GOP won more votes but not consistently in districts

Taylor Byrd
June 26, 2017

Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson, right, review historical maps during The Senate Redistricting Committee for the 2016 Extra Session in the Legislative Office Building at the N.C. General Assembly, Feb. 16, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. An Associated Press analysis, using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage, finds traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their USA or state House races in 2016.

The AP analysis addressed how much of that is caused by voter preference and how much is caused by partisan gerrymandering. Florida was found to be one of the states with the largest Republican tilts in the state House.

The Associated Press scrutinized the election outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly races past year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage created to detect potential political gerrymandering. How the court rules could influence congressional redistricting and legislative reapportionment nationwide after the 2020 Census. The map was drawn behind closed doors, and mapmakers released no records to explain their strategy.

Under a redistricting plan approved in 2012, Idaho's House seats are divided among 35 districts — each district has two House seats and one Senate seat. For some candidates - such as Republican Rep. Craig Redmon in northeastern Missouri and Democratic Rep. Gail McCann Beatty in Kansas City - 2016 marked the third straight election in which they were the only choice on the ballot.

But "part of it is the gerrymandering issue, in that districts are simply drawn in such a way that it is very difficult" for Democrats to win in many parts of the state, Beatty added. Voters again re-elected 13 Republicans to the U.S. House in the 2014 and 2016 elections. That results in a 47 percent efficiency gap heavily favoring Democrats, but both races were close, and if fewer than 5,000 votes had switched in either district, the efficiency gap would be almost even.

The AP's analysis was based on a version of the "efficiency gap" formula developed by University of Chicago law professor Nick Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. The U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear that case, potentially affecting voting across the U.S.

The AP used their method to calculate efficiency gaps for all states that held partisan House or Assembly elections for all of their districts in 2016.

An analysis by The Associated Press found that in some states, three-quarters or more of all state House or Assembly races go uncontested in the general election.

Democrats won 57 percent of Colorado's state House seats in November, even though Republicans won 50.4 percent of the statewide vote.

Republicans controlled both MI legislative chambers and the governor's office when the maps were redrawn in 2011.

Court precedent says gerrymandering can be unconstitutional, although there is no definitive answer to the question of how large an efficiency gap must be to indicate an unconstitutional gerrymander. But Republicans have a 7-4 majority in the state's congressional delegation and now control the state House 66-34.

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