think that the Democratic situation is not quite so grim as widely described, and naturally I hope that the new maps turn out to be a 'dummymander' that fails to result in the lopsided delegation that the Republicans are aiming for.

Here is the new congressional map that was enacted in late July:

A few quick caveats are in order before I continue.

1) The maps below have been created in DRA which does not permit splitting precincts. Where precincts are split, I've generally placed them in the district that takes most of the population (often nearly all of it). In a few cases I've instead gone with what better approximates the geographic shape of the district. The differences should be minor and the purpose is mainly a visual depiction of how districts have changed from the preceding districts.

2) This commentary clearly presumes that these districts will be operative in 2012 as enacted. Since I think the odds are better than even that there will be further modifications for legal reasons, this analysis is obviously contingent. I will not be discussing the legal ramifications of these districts in this diary. Rather, I plan to post another installment within the next few days looking at additional legal issues related to the maps that were enacted. That diary will take another look at the reconfigured NC-01 district, while also examing retrogression in other parts of the state, and will revisit the Shaw issues with regard to the NC-12 district.

3) At several points in the comments below I'll be discussing Obama figures. In short, and unlike some analyses, I regard the Obama performance as the floor, not the ceiling, for what one might reasonably expect from a credible in-state Democratic contender in North Carolina. I think the 2008 results support this view in two ways: (a) Of the 11 statewide Democratic candidates running in 2008, nine exceeded the Obama percentage, with two falling barely short against Republican incumbents; (b) Democratic contenders exceeded the Obama percentage in 10 of the 13 congressional districts, the exceptions being NC-03 (Jones), NC-06 (Coble), and NC-09 (Myrick) all of which featured entrenched GOP incumbents with little more than token opposition. In the newly enacted maps, the Democratic congressional vote in NC-06 also exceeds the Obama percentage, leaving only NC-03 and NC-09 where Obama outperformed.

So, in part, the point of the comments below with regard to several districts is what more would a Democratic congressional candidate need to do to win a district that Obama would've lost, and how plausible is it that this will happen in 2012. Now one common argument, of course, is that Obama brought a lot of new minority and college student voters to the polls, who then voted for the other Democrats in a sort of rising-tide-lifts-all-boats effect. To whatever extent this is true, the Republicans have largely sequestered such voters in the three heavily Democratic districts anyhow, thereby minimizing the significance of the effect in analysis of the 10 McCain districts.

4) The congressional vote figures have been compiled by adding together what the candidates in the 2008/2010 districts received in the precincts that are in the new district. Where there were Libertarian votes, I added them to the Republican total, so this is the Dem percentage of the total vote, not the two-party vote. Besides that, some of the totals include split precinct figures. These are of course problematic but in no case would excluding them shift the Dem percentage by more than a few tenths of a percent in either direction.

OK, the district-by-district comments will follow after the jump.


How many NC congressional seats will Democrats hold after 2012?

29%45 votes
28%44 votes
24%38 votes
10%16 votes
1%3 votes
5%8 votes

| 154 votes | Vote | Results

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Promoted from the diaries. Roguemapper will be delivering a presentation on the first half of this post at a public hearing on redistricting at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College this Thursday, July 7. Click here for details, and if you're in the area, please come out to support him. - David

This will be the first in a two-part series examining the proposed North Carolina congressional maps that were unveiled by the Republican General Assembly on July 1st. In this diary I'll be outlining my views on the legality of the proposed NC-01 and NC-12 districts within the context of the Voting Rights Act as well as relevant Supreme Court decisions. In the other diary I'll look at the political landscape of the proposed districts with an emphasis on the electoral prospects of the current Democratic incumbents.

If anyone here is still unfamiliar with the current proposal, below is a map of the Rucho-Lewis congressional redistricting scheme. The two districts that I'll be discussing here are the yellow NC-01 district in the northeast Coastal region and the orange NC-12 district that runs along I-85 from Charlotte to the Triad. My assertion below will be that both of these proposed districts are illegal, though for very different reasons. In my view, the proposed NC-01 district features illegal retrogression in no less than five covered jurisdictions; the proposed NC-12 district is an illegal racial gerrymander in violation of Shaw v. Reno and its progeny.

