Very useful piece from the Virginia Pilot.
The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification to cast ballots. It was softened in August to allow people without a driver’s license or other photo ID to sign an affidavit declaring that they have an impediment to obtaining required identification.
Even after the affidavits were introduced, voters who possess an acceptable photo ID were still required to show it at the polls.
The revelations come as President Donald Trump makes frequent claims that the nation’s voting systems are vulnerable to fraud. The president has repeatedly said, without citing any evidence, that he would have won the popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally who voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
An Associated Press analysis of roughly 13,500 affidavits submitted in Texas’ largest counties found at least 500 instances in which voters were allowed to get around the law by signing an affidavit and never showing a photo ID, despite indicating that they possessed one.
Others used the sworn declarations to lodge protest statements against the law.
One affidavit from Hidalgo County, along the Texas-Mexico border, read: “Did not want to ‘pander’ to government requirement.” In Tarrant County, an election judge noted on an affidavit: “Had photo ID but refused to show it.”
“If we see that somebody blatantly says ‘I have ID’ and refused to show it, we’re going to turn that over to the D.A.,” said Stephen Vickers, chief deputy elections administrator for Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth. “If they tried to use the affidavit to get around the system, yeah, I see that as a violation.”
Today, the U.S. District Court For the Western District Of Texas ordered sanctions against the state of Texas for undue delay in our “motor voter” case, Stringer v. Pablos.
On January 24, the Texas Civil Rights Project, with co-counsel at Waters Kraus LLP, submitted a Motion to Sanction the state for repeatedly, and without justification, ignoring a federal court’s order to provide the necessary documents to move forward with the case.
In his sanctions order, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando L. Garcia found that the state’s months long delay to produce the needed documents has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming. The Court also found that the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas willfully disregarded court-ordered deadlines.
The state must now incur the reasonable expense in bringing forth the motion to compel and motion to sanction. It must also cover court reporter fees, travel expenses, and attorney’s fees.
Important Kira Lerner at Think Progress;
At the annual gathering of secretaries of state in Washington, D.C. this week, Republican elections chiefs blocked an attempt to official denounceTrump’s lie. Instead, they cited the president’s claims, telling ThinkProgress they support measures like voter ID laws, cuts to same-day registration, and efforts to make it harder to register to vote.
Alabama’s Republican Secretary of State repeated the White House’s unsubstantiated claim that thousands of out-of-state citizens cast ballots in New Hampshire, potentially handing the state to Hillary Clinton. New Hampshire’s Secretary of State defended his state’s voter accessibility while his legislature pushes for a measure that would potentially block thousands of college students from casting ballots. And Nevada’s Secretary of State said she supports voter ID laws because she has never had a problem showing an ID to vote….
Voting experts have repeated since the election that there is no proof of fraud on the level that Trump has claimed. At the National Association of Secretaries of State convention, David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, reminded the attendees that if massive fraud had occurred, they would be the first to know.
“There is a system of checks and balances in place,” he said during a panel on trust in elections. “We all know in this room that if there were massive voter registration fraud, we would have seen large numbers of flagged records that didn’t match DMV records or social security records, that we would have seen unusual levels of activity we hadn’t seen before, that we would have seen large numbers of requests for out of state mail ballots that we hadn’t seen before.”
None of that occurred, but that hasn’t stopped elections chiefs from crying fraud.
I just came across an unpublished 2012 10th Circuit opinion from Judge Gorsuch in Hassan v. Colorado. Here is the full opinion, and I’ve bolded the most important last sentence:
NEIL M. GORSUCH, Circuit Judge.
Abdul Karim Hassan is a naturalized citizen who wishes to run for the Presidency of the United States. This even though the Constitution says “[n]o person except a natural born Citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President.” U.S. Const. art. II, § 1, cl. 4. After the Colorado Secretary of State informed him that his ineligibility for office precluded his placement on the ballot, Mr. Hassan brought this lawsuit asserting that the natural-born-citizen requirement, and its enforcement through state law barring his access to the ballot, violates the Citizenship, Privileges and Immunities, and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The magistrate judge heard the case on consent of the parties and eventually concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment did not affect the validity of Article II’s distinction between natural-born and naturalized citizens. See Hassan v. Colorado, 870 F.Supp.2d 1192 (D.Colo.2012); see also Hassan v. New Hampshire, No. 11–cv–552–JD, 2012 WL 405620 (D.N.H. Feb. 8, 2012) (reaching same conclusion in Hassan’s challenge to exclusion from New Hampshire ballot). The magistrate judge granted summary judgment to defendants and Mr. Hassan appealed.
