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Districts in the Deep South won by President Obama, all majority-minority

The Voting Rights Act saw one of its main enforcement mechanisms gutted last summer in the controversial and partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder. However, even without section 5 requiring many jurisdictions to pre-clear changes to the voting process section 2 remains. Through it and accompanying jurisprudence such as Thornburg v. Gingles and Barlett v. Strickland, states and other jurisdictions are effectively required to draw majority-minority districts under appropriate circumstances. Recently there has been debate about what impact these required majority-minority districts have on Democratic numbers in the U.S. House of Representatives through redistricting with some believing they result in a smaller Democratic caucus despite giving minorities more seats. In this diary I want to thoroughly dismantle that argument by mapping out plausible alternate outcomes in the absence of the VRA forcing majority-minority districts to be drawn and showing that the result is that Democrats lose many seats and are effectively shut out of contention for control of the house and especially many state legislatures.

To summarize I found that Democrats would have lost over a dozen seats in the house which would require them to gain around 30 for just a simple majority in 2014. This is largely because there are very few Democratic-drawn states to begin with and fewer with majority-minority districts. Those that have them see local political considerations augur against diluting minority strength, not the VRA. In many Republican-drawn states the majority-minority districts function to effectively pack in Democrats and protect neighboring Republican districts and thus would not be altered. However in the Deep South it would be open season on the few remaining Democratic districts. The party would also be permanently in the minority in many state legislatures with Republicans able to effectively set their minimum seat count above the number required to override vetoes. Below the fold I'll go over the states individually and map out eight of them.

First are the states where Democrats could potentially draw themselves more districts without the VRA district requirement, but the maps below are not of what the states could do without majority-minority seats. This is because Democrats already did not push for the maximal redistricting advantage even with the VRA requirement and local politics and good government sentiment would squash any attempt to dismantle or significantly dilute existing majority-minority districts. Looking at those few states where the party even had the opportunity to draw districts for itself we have:


The state has eight congressional districts and voted for President Obama with 63 percent of the two party vote. Thus one might assume an aggressive gerrymander could capture all eight seats for Democrats and one would be correct in that assumption, even while maintaining the two black-majority districts. However, Maryland Democratic pols placed a whole slew of demands upon the map: Dutch Ruppersberger wanted Aberdeen plus plus his home in northern Baltimore County, John Sarbanes wanted his home of Towson north of Baltimore, Annapolis, and some of the D.C. suburbs, Donna Edwards wanted parts of Montgomery County and pols in her district in Prince George's County didn't want their influence diluted in a primary, Steny Hoyer wanted College Park and black pols in Prince George's again didn't want their influence diluted, and finally it was taboo to split the heavily Republican Eastern Shore. When looking at the actual map it's obvious Maryland Democrats had no qualms about ugliness, but they still decided to vote sink tea party Republican Andy Harris in the Eastern Shore based 1st and make all seven other districts safe.

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(click through all maps for a larger image)

However it was possible to meet all these demands with a hyper-aggressive gerrymander that made the 1st district Democratic leaning:
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So removing the requirement for VRA districts does nothing to help Democrats here when it wasn't blocking an additional Democratic seat in the first place. Local politics in heavily black Baltimore and Prince George's County would have necessitated the drawing of two majority or near-majority black districts, but all of the other demands placed upon the map-makers, especially those of John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger (who are white), would have nixed targeting the 1st.


Democrats here hit jackpot when unpopular governor Pat Quinn nonetheless won reelection in the 2010 wave thanks to a too extreme opponent and thus gave them the trifecta to gerrymander the state. They passed a strong and effective, but not incredibly aggressive congressional gerrymander that aimed for 12 solid Democratic seats, 5 solid Republican seats, and 1 swing district. But even with the 4 VRA districts required in Chicago, they could have easily passed a more aggressive map that would have resulted in 14 solid Democratic seats to just 4 Republican ones:
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Districts 1, 2, 4, and 7 are the majority minority ones, but it's very difficult to unpack them any further. For one, the 5th and 9th to the north are already quite heavily Democratic while the 3rd to is held by Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. His ties to state house speaker Mike Madigan caused Democrats to actually move his district to the right in 2011 to insulate him from a liberal primary challenger and there would have been no desire by them to add more liberal minorities to his district. Thus even without any VRA requirement there just aren't many ways to unpack those parts of Chicago due to geography nor is there the political will to slice the Chicago suburbs into even more bacon strips combining disparate communities. So that's both Democratic-drawn states where the lack of required majority-minority districts might have increased the size of their caucus, but in both states that doesn't seem to come to fruition for reasons unrelated to the VRA.

Looking at states that weren't partisan gerrymanders, those drawn by courts, commissions, or the like, there are few that even have majority minority districts with only three worth mentioning:

The state has the model institution for combating gerrymandering with an independent multi-partisan citizens' commission. Thus the map without the VRA isn't going to look all that different in terms of partisan outcomes, but the biggest impact is the 21st district which is currently Democratic leaning and moves solidly into the Republican column when it sheds the heavily Democratic and Hispanic parts of Bakersfield. Republicans control that seat thanks to a fluke, joke of a nominee on the part of Democrats, but come 2016 this would likely represent a loss for team blue without the VRA. Other changes might occur, but I am at present unable to tinker around with California much given its size and the limitations of the otherwise highly useful and free Dave's Redistricting App.

New Jersey
There are two majority-minority districts in the state in North Jersey, but even if they were not required they would still be drawn. Democratic pols in the region would not settle for their being dismantled, but more importantly they provide very effective vote sinks for the Republicans who designed the map for 2012.

