31 January 2004
The reptiles of redistricting
A reader (name not supplied) sent this to The Dallas Morning News, where it appeared in the editorial blog (30 January, 11:53 am):
[T]he software used by the merry mapmakers to draw up these districts, urban and otherwise, is so incredibly exacting, to the nth degree, that urban districts are drawn down to literally the very block, the very house needed to create the desired outcome in an election. The software knows who voted in which primary at each parcel of land, whether the block or residence in question went repub or dem last time, whether it is owned or rental, single-family or multi, etc, etc, etc.
The suspense, the fun, the anticipation of election day has by and large gone the way of the 10 cent cup of coffee. Only the few states that do redistricting via a non-partisan commission still have competitive congressional races.
Interestingly, the Founding Fathers envisioned the Senate being stable and the House being much more in flux (thus the six year term vs. two year term). What has happened in our modern world through partisan gerrymandering has actually flipped that notion. A House district is now often a ticket to permanence while a full statewide Senate race can be much more volatile.
Yea, verily. Although, to coin a phrase, there may be an ethnic minority hiding in this particular woodpile: as the nation becomes increasingly urbanized, more and more House districts will be comprised of more-or-less-adjacent city neighborhoods and city neighborhoods change a lot faster than do rural areas.