We affirm. We discern no reversible error in the magistrate judge’s disposition and see little we might usefully add to the extensive and thoughtful opinion he issued. To be sure, Mr. Hassan contends the magistrate judge overlooked one aspect of his claim. Mr. Hassan insists his challenge to Colorado’s enforcement of the natural-born-citizen requirement did not depend exclusively on invalidation of Article II by the Fourteenth Amendment. Even if Article II properly holds him ineligible to assume the office of president, Mr. Hassan claims it was still an unlawful act of discrimination for the state to deny him a place on the ballot. But, as the magistrate judge’s opinion makes clear and we expressly reaffirm here, a state’s legitimate interest in protecting the integrity and practical functioning of the political process permits it to exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from assuming office. See generally Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 193–95, 107 S.Ct. 533, 93 L.Ed.2d 499 (1986); Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 145, 92 S.Ct. 849, 31 L.Ed.2d 92 (1972).
The judgment of the district court is affirmed. Appellant’s motion for publication is denied.
Richard Winger pointed to the campaign finance decision in Riddle as a good one for minor parties. This one is less good.
UPDATE: Richard Winger weighs in.
The next few days should be great at this event.
Durbin, D-Ill., also said Gorsuch indicated support for criminal justice reform — a Durbin priority — and disavowed a 2005 National Review article he’d written criticizing Democrats and liberals.
“He said it was probably one of the biggest mistakes he ever made,” Durbin recalled Thursday. “It’s a terrible article. He wishes it would just disappear.”
Here is a snippet from the article:
There’s no doubt that constitutional lawsuits have secured critical civil-rights victories, with the desegregation cases culminating in Brown v. Board of Education topping the list. But rather than use the judiciary for extraordinary cases, von Drehle recognizes that American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary. In the legislative arena, especially when the country is closely divided, compromises tend to be the rule the day. But when judges rule this or that policy unconstitutional, there’s little room for compromise: One side must win, the other must lose. In constitutional litigation, too, experiments and pilot programs — real-world laboratories in which ideas can be assessed on the results they produce — are not possible. Ideas are tested only in the abstract world of legal briefs and lawyers arguments. As a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide.
So what does he think is the “big mistake” here? What does he no longer believe? The answer would be illuminating as to the judge’s approach to access to the courts and constitutional rights.
John Nichols for the Nation:
Robert Kengle, the deputy chief of the Voting Section, said he left his position because of the extreme politicization of the department during the time of Acosta’s leadership. Kengle said the controversial letter brief in the Ohio case amounted to “cheerleading for the Republican defendants.” “It was doubly outrageous because the allegation in the litigation was that these were overwhelmingly African-American voters that were on the challenge list,” he explained to the McClatchy Newspapers DC bureau, which reported in 2007 that “Former Justice Department civil rights officials and election watchdog groups charge that [Acosta’s] letter sided with Republicans engaging in an illegal, racially motivated tactic known as ‘vote-caging’ in a state that would be pivotal in delivering President Bush a second term in the White House.”…
President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke said she was “astonished by the nomination of Alexander Acosta to serve as Secretary of the US Department of Labor.” Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
“Mr. Acosta led the Civil Rights Division at a time that was marked by stark politicization, and other improper hiring and personnel decisions that were fully laid to bare in a 2008 report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG),” said Clarke. “The OIG found that actions taken during Mr. Acosta’s tenure violated Justice Department policy and federal law. Political and ideological affiliations were used as a litmus test to evaluate job candidates and career attorneys, wreaking havoc on the work of the Division. This egregious conduct played out under Mr. Acosta’s watch and undermined the integrity of the Civil Rights Division. It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces.”
Scot Mussi: Clean Elections has reached a dead end
We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It is’s disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.
I thought representatives represent everyone in their area.