New York
The deadlocked legislature led to a start from scratch court-drawn map being implemented for the Empire State. Without the VRA forcing majority-minority districts, NYC would likely look a good deal different, however every single district save one is safely Democratic there and would remain so. The Republican-tilting 11th would likely see little change in partisanship as southern Brooklyn closest to Staten Island is already fairly Republican leaning to marginal territory. Therefore the net impact would simply be to elect some different Democrats out of NYC.

Next there are the states Republicans gerrymandered, which in total represented about half of all congressional districts and well over three times as many as Democrats did. Many of these states that have majority-minority seats, particularly outside the South would see little change without VRA districts such as:

Republicans are already pushed to the limit here thanks to the state's Fair District Amendment and the majority black seats function as very effective Democratic vote sinks so there would be no reason whatsoever to dismantle them.

It's the same situation as Florida with Republicans being stretched to the limit and the two majority black districts in Detroit already being optimally drawn for packing in Democrats.

Missouri is interesting in that a handful of Democrats crossed the floor to provide the numbers necessary for Republicans to override Democratic governor Jay Nixon's veto of their map and many Democrats at the time complained that this cost the party a seat in St. Louis, which is just not true when one tries to draw a different map. The 1st district must be about 45-47 percent black and extend into the suburbs which forced the 2nd district to become one that voted heavily for Romney, but even if the 1st doesn't have to be max-black it would barely get less Democratic, resulting in a 2nd district Romney easily carried by double digits. In short the only way Democrats are even competitive for a third district in Missouri is if they gerrymandered it.

North Carolina
Republicans drew the most aggressive gerrymander in the nation in North Carolina and as such they would have no incentive to crack the two heavily black districts they drew as they pack in Democrats so the neighboring seats can be won by Republicans.

The Ohio GOP argued that the VRA forced it to draw the heavily black 11th from Cleveland's east side down to Akron, but they would have done that regardless as it was the best way for them to pack it with Democrats and destroy the chances of then representative Betty Sutton of winning a fourth term.

Similar to Detroit, Philadelphia's black majority 2nd district is already an optimal Democratic vote sink for Republicans in a state where they nearly pushed the map to the limits and did so especially around Philadelphia.

Like many of the other states in this list, Virginia's Republicans needed the Richmond to Hampton Roads 3rd district as a Democratic vote sink to protect their neighboring districts and would still draw it in a way that just happened to be majority-black even without that being a requirement.

Finally there are the Republican gerrymanders which almost certainly would change without VRA protections for minority districts and incidentally they all happen to be in the Deep South.


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Republicans can rather easily slice apart the lone Democratic vote sink that stretched from Birmingham through the Black Belt to Montgomery given how solidly red the state itself is. While there are still a few pockets of Blue Dog strength, though they are dying out, they can be neutralized and I sincerely doubt the ability of even locally popular conservative Democrats to win districts that voted for Romney by 20 percent or more in a place as polarized as Alabama. In particular though, the 2nd district where Blue Dog Bobby Bright won an incredibly Republican open seat in 2008 then just barely lost in 2010 is no less Republican than the actual map and would have dissuaded him from running. The Democratic trending parts of the Black Belt are paired with Republican trending rural areas in the north of the state or the implacably Republican white suburbs such as in Shelby County south of Birmingham, which was the jurisdiction whose lawsuit brought about the end of VRA section 5. There would have been no reason for Republicans not to target the 7th district as all of their incumbents are protected and the state party has plenty of ambitious pols.


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Georgia Republicans actually implemented a mid-decade redistricting plan for 2006 and I believe they would be quite aggressive without the VRA. They already tried for a 10 to 4 advantage, but ran a mediocre candidate against Blue Dog incumbent John Barrow and lost. Here however it's very easy to defeat Barrow by removing heavily black and Democratic Augusta from his district which moves it to the right enough for him to have lost in 2012. In addition the heavily-black 2nd is an easy target by removing Columbus and Macon, while Georgia's massively Republican north is unpacked to flip one of the three black-majority Atlanta area districts. Every one of their incumbents retains his seat as well and the map itself doesn't look hideous to the casual observer. With all 12 of their districts voting for Romney by at least 16 percent this map would regularly send a 12-2 delegation to Congress.


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The state had to shed a district in 2012 thanks to reapportionment and if the VRA didn't protect the sole Democratic, majority-minority seat it would have been an easy one to target in 2012. At the time the black-majority district was based exclusively in the New Orleans area and thanks in part to Hurricane Katrina was by far the most underpopulated of the seven districts. It was also adjacent to two very conservative districts. Given how Louisiana itself is quite safe for Republicans aside from rare cases like incumbent Democratic senator Mary Landrieu, I see little reason why they wouldn't have targeted the last Democratic district. Here all but one district voted for Romney by 16 percent or more while the 3rd district did so by just under 14 percent, however it is trending Republican more so than the other five and has the strongest incumbent. As with Alabama, there are still pockets of local Democratic strength, but given how Sen. Landrieu is struggling to win as a three term incumbent I am doubtful Democrats would have any chance at these six districts barring another 2008 type wave. All six Republican incumbents are made safe and they avoid the member on member match up that occurred in 2012. At minimum Republicans could have made the Democratic district marginal.


