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In general, the federal Voting Rights Act requires states to draw majority-minority districts as long as they are compact and respect communities of interest. What might congressional maps of the 5 “deep south” states look like if this were not required?

All 5 of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are entirely controlled by the GOP now. These maps follow the principle of “what would the RNC do” to maximize the expected number of GOP seats, as happened in North Carolina and Ohio. In practice it's possible that incumbents and their allies in state legislatures would be reluctant to weaken their districts and thereby let some Dems wiggle off the hook, as happened in Tennessee.


To get a fairly safe 6R-0D map of Louisiana, you just have to split New Orleans among two districts and take the rest of those districts south to the Gulf or north along I-55. Not up the road to Baton Rouge, because there are Democrats along that road. The map:


District info:

LA1: most of New Orleans and north-shore suburbs. R+10.1 based on 2008.
LA2: southern end of New Orleans and western suburbs, plus the Thibodaux-Houma area to the south. R+11.1.
LA3: Cajun country. R+15.3.
LA4: Shreveport and the northwest. R+15.2.
LA5: the northeast, including Monroe and Alexandria. R+15.1.
LA6: Baton Rouge and environs. R+10.1.

The 3 southeastern districts might not be completely safe, but they are no less safe than the current districts which are mostly in the R+10 to R+14 range.


To draw a clean 4R-0D map in Mississippi, separate the Dem pocket of Jackson from the mostly blue delta counties. The map:


MS1: northwest. R+7.0 based on 2008.
MS2: Jackson and the south-central part of the state. R+7.7.
MS3: east. R+11.0.
MS4: south. R+15.8.

These districts are less safe than the state's 3 current red districts, which range from R+14 to R+20 (and themselves have recently been represented by Travis Childers and Gene Taylor). MS1 and MS2 in particular would be susceptible to Dems in the Childers-Taylor mold, but there's no way to draw 4 totally safe districts. All 4 of these proposed districts would favor the GOP. If on average they can win them 75% of the time, they will be better off than under the current map where they have a ceiling of 3 seats.


Obama got just 10% of the white vote in Alabama according to the 2008 exit poll, making it about as polarized by race as Mississippi (11%) or Louisiana (14%).

DRA does not report presidential data for Alabama, but as a first approximation white = red, black = blue. It's straightforward to draw a probable 7R-0D map with no ugly districts by splitting the black sections of Birmingham among two districts and the state's “black belt” running roughly at Montgomery's latitude among four. The map:


District info:

AL1: The northeastern half of Birmingham and some very white suburbs and exurbs to the east. 74% white, 21% black VAP.
AL2: Montgomery to the Florida border. 60% white, 34% black VAP. Bobby Bright would have a chance here, but in most circumstances it should favor the GOP.
AL3: Mobile and a few rural counties to the north. 67% white, 27% black VAP.
AL4: The southwestern half of Birmingham and some very white counties to the north and west. 64% white, 31% black VAP but it might not be safe R as it contains the college town of Tuscaloosa which probably has a disproportionate share of the state's handful of white liberals.
AL5: The state's very white northwest corner and most of the western half of the black belt. 75% white, 20% black VAP.
AL6: Huntsville, Gadsden, and the northeast corner. 75% white, 20% black VAP.
AL7: Basically the mid-eastern part of the state. 69% white, 26% black VAP.

AL2 and AL4 might be vulnerable to a locally popular blue dog Dem running a strong campaign in a blue wave year, but the other 5 districts are probably hopeless.


Georgia is not like the other deep south states: it isn't nearly as far to the right, as Obama got 47% there including 23% of the white vote. If you draw 14 47% Obama (about R+6) districts, Dems would be able to compete in all of them and would probably win 3-6 of them outright in an average year. The Atlanta area in particular has been moving left lately as it draws in young people who are non-southern and/or nonwhite, offsetting the rightward drift of most of the rest of the state. In my view the GOP would have to cede two Atlanta seats to the Dems, leaving 12 districts that they can dominate at least in the near future.