New draft paper by Sonja West that looks great (and explores some of the issues I did in Plutocrats United). Here is the abstract:
In the 2010 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court caught the nation’s attention by declaring that corporations have a First Amendment right to independently spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. The Court rested its 5-4 decision in large part on a concept of speaker-based discrimination. In the Court’s words, “the Government may commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers.”
To drive home its point that speaker-based distinctions are inherently problematic, the Court focused on one type of speaker distinction—the treatment of news media corporations. The Court assumed that there is no constitutional difference between media corporations and other corporations and that if the government were able to limit the speech of some corporations, then it would also be free to censor the speech of media corporations. This was a thought that the majority called “dangerous, and unacceptable” and that Justice Antonin Scalia said “boggles the mind.” To the Citizens United majority, the news media corporation example settled the question on corporate speech rights, because any other rule would be unconstitutional speaker-based discrimination and open the doors for regulation of the news media.
But was the Citizens United Court correct about the media corporation dilemma? Is the government no more able to regulate the expressive activities of Exxon Mobil Corp. than it is of the New York Times Company? Must all speakers be treated uniformly whether or not they are members of the press? And does the Press Clause (and not just the Speech Clause) play a role in this analysis?
In this article, I push back on the claim that the First Amendment prohibits speaker-based classifications by the government. Rather than ban such distinctions, the Press Clause traditionally has worked in support of differential treatment for the press. History, court precedent and legislative practice, moreover, demonstrate how favoritism for press speakers has been condoned and often encouraged.
This debate over the meaning of the Press Clause could have significant ramifications. A jurisprudential drift of press rights away from a protection of core press functions and toward a constraint on the ability of the government to recognize the differing roles of press speakers could significantly threaten the vital structural safeguards of the Fourth Estate.
North Carolina has filed its reply brief in the North Carolina voting case, and the Supreme Court is set to review it at its March 3 conference. (If the Court does grant review, it typically takes at least two conferences before that announcement is made.)
A few weeks ago, I wrote at Slate that “in the short term, there’s one simple action that could make voting rights a bit more secure: Roy Cooper, the new Democratic governor of North Carolina, and the state’s new Attorney General Josh Stein should withdraw a petition for writ of certiorari pending at the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s decision striking down North Carolina’s strict voting law.” I followed that up with a blog post stating that NC law was not clear on whether the Governor had the authority to withdraw the petition, but at the least he could put in a letter expressing his disagreement with the argument that the Supreme Court should review the case.
The governor and AG were non-committal, and now it appears they’ve filed nothing. Without explanation. And with a lot riding on this. By the time the Court would hear the case, we likely will have a Fifth conservative Justice and this important opinion could be reversed.
A filing due next month in a key Supreme Court case could provide the first indication of whether the Trump administration will seek to uphold or challenge longstanding campaign finance laws that restrict unlimited “soft money” contributions to political parties (Republican Party of Louisiana v. Federal Election Commission, U.S., No. 16-865, jurisdictional statement filed 1/6/17).The Supreme Court has set a deadline of March 13 for the Justice Department to file a response to a jurisdictional statement seeking review of a lower-court decision upholding current Federal Election Commission limits on party soft money. The response is expected to be filed on behalf of the FEC by the Office of U.S. Solicitor General, now headed by Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco.President Donald Trump hasn’t yet named a permanent Solicitor General, the top DOJ official in charge of representing the government before the Supreme Court. Whoever is nominated would have to be confirmed by the Senate, making it unlikely that the new solicitor general will be in place by the time the government’s response to the soft-money challenge is due.Francisco, who’s currently holding the job came from the law firm Jones Day, where he represented former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) before the Supreme Court in a major corruption case decided last year. The high court sided with McDonnell in that case and overturned his conviction related to accepting gifts from a Virginia businessman.
Very interesting data from NHPR:
In the 2016 general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office, Election Day registrants of all kinds made up about 11 percent of all ballots cast. Within that, first-time New Hampshire voters made up 6 percent of all votes in November — and, within that, first-time voters who registered without a New Hampshire driver’s license made up less than one percent.
When people talk about the potential for “voter fraud” in New Hampshire, they often point to the idea that the state allows people to register on Election Day and to use out-of-state licenses. But that alone doesn’t mean those voters are doing anything illegal.
