Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New PVIs from Cook Political Report

Posted by DavidNYC

Every four years, the Cook Political Report publishes a new Partisan Voting Index based on presidential election results at the congressional district level. What exactly are PVIs? Here's the explanation (sub. req.):

In August of 1997, The Cook Political Report introduced the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) as a means of providing a more accurate picture of the competitiveness of each of the 435 congressional districts. Using the 1992 and 1996 major-party Presidential voting results, the PVI measured how each congressional district performed compared to the nation as a whole.

Using the results of the 2004 elections, we have updated these PVI ratings and have even more information to draw upon to understand the congressional level trends and tilts that will help to define upcoming elections.

Developed for The Cook Political Report by Clark Benson and Polidata Inc., the index is an attempt to find an objective measurement of each congressional district that allows comparisons between states and districts, thereby making it relevant in both mid-term and presidential election years. While other data such as the results of senatorial, gubernatorial, congressional and other local races can help fine tune the exact partisan tilt of a particular district, those kinds of results don't allow a comparison of districts across state lines. Only Presidential results allow for total comparability. A Partisan Voting Index score of D+2.3, for example, means that in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, that district performed an average of 2.3 points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole, while an R+3.8 means the district performed more Republican than the nation.

PVIs are only available to owners of or subscribers to the Almanac of American Politics or the Cook Report. (However, the underlying data - presidential vote by CD - is available publicly both at CQ Politics and at PoliData.) For political junkies, though, a subscription to one (if not both) are practically a necessity. (Just as long as you ignore Michael Barone's increasingly wrong-headed conservative CW in the Almanac.)

Because PVIs rely on presidential vote by CD, whenever redistricting takes place, the PVIs have to get adjusted. As you well know, this used to be a once-a-decade affair. But Republican chicanery in Georgia and Texas has been keeping the number-crunchers busy. Fortunately, Cook has released new PVIs based on the mid-decade redistricting in Georgia and the most recent round of re-redistricting (or should that be re-re-re?) in Texas necessitated by violations of the Voting Rights Act.

While I won't republish all the new PVIs here, I can tell you how things have changed in the three most competitive districts in TX & GA.

GA-08: Marshall (D)
Old PVI: R+3
New PVI: R+8

GA-12: Barrow (D)
Old PVI: D+5
New PVI: D+2

TX-23: Bonilla (R)
Old PVI: R+13
New PVI: R+4

In any other year, the changes in Georgia would make me pretty nervous. But as you can see from Superribbie's newest compilation, the pros don't think all that highly of the GOP's chances in either GA-08 or GA-12. (GA-08, by the way, used to be numbered GA-03 until the redistricting.) However, you can bet that Barrow will get a serious challenge one of these years, when the GOP's fortunes change.

As far as TX-23 goes, well, I'm just not sure how much of the new district is actually new to Bonilla. And let's not kid ourselves: R+4 may look small compared to R+13, but it still means the district went for Bush by about 55-45 over Kerry. So I wouldn't get your hopes up for a surprise pickup there.

Overall, 12 of 13 districts in Georgia changed their partisan composition, and 5 of 32 in Texas did as well. The biggest remaining changes are in GA-1, where a possibly swing district has become extremely Republican, and TX-25, where Lloyd Doggett's heavily Democratic seat is now in swing territory. In fact, I'd expect a hefty challenge to Doggett soon, too. And while the news isn't good for John Courage - Lamar Smith's very Republican seat did become a little bit moreso - but I doubt it's going to make much of a difference.

But if you want the full run-down on all the changes, you're going to have to subscribe yourself. And I highly recommend doing so.

Posted at 04:40 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Redistricting | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why Dems Are Really Screwed by the SCOTUS Redistricting Decision

Posted by DavidNYC

As you know by now, today the Supreme Court ruled that Tom DeLay's mid-decade redistricting scheme was mostly legal. The main holdings of the decision were:

• Mid-decade re-districting is permissible. Indeed, redistricting as often as humanly possible is probably legal.