NC-01 and Section 5 Retrogression

In North Carolina, the Section 5 preclearance requirement applies to 40 counties, mostly in the eastern Coast region, the upper Piedmont, and the Sandhills. In 1991 the General Assembly drew NC-01 as the state's first majority-minority district in response to "the Gingles District Court's findings of a long history of official racial discrimination in North Carolina's political system and of pervasive racial bloc voting." The current district, as revised following the above-quoted Shaw v. Reno decision and the 2001 round of redistricting, encompasses the African-American communities in 21 of North Carolina's 40 Section 5 counties. Due to demographic changes over the past decade, the current NC-01 district has dropped to 47.8% African-American VAP and needs to pick up about 97,500 people.

This 47.8% figure therefore provides the 'retrogression touchstone' for the 21 counties that are Section 5 covered jurisdictions in whole or in part within the current NC-01 district. Moreover, to quote the statement released in conjunction with the General Assembly's redistricting proposal: "Under the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Bartlett ... the State is now obligated to draw majority black districts with true majority black voting age population." In order to equalize the NC-01 district's population and to meet its Section 2 obligation of restoring a majority-black VAP, the General Assembly has chosen to draw the African-American community of eastern Raleigh into the proposed district. However, in doing so, the district has pulled out of five Section 5 counties: Beaufort, Craven, Gates, Wayne, and Washington. The African-American communities of these counties would now be placed in the NC-03 district, represented by Republican Walter Jones and with a 71% white VAP.

To quote the Department of Justice Section 5 Guidance:

Alternatives to Retrogressive Plans

There may be circumstances in which the jurisdiction asserts that, because of shifts in population or other significant changes since the last redistricting (e.g., residential segregation and demographic distribution of the population within the jurisdiction, the physical geography of the jurisdiction, the jurisdiction’s historical redistricting practices, political boundaries, such as cities or counties, and/or state redistricting requirements), retrogression is unavoidable. In those circumstances, the submitting jurisdiction seeking preclearance of such a plan bears the burden of demonstrating that a less-retrogressive plan cannot reasonably be drawn.

In considering whether less-retrogressive alternative plans are available, the Department of Justice looks to plans that were actually considered or drawn by the submitting jurisdiction, as well as alternative plans presented or made known to the submitting jurisdiction by interested citizens or others. In addition, the Department may develop illustrative alternative plans for use in its analysis, taking into consideration the jurisdiction’s redistricting principles. If it is determined that a reasonable alternative plan exists that is non-retrogressive or less retrogressive than the submitted plan, the Attorney General will interpose an objection.

The assertion has been made elsewhere that NC-01 cannot be restored to a majority-black VAP, in accordance with Section 2 requirements, without pulling out of some Section 5 counties. Although I initially agreed with this statement, I now realize that it is false. As shown on the map below, by redrawing NC-01 primarily to take in Durham's African-American community rather than Raleigh's, one can easily restore the district to a majority-black 50.2% VAP (versus 50.4% in the proposed map) while not pulling out of any Section 5 areas currently within the NC-01 district. Quite clearly then, a non-retrogressive alternative is readily available and will certainly be made known to the submitting jurisdiction (i.e., the NC General Assembly) by myself before the week is out. One could also tidy up the lines a bit and probably bump up the African-American VAP by a few tenths of a percent by splitting voting districts, which I cannot do on the Redistricting App used to draw this map.

So, to reiterate, since retrogression is obviously not unavoidable with regard to any jurisdictions currently within the NC-01 district, in my view the Rucho-Lewis proposal is clearly in violation of Section 5 and should be denied preclearance. In drawing the map below, it also became clear to me why the Republicans chose to draw the district into Raleigh instead of Durham: Because this map makes it far more difficult to target Rep. Brad Miller (D) by attaching northern Wake County to the upper-tier of the Piedmont and also more difficult to target Dem Reps. Mike McIntyre & Larry Kissell, and to shore up Rep. Renee Ellmers (R), since Rep. Walter Jones (R) must then either keep more of the southern Coast or take part of the eastern Piedmont. These partisan objectives are of course not a permissible justification for drawing a retrogressive map.

NC-12 and Racial Gerrymandering

Below I am quoting the Rucho-Lewis statement in full with regard to the rationale for keeping the I-85 configuration of the NC-12 district:

Current District 12, represented by Congressman Watt, is not a Section 2 majority black district. Instead, it was created with the intention of making it a very strong Democratic District. See Easley v Cromartie 121 S.Ct. 1452 (2000). However, there is one county in the Twelfth District that is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (Guilford).