There are reasons why someone might legitimately register to vote with an out-of-state license – most obviously, they could have moved to the state recently or could be attending college here. (The state makes clear that out-of-state students attending college in New Hampshire are allowed to vote here, as long as they aren’t also voting in another state.)
To register with an out-of-state license, you still have to prove that you hold domicile in the state – using a utility bill or lease, for example, or by signing an affidavit affirming you actually live where you’re trying to vote. See here for more details on what’s required for first-time voters to register in New Hampshire.
According to the data provided by the Secretary of State’s office, 5,903 people newly registered to vote in New Hampshire using an out-of-state license on the day of the last election.
The federal bribery charges against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in no way intrude on legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause, the Justice Department said this week, urging the Supreme Court not to take up the lawmaker’s appeal….
Petitioner has not cited any decision, by any court, holding that the Clause protects conduct like that alleged here,” several solicitors general wrote in a brief filed on Monday. “Instead, he contends … that the court of appeals erred by examining the ‘purpose’ or ‘motive’ of his lobbying. But the court conducted that inquiry only because it adopted petitioner’s view that the Speech or Debate Clause protects efforts to lobby the Executive Branch if those efforts are aimed at ‘policy’ rather than a particular case.”
I don’t think they meant “several solicitors general”
Sherillyn Ifill oped for WaPo.
Jamelle Bouie for Slate.
Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nielson for The Monkey Cage:
When we compare overall turnout in states with strict ID laws to turnout in states without these laws, we find no significant difference. That pattern matches with most existing studies. But when we dig deeper and look specifically at racial and ethnic minority turnout, we see a significant drop in minority participation when and where these laws are implemented.
Hispanics are affected the most: Turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states. Strict ID laws mean lower African American, Asian American and multiracial American turnout as well. White turnout is largely unaffected.
These laws have a disproportionate effect on minorities, which is exactly what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to have valid photo ID.
Karen Hobert Flynn of Common Cause with this US News oped.
NPR talks to Ellen Weintraub.
I think it is great that the Commissioner is bringing more attention to false claims of voter fraud, but the subject is not within the purview of the FEC, which deals with campaign finance issues.
Important Bauer on how election administration experts should respond to the Pence Commission:
This leaves members of this community with a couple of choices.
One is declining to participate: no testimony, no written submissions. The Commission will want to say that it consulted experts around the country. It will be useful in limiting the harms of this project to show that this is not true. By refusing to support the inquiry, community members will be protected against the linkage of their names to the Commission’s work, a connection accomplished by the mere fact of their showing up.
Or now, prior to the institution of the Commission, members of this same community can respectfully and publicly request that the Administration reconsider this ill-fated venture. If the President or Vice President or Stephen Miller, or all, are worried about the quality of electoral administration, they can support the reform program now in progress in state and local governments, supported by nonpartisan nonprofit organizations. Miller seemed entirely unaware of this work in his remarks on ABC about inaccurate voter registration records, and this is not the only part of the story he is uninformed about. Experts around the country can tell that story, the whole story,in disputing the premise of the proposed Commission.
This public case may not be successful in giving the Administration pause. But it would at least help to shape public judgment of the Commission’s purposes and legitimacy; it would become an indispensable part of its history. And it is the only contribution to that history that experts and officials with names to protect and a serious job to do would want to have anything to do with writing.
Justin Elliott for Pro Publica.
At Rick (Hasen)’s request, I wanted to add just a bit to Rick (Pildes)’s original post on the new paper by Jowei Chen and David Cottrell, proposing a means to assess the net partisan consequences of congressional redistricting.
Given the inevitable shorthand descriptions of the paper in the media, a few short suggestions:
Most important, this paper does not mean that the benefits and detriments of the status quo are basically a wash. (Though some might draw that conclusion from the summary, I also don’t think that’s the implication that either Rick or the original authors would draw.) More on why, below the cut.
If President Trump, or anyone else, wants to get on the New Jersey ballot to run for president in 2020, he could have to release his tax returns, if some Democratic lawmakers have their way.
Whether legislators have that power was an open question Monday, as the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would require candidates for president and vice president to disclose their federal income tax returns in order to appear on the state’s ballot.