State map:


Atlanta closeup:


District info:

GA1: Has to zig and zag across south Georgia to offset Dem pockets with safe red areas. R+10.6 based on 2008.
GA2: southern tier. R+10.3.
GA3: offsets the blue city of Savannah with deep red rural counties. R+10.7.
GA4: Fulton county Dem sink. D+33.5.
GA5: DeKalb county Dem sink. D+32.9.
GA6: mostly Cobb county less its bluest precincts. R+13.0.
GA7: mostly the richer parts of Fulton county. R+11.3.
GA8: most of Gwinnett county. R+10.1.
GA9: southern exurbs. R+11.6.
GA10: blood-red suburbs and rurals overwhelm the blue city of Augusta. R+13.4.
GA11: Mostly deep red northern exurbs and rurals, and the unhappy blue college town of Athens. R+21.5.
GA12: More northern exurbs and rurals. Just 4% black. R+26.5.
GA13: All your Alabama border are belong to us. South end is blue, rest is deep red. R+12.1.
GA14: Macon (blue) and western exurbs and rurals (mostly red). R+10.9.

The three northern suburban districts have been trending blue and would likely be competitive by the end of the decade if not sooner, but that would still leave the GOP with a 9-5 edge if everything goes wrong. For now it's a safe 12-2.    

South Carolina

South Carolina lacks a white-collar magnet comparable to Atlanta but nonetheless has also attracted migrants from the north. As such its white population is less monolithically red (26% Obama by the exit poll) than the three western deep south states. Also unlike these states, it has not trended red lately and instead has been around R+8 for the last 6 presidential elections. Obama actually beat the Dem average in all 7 districts. Unlike the other maps I've drawn here, most of these districts aren't safe R and the Dems would be able to compete right away in 5 of them. In practice the GOP might be better off doing what they actually did and drawing a sink for Jim Clyburn. If they wanted to roll the dice and go for a clean sweep, they could do this:


District info:

SC1: most of the Columbia area. R+5.5, likely R.
SC2: Charleston. R+4.5, also likely R.
SC3: the southern end. R+4.7, another likely R.
SC4: Myrtle Beach and some interior counties. R+5.9, likely R.
SC5: northern tier. R+6.6, probably just likely R.
SC6: mostly red upland area, but cracks Columbia to make SC1 more red. R+11.3.
SC7: Greenville. Few Dems here. R+18.5.  

Without the VRA the Dems would probably be assured of just 2 or 3 (if SC drew a sink for Clyburn) House seats in the Deep South as opposed to the 8 they should have under the 2012 maps, but they would also probably have a better (if still slim) chance to compete in some of the red districts.

Originally posted to sacman701 on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM PST.

Also republished by Kos Georgia and Community Spotlight.


Would the South Carolina GOP be better off going for a 7-0 map or a 6-1 with a sink for Clyburn?

13%16 votes
86%100 votes

| 116 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah I tend to think any (8+ / 0-)

    R+ single digit district in the Deep South is a district a blue dog could compete in, and one that Republicans would be wiser not drawing, and instead make a D vote sink instead of several potentially blue dog districts.

    I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate, perhaps that's what no one wants to see. -6.38, -4.15

    by James Allen on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 12:13:39 AM PST

    •  I think this is a big open question (4+ / 0-)

      Looking forward--I don't know if the past is prologue any more.

      26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

      by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:11:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  True (0+ / 0-)

      Dems still are competitive in FL-02 and its an R+4 I think. It really just depends on the county's ancestral history, if its voting pattern is like eastern Tennessee then we wont be competitive, but if its like the Florida panhandle we could win.

    •  But I think we can agree Louisiana (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      would be a lost cause.

      26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

      by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:58:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree wholeheartedly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Matt Z, bumiputera

        The Louisiana Democratic Party is one of the absolute worst state parties in the country.

        That said, I think even under these maps drawn, Democrats could conceivably win the 4 south Louisiana seats. I'd venture to guess Mary Landrieu won at least the 3 southeastern districts in 2008, and that is with President Obama at the top of the ticket.

        Mayor Landrieu would probably win the 1st. He'd play very well on the southshore and in the small part of Jeff Parish in this district. I'd imagine he'd also perform admirably in Slidell and western St. Tammany Parish. The Landrieu name would probably deliver him a substantial amount of votes in Washington and Tangipahoa oarishes.

