Utah House map may give GOP advantage

Cameron Gross
June 26, 2017

Its analysis showed that although Democrats had a 51 percent to 49 percent vote edge statewide over Republicans, the GOP had a majority in 102 of the new House districts compared to just 61 for Democrats.

The number of such uncontested general election races has been rising steadily over the past few decades, and experts say partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts is partly to blame. Political scientists would expect a party to receive 2 percent more seats for every 1 percent over 50 they get in votes.

- A map of congressional districts drawn by Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature helped the GOP win almost three more of the state's U.S. House seats than the party otherwise would have won in last year's election, an Associated Press analysis found.

The AP reviewed efficiency gaps for all states that had partisan state House or Assembly elections past year and found that most state chambers skewed Republican, including Utah. It's also cited by groups challenging the design of North Carolina's congressional map, though the Republican defendants argue the measure shouldn't be used as a legal standard.

Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who saw his Cleveland district eliminated after the 2010 Census and his home drawn into that of a fellow Democrat, said there's "no question" districts are unfair - though he holds both parties culpable. The formula focuses on "wasted votes" - those cast for losing candidates, and for winners beyond the needed majority - to determine which party is more efficient at translating votes into victories. The Legislature overrode the veto, and the state Supreme Court later found the plan constitutional. It cuts through three counties - and has three House seats, two held by Democrats.

At least two-thirds of the commissioners must vote to approve a map. On average, Republicans in Utah won 64% of the vote but captured 83% of the state House seats up for grabs.

The Associated Press reports that the way the legislative district maps were drawn in 2011 gave the Utah GOP an electoral advantage they didn't necessarily earn. The analysis suggests there was a slight Republican advantage in the 2016 election produced by the redistricting in 2011 of the state's seven seats.

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For Democrats to complain of gerrymandering is "pure nonsense", said Matt Walter, the Republican committee's president.

"Republicans have done a good job of targeting those areas and getting good candidates and putting a lot of money into marginal districts, which they tend to win", he said.

"The Democrats don't know how to run campaigns; they're frightful at it", he said.

Barbuto was a state representative from Rock Springs from 2008 to 2013 when he was ousted by Republican Rep. Mark Baker.

Lawmakers killed several bills in recent years that