Riveting, must-read by Brody Mullins in the WSJ, with the subhead: “Evan Morris, a high-flying corporate lobbyist, is suspected of embezzling millions of dollars in what is shaping up to be a sprawling Washington influence scandal.”
“I thought I was doing something right for my country. When they gave me the sentence they just broke my heart, and they didn’t just break my heart, but I already knew my family was going to be broken, my kids especially,” Ortega said Monday during an interview at the jail, where she will remain for about a month until being transported to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility. “To me, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this. I just can’t.’ ”
As a green-card holder, Ortega says she never thought she couldn’t vote. While a resident of Dallas County, Ortega received a voter card after providing a valid driver’s license and Social Security card and being approved through the state process, according to Toni Pippins-Poole, the Dallas County elections administrator.
Today, voting rights groups Demos and Project Vote urged a federal appeals court to uphold a decision dismissing an attempt by the so-called “American Civil Rights Union” (ACRU) to force the City of Philadelphia to conduct an unnecessary purge of its voter rolls. In an amicus curiae brief prepared by the law firm Hogan Lovells, filed in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the groups argue that ACRU’s attempt to turn the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) on its head, to force a voter purge targeting people with felony convictions, is legally untenable and will result in countless eligible Philadelphia voters being disenfranchised.
Whether or not you believe that voting fraud is a problem in the U.S., one thing is certain: Tidying up outdated voter rolls is sometimes easier said than done. Just ask election officials in the nation’s largest city.
After an independent review found that New York City’s voting lists contained people who were dead or in prison, elections officials began an aggressive purge in 2014 and 2015 that eliminated more than 200,000 supposedly invalid registrations.
The result? A record number of complaints during the 2016 presidential primary from legal voters who turned up to cast a ballot, but found that they were no longer registered.
New York City’s bungled purge offers a cautionary tale for elected officials, led by President Donald Trump, who warn that inaccurate voter rolls are leading to voter fraud across America.
“It is a fact and you will not deny it.”
That unnerving remark — made on Sunday by Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to President Trump — sums up the new administration’s attitude toward the truth: We Decide, You Report.
Mr. Miller made the comment at the end of a heated back-and-forth with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who had asked him to defend Mr. Trump’s latest claim of voter fraud — that his narrow loss in New Hampshire was due to voters who had been bused in illegally from Massachusetts. When Mr. Stephanopoulos pressed him for even a single example of fraud, Mr. Miller responded: “George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time.”
News and Observer report.
A federal voting rights lawsuit challenging the election scheme in a North Carolina county was filed today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The complaint was brought on behalf of voters in Jones County, North Carolina by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with law firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Patterson Harkavy LLP. The lawsuit alleges that the county’s method of electing its Board of Commissioners—the five-member body that makes critical and wide-ranging decisions impacting Jones County residents—dilutes the voting strength of its African American voters, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Because the county employs an “at-large” system, all Commissioners are elected county-wide. In Jones County, voting remains racially polarized and white voters historically vote as a bloc to defeat candidates of choice supported by the African American community. As a result, African American voters have not been able to elect a candidate of their choice to the Board of Commissioners since 1994, though they comprise nearly a third of the county’s voting-age population. The result, according to the complaint, is the “systemic neglect” of the needs of African Americans in Jones County.
In 2013, the Business Roundtable — a nonprofit trade association for the nation’s leading CEOs and one of the country’s most powerful lobbying forces — made clear its stance on corporate political transparency.
“Corporations do NOT support increased political and lobbying ‘disclosure,’” then-Business Roundtable President John Engler declared to Fortune 500 business leaders in a letter co-signed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.
But the Business Roundtable’s hard line on corporations volunteering information about their political activities appears to have blurred — at least a bit.
In its latest “Principles of Corporate Governance” report, the Business Roundtable encourages corporate members to decide for themselves whether to publicly disclose political activities, such as contributing cash to so-called “dark money” nonprofit groups that aim to influence elections without revealing who funds them.