        For the second, I'd go with former president of the state senate, Joel Chaisson. If I remember correctly, he's now the DA for St. Charles Parish. He'd do very well there, in the Orleans Parish portion of the district (Uptown) and I think would appeal to conservative Democrats in Houma-Thibodaux.

        In a neutral year with these two candidates, I'd say both would be tossups, or maybe even Lean D with how popular Landrieu is.

        The 6th would probably be in reach towards the end of the decade. Former rep Don Cazayoux could probably win the 6th today. Run up the margins in East and West Baton Rouge parishes, run close to a tie in Ascension and St. John The Baptist parishes and not get completely killed in Livingston Parish.

        21, Male, LA-02, LA-06 (former), TX-08 (home), SSP: sschmi4

        by Stephen Schmitz on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 11:37:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, no, I don't think the LA Democratic (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jncca, lordpet8, Matt Z, bumiputera

          Party is as bad as you say. They held onto every State Senate seat no matter the PVI that they contested in in the state legislative elections in 2011. They didn't challenge in two open seats. They only lost one seat in the State House, managing to win districts that Mary Landrieu did not even win.

          Compare the LA Democratic Party to say, the TN Democratic Party or the AL Democratic Party. LA is actually pretty good.

  •  Well, I guess we should be glad (9+ / 0-)

    we have the VRA then. shudder

    23, Solid Liberal Democrat (-4.75, -4.51), DKE Gay Caucus Majority Leader, IN-02; Swingnut. Gregg for Governor! Donnelly for Senate! Mullen for Congress!

    by HoosierD42 on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 02:00:44 AM PST

  •  South Carolina would be real iffy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clem Yeobright, Englishlefty

    but not much worse (from a Republican perspective) than the current map which automatically cedes one seat and leaves a second one competitive (the Charleston-based seat of Tim Scott).  Without the VRA (and without the loud complaints of Scott and others who would have to take on more African-American voters) I think they would go for it, but it would be the least solid map of the bunch.

    As for Alabama and Mississippi, they would go for the full sweeps in a heart beat if they could.  You drew nice, compact districts, but they could easily draw uglier maps to get every district to more or less reflect the state's overall lean, and we would be no more likely to hold a congressional seat than we would be to win a Senate election in one of those states.

    Georgia is somewhere in between.  Shooting for a 12-2 map is probably safe in the short term, but long-term that is super-dangerous.  Again though, maybe we would get like 4 seats under such a map but that is exactly what the GOP has ceded in the current map, so maybe they would risk more.

    •  Also (10+ / 0-)

      let diaries like these be a rebuttal to those who claim that the VRA actually hurts overall Democratic representation.  Louisiana is like the best example of the VRA helping Democrats.  If they could draw New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish together, it would be game over for us in the state, easy 6-0 map for the GOP.

      •  Plus, we need to keep minority support (4+ / 0-)

        for the Democrats, which would be a lot harder if AAs and Latinos couldn't elect candidates of their choice. So even if we could draw an easy 8-0 Maryland or even a clean sweep map in Illinois that would compensate for the loss of these seats, the VRA still helps us overall.

        Male, 21, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02

        by fearlessfred14 on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 07:20:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think the best example, though? (0+ / 0-)


        26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

        by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 10:05:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  In the Deep South. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Answer Guy, jncca, dufffbeer, James Allen

        The Deep South would otherwise have no Democratic representation if not for VRA districts.

        However, in states outside the Deep South, the VRA is often used as an excuse to make vote sinks where a more efficient distribution of Democratic voters is possible.  It helps that outside the Deep South, there are significant numbers of white people who vote for Democrats.

        27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

        by TDDVandy on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 11:29:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Other States (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Of the states I've extensively drawn:

          It'd be fairly easy to draw an 8-0 map of Maryland if you didn't have to worry about 2 black-majority districts.

          It'd be pretty easy for Democrats to draw New York in such a way that no Republican could compete in any district with any territory in NYC, Long Island, or the Hudson Valley as far up as Albany.

          I've done less w/ California and Illinois but I imagine similar things could be done in those states. (Of course, the Illinois drawers seem to do a pretty good job even with VRA constraints...)

          Now I assume Republicans would draw minority majority districts in any state where they could just to create Dem vote sinks.

