Dramatic Increase in Competitive Districts in Special Master’s NY Map

As a proponent of competitive districts, I’m often asked how much the decline in competitive districts is due to intentional gerrymandering versus the realities of political geography, in which metro areas have become highly Democratic and rural areas highly Republican. The Special Master’s proposed congressional map for NY provides interesting insight into that issue. Under that map, NY would have 8 competitive districts. Under the map the legislature proposed, there would have been only 3 competitive districts.

Every state’s political geography is different, of course. But this shows that, at least in NY, it is possible to create maps that split fewer counties and have more compact districts than a legislatively-drawn partisan gerrymander — while still creating almost three times as many competitive districts.

Incumbents do not want competitive districts: they want to be in as safe seats as possible. The political parties do not want competitive districts (unless that’s the best they can do in certain contexts): competitive races are more costly and create uncertainty.

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