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Perhaps more than the other Deep South states, Mississippi is the hardest to make every single district safe Republican. However Mississippi is probably the most racially polarized state in the country and even though Democrats have a solid floor of 40-45 percent in all four districts their ceiling is not much higher and likely sufficiently short of a majority for none of the Republicans to be threatened outside of a wave. Black turnout falls relatively more than white turnout in midterms so the three districts where Obama lost by 8 to 10 percent are going to be even harder in non-presidential years. While some may disagree that Democrats couldn't win a seat Romney won by just eight percent, that's somewhat beside the point. Even if Republicans do lose a single district to a Blue Dog, that's still a much better position than they're currently in where the last district is beyond safe Democratic. At worst, Republicans could make the 2nd district simply a swing district, but I don't see why they wouldn't target it if they could. The 4th gets about eight percent more Democratic and Gene Taylor probably would have won it in 2010, but with polarization catching up fast I strongly doubt even he could win a district that voted for Romney by 20 percent and his recent conversion to the Republican party to run for the seat again seems to indicate that he thinks so as well. All three Republican incumbents retain enough of their bases that they should be safe.

South Carolina

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In South Carolina Republicans can attack the one remaining black majority seat, but in doing so need to make every single district about as Republican as the state as even though Romney did worse in the state than Mississippi, it's less polarized and Democrats have a higher ceiling. If they're willing to draw the state into strips they can effectively flip house minority whip James Clyburn's 6th district without endangering any of the others. The 5th and 7th, the least Republican under the actual map, get no more Democratic and while the 1st becomes about three percent more Democratic, that's nonetheless a small enough amount that disgraced former governor Mark Sanford would have still won it in the May 2013 special election. With actual 2010 and 2012 election data rather than estimates, Republican professionals could draw a map that more effectively accounted for the state's regional trends, but here I tried to pair the Democratic-trending Black Belt with the Republican-trending areas of the state such as the heavily white northwest. Though some see their districts considerably altered and then freshman Jeff Duncan loses his hometown, all five Republican incumbents going into 2012 should have been perfectly fine in both the primary and general.


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The grand finale is Texas where I have the least doubt that the state Republican Party would go all out in the absence of required majority-minority districts. This is the state that got slapped down not once but twice in court cases over gerrymandering that went all the way to the Supreme Court in just the last decade. In reality the state has 24 solid red districts, 11 solid blue ones, and 1 swing district that elected a Democrat in 2012, but now Republicans could make 30 districts safe for their party while packing Democrats into just 6. Thanks in part to disproportionately low Hispanic turnout, Republicans can flip three Hispanic-heavy seats in South Texas and both of the ones in Houston and Ft. Worth. Additionally by combining the two heavily black districts in Houston into one they can flip one further seat. Every single one of their incumbents going into 2012 has a clear district to run in where they would be safe in the primary and general with all 30 being at least as Republican as Texas is overall. More up to date electoral data would allow one to draw a more precise map, but regardless it would take a lot for those currently 60 percent Romney seats in the large suburban counties to trend Democratic enough where they would be vulnerable. Amazingly enough, Republicans could have also quite easily cracked the El Paso district by having two districts divide it and the panhandle, but I doubt they would go that far. Whether or not this map might be overreach by the end of the decade, that doesn't dissuade me from believing Texas Republicans would be greedy enough to attempt something like it as they did with their blatantly VRA non-compliant map in 2011.

All in all the above states and districts would lead to a total loss of 13 Democratic seats and their being taken completely off the table. In addition one seat in California goes from one of the bluest seats held by a Republican to safely Republican by partisanship. Subsequently needing to gain 30 seats just for a bare-bones majority, Democrats would effectively be shut out of the U.S. House of Representatives for the decade and even in a 2006 size wave would have serious trouble trying to gain control of it.

Even worse than at the federal level, Republicans could engineer essentially permanent majorities in many state legislatures. In Georgia for instance Republicans have the bare number of seats for a veto-proof majority, but the bulk of Democratic seats only exist because they are VRA protected. Without black-majority districts, Republicans could easily make their floor a super-majority which would effectively destroy the benefits from Georgia's slow but steady blue trend at the state legislative level. In addition Republicans would have stood to gain considerably at the state legislative level in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin in 2012 by being able to pack and crack more majority-minority districts. Those legislatures would then be able to strongly influence the next round of redistricting in a perpetuating cycle.

Though it may have cost Democrats seats in the 1990s when majority-minority districts first started to be required and southern Democrats still regularly won conservative rural whites, that couldn't be further from the truth today when the VRA district protection is a crucial bulwark against Republican gerrymandering. There is no conflict between electing more Democrats and electing a more diverse congress with the VRA, because requiring majority-minority districts accomplishes both.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 01:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, LatinoKos, Kos Georgia, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    I hope you enjoyed this diary. If you would like to view any of the election results and estimates for the 6 Deep South maps in further detail, such as individual downballot race results by district, I have uploaded them all to google spreadsheets here.

  •  Majority-minority districts (6+ / 0-)

    Very interesting demonstration of how conventional wisdom is wrong in this case.

    •  But not always wrong, I think. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly, bear83, Taget

      I believe it was the 1990 legislative redistricting in New Jersey that un-packed several majority-minority districts and made it possible for the Democrats to win control of both houses of the legislature, which they've controlled ever since.

      •  Actually New Jersey doesn't use expliclty partisan (6+ / 0-)

        gerrymandering, instead having a bipartisan commission with an even number of Ds and Rs who then agree to a tiebreaking member. The longtime tiebreaker, the late Rutgers professor Alan Rosenthal, sided with Republicans in the 1990s and they won the legislature all decade, but sided with the Dems in the 2000s and in 2011 so we've held it ever since.

        In many cases going from a Republican to Democratic map will of course give us more seats while at the same time unpacking minority districts, because as you can see in the Georgia I drew, the 2 black-majority districts serve to pack in Democrats very effectively.

