Saturday, November 29, 2008

On gerrymandering and redistricting in Montana

Matt Singer at LITW again repeats his argument that Republicans overperformed in the 2008 legislative elections, citing the total number of votes cast statewide.

As noted before in a previous post here, this is a deceiving number in the House races (we didn't analyze the Senate races) because the figures include races in which candidates ran unopposed.

There were more unopposed Democrats than there were unopposed Republicans in this year's elections, so this skews the vote totals towards the Democratic Party. There were additional factors that skewed the results (such as the large-scale Obama GOTV effort in heavily Democratic districts, which would include those unopposed races.)

There are a lot of ways to crunch the numbers, but we made the case that in the House races, Republicans underperformed in the number of seats they won, if anything. Singer is quite simply wrong in his claims that Republicans overperformed in the House.

One point on which we would agree: Singer says that the 2014 redistricting will "address" the problems in districting which he believes are keeping the Democrats from achieving the bicameral legislative majorities to which he seems to believe they are entitled.

(It is refreshing, by the way, that Singer straightforwardly refers to Democrats having drawn the current districts, without any pretense of it being a non-partisan or bipartisan exercise.)

With Mike McGrath on the Supreme Court, it is reasonable to suppose that we can again expect Democrats to refuse to agree with Republicans on a neutral 5th member of the commission, and it is reasonable to suppose that the Supreme Court of Montana will again appoint a partisan Democrat to that position, since our new Chief Justice has a far more partisan track record than the Chief Justice he is replacing.

Singer certainly seems to assume that the results of redistricting will favor Democrats, and he he probably right. Unless the Montana Supreme Court can be shamed into choosing a truly neutral 5th member, that is -- and that isn't particularly likely.


Eric said...

I volunteer to be the neutral member!

I will be just as fair and impartial as Janine Pease was when she applied as a Democrat, was rejected, and then was accepted as the independent.

Rasmus said...

I do realize that this post is three years old, but maybe you get an email alert or something.

Matt Singer is right- if you look at statewide contests on a State Legislative District basis, the Republican generally does better than his statewide numbers in about 27-28 Senate districts and worse in 22-23. If the redistricting were fair, it would be expected to be 25-25.

Montana Headlines said...

Readers will have to decide if your numbers are accurate. The MSU-Billings analysis showed that Republican districts as a whole have higher populations than Democratic districts -- which is at the heart of the gerrymandering strategy that the Democratic controlled committee used.

In the very next election after redistricting took effect, there was a huge swing in legislative balance toward Democrats. That redistricting reflected a conscious effort to improve Democratic chances at legislative majorities. It is a reflection of Montana's still mostly conservative makeup that Republicans have done as well as they have since then.