With ratings like these for political cards, Texas won’t make the honor roll
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Republican lawmakers in Texas and Democratic lawmakers in Illinois have one thing in common: When it comes to drawing new political maps, they don’t play fair.
The Redistricting Report Card, a collaboration between the Princeton Electoral Innovation Lab and RepresentUS, gives Texas’ new congressional card an F for partisan fairness, claiming it is drawn for “a significant Republican advantage.”
The Congress map performed better in terms of competitiveness, earning a C. But it got another F for geographic features, with evaluators saying there are a lot of non-compact districts and more districts divide them. counties as needed. In this case, a C is “medium for the category, could be better, but could also be worse”, and an “F” is “bad for the category, could be much better”.
With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and Republicans in every state office, it’s fair to say that Republicans are responsible for these results.
Democrats would never do that, would they?
Turn your attention to the great state of Illinois. The Redistricting Report Card gives new Illinois Congress cards an F in each category: partisan fairness, competitiveness, and geography. Their governor is a Democrat, as are both houses of their Legislative Assembly. The state has 17 seats in its delegation to Congress and 14 of the districts are drawn to Democrats. Based on the results of the last presidential race, that should be more in the order of 10 Democrats and seven Republicans.
The two states illustrate the conflict of interest enshrined in their redistribution laws, which allow people who hold legislative seats to design the constituencies where they compete to keep their jobs and their party majority.
It’s designed for political majorities to maintain dominance and for incumbents of both parties to retain powerful positions, and that should come as no surprise when it works the way it’s designed to work.
The new Texas congressional map has more Democratic seats than the current map, if you measure districts by their average Democrats and Republicans support margins.
Those gains did not come from Republicans: Lawmakers, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, reduced the number of competitive districts – those with less than 5 percentage points of advantage for either party – from six to just one. The other 37 districts are solidly Republican or Democrats.
Texas currently has 13 Democrats and 23 Republicans in its delegation to Congress; the new cards, which add two seats in total, have 13 districts where Joe Biden would have won in 2020 and 25 where Donald Trump would have won, according to data from the Texas Legislative Council.
If the 2020 presidential result is the measure, that delegation is expected to have around 20 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
Texas lawmakers also drew maps for themselves, now enacted by the governor and already the subject of litigation over the legality and fairness of the new districts. The ballot gives the Texas House card a C for equity and a C for geographic features, but an F for competitiveness. This is an indication that the cards have been drawn, as much as possible, to favor one party or the other – not to organize fights for the general election that both sides could win. Overall, this still favors Republicans, but not to the extent that the Congress card does.
The Texas Senate card also outperformed the state’s congressional card in partisan fairness. But the project awarded it F scores for its competitiveness and geographic characteristics. It could be more competitive, in other words, and the neighborhoods could be much more compact.
If the cards hold up – remember they are challenged in federal court – they point to many uncontested general elections for federal and state legislative seats. This shifts the focus to the primaries, which can be competitive regardless of which party has the upper hand.
These are more difficult to rig.