As with Congressman Butterfield, we sought input from Congressman Watt regarding potential options for revising the Twelfth Congressional district. We have accommodated Congressman Watt’s preference by agreeing to model the new Twelfth District after the current Twelfth District.

Following the framework of the district created by the 2001 General Assembly, to the extent practicable and possible, we have again based the Twelfth Congressional District on whole precincts.

Because of the presence of Guilford County in the Twelfth District, we have drawn our proposed Twelfth District at a black voting age level that is above the percentage of black voting age population found in the current Twelfth District. We believe that this measure will ensure preclearance of the plan.

To quote the Shaw v. Hunt ruling that struck down the second iteration of the NC-12 district of the Nineties:

The constitutional wrong occurs when race becomes the "dominant and controlling" consideration. [Miller], at _ (slip op., at 11, 14-15).

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the race based motive and may do so either through "circumstantial evidence of a district's shape and demographics" or through "more direct evidence going to legislative purpose." Miller, supra, at _ (slip op., at 15). After a detailed account of the process that led to enactment of the challenged plan, the District Court found that the General Assembly of North Carolina "deliberately drew" District 12 so that it would have an effective voting majority of black citizens. 861 F. Supp., at 473.

Appellees urge upon us their view that this finding is not phrased in the same language that we used in our opinion in Miller v. Johnson, supra, where we said that a plaintiff must show "that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature's decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district."

Clearly enough, the GOP legislature will argue that the "dominant and controlling" consideration was not race, but rather the partisan purpose of drawing a heavily Democratic district. That said, the Rucho-Lewis statement certainly suggests that the General Assembly deliberately drew the district to maintain "a black voting age level that is above the percentage of black voting age population found in the current Twelfth District." However, this Section 5 rationale for the I-85 configuration of NC-12 was expressly rejected by the Supreme Court during the Nineties.

Quoting again from Shaw v. Reno:

Thus, we do not read Beer or any of our other § 5 cases to give covered jurisdictions carte blanche to engage in racial gerrymandering in the name of nonretrogression. A reapportionment plan would not be narrowly tailored to the goal of avoiding retrogression if the State went beyond what was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression.

Without the legislative record, it is difficult to fully assess the legality of the process that led to the NC-12 version in the Rucho-Lewis plan. On its face, however, the above Section 5 rationale strikes me as contravening Shaw v. Reno and its progeny. That said, it's important to acknowledge that the relevant rulings in tandem are exceedingly difficult to apply. The issue, ultimately, is not whether race was a consideration, but whether it was too much of a consideration, and the answer to this is essentially subjective.

In any event, quoting from the Hunt v. Cromartie ruling:

We can put the matter more generally as follows: In a case such as this one where majority-minority districts (or the approximate equivalent) are at issue and where racial identification correlates highly with political affiliation, the party attacking the legislatively drawn boundaries must show at the least that the legislature could have achieved its legitimate political objectives in alternative ways that are comparably consistent with traditional districting principles. That party must also show that those districting alternatives would have brought about significantly greater racial balance.

In my view, this is likely doable, but I imagine others would argue with that. What is certainly true is that the proposed district packs African-American voters more efficiently and effectively than the current district: The district goes from 43.3% AA VAP to 49.4% AA VAP. In the course of doing so, along with other changes to the map, Kissell's NC-08 district drops from 26.9% AA VAP to 19.3% AA VAP and Miller's NC-13 district drops from 27.2% AA VAP to 14.8% AA VAP. So, it's also worth noting that these two districts encompass the African American communities of another 9 of the state's Section 5 counties, which arguably raises an altogether separate issue in the preclearance process.

To make the long story short, the NC Democratic Party and the NC NAACP have clearly signalled, assuming there were any doubt, that they will challenge the new maps as illegal packing. I'll skip an attempt to forecast the legal proceedings here, since I don't have nearly enough of the relevant details and I'm skeptical that the Hunt v. Cromartie ruling will even matter. What I think it basically comes down to is whether the Supreme Court will favor Shaw or Cromartie, since I think the two rulings are all but irreconcilable. In my view, the current Court would almost surely have gone the other way in 2001. If that's correct, then there's no obvious reason to think that the Supreme Court will uphold the I-85 configuration of the NC-12 district when the right-wing justices would've rejected the less-gerrymandered 1997 version.

Then again, the cynical view would be that they'll have no problem with it now that it's part of a GOP redistricting plan. And I'll just leave this at that.

