The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Racial gerrymanders cost Dems the US House?

A hed with something of the quality of Queen Victoria dead - self-education never a smooth or logical progression!

A paper (PDF) from around 2000 A Decade of Southern Congressional Elections: Black Majority Districts and Party Competition in the House, 1988 to 1998 by Seth McKee has interesting basic stats, as well as multiple regression that's well beyond me.

A table on page 15 demonstrates the GOP achievement over the period covered: from 1988 (112 total seats) to 1998 (117 total seats), the GOP tally in the section rose from 40 to 68.

The swing was partly due to the activities of the VRWC and general GOP Southern strategy mobilisation; but a great deal was due to racial gerrymandering.

The effect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and associated legislation is, it seems (p25), to pile up useless black votes in black districts that might otherwise have been spread around so as to make more districts competitive for the Dems.

The aim was to increase black representation - which, in one way, it has: from four black representatives to 16 over the period studied.

But almost all of this increase came from cannibalising White Dem districts! And the total Dem delegation slumped from 72 to 49.

Needless to say, the Reagan and Bush I administrations were enthusiastic VRA gerrymanderers (though the courts curbed the grosser excesses).

Such a perfect case study of be careful what you wish for!

(I'm not sure what the effect of racial gerrymanders on the composition of the 109th Congress [1] has been: my guess is that, at the very least, a good deal more seats would be competitive.

Total druther, of course.)

  1. The balance 232:201, plus Bernie Sanders (who caucuses with the Dems), plus one seat vacant (Bob Matsui died) - call it a 29 majority.

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