A couple of days ago, I had a brief altercation with my father over the recently-proposed redistricting plan in Texas. Among other things, he claimed that the Republican-backed proposal was a “naked power grab” that clearly violated “the will of the people”. I’ve been thinking about those claims, and finally decided to put them to a rough empirical test.

My neutral hypothesis was that a fair districting division would result in each party holding a number of seats proportional to the overall percentage of the vote they received. If one party winds up holding substantially more seats than that, the districting is unfairly skewed to benefit them over their rivals.

The Texas Secretary of State has 2002 election result totals available on the web, so we can test this hypothesis. Slightly collapsed and added together, the 2002 results looked like this:

Office Republican Democrat Other
District 1 66,654 86,384 0
District 2 53,656 85,492 1,353
District 3 113,974 37,503 2,656
District 4 67,939 97,304 3,042
District 5 81,439 56,330 2,139
District 6 115,396 45,404 3,237
District 7 96,795 11,674 58
District 8 140,575 0 10,351
District 9 59,635 86,710 1,613
District 10 0 114,428 21,196
District 11 68,236 74,678 1,943
District 12 121,208 0 10,723
District 13 119,401 31,218 0
District 14 102,905 48,224 0
District 15 0 66,311 0
District 16 0 72,383 0
District 17 77,622 84,136 2,046
District 18 27,980 99,161 1,785
District 19 117,092 0 10,684
District 20 0 68,685 0
District 21 161,836 56,206 4,051
District 22 100,499 55,716 2,869
District 23 77,573 71,067 1,912
District 24 38,332 73,002 1,560
District 25 50,041 63,590 2,495
District 26 123,195 37,485 3,998
District 27 41,004 68,559 2,646
District 28 26,973 71,393 2,054
District 29 0 55,760 2,833
District 30 28,981 88,980 1,856
District 31 111,556 44,183 5,745
District 32 100,226 44,886 2,790
Total Votes 2,290,723 1,896,852 107,635

Net result — Republicans 53%, Democrats 44%, Other (mainly Libertarian and Green) 3%. Since there are currently 32 Congressional districts in Texas, the neutral hypothesis leads to the conclusion that a fair districting would lead to a seat distribution of 17 Republican, 14 Democrat and 1 Other.

If we drop the 3rd party vote totals and just consider the Republican vs. Democrat count, the results shift to 55% Republican and 45% Democrat, which means 18 seats for the Republicans and 14 for the Democrats.

The actual seat distribution that resulted from the 2002 election was 17 seats for the Democrats, and 15 for the Republicans. In other words, the current districting division is clearly skewed to favor the Democrats by 2 to 3 seats. The “will of the people” is clearly being frustrated by the current setup.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the Republican proposal is fair. Tom Delay’s comment that he wants the Republicans to have 20 seats implies, on the basis of the 2002 numbers, that the Republican plan is skewed to favor the Republicans by about the same extent that the current setup favors the Democrats. Still, in terms of “naked power grabs” and violation of the “will of the people”, the Republican plan seems no worse than the one it would have replaced. And that means the Texas Democratic representatives broke the law (yes, it is illegal in Texas for a representative to deliberately fail to appear in the statehouse for purposes of breaking a quorum) and shut down the legislature to avoid living under a proposed law that is simply the mirror image of the one they thought was just peachy when they were on the winning side.

And that, Dad, is why I think the Texas Democrats were throwing a snit and acting like crybabies because they couldn’t handle being on the losing side.

UPDATE: I did a little bit more digging. In the 1990 Texas redistricting, the Democrats controlled the legislature. The plan they came up with allowed them to capture 70% of the congressional seats in the state with only 50% of the vote — based on the current number of seats that would have been a 22-10 split favoring the Democrats when a fair division would have been 16-16.

I wonder if you found that as objectionable as the current Republican plan. My guess is no.

5 Responses to “Texas Redistricting (repost)”
  1. Joey says:

    Hi,
    I’m a tenth grade IB student. I was having a a bit of trouble researching my government project on Texas. I just wanted to say thank you for this information because this helped me a whole lot!

    Thanks a bunch!

  2. concermed citizen says:

    Craddick’s proposed district will hog most of the oil, (Permian Basin,) most of the water,(Lake Ivey, Lake Brownwood, Lake Proctor, Lake Buchanan, Lake LBJ, the Colorado river, the two Llano rivers, and the San Saba river,), most of the pecans, (San Saba County), most of the cattle,( San Saba auction barn, and Mason auction barns), and to top all of the above off, it will include Luckenback and Lowake!

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks for this info!!!

    I knew something like this had occured but didn’t have the specific facts…now I do…thanks for this tidbit….

  4. Steve Covin says:

    The Democrats have always redrawn the map since the 60’s. I’m in my 50’s and I go back only that far. This is the first time Democrats didn’t get to draw the map.
    Things always change. I can’t beat my brother at pool anymore either, but I wouldn’t run off to another state to avoid a match.
    Of course this map is more serious than a pool match. But, my guess is that you cannot assume this map will create a huge gap in reps. If President Bush has success then the gap will be there in 2003. If there isn’t a Bush success then the gap will be much much less.

  5. Brian L Cartwright says:

    The skewing is accomplished by concentrating the opponent into a few districts where they can have a high percentage of the vote, but then be losers in the majority of the districts.

    8 of the 32 seats were unopposed, 5 Republican, 3 Democrat. In the other 24 districts, Republicans got 55% of the vote, but only 10 of 24 seats (42%). 9 of the 12 highest margin of victories in challenged races were Republican majorities.

    Any vote over the majority is a surplus vote, because the seat is already won. In all 32 seats, 50% of the Republican vote were surplus votes, while 40% of the Democrat votes were surplus. In the 24 challenged races, 40% of the Republican vote was surplus, compared to only 25% of the Democrat votes.

    Unwittingly, the Democrats are concentrating themselves nationally, to their detriment in the Presidential election. With som many Democrat votes concentrated in the DC-Boston corridor, Detroit, Chicago, and the Pacific coast, they are helping create a situation where they can win the national popular vote, but lose the Electoral College vote. One of the reaons behind the concept of the Electoral College is to force Presidential candidates to be broad-based and not regional (you need to carry more than just New York and California to win).

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