• Redistricting on the basis of partisan gain is permissible. That means you can make 90% Dem-majority districts and 55% GOP-majority districts (or vice versa) to your heart's content.

• Some aspects of the Texas plan were unconstitutional because they violated the Voting Rights Act.

Those of you looking for a silver lining might point to #2 and say, "Well, at least we can screw the GOP, too." Indeed, some people are already ticking off a list of states where Dems could stick it to the Republicans: Illinois, California, New York, and so forth. Conceviably, if state legislatures show some spine, this kind of thing could happen.

But #3 is, perversely, what gets us. The Voting Rights Act is a very complex piece of legislation, and the litigation interpreting it is very, very hard to get a handle on. But at its core, the VRA says that redistricters must try to maximize the number of "majority-minority" districts - ie, districts where cohesive minorities constitute a sufficiently large bloc such that this group's will is likely to prevail at election time.

In essence, the VRA says you can't try to dilute minority voting strength by spreading minorities around. (Contrast this with what I wrote above - ie, that the SCOTUS today said you explicitly can try to dilute partisan voting strength.) As a WSJ article that came out before today's ruling was handed down put it:

But while Democrats have "made noises" about retaliating in their states, he says they will run into a problem peculiar to their own membership: Squeezing more Democratic-leaning districts from a map would almost certainly require splitting minority voters into multiple districts, undercutting their strength as a voting bloc. "They would really have to violate the Voting Rights Act to change the map," Mr. Carvin says.

Again I say, the jurisprudence on exactly how you're supposed to allocate minority voting strength under the VRA is a real jumble. So it may be possible to tweak things at the margins - it may be okay to reduce a 60% black district to 55%. But the bottom line is that if you have a state with, say, five majority-minority districts, you can't cut that number down to four to spread some of those Dem-voting minorities around. It would be pretty much flat-out unconstitutional. Of course, today it was the GOP which got nailed by the VRA, but in the future, it is much more likely to happen to our side.

So even if we want to go tit-for-tat with these jokers, our hands are, to a considerable extent, tied. I think there probably are changes out there we can make which don't violate the VRA, and make them we must. Unilateral disarmament is suicide. But even if state legislators do start caring about this kind of stuff, you can expect that further GOP efforts will outclass Dem plans in partisan audacity.

Posted at 05:19 PM in Redistricting | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

CA-Ballot: SUSA Poll is Bad News for Arnie Opponents

Posted by DavidNYC

Survey USA just released polls of the "first five" CA voter initiatives that are on the ballot this fall. These have all been pushed big-time by the Governator, and the results are not encouraging for his opponents (likely voters, early Oct. in parens):

Proposition 73 requires that physicians notify the parent of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.
Yes: 60 (59)
No: 38 (39)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 74 extends the probationary period for new teachers from 2 years to 5 years, and makes it easier to dismiss teachers with unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
Yes: 53 (55)
No: 45 (44)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 75 prohibits public employee unions from using union dues for political purposes without the written consent of union members.
Yes: 56 (60)
No: 42 (37)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 76 limits growth in state spending so that it does not exceed recent growth in state revenues.
Yes: 58 (58)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

Proposition 77 changes the way California draws boundaries for Congressional and legislative districts. District boundaries would be drawn by a panel of retired judges and approved by voters in a statewide election.
Yes: 54 (59)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

The balance on each question is the undecideds, which are very small across the board.

So, it looks like bad news, but SUSA offers some cautionary notes:

1) Support for all 5 measures is strongly tied to approval of Governor Schwarzenegger.

2) Interest in ballot measures intensifies as the election approaches and ad dollars are spent to influence voters. These numbers can and should be expected to fluctuate, perhaps significantly.

3) SUSA asked summary questions; other organizations have read the entire text of the ballot measures. As SUSA says, "On 11/9/05, we will know which question wording produced a more accurate pre-election poll."

So basically, #1 says that if Arnie opponents and Dems show up in force, these measures will probably get defeated. The problem is that Arnie supporters and Republicans favor these measures by much greater margins than opponents disfavor them, so we'll need big turnout to counter that effect.

