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Voting data used by state redistricting commission shows most-Democratic, most-Republican districts

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Jan. 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm | No Comments »
January 9, 2012 2:13 pm

If you had any doubt that the state’s redistricting process is highly partisan, you need only look at the detailed data compiled and used by the commission’s partisan demographers.

As each new map was proposed, staffers advising both party’s commissioners knew exactly how that district had voted in past elections. That allowed them to predict how any new set of districts would effect future elections. (Here is a link to the Redistricting Commission final plan with lots of maps.)

One analysis of new congressional districts, for example, looked at how the voters in the new districts had voted in three key elections – the 2010 U.S. Senate race between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi, the 2008 governor’s race between Rossi and Chris Gregoire and the 2008 state treasurer’s race between Jim McIntire and, ahhhh, who did McIntire run against?

That’s the point of using an otherwise obscure race (McIntire, by the way, defeated Republican nominee Allan Martin 51 percent to 49 percent). When the candidates are less known and the campaign is less well-followed it becomes a generic Democrat v. Republican contest and a good measure of a district’s basic political makeup.

From those three, the staff produced a 3-race average. Based on that, here are how the 10 new congressional districts stack up using each district’s Republican vote percentage (with incumbent’s name in parenthesis) :

4th District (Doc Hastings) – 63.99 percent Republican
5th District (Cathy McMorris-Rodgers) – 55.90 percent Republican
8th District (Dave Reichert) – 55.74 percent Republican
3rd District (Jamie Herrera Beutler) – 53.22 percent Republican
1st District (Open) – 51.59 percent Republican
6th District (Norm Dicks) – 47.43 percent Republican
10th District (New) – 47.34 percent Republican
2nd District (Rick Larsen) – 45.04 percent Republican
9th District (Adam Smith) – 38.53 percent Republican
7th District (Jim McDermott) – 26.30 percent Republican

A recent article on Crosscut.com quoted GOP Commissioner (and former state attorney general and U.S> Senator) Slade Gorton as concluding that any district with a party spread of less than 54-46 is a swing district, i.e. a district that is winnable by either party. By that measure, four of the 10 are swing districts.

I think that is overly generous, given that most analysts consider a 10 point spread – 55-45 – to be a landslide.

If swing is defined as a 53-47 percent inherent party identity, then three of the 10 are swing. If districts with no more than 52-48 are really swing districts, only the new 1st is such a battleground with the new 6th and new 10th pretty close.

Here are the top 10 Most Democratic legislative districts followed by the top 10 Most Republican legislative districts (with the percentage vote that party received using a four-race formula that also includes the 2008 presidential vote).

Democratic Districts

1. 43rd (Seattle) – 84.91 percent Democrat
2. 37th (Seattle) – 83.70
3. 36th (Seattle) – 78.34
4. 46th (Seattle) – 74.55
5. 34th (Seattle) – 72.86
6. 32nd (Shoreline) – 65.79
7. 27th (Tacoma) – 63.48
8. 11th (Seattle-Renton) – 62.03
9. 22nd (Olympia) – 61.30
10. (tie) 33rd (SeaTac-Des Moines-Kent) – 60.74
10. (tie) 40th (San Juan-Anacortes-Bellingham) 60.70

Republican Districts

1. 8th (Tri-Cities) 65.05 percent Republican
2. 13th (Kittitas-Grant) 64.28
3. 7th (Northeastern Washington) 62.38
4. 16th (Benton-Walla Walla-Columbia) 61.96
5. 9th (Southeastern Washington) 61.78
6. 12rth (North Central Washington) 61.37
7. 20th (Lewis-Cowlitz-South Thurston) 58.99
8. 4th (Spokane Valley) 58.29
9. 14th (Skamania-Klickitat-Western Yakima County) 57.64
10. 15th (Eastern Yakima County) 57.24

Overall, by Gorton’s standard of 54-46 spread. there are 15 swing legislative districts out of the 49 total.

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