        The only time that was likely wrong was in the initial 1990s round. For instance in Louisiana and Georgia Democrats held the majority of conservative white districts and drawing new minority districts made them more vulnerable, so multiple ones lost. In fact the George Bush Sr. administration explicitly aimed to do just this by having the DoJ force "max-black" districts, such as the infamous NC-12 in North Carolina going from Durham to Charlotte. However after the 1994 and 2010 alignments, we just can't win that sort of district anymore so it can't happen like it did in 1992/1994.

  •  I do wonder how the VRA deep south states (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf, Jyrki, Odysseus, Taget

    would look if they were drawn under fair COI only considerations. Probably could not do any better than the lines with the VRA but it's moot since the Republicans have control of all of these states anyway.

    D in FL at the SSP.

    by Avedee on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:14:04 PM PDT

  •  Really enjoying this trend (7+ / 0-)

    of Daily Kos Elections Sunday longform specials. Just want to point out that in the Texas table, SSVR stands for Spanish Surname Voter Registration - a necessary metric because in most of the state, especially South Texas, a huge percentage of Hispanic people of voting age are not registered to vote (due to either being undocumented or other reasons).

    "Pillows, but no sleep / Feathers, but no birds." | Pro-transit young black urban progressive (not liberal) | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | NJ-05 | Yard signs don't vote. | $15 and a union!

    by gabjoh on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:14:48 PM PDT

  •  Sad (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadGeorgiaDem, Odysseus, Zornorph

    It's sad that in the 21st century, people are still this caught up about race. A lot of people, sadly, just voted for Obama because he's black and Romney because he's white. Who gives a toss about skin color! Racism is never gonna go away until we stop talkin about it.

    We are all Americans, and that is all that matters.

    •  What's sad is that this comment got a rec - n/t (16+ / 0-)

      "Someone just turned the lights on in the bar and the sexiest state doesn't look so pretty anymore" CA Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Texas budget mess

      by CaliSista on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 03:39:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Libertarians talking about race... smh (nt) (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CaliSista, terrybuck
      •  While I didn't rec the comment, (0+ / 0-)

        I certainly approve of the idea behind it. An America where pigment was irrelevant to politics would be a better America.

        I suspect that the comment and I would disagree as to how close we are to that goal, but the goal itself is worthy.


        "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
        "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

        by Leftie Gunner on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 12:54:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sure most would agree that's a worthy (2+ / 0-)


          An America where pigment was irrelevant to politics would be a better America.
          The problem (IMNSHO) is the statement
          A lot of people, sadly, just voted for Obama because he's black
          is framing typically espoused by clueless racially biased right wingers.  Also, the dismissive nature of writing
          Who gives a toss about skin color!
          leads me to believe this person has never personally encountered racism and is incapable of empathizing with those who have. Lastly, saying
          Racism is never gonna go away until we stop talkin about it
          is AT BEST naive but more likely indicative of somehow believing that ignoring a problem or pretending it doesn't exist will magically make it go away.

          "Someone just turned the lights on in the bar and the sexiest state doesn't look so pretty anymore" CA Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Texas budget mess

          by CaliSista on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 06:24:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This statement is undoubtedly true: (0+ / 0-)

            A lot of people, sadly, just voted for Obama because he's blackAnd nobody should hve a problem with it, at least not now.

            Having the first of your tribe become President is a huge thing. After we've had a half-dozen or so black Presidents, I'd probably be less comfortable with it, but the first one's a freebie.

            I'd feel the same way about the first Pagan or atheist.


            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 10:30:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Are you suggesting that members of (0+ / 0-)

              Obama's "tribe" (I'm assuming you mean his Black tribe and not his White tribe) voted for him because he is Black or that the electorate in general voted for him because he's Black? How do you define "a lot"? An extra 1%? 5%? 10%? 50%?

              "Someone just turned the lights on in the bar and the sexiest state doesn't look so pretty anymore" CA Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Texas budget mess

              by CaliSista on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 05:54:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  This is how outrageous the Ruchomander was (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They could have easily drawn a map that could go 8R-5D or even 9R-4D without being stupid and potentially illegal about it.  And yes, I think that map just barely passes legal standards because NC-04 is barely contiguous.

    Here's a configuration I probably would have drawn if I were a Republican.

    "Leave us alone!" -Mike Capuano

    by Christian Dem in NC on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:49:32 PM PDT

  •  Thank you giving the numbers that prove a point (7+ / 0-)

    I've tried to make for a long time. Unfortunately many liberals haven't had experience in the racially polarized deep South, and so they get drawn into ideas like the VRA hurts Democrats. The former Confederacy still has racially polarized voting unlike most of the rest of the country, without the VRA they could easily eviscerate Southern Democrats.  

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:58:01 PM PDT

    •  As an interesting follow up I would like to see (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the same map with a Democratic gerrymander of the South.

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

      by dopper0189 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:59:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not just the south (0+ / 0-)

        but also OH, PA, VA, NC, WI, MI, NJ and NY.

        I bet if the Dems were to gerrymander these states to their liking they would pick up more than 20 seats to flip the House

        This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

        by DisNoir36 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 03:11:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Far more than that even with the VRA requirement (6+ / 0-)

          going down the list you could easily get:
          OH +7
          PA +8
          VA +4-5
          NC +4-5
          WI +3-4
          MI +5
          NJ +4
          NY +3-4
          That comes out to 38-42 seats in just those states! In those 6 Deep South states Democrats could draw themselves 3 in Alabama, 8-9 in Georgia, 3 in Louisiana, 2 in Mississippi, 3 in South Carolina, and at least 19 in Texas. That would be a cumulative gain of 17-18 which is the house right there.