Point number 2 could go either way, but since at least some of these initiatives are backed by big corporate money, that could actually be dangerous for our side.

And number 3 is a bit surprising. SUSA actually provides links to polls by other outfits (Field here and here and the Public Policy Institute of California - all links PDFs), which I'm not sure I've ever really seen any pollster do. I respect that, though, because it means that SUSA is really interested in accuracy, not just promoting its own product.

Field shows mixed results, while PPIC shows voters opposed to most of the measures. It's hard to guess which methodology might be more accurate. Do voters tend to memorize rough descriptions of each ballot measure before going into the voting booth? (That would favor SUSA's approach.) Or do they actually stand there and read the descriptions before deciding? (Field/PPIC.) Hard to say, though I imagine there must be some comparison polling out there dealing with older ballot issues.

UPDATE: Julia in comments points out that there was indeed an ealier poll on these measures, so I've added in the trendlines. It doesn't look like there's been much movement in the past two weeks, except perhaps for a little bit in our favor on 75 and 77.

Posted at 01:36 PM in 2005 Elections, California, Redistricting, Special Elections | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1) | Technorati

Monday, December 27, 2004

2010 Reapportionment

Posted by Bob Brigham

Jerome Armstrong continues the discussion he started two years ago about how Democrats failure after the 2000 census may have cost us the lower chamber for a decade.

Many of the status quo Democrats in DC are claiming that Democrats didn't do that bad because Kerry came close to winning Ohio which would have elected him President. This CYA group-think attempts to hide the fact that Democrats were a good 10 points shy of a performance quotient that would have delivered a governable congress.

Positioning for the 2010 reapportionment is important goal for Democrats considering a 50 state strategy with greater emphasis on non-federal races. While California state senate seats are larger than congressional districts, this is the exception to the rule that non-federal races provide high-value return on investment.

Jerome provides the following projections for the next reapportionment:

                                             Reapportionment Factors
               Seat-loss   R-D Delegation    Governor   Legislature

New York           2       9-20              R           R-D
Ohio               2      12-6               R           R-R
Illinois           1       9-10              D           D-D
Iowa               1       4-1               non-partisan
Louisiana          1       5-2               D           D-D
Massachusetts      1       0-10              R           D-D
Missouri           1       5-4               R           R-R
Pennsylvania       1      12-7               D           R-R

               Seat-gain   R-D Delegation    Governor    Legislature

Texas              3      21-11              R           R-R
Florida            2      18-7               R           R-R
Arizona            1       6-2               non-partisan
California         1      33-20              R           D-D
Georgia            1       7-6               R           R-R
Nevada             1       2-1               R           D-R
Utah               1       2-1               R           R-R

Remember, controlling congress is a zero-sum game -- states both losing and increasing representation offer potential for Democratic gains in congress. However, from both a defensive and offensive position it is clear that we are currently in poor position to dominate redistricting.

Jerome does a great job explaining how the GOP has used redistricting to expand their potential while Democrats continue to lose field position. Considering we probably won't be able to in in 2006, here is Doctor Armstrong's presciption:

publically shoot for gaining 6 seats in each of the next two elections, and figure out where to get the extra 3 seats along the way. Combined with the fielding candidates in every seat across the nation, with financial (say, $100K in resources each) backing(see 2004's CO 4th & PA 8th expendidtures by the GOP for why), and I think there's an opportunity. If that strategic path were taken, then I could see the potential of a majority by '08 or '10 for the Democrats in the House. Otherwise, following the same 1996-2004 strategy, means 3 more cycles of the same failure.

This strategy for congress could tie in well with the 50 state strategy Chris Bowers has relentlessly advanced. Also, a non-federal focus of bottom-up strengthening of the party will help position Democrats for redistricting. Supporting Democrats early in their careers will pay dividends years from now when they are playing in the big leagues.

What are your ideas on winning back congress?

Posted at 02:09 PM in Redistricting | Comments (1) | Technorati