It is possible, as I said in my original piece on McGahn, that the many White House screw-ups outlined above are less a result of McGahn’s incompetence and more a result of his lack of access to the President. If that is so, then the blame is partly the Chief of Staff’s, and McGahn needs to insist that the problem be fixed or resign. I doubt this is the problem, however, since McGahn was Trump’s campaign lawyer and by all accounts remains a close senior advisor. A related problem may be that Trump is simply a rogue elephant whom no chains can bind, and that McGahn is giving Trump appropriate advice that is having no impact on his behavior. I doubt that is a full explanation either, since (among other reasons) many of the problems outlined above cannot have been a result of Trump’s intransigence.
It thus appears that the problems noted above are less about access or influence, and more about McGahn’s substance and style. McGahn is reportedly “an iconoclast bent on shaking things up.” Unfortunately for the President, that is not an attractive quality in a White House Counsel, whose main job is to ensure that the President and the White House steer clear of legal and ethical and related political problems.
This puts on hold the move of the Republican legislature to deprive the governor’s party of a majority on the state and local election boards, just as a Democratic governor came in. (The new rules, on hold, also gave Republicans the chair of new bipartisan boards in even years, when Presidential, Senate, and congressional elections all take place.)
This likely only was put on hold thanks to the fact that Democrats took back control of the state supreme court in the last election as well.
WMUR: “Gov. Chris Sununu said Monday he is unaware of widespread voter fraud in the Granite State, but he said he wants to work with President Donald Trump’s administration to ‘learn of any evidence they may have.'”
George Brown has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Virginia Journal of Criminal Law). Here is the abstract:
The article begins with a discussion of the critique in order to put McDonnell in context. In particular, I examine what is new in the debate over how the federal government should handle possible corruption, and the extent to which McDonnell is part of that shift. Part I explores the critique in depth. Part II analyzes the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell and its background. As a unanimous decision, McDonnell may be of great significance in how the legal system treats the federal government’s role. Part III offers some speculation on the federal anticorruption enterprise going forward.
That is the finding of an important new paper co-authored by one of the leading social science experts on districting, Professor Jowei Chen. In recent years, a debate has been taking place over whether it is particularly aggressive Republican gerrymandering in the 2010 round of redistricting or increasing geographic sorting of voters by partisan affiliation that explains the Republican “advantage” in the House — the fact that Republicans gain a larger percentage of House seats than their nationwide share of votes in House elections.
Chen and David Cottrell frame their inquiry as an effort to answer how many seats each party would control in the complete absence of gerrymandering. I won’t explain their full methodology here, but it basically consists of doing hundreds of computer simulations to measure the election results in differently designed districts, in which the building blocks are election-return results from the 2008 presidential election, all the way down to the Census block level. The computer is then told to start randomly at different points in the state and design equally populated, geographically continuous, and compact districts. The simulations do not take partisan or racial information into account. This method of using thousands of computer simulated districting plans based on objective criteria is increasingly being offered by experts, including Chen, in litigation.
Their bottom line finding is that if congressional “districts were drawn randomly with respect to partisanship and race, Republicans would only expect to lose a single seat in Congress to the Democrats.”
They do find that there are modest partisan gains from gerrymandering in individual states. But the gains to each party cancel out, in their analysis. Thus, they find that Republicans gain about five seats in states in which they controlled the redistricting process in this cycle. In states Democrats controlled, they gained about three seats. And once race is taken into account through the way the requirements of the VRA pre-clearance process demanded preservation of VRA districts, the Democrats gained another 1.75 seats compared to what a process based just on contiguity, compactness, and equal population would tend to produce.
This is certainly not the last word on this important subject. Any complex study of this sort poses many methodological issues. And their findings for congressional districts do not necessarily mean that gerrymandering has not made a significant difference for state legislative elections. But this study provides one of the most important counters to the argument that partisan gerrymandering plays a major role in the current composition of the House.
Further debates and discussions of this issue, including in the media, are going to have to take account of this important new analysis. It is consistent with what at least some other social scientists, using different approaches, have also concluded about the limited effects of gerrymandering on the composition of the House.
Justin Elliott for ProPublica.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who voted against the legislation, told ThinkProgress it’s likely that the full House will follow through with eliminating the agency, as protecting elections has become a partisan issue in Washington.
But elsewhere in the country, things are different. While a majority of elections administrators across the country are Republicans, a number of them told ThinkProgress that they disagree with Congress’ move to scrap the EAC, and said their states would suffer without the agency.