          I've previously drawn out all of the above except for Ohio and Michigan, but I know those two could easily be done.

        •  I agree... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dopper0189, Newt, GradyDem

          The entire premise of this article is based upon the GOP held legislatures were the ones doing the reapportionment the last time around.  This is not a valid reason to keep the status quo.  Yes, if the GOP controls enough states and controls reapportionment, they do get the US House.  However, if the Dems are in the driver's seat, we would certainly benefit.  

          Also, the result of this past reapportionment is that there are many far-right leaning districts.  Without majority minority districts, the individual  districts would have less of a partisan lean, and the legislators in many instances would have to be a little more cooperative.  

          I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire in-depth analysis, and there sure was a lot of research put into it.  However, the conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans have died out because the new districts are mostly more in the extreme of one party or the other.  

          I know the advent of unlimited spending by outside groups has also taken over, but, district that were based upon regions, and not based upon the needs of individual legislator, for example in Maryland, the legislators would have to work harder to meet the needs of more diverse districts.  

    •  An argument could be made (7+ / 0-)

      That creating more biracial swing districts in the South is a way to force some politicians to try strategies that don't rely so heavily upon racial polarization.  Or it could force racial tension to be more explicit in its expression, shining a brighter light on the South.

      I've wondered if majority minority districts create problems of monoculture and if their resistance is related to opposition towards net neutrality coming from the Congressional Black Caucus.

      •  Not a bad argument... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Newt, Odysseus

        CA's "model" was mentioned in the diary. That model begins with the 2010 census redistricting. In 2000 the state was gerrymandered not for partisan advantage, but to preserve whatever incumbents were in place at the time (the D governor at the time, Gray Davis, was astonishingly weak - I voted against the recall of course but his recall should not be surprising). This resulted in some very bizarre boundaries, given the "need" to exclude Hispanic voters from Republican districts in the Central Valley, which overall is heavily Hispanic. And even then, thankfully, the execrable Richard Pombo was still tossed out on his ass.

        My original observation was MI - I remember Dems objecting to GOP "arguments" that the VRA required two Detroit-area Majority-Minority districts, despite the fact that Detroit itself doesn't fully merit a single district. Of course the claim was horseshit, as the entire point was: "the two majority black districts in Detroit already being optimally drawn for packing in Democrats", thereby excluding Democrats from any neighboring districts.

      •  I think we would just get VA style competitive (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        races between a hard right conservative and a liberal Democrat. I don't think we would get more centrist, at least in the South.

        -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

        by dopper0189 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 05:51:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not Democratic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Just because the government does a census every 10 years does not mean states can gerrymander their districts to please the party of the Governor.  This is how the wars in Ireland began with the North doing horrible gerrymanders.  Where does it say the US has to run a two-party system?  We need to protect citizens' voting rights  and not the sham democracy of the two-party captured system.

    •  Duverger's law (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LeftCoastTom, sulthernao, Newt, Odysseus

      The US is not required to have a two-party system, that is just the most stable configuration.

      The easiest way to create a multi-party scenario under our current system is for a geographically compact third party to split from one of the major parties.  That could be a southern white party that only runs candidates in the former Confederacy, so that it is still two parties, but a different two parties in different parts of the country.  It could also be the Congressional Black Caucus seceding from the Democratic Party and forming an African-American party.

      •  In fairness... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen, nimh

        A two-party system is most stable for the US because the US favors first-past-the-post elections. The US could make other choices, which would favor other partisan configurations.

        But really, overall the point seems a bit silly. At some point politics is a system under which compromises are made between the interests of various voters. The US system simply puts more responsibility on voters (responsibility which, one could argue, the "Not Democratic" complaint rejects), parliamentary systems put more responsibility on the politicians themselves to compromise. Regardless, at some level of the system, somebody has to make compromises and form coalitions.

        •  My speculation (0+ / 0-)

          Has been that a parliamentary system in the US would result in a political landscape that resembles Israel's.  In the short term, I think a parliamentary system would benefit the right-wingers by creating a more conservative voting option for people who might have voted Republican in an earlier era but want nothing to do with the Tea Party types.  A faction that would vote with progressives on social issues and topics like immigration reform but with conservatives on economic austerity and pro-corporation deregulation could end up as the kingmaker.

          •  It would benefit the left immensely (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jyrki, aseth

            because of the simple fact that the left and center (aka the Democratic Party) get a majority of votes and a minority of seats. Adding proportional representation, which you don't necessarily need to have a parliamentary system, but which is what you're referring to with Israel would screw the Republican party in that they couldn't gerrymander their way to safety.

            •  I don't understand Israel's 'system'... (0+ / 0-)

              The only thing I can figure out from their system is that Shas is the designated kingmaker, in favor of whomever promises to shovel public money to their religious schools and overlook corruption.

              •  In many countries with a parliamentary system (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jyrki, aseth, Odysseus, Skaje

                such as Israel, they don't use plurality or first-past-the-post voting where whoever has the most votes regardless of percentage wins each district. Instead they use proportional representation, where voters nationwide vote for a party instead and in Israel the threshold is 2% I believe. Most European countries set their thresholds higher at 4-5% so as to keep extremists like fascists out, but also to prevent fragmentation. One reason those parties like Shas play such a large role is that they'll side with any of the major parties in forming a majority so long as their own issues get looked after. In the United States we don't have minorities like that who are so parochial but also substantial in number.

