Showing posts with label Census. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Census. Show all posts

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Art of Redistricting

Maximize one's gains or solidify what one already has?

There have been a couple of good pieces I've read over the last couple of weeks that encapsulate the dilemma that faces those in control of the redistricting process.

Carl Bialik dips into the political science literature and finds while redistricting has an impact, it is limited by a host of factors.

Aaron Blake hits on some of the same themes, but does so through a case study of the dilemma facing Republicans in Texas.

Given the GOP's run through gubernatorial and state legislative races two weeks ago, the party has a distinct advantage in a series of states where they control the redistricting process. That said, those state governmental advantages may have a limited impact due to the question posed at the outset. The temptation of the former is tough to resist for any party that has unified control of a state government, but the latter is a pragmatic option that offers a safer and longer term effect. None of this is to suggest that the Republicans won't gain seats as a result of their victories on the state level. Rather, the point is merely to highlight the fact that parties with unified control of their state governments can only carve out so many additional districts for themselves before they begin to hurt the incumbents of their own party. That goes for Republicans and Democrats.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A One State Presidential Election in 2012?

Over in the comments to the post with an updated projection of the 2012 electoral college map, we've been discussing the likelihood of a close election four years from now. More specifically, we've talked about, given the current trends, the structural advantages the Democrats appear to have heading into future elections. Despite potentially losing ground via the post-census reapportionment, Democrats still look to hold advantages in enough states to clear the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House.

But let's take a step back for a moment here and assume that we will see a close presidential election in 2012. And let's use a version of the election results Electoral College Spectrum adjusted for the seat shifts projected after the census.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 269 electoral votes. McCain's numbers are only totaled through the states he would have needed in order to get to 270. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.

Colorado is the state where Obama crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That line is referred to as the victory line.
****Nebraska allocates electoral votes based on statewide results and the results within each of its congressional districts. Nebraska's 2nd district voted for Barack Obama on November 4.

If, in 2012, the momentum swings against the Democrats and Barack Obama, the GOP is likely to pull Nebraska's 2nd, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida and Ohio back into their column. And even with those 74 electoral votes, generic Republican (Let's call her Sarah Palin for the heck of it.) still comes up 16 electoral votes short of victory. Virginia is next in line, gets the "close but not quite" distinction with 13 electoral votes, and, as Jack points out, is trending away from the GOP.

Depending on the candidates and conditions, though, I think that Virginia and Colorado are the most likely candidates for the Florida (2000)/Ohio (2004) distinction in 2012 should the election be that close. And whoever the GOP candidate is will need both states if they all fall in line in the same order four years from now. [I'll have to look into how long or short the odds of this are. But that's another research idea to look at later.] Virginia would be closer to the GOP compared to Colorado based on the 2008 results and that would make the Centennial state the victory line state. But given what happened last month, it is somewhat difficult to see Colorado swinging back. However, ask me in a couple of years and see if I've changed my mind.

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A Projected 2012 Electoral College Map (version 2.0)

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Friday, December 26, 2008

A Projected 2012 Electoral College Map (version 2.0)

For a look at the 2012-2020 electoral college map based on the 2010 Census click here. And for look at how those changes would have affected the 2008 presidential election click here.

On Monday, Election Data Services released the US population estimates for 2008 and a series of projections for 2010. So let's have a look at how the electoral college map would change given the new information we have.

The first set of numbers we have is the estimate of the population changes during 2008. This is more of an "if the Census was done today" scenario. It was this set (from 2007) that we used to project the the map for 2010 before. In other words, this gives us an idea of what the changes might be for 2010, but not the full picture. EDS even said in its report that they expected quite a bit of volatility over the next two years despite the economic downturn's impact on mobility.

[You'll notice that the map has taken on the red and black color scheme that denotes gains and losses in the financial world. Red states are states losing seats while black states are those likely to gain seats following the 2010 Census.]

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Despite that, we can set a baseline of potential changes based on the changes from 2008 (Well, from 2000-2008). The picture here isn't that much different from what we witnessed a little more than a month ago. Basically, Texas would gain an additional seat, Missouri wouldn't lose the seat it was projected to have lost and Michigan and New Jersey would lose a seat apiece. That would have fueled an additional two electoral vote swing toward John McCain in November's electoral college. Taken with the information we had before, though, that still would have put the Arizona senator at a 360-178 electoral vote disadvantage. Still, we're talking about a population shift toward redder states. Of course the traditional question is, "Who are those people?" Are they more Democratic or Republican? Are these states becoming redder, like, say, Georgia, or purple like Virginia (though the latter is not a state projected to gain or lose any congressional seats)?

But let's move from an estimate of the map based on the population changes we have seen during 2008 and focus on the projected changes we could see in 2010 based on likely changes over the next two years. Now, EDS set up several different models: one that projected population shifts based on what has happened since 2000, and four additional models that took a midterm approach; focusing on population shifts from 2004 onward, 2005 onward, 2006 onward and 2007-2008. For our purposes, we'll take the model with the most information: the full model based on the changes since the last Census.

That version shows Arizona (2 seats total), Florida (2) and Texas (4) gaining additional seats on top of the gains shown in the map above. It also has South Carolina picking up a seat.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

On the opposite side of the ledger, Ohio is likely to lose a second seat, while Missouri once again loses the seat it lost on the initial version of this map. Illinois and Minnesota round out the remaining list of states either losing population or not growing at rates fast enough to stay apace of the states gaining seats. If this projected map had been used in the November election that would have netted McCain an additional two electoral votes from the first map above. In other words, playing on the map immediately above, the 2008 election would have come to a count of 358-180 in favor of Obama. Again, this isn't a big shift in an election like we just witnessed. In a more competitive election, however, such a shift could prove consequential. Recall that the generic ballot question favored the Democrats throughout the 2008 cycle. If that divide had been more even, a seven electoral vote swing could have been decisive.

So what does all this mean? Well, not much. Projections are nice, but they aren't the real thing. I really ought to look back at how well these EDS projections were prior to the last Census. That might be a factor to throw into a more inclusive model -- similar to the house effect that FiveThirtyEight factored into their electoral college projections late in the game in 2008. With EDS cautioning that there could be volatility in the forecasting over the next two years, you have to take these numbers with a grain of salt. However, it is interesting to note what the map might look like in four years' time.

Recent Posts:
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