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Posts published in “Day: April 10, 2011”

OR remap: A GOP congressional

As a Republican looks at the Oregon congressional redistricting picture, the question at hand is this: Is there a way to move the probable partisan split of the (now and future) five House districts from a 4-1 Democratic majority, to just 3-2?

It would seem not too difficult a task, in the sense that Oregon's voting population is close enough that control of 40% of the state's congressional districts ought to be out of reach. It proves a slippery goal, though.

Consider this map, posted on the Republican-leaning RedState site (not recently - this was in 2009) as a GOP option for getting from one to two districts out of five. (H/T here to the correspondent who pointed it out.) A larger version and a close-up of the metro area are available at the link.

congressional

The population split looks more or less reasonable, recognizing that it was drawn before the 2010 census was conducted.

One clearly-Republican district is, as now, easy to come by - draw in Oregon east of the Cascades and a slice of population on the west end (that would be the green district). The tricky part is the four districts on the west side. The drafter here was able to craft a district that credibly would be majority-Republican. That yellow district looks Republican and probably would be (the drafter estimates a 9% Republican advantage there). The other three districts would be solidly Democratic; there are no swings.

But see how strained the yellow district looks - using a tiny isthmus to connect interior northwest counties (such as our home of Yamhill, which is close to Portland) with the California border country. It can do that only through bypassing Lane and Benton counties and their mass of Democratic votes - a too-obvious gerrymander.

Study that map for a bit and the difficulties of moving Republican House seats in Oregon from one to two come ever clearer.

OR remap: The MultCo effect

tricounty districts
Districts in the three counties

As Oregon's legislative reapportionment hearings moved last week toward the Portland metro area, an obvious point - in legislative redistricting, if not congressional - came up: What about all those partial Multnomah districts?

Two points are most relevant to the critics of the current lines, and they raise reasonable questions. One is the political leaning of Multnomah County, Oregon's largest - and overwhelmingly, as a whole, Democratic. The other is the plainly visible fact that a good many districts which include territory in the two neighboring suburban counties, Washington and Clackamas, reach into Multnomah for more voter-equalization population. Politically, Washington overall leans gently Democratic now, and Clackamas is a close call. So are these infusions of Multnomah people making more Democratic a bunch of Washington and Clackamas legislative districts that might otherwise be electing Republicans?

And there are a number of such districts. In the Oregon Senate there are four districts including parts of Multnomah and Washington, three with pieces of Multnomah and Clackamas, and one that has slices of all three counties. In a Senate of 30 members where the majority party maintains control by one seat, that matters. In the Oregon House, which is evenly divided between the parties, you can roughly double the number of seats split between the big three counties.

If you're an Oregon Republican looking for avenues of improvement - or reasons why your party hasn't done better recently - these are serious considerations.

A closer look at the vote totals of the legislative districts involved suggests that while the idea isn't groundless, it also hasn't made much practical difference. The reason is that the various parts of the three counties do not find the parties evenly scattered. In Washington County, for example, the rural western parts of the county are strongly Republican, but the eastern precincts - those around Beaverton and close to Portland - are nearly as Democratic as those across the line in Multnomah.

A second point is that most of these split-county districts are heavily based in just one county, and the small number of votes in the other would be enough to influence only the closest of races.

Did the Multnomah pie-slice lines alter any 2010 legislative elections? If you examine the numbers, it's hard to make an argument that they did.

For a little more clarity, here's how this plays out in the districts involved, using the voting results in 2010. (more…)