                So if the US had used proportional representation, we'd probably have seen the Republican and Democratic parties splinter into just a few parties. Perhaps for Dems it would be the Progressives, (New) Democrats, and maybe a very small delegation of Blue Dogs, but also see the Green Party win some seats. That would've likely been enough for the majority in the house in 2012 with the minority being the Republicans, the Tea Party, some staunchly Christian right-leaning party, and maybe the Libertarians.

                The best part of proportional representation is that anyone's vote can count and no party/coalition can win a minority of the vote but a majority of the seats (disregarding those below the threshold if one exists).

            •  The Democratic Party isn't 100% progressive (0+ / 0-)

              If you split that into a leftist party and a centrist party, are you sure those centrists will side with the left?

              I could easily see a scenario where neoliberal centrists side with progressives on social issues and with conservatives on economic issues.

              •  But that's not how parliamentary systems (0+ / 0-)

                usually function or would function here. For any side to win the support for a majority in the parliament and thus have one of its own as prime minister, or in this case speaker of the house, they generally hammer out a deal with a few smaller parties about what they will and won't try to pass that session. You don't see one party in the majority coalition vote with governing bloc and the minority bloc on different legislation, otherwise why would the other parties in the majority bloc agree to share power with them?

                And those neoliberal centrists you talk about don't have a whole wide range of support (for something like social security cuts, etc) so if moderate Dems decided to defect to the Republicans in their congressional voting habits, they would pay a much higher price for it by losing seats to the Progressives than they do in reality where a primary challenge is difficult and can endanger a seat.

  •  Good job with all the maps (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf

    Alabama and Texas look very solid and I have no doubt Republicans would draw those maps if there was no VRA requirement.

    Republicans could actually do more damage in Virginia, too, if they upped the black percentage of Bobby Scott's district to 62% (up to 85% Obama from 79%), which would make Forbes, Rigell and Cantor safer.

  •  The impact of this (5+ / 0-)

    would be particularly strongly felt in state legislatures. In South Carolina, the number of Dems in the State Senate could be reduced from 18 to 8, in the Georgia Senate from 18 to 13, in the Alabama Senate from 11 to 5, in the Mississippi Senate from 21 to 8, and in the Louisiana Senate from 13 to 5 (and yes, I made all those maps just to find out). Those are pretty severe reductions. We should certainly be lucky that we have the VRA.

    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

    by ProudNewEnglander on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 03:16:27 PM PDT

  •  yet CA didn't GerryMander, and the GOP collapsed. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Letting the Dems build enough to bypass Prop 13
    and become the new progressive wave.

    If you end these gerrymandered districts, it becomes
    a lot simpler to do campaigns.

  •  Why we should get rid of single-member districts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aseth, Odysseus

    Intentional gerrymandering is the worst outcome, but any drawing of district boundaries will distort the vote to some degree.

    Ideally, if a state votes 49% Democratic, 45% Republican and 5% Libertarian, and 1% all other, the delegates of that state should approximately equal that: say 50% D, 45% R, 5% L. Or for a state with 20 Reps, 10 D, 9 R and 1 L.

    I wonder how far we could use Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution:

    The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of [choosing] Senators.
    Could Congress impose uniform requirements for federal elections? (A mandate that is arguably required by Bush v. Gore as well). Probably can't require multi-member districts for the House, but it's worth considering if we increase the size of the House.
    •  while it may not end up with worse (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      outcomes, I'd hate to see the changes that would result from a system like that which didn't account for minority representation. Would Democrats or Republicans establish racial quotas for their candidate slates in order to provide for representation/appeal to minority groups?

      "I join Justice Ginsburg's dissent in full." - Clarence Thomas in Philip Morris USA v. Williams

      by James Allen on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:30:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outlaw Gerrymandering (0+ / 0-)

    Isn't all that an exhaustive way of saying that Republican gerrymandering by race lets them control the House by over 45 seats even when they lose the popular House vote by over 3%?

    That sounds like the kind of detailed study that should underpin all kinds of political science academia for years, until there's a simple way of communicating to Americans they're getting shafted by it. And replacing interest-conflicted redistricting with something either objective, or actually (small d) democratic.

    I favor letting each zipcode vote for which of the adjacent zipcodes it's most associated with as a Congressional District, in order, in every annual election. Every 10 years take the average of those votes and set the districts according to those associations, allocating the state's districts by the local preferences. But set the change for after the election 4 years from that date, to give voters a couple cycles to pass laws (and elect reps) who could pass an override, if voted and approved in two consecutive elections.

    It's slightly complicated, but not nearly as complicated as gerrymandering. And it seems to fix the problem entirely in favor of the will of the people to decide their district within practical limits, before they vote for who represents it.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:13:51 PM PDT

  •  Appreciate this (7+ / 0-)

    It illustrates what those of us who've played with the numbers already knew. If the Republicans had free reign in the south, they could grab more.

    And in the north, even when Democrats are in control, incumbent protection easily protects minority voting rights.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:25:35 PM PDT

  •  I think politics needs to be out of districting. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chrississippi, Odysseus

    If the nation had a standard method of drawing up districts that was unbiased and uniform, then let the chips fall where they may. The house is intended to represent the people not the party. I think what is a problem to many though is that many red districts have a pretty large blue populace whereas the largely blue urban areas do not have as many red voters. Since every district represents around 600-700k people, it is possible to see many majorities in divided districts swing either way. If the left or right continues to pick voters as they do then the House is really not a reflection of the voters as much as the candidates or parties. One cannot have it both ways and stand on ethical grounds. While I would abhor a house that is perpetually red, if that is how the districts turn out, then it is up to the left to sell their ideas to those seats where they have a chance.