Continue Reading

Earlier today I forwarded a data file for upload to Dave's Redistricting App that features 2008 & 2010 election data by block group as compiled by the California Statewide Database at UC Berkeley. However, as detailed below, this is an incomplete data set that assigns 97.8% of the statewide Obama/McCain vote and 99.4% of the statewide Brown/Whitman vote. The reasons why I decided to go ahead and forward the data set for upload anyhow are threefold:

1) So far as I've been able to determine, this is the most complete California data set available of election results at the block group level. To be more precise, the UC Berkeley Statewide Database translates the election data to the census block level, which I then compiled to the block group level analogous to the DRA. By comparison, the Polidata election figures that are widely being used to calculate the partisan composition of proposed districts assign only about 95% of the 2008 presidential votes.

2) For most intents and purposes, this data will be more than adequate to determine the partisan characteristics of a proposed district. This is particularly true of the 2010 Brown/Whitman figures where even LA County has 98.5% of its votes assigned. The main problems will arise with the Obama/McCain figures if someone wants to cross county lines in and out of LA County to a significant degree. As the data set only assigns 94.9% of the 2008 LA County vote, this would clearly distort the partisan figures of such districts in favor of neighboring counties with more complete data sets (by contrast, the data assigns 99.6% of Kern votes, 99.2% of O.C. votes, 97.7% of Riverside votes, 98.5% of San Bernardino votes, and 99.9% of Ventura votes). San Mateo is the other significant underweighted county, with 93.2% of 2008 presidential votes assigned by the Statewide Database.

3) Most important as to why I've decided to go ahead and forward the data for upload is because, far and away, the most expedient route for me to complete the data set is to have it available on Dave's App. If I had reason to believe that the missing votes were uniformly distributed within a given county then the fix would be easy: I could simply write a database query to distribute the missing votes in proportion to the assigned votes. Since that is probably not the case, what I will need to do is layer shape files of election precincts over shape files of the block groups. I will then need to block off each county in roughly corresponding sets and compare the numbers to see how many votes are missing, if any. That way, I can zero in on where missing votes should be assigned relatively swiftly (to be sure, nothing is actually "swift" when dealing with California data on this level). This would take tremendously more time if I do not have the election data set available in an interactive visual interface such as DRA.

In the meantime, the chart below features how many votes are missing for each candidate within each county, as well a statewide total of unassigned votes for each election. As alluded to above, once I can work with the data in DRA, I will go county by county and begin assigning these votes. My goal is to have a complete data set within a couple weeks, though it may well be sooner than that. The key factor will be how widely distributed the missing votes are in a given county. Obviously, the fewer precincts that are at issue, the more swiftly I can isolate them and figure out where the votes need to go.

The presidential data for Del Norte is a special case, which is why it's highlighted in red below. The data set actually provides a breakdown at a level higher than block groups, so as a stop-gap measure I simply redistributed the presidential votes in accordance with the partisan distribution of gubernatorial votes. Since the whole county had a combined 9290 Obama/McCain votes and is very unlikely to be split on a congressional map at least, it would be a very rare mapping scheme in which this might matter anyhow. That said, I will of course properly match up those votes in the course of completing the presidential data set.

So, there you have it. If there are any questions or suggestions, then please post a comment! I'll be checking in regularly all evening.


What should I fix first?

41%7 votes
58%10 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results


Sat Jun 11, 2011 at 03:52 PM PDT

The Real O.C.

by roguemapper

So, just out of curiosity, I decided to see what the election stats would look like in Orange County after Loretta Sanchez's district is restored to an effective Latino majority. Note, for the record, that I do not say if the majority-Latino seat is restored because I don't have any doubt that it will be. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I think this is such an open & shut case in terms of the VRA that I'm simply going under the assumption that it's a matter of when and how.

In any case, what I've done on the map below is manipulate the minimum number of proposed districts so as to restore an effective Latino majority to CA-47. It's actually ridiculously easy (the #1 reason why it's inevitable so far as I'm concerned) and is no more out of sync with the guidelines of the Redistricting Commission than is the proposed map. If anything, it is more in keeping with them in my view, which is all the more reason why the attempt to eliminate the Latino majority district strikes me as inexplicable.

As an aside, perhaps the Commission is under the false impression that creating majority-Latino seats elsewhere in the state is sufficient in the exchange. If so, then their legal counsel should be fired immediately. The Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that each local minority population must be evaluated on its own merits in terms of the VRA. If, rather, the issue at hand is to provide some kind of greater Asian opportunity district, then it's beyond dispute that a minority population that can form an effective, compact majority trumps one that cannot.