          Stuck Between Stations : Thoughts from a bottomless pool of useless information.

          by Answer Guy on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 02:14:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We've had plenty of 8-0 Maryland maps on here (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            That were argued to be VRA-compliant--they didn't draw one, as Skaje points out.  Andrew Cuomo might not sign even a legal gerrymander of New York state.  California has a commission that is not interested in maximizing Democratic seats--and when Democrats had full control of redistricting, they didn't seem to maximize the number of seats they had even within the constraints of the VRA.  (Illinois Democrats, as you say, seem to be perfectly able to draw aggressive maps within the constraints of the VRA.)

            26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

            by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 08:25:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Incumbent protection is more important (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              to officeholders.

              Regarding NY, there are other factors at play here. The Republicans desperately need to continue the incumbent protection plans in the State Senate, for without the patronage they get by control of the NY Senate the entire party collapses. They might be willing to throw as many as five Republican members of Congress under the bus in order to maintain that control. And you just can't draw district lines that combine NYC D+41 areas (NY-15 and NY-16) with Republican areas 200 to 400 miles away upstate. There are  too many voters in between.

              It might actually not be too bad to have the Rethugs in control of the NY Senate as many of them are every bit as liberal as the Democrats, particularly on fiscal issues, and they have to a great extent frozen out the TeaPartiers unlike almost every other state's Republican party. The NY Rethugs, after all, allowed the same sex marriage bill to become law.

              But then again, this may be trying to find clouds in silver linings.

              •  That was basically my point (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Even if you can draw a super-aggressive NY map that ignores the VRA and gives the Democrats a great shot at many more Congressional seats than they have now, it's pretty unlikely that it would ever happen even if the relevant parts of the VRA were repealed.  So the seats "lost" by not having such a map shouldn't be included in an estimate of the partisan "costs" of the VRA.

                26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

                by Xenocrypt on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 12:13:24 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  So why call them "Rethugs"? (0+ / 0-)

                The only Republican thug I can easily think of is an independent again, I believe: Bloomberg. And the way he's a thug is relative to Occupy Wall Street. He is certainly not in any other way an extremist, but more of a somewhat innovative establishment politician.

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 07:08:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  It was hard enough to get a 7-1 MD map (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and it was over the vehement objections of Kossack favorite Donna Edwards, who didn't want to surrender any Democratic voters in a D+30 district!

      •  the VRA elimination would hurt (0+ / 0-)

        us badly in the South, but would help us greatly in the North.

        I think it's basically a wash if Dems control the states..  

        2 more Ohio districts, 2 more California districts (if not more), 1 or 2 more Pennsylvania districts, 1 more Virginia district, 1 more Michigan district, 1 more Illinois district, etc.

        19, D, new CA-18 (home) new CA-13 (college). Economic liberal, social libertarian, fiscal conservative. Put your age and CD here :) -.5.38, -3.23

        by jncca on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 02:09:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Even if we drew all the maps in the North (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Englishlefty, Xenocrypt, James Allen

          and didn't have to worry about the VRA, I don't think we'd crack the cities that much.  Even if we legally could, I think many Democrats would be pretty upset at seeing the cities split so blatantly to spread out minority voters.  We wouldn't be drawing 60%+ minority seats, that's for sure, but politically it would be impossible to really crack those areas much below 50% minority, even without the VRA.  It would just look really bad.

          Where minority voters are more than prevalent enough in an area to have their choice of representation, it's not just the law that forces those districts, it's simple politics.  The Democrats who actually represent those cities in the state legislature would never go for a plan that denies them solid influence in city-based districts, to instead carve up their territory to prop up suburban seats.  You saw how Maryland redistricting went.  The VRA never even came up.

          •  Aside from this point (0+ / 0-)

            Which I agree with--I think it's far more likely that Republicans will have full control of redistricting across the solidly-Red Deep South than that Democrats will have full control across states like Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia.  (Not to mention that it's currently impossible for them to have control in California.)  Not that the latter is impossible, but the former is, again, much more likely in my opinion.  So, even granting the premise that the VRA costs hypothetical aggressive Democratic trifectas in Northern and Midwestern states the same number of seats that it preserves from aggressive Republican trifectas in the South, the "expected impact" of repealing the relevant provisions of the VRA might still be negative for Democrats.