    Do facts matter anymore?

    by Sinan on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:28:21 PM PDT

  •  That SI has to be matched to Bay Ridge is a myth. (0+ / 0-)

    There has never been any such thing as "bridge contiguity."  Staten Island was only connected in it's current situation as part of Republican gerrymanders.

    Paul Ray only defeated Democrat James Murphy in the Staten Island seat because Republicans placed Republican leaning Bay Ridge in the district.  When Democrats in the 60s were able to take Bay Ridge out again and swap in another part of Brooklyn (Flatlands) way to the east of it John Murphy took the seat back for the Democrats.  And in the 1970s it was solidified by swapping that out for Manhattan.  Only after Murphy lost in a fluke due to Abscam and the Reagan landslide did Bay Ridge get tossed back in.  Which kept it in Republican hands until Fosella's downfall and Bay Ridge's demographic changes helped Michael McMahon take it.

    But note to all would be redistricting map makers.  There is no rule nor even tradition that requires you to link Staten Island to the part of Brooklyn just across from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  The only reason for the current configuration is purely partisan.

    The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

    by Taget on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 05:21:34 PM PDT

    •  Care to elaborate? I thought the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jyrki, Taget

      New York maps proposed by Common Core that were the basis for the court's map were fairly non-partisan, but I don't have an authoritative knowledge of New York's urban geography.

      What would you replace those parts of Brooklyn with and why would they be a better fit than what the court drew?

      •  A court generally doesn't rock the boat. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stephen Wolf

        So it'll keep things intact.  And they chose a path where they eliminated one seat held by a Republican and one by a Democrat.  If they had anything in mind besides touching as little as possible to get as few people as angry as possible they might have done something about the monstrosity that is Jerry Nadler's district.

        The district stayed about the same with Bay Ridge because that is how it has been since it was tacked on to help keep Molinari in office.  Not because it has to be that way.

        As for what would be a better fit.  It depends on your criteria.  Eastern Queens having the least public transportation and most single family homes would in many ways be the most analagous and would also be too far away geographically to make any sense whatsoever.

        The current layout includes some similarities ethnically to mid-island with it's mix of Russians and Italians.  If you were to take the district north instead and included Sunset Park and Red Hook you'd have portions far more similar to the North Shore of Staten Island.  If you included Southern Manhattan you'd have a district which included where many people in Staten Island work.

        Eastern Brooklyn could be justified just as well as Western Brooklyn.  And historically the district has had Eastern Brooklyn instead of Western Brooklyn.  I can't find a copy of a map of the districts back in the 1960s.  But I'd be curious to see how much overlap there is between the district John Murphy represented when he won in 1962 and the southern part of the district Hakeem Jeffries represents now.

        The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

        by Taget on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:30:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Bay Ridge doesn't have anything more in common (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stephen Wolf, Taget

        with SI than does Park Slope. If you place Park Slope (and other brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods) with SI rather than Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst you (1) would have an SI based district that Obama won by about 20 points and (2) wouldn't interfere with VRA requirements because the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods whiter than is Bay Ridge Bensonhurst.

        28, originally OK-1, currently NY-10. Former swingnut.

        by okiedem on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:47:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Solution to the wrong problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Berkeley Fred, aseth

    The problem is single member districts.  As long as we draw district lines, we're going to have problems with gerrymandering.  The gerrymandering will be designed to overrepresent one party, or to overrepresent whites, or to overrepresent some other privileged group.  Creating majority-nonwhite districts (by gerrymandering) doesn't fix the problem in a permanent way.

    What we should be demanding is multi-member congressional districts, where we elect two or three or a dozen representatives from the district, by proportional representation.  If that were in place, gerrymandering would be permanently eliminated.

    There would be some desirable side effects as well.  In a close election, a third party candidate wouldn't be able to tip the election to a guy like Maine Governor LePage, who could never have won a two-way race.

    •  Trouble is those can still be gamed (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nimh, James Allen, Jyrki, Odysseus

      and would have to be huge to allow for proportional representation. Japan uses a lot of multi-member seats with just 3 members so in effect the majority party gets an advantage when they're winning each district with a small majority yet receiving 2/3rds of the representatives. Another problem is minority interests which is why we don't have multi-member seats at the state legislative level anymore in North Carolina since larger seats resulted in proportionally fewer minorities and violated the VRA.

      I'd much rather us do what the German Bundestag does with roughly half the seats by single member district and the other half by party list while expanding Congress to about 650 members or so. That way the districts can be of similar size to what they are now yet Congress much more representative of voters' preferences.

      On the other hand, multi-member districts are a fantastic idea for local elections where parties are not strong or where partisanship aligns poorly with the actual issues of the day.

      •  I hate party lists. (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't thought about it enough to design a better way, but I would explicitly have voters choose in some way each individual who goes to Congress.

        Maybe each district would have a specific vote for a specific candidate, and a second section where a specific member of the party list must be selected.  This would allow voters to at least determine the rank on the party list.

        It's probably susceptible to demagoguery - candidates who are "unelectable" in head-to-head races would become the members of the party list.  It probably has other problems.

        But I really really really really dislike the "smoky rooms" aspect of party lists.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:49:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Big districts yes, party lists no (0+ / 0-)

        I don't have a problem with huge districts.  In fact I think every multi-member Congressional district ought to be statewide, so state politicians don't have ANY district lines to meddle with.  I have much more in common with voters in eastern Iowa than I have with my neighbors in western Iowa, who have been reelecting Steve King.

        Party lists wouldn't be the best way to do proportional representation, because there's much more for voters to consider than party affiliation.  You want the voters to be able to choose individuals, and you want the proportional representation to be effective along many dimensions at once.  For example, if forty percent of the voters are for marriage equality and think it's important enough to vote that way, then forty percent of the seats in this multi-member district should go to people who believe in marriage equality, regardless of party.  

