Thursday, October 6, 2011

Readers Respond to Rep. Sarbanes Advantage via Congressional Redistricting // New Explanations & Data

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun had a fascinating follow-up to Maryland's new Congressional maps. As it turns out, Rep. Van Hollen is offering alternatives to the proposed CD8 and Maryland Juice was correct in flagging the varying number of Democrats in the new districts:
An analysis released by the Maryland Democratic Party shows that in making Bartlett's district more Democratic, the map makes Van Hollen's district significantly less so. Almost 74 percent of 8th District voters cast a ballot for the Democrat in the 2010 congressional election; the percentage drops to 60 percent for voters living with the proposed new boundaries.... 
In fact, the changes could benefit Van Hollen should he decide in the future to run for the U.S. Senate, said David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report. It could be "helpful" for Van Hollen to show he can appeal to rural voters, he said.
It seems the Cook Report found a possible upshot to Mr. Van Hollen's new district, but I find such an atmospheric consideration to be too hypothetical to guide boundary decisions. Also, the Sun noted Bartlett lamely complained about racial representation: "Bartlett appeared to question whether the proposed districts adequately represent minorities." Since when did the Tea Party care about minority representation? That leads me to an aside that I will explore in a future post: GOP abuse of the Voting Rights Act to screw Democrats. Lastly, Maryland Reporter notes that African American/civil rights NGO's may sue to block the proposed plan.

Several readers have written in with various comments about today's Maryland Juice article on redistricting winners and losers. Earlier today, we theorized that Rep. John Sarbanes and the Baltimore region gained the most from the new maps. That conclusion, as well as our ramblings along the way, generated a few noteworthy comments, insights and corrections. The topics are as follows:
  1. Don't Blame the Eastern Shore // Comment on Party Registration
  2. Maryland Juice's Theory Is Flawed // Modification to the Sarbanes Advantage Theory
  3. Maryland Reporter Objects to Our Characterization
  4. Maryland Juice Clarification on Rep. Sarbanes

1. Don't Blame the Eastern Shore: In our article today, we raised the hypothetical of a Montgomery-based district having the same number of voters as the Eastern Shore, but we assumed a greater percentage of Shore voters would be Republicans than in Montgomery. Even still, one reader wanted to defend the honor of Maryland's Eastern Shore from the libelous allegation that they were responsible for making CD1 Republican territory. She clarified: "Contrary to popular belief, the Eastern Shore Counties combined have more registered Democrats than Republicans. The Republican voters come mainly from Harford, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel County. Of the 9 ES counties, only QA and Talbot have significantly more Republicans than Democrats, and Caroline just moved to more Republicans by a few hundred." Our Shore reader also provided the following guesstimates of party registration:
Based on rough estimates and 2010 registration numbers (since the maps don’t specify precincts and I had to calculate which ones I think are included): 
Democrats = 170,711 (was 196,183) 
Republican = 177,039 (was (196,411) 
Unaffiliated = 66,741 (was 71,932) 
There are also about 10,000 voters of various minority parties (Constitution, Green, Libertarian)
2. Is Rep. Sarbanes Really the Winner? One insider took serious issue with our theory that Rep. Sarbanes may have ended up with the most likely Democratic Primary voters in his District. Our source suggested that the ultimate analysis would reveal Rep. Edwards or Van Hollen representing the largest number of likely Democratic Primary voters. As a result, Maryland Juice would like to modify the theory a bit. I now realize it is possible that Rep. Edwards and Van Hollen currently represent territory that is more densely Democratic than today's CD3. That would mean Rep. Sarbanes could have had more ground to make up in a new District. Also, the portions of MoCo that Van Hollen is keeping (ie: Inside-the-Beltway/downcounty) are so densely Democratic that they may mitigate changes flowing from the shift in boundaries. The same might be true for Rep. Edwards. Nevertheless, I don't think I've picked up on a false positive, but I may have misidentified the source of Mr. Sarbanes' potential advantage.

The real problem Maryland Juice may be seizing on is revealed when using a before-and-after perspective. Rep. Sarbanes ended with a District that is more Democratic than his current one, while Rep.'s Van Hollen and Edwards landed with Districts that are less Democratic than their current boundaries. Indeed, our insider admits that CD3 will gain 1.6 in Democratic performance, while CD4 will decrease 9 points and CD8 will decrease 11.5 points. That essentially means that MoCo pols may be bearing a disproportionate share of the sacrifices needed to make room for a Democratic CD6. The counterpoint would be that population growth should push the Montgomery percentage of each District higher in the future -- leading to potentially three of Maryland's Congressional Districts being Montgomery-based.

3. Maryland Reporter Objects: Maryland Reporter commented on Maryland Juice's characterization of their website:
To a committed leftist like the Juicer, the middle does look like the right. Thanks for the mention. - Len Lazarick,
4. Rep. J.P. Sarbanes is Alright: Maryland Reporter's reminder that Maryland Juice is a progressive Democratic blog, made me realize that I omitted a key fact in the article below. I should've mentioned that, in spite of the complaints, MoCo Democrats may come to like being represented by J.P. Sarbanes. The prior article on the redistricting process is no comment on Mr. Sarbanes' record of service (which includes many votes Maryland Juice agrees with). This is not meant to be representative, but as an example, one website that rates Congressional voting records had the following ranking of Maryland's House Dems (from most to least liberal):
  1. Rep. Donna Edwards: Liberal Score: 70/100    Conservative Score: 3/100    Net Score: 67
  2. Rep. Elijah Cummings: Liberal Score: 64/100    Conservative Score: 8/100    Net Score: 55
  3. Rep. John Sarbanes: Liberal Score: 64/100    Conservative Score: 11/100    Net Score: 53
  4. Rep. Chris Van Hollen: Liberal Score: 64/100    Conservative Score: 14/100    Net Score: 50
  5. Rep. Steny Hoyer: Liberal Score: 52/100    Conservative Score: 14/100    Net Score: 38
  6. Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger: Liberal Score: 48/100    Conservative Score: 22/100    Net Score: 26
That leads me to another intriguing question. Is the listing above an accurate ranking of the "liberalness" of Maryland's House Democrats? Let me know what you think:

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