            26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

            by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 08:32:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And I know that the Republicans (0+ / 0-)

              might not have had full control of some of these states since Reconstruction--but looking forward, I think it's more likely than Democrats having full control in Ohio, Michigan, or Pennsylvania.

              26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-12(now)

              by Xenocrypt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 08:36:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Keep in mind that in most of the north (0+ / 0-)

            it is probably acceptable to spread out black and hispanic Democrats under the VRA. See Page v. Bartels.

            Ok, so I read the polls.

            by andgarden on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:17:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  If the VRA had never existed you may be right, (0+ / 0-)

          but because we have political institutions which were shaped by it, I think Skaje is right.

          I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate, perhaps that's what no one wants to see. -6.38, -4.15

          by James Allen on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:54:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Voter suppression + gerrymandering (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z

      When the demographic trends are as bad for Republicans as they are, and they nevertheless continue to damage their brand with appeals to racist, know-nothing voters, they are betting the ranch on anti-democratic strategies.  In addition to gerrymandering, we see them apply widespread vote suppression tactics.  As the election draws nearer, I am sure all of that will be reinforced with dirty tricks and advertising intended to confuse and deter Democratic voters.  

      Democrats should not take it for granted that the targets of these anti-democratic efforts will know they are targeted and will see that their interests are directly damaged thereby.  Our party needs to point and shout now to make it easier to call out anti-democratic dirty tricks during the heat of the campaign's closing and to build the base's emotional response to systematic efforts to deny them their rights.  Republicans are working hard to stoke their base's anger now.  Well, I'm angry too.  If we're going to contest with people who are girding their loins, our side should not be preparing to reason together with them.  

  •  Dem-drawn maps, even in southern states (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DCal, andgarden

    would create more Dem districts than the VRA would allow. They could easily draw 7 districts in GA, 3 in SC, 2 each in LA, AL & MS. And a black candidate would have a good chance of winning every one of these districts. But now that Republicans control redistricting in these states, thank God for the VRA.

  •  Your GA-2 could go Dem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Kroning II

    Im actually working on my thesis on this now but the southwestern counties are Tallahassee exurbs that are trending blue pretty quickly, plus its paired with Valdosta (a college town). Obama underperformed in this area

  •  Kill VRA (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisJohn, Matt Z

    I believe the Roberts Court would probably kill the VRA if given the right case. Just as the Same Sex marriage case is getting there, so will a voter rights case.

    Although killing VRA would fit in the the Roberts agenda; he and his minions may be a little more cautious after declaring a non-breathing electronic printout a "person".

    Same sex marriage will probably be okayed. It is not a problem for corporations. Letting marriage for everyone stand will only piss off a few on the far religious side. The reason it goes on, it cleans up corporate books.

    Pam Bennett -6.95 -7.50

    by Pam Bennett on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:23:11 AM PST

  •  Your AL-05 would likely elect a Democrat (5+ / 0-)

    and your MS-01 would likely elect a Democrat as long as he/she doesn't get clobbered in DeSoto. Jim Hood would sail into MS-01, for example.

  •  Nice work on this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Really affirms the goodness of the VRA. Some may argue Section 5 is obsolete, but it's really not.

    Democrat, OR-01 native, Swingnut for life, and keeper of the DKE glossary.

    by SaoMagnifico on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 10:56:23 AM PST

  •  No question in my mind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen

    that the VRA helps us nationally. This wasn't always so.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 11:05:20 AM PST

  •  Legislative constraints make predictions difficult (0+ / 0-)

    (I'm aware of your caveats). There's incumbent protection, yes, but there's also the question of how racial politics would play out in the event of the VRA being abolished. Black Democrats might rebel in the event of maps weakening black districts (see: Missouri's latest round of redistricting).

    •  Unlike MO, (0+ / 0-)

      Black Democrats do not constitute a 'coalition' in the state legislature to have any meaningful input in the south. The only way they would be involved is if Republicans started to vote against their own leadership.

      •  Also (0+ / 0-)

        it should be noted in MO that one of the backstabbing state sens wasn't black (Jolie Justus from Kansas City).

        21, male, RI-01 (voting) IL-01 (college), hopeless Swingnut

        by sapelcovits on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 11:20:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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