        The Hare voting system, aka Single Transferable Vote, provides that kind of outcome.  You rank the candidates by preference.  If your first choice is a clear winner---e.g., she has more than 10% of the first-choice votes in a race to fill 10 seats---then the excess ballots are transferred to the voters' second choices, and so on.  If I'm in a faction that has 40% of the voters, then our first four choices will go to Congress.

        Of course there are going to be incumbents of both major parties who oppose proportional representation, which amounts to a confession that they don't think they can win a fair election.

    •  ...that would be something very different... (0+ / 0-)

      ...and would really make for a messy huge total group of folks representing districts. And it could lead to even more polarization. I suspect it would be gamed in a very short time...

      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences. -7.38; -3.44

      by paradise50 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:47:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What would happen with swing districts? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You can draw two Obama districts each out of Mississippi and Alabama, without the VRA and simply using geography. Technically, they could all go Republican, but only in midterms, because in presidential years, they would probably vote Democratic.

    Such districts would require Republicans to nominate moderate candidates to have a chance at winning outside of a midterm, and there aren't many moderate Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama.

    27, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 10:11:40 PM PDT

  •  California - I think you're wrong. (0+ / 0-)

    Please remember that there are 5 state prisons and a military base (NAS LEMOORE) in CD 21. A lot of the population in the CD21 can't vote. I can't find my numbers but I recall calculating that approximately 40,000 people in CD21 are incarcerated.  I would also argue that if the incarcerated population of CD21 is removed from consideration for CVAP purposes , as it should, the validity of CD21 as Section 5 district becomes questionable.

     If straight COI & section 2 were used to draw the CD lines in the southern valley McCarthy (CD23) would capsize either immediately or in the very near term. The eastern portion (high desert) of Kern County would probably get drawn in to 24 or 10 and all of metro Bakersfield would be held together along with Arvin, Lamont, Wasco, Delano and  McFarland.

  •  I'm not sure why, but (0+ / 0-)

    it seems to me that all of the commenters here are downplaying the obvious take from this diary in their desire to talk about the minutiae of the numbers games that can be played. (Maybe it is so obvious that it doesn't need addressing?)
    This is a disastrous outcome of the SC ruling, and one that will destroy our chances of regaining some semblance of sanity in our country for decades to come. A Republican-held House (abetted for those decades to come by Republican-held state governments) means that the way our country is right now is the best we can expect it to be. That to me is such a sad statement that it causes me to despair that I will love long enough to see any reversal of America's destruction, if any occurs . . .

    "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

    by bryduck on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 09:28:00 AM PDT

    •  You're probably correct... (0+ / 0-)

      ...both on the Supreme Court ruling and the potential for awful outcomes.  Some of it having to do with Democrats needing to pay more attention to state legislative races in red states.

      As for nitpicking.  This was no doubt a great diary.  We just enjoy doing it because we're a squirelly and disagreeable lot. ;)

      The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

      by Taget on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 11:16:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One More Reason to Elect another Democratic Prez.. (0+ / 0-)

    ..and turn the Supreme Court.  Then set the lawyers loose on building a case for eliminating partisan redistricting altogether.  In California, despite dem assertions that going non-partisan would help repubs, turns out that although dem incumbents were hurt, overall it was good for us.  Worked fine in AZ, too.  North Carolina may be the worst and Dems have themselves to blame.  They took the Governor out of the equation.  So in 2011 a dem Governor had no voice.  So it won't matter if there is another dem governor in 2021, the locked in repugs will still be there and will just redistrict as they see fit.  The 2010 election will still be affecting NC in 2040 or 2050 no matter how blue the state might get.  All this means to me is that a favorable SCOTUS ought to be able to find reason to overturn redistricting.  SCOTUS has cured other injustices in this area like "one man one vote", after all.

    •  Actually Dems didn't take the gov out (0+ / 0-)

      they just never put the gov in. North Carolina had no gubernatorial veto from statehood until 1997, when the Republican state house and Democratic state senate changed the state constitution in what I'm assuming might have been some sort of compromise involving other matters. But yes I think we're screwed for a very long time in North Carolina, at the very least until 2032 barring some massive Dem wave happening in 2020 and even then a majority in either chamber is very tough. Taking the US Supreme Court would be a great way to try to end it. Justices Stevens was pretty ready to rule against partisan redistricting the last time a major case came before them when he was on the court.

  •  Majority minority districts (0+ / 0-)

    Although Democrats could lose a few seats, there would likely be significantly fewer radicals holding seats in the south without these gerrymandered minority "super districts". If instead of one district in a state like Louisiana with overwhelming minority population you had three districts with, say, 45% minority populations, more congressmen would be forced to pay attention to the needs of their minority constituents. In fact, Democrats may even be competitive in some of these new swingy districts.

  •  These maps are nonsense (0+ / 0-)

    Districts are based on VOTER REGISTRATION/AFFILIATION and NOT on who they voted for in the last presidential election.

    Any maps based on such a metric automatically is WRONG.

    In the South this is particularly true

    There are plenty of Democrats who for obvious reasons refused to vote for President Obama, but with a different candidate would have done so.

    Does that mean there would suddenly be Democratic majorities, absolutely not.

    What it does mean is, because President Obama is extremely unpopular in the Red States, assuming Democratic strength based on those #s underestimates the # of people who would vote Democrat in local, state and national elections when he is not part of the deal.

    Just enough to ensure the horror maps you draw are ludicrous.

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