What I've basically done is actually quite straightforward: I've swapped Westminster and Fountain Valley out of CA-47 into CA-46 in exchange for the heavily Latino part of Anaheim from CA-40. The rest of Anaheim (which is split in the draft maps between CA-40 & CA-48, eliminating whatever alleged argument in favor of dismantling the CA-47 Latino majority due to municipal boundaries) now goes to CA-40, along with the western half of Orange. CA-48 then picks up all of Irvine (incidentally putting Campbell back in the district) and finally the lines between CA-46 & CA-48 are tidied up in Laguna Hills. I have not manipulated the districts that enter Orange County from San Diego or Los Angeles.

In any case, here's my proposed alternative, followed by demographic & election stats:

So, here's how my districts compare to the draft maps of the Redistricting Commission.

CA-40 (Royce-R)

Proposed LHBYL: 46.7% Obama - 50.0% McCain
Alternate LHBYL: 45.7% Obama - 52.4% McCain

CA-46 (Rohrabacher-R)

Proposed OCCST: 48.6% Obama - 48.1% McCain
Alternate OCCST: 46.2% Obama - 51.9% McCain

CA-47 (Sanchez-D)

Proposed WESTG: 51.3% Obama - 45.2% McCain (48% Latino VAP)
Alternate WESTG: 58.8% Obama - 39.3% McCain (60% Latino VAP)

CA-48 (Campbell-R)

Proposed STHOC: 43.9% Obama - 53.0% McCain
Alternate STHOC: 47.3% Obama - 50.9% McCain

The election stats for the proposed Commission districts are from this link. The election stats for my alternate districts are from mapping them in the 'special districts' version of California on DRA. It'd be nice to have Brown/Whitman stats for my alternates, but I don't.

So, what do y'all think?


Will CA-47 be restored to an effective Latino majority?

90%36 votes
10%4 votes

| 40 votes | Vote | Results


Fri May 13, 2011 at 11:03 AM PDT

Election Data Poll!

by roguemapper

As many of you know I've been working on preparing election data for upload to Dave's App. So far I've completed Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota, and also Idaho by request (which is not yet noted on the front page, but is uploaded if you select 2010). For the past couple weeks I've primarily been working on Florida, but have also done preliminary work on some other bigger states (NY, CA, NC, PA) and have also started a few smaller states (UT, MS, NM).

Anyway that brings me to the point of this diary. I expect to have Florida done by Monday at the latest. Yay! Palm Beach and Orlando are what I have left. Let me take a moment to also give a huge shout out to John M. who collects data for Dave Leip's Atlas. The data he forwarded me has been invaluable for Florida in particular. Were it not for John M. - and also jeffmd - I would still be perhaps halfway through Florida at best.

So, my question is what big state I should work on next. These are the options:

California: I have a complete and essentially verified data set. Barring any unforeseen complications as I work with individual counties, the only issue will be the size of the state and matching up precincts to voting districts (which in California's case mainly means merging precinct numbers). The biggest problem will be sorting through thousands of Los Angeles data lines, including a lot of zero precincts, but the overall numbers add up properly for every county. Barring any unexpected speed bumps, the main issue will simply be the time it takes to sift through such a large state.

New York: I have an apparently complete but unverified data set. That means the potential is there for major complications. If I run across data anomalies once I start working with individual counties/precincts, then obviously I'll have to deal with whatever it is at the time. I also don't know yet how challenging New York City might be in particular. Of the big-city Upstate counties, the only one that seems as if it's likely to give me issues is Albany County.

Pennsylvania: I have a mostly complete and only partially verified data set. So, with Pennsylvania, the main issue will be procuring a full statewide data set. Until I turn my full attention to the state, I'm unsure how problematic that may be.

So, it's up to y'all again! As I wrap up Florida, I'll focus my attention on whatever big state wins the poll below. I'm also likely to try and pop out some of the smaller states during the transition, as I did when shifting from Illinois to Florida.

Please vote! Oh, and if anyone is working on any of these states then please let me know in comments. I have no desire to sort through 4883 Los Angeles precincts or 6110 New York City precincts if someone else is doing it!!


Which big state should I focus on next for Dave's App?

47%33 votes
17%12 votes
34%24 votes

| 69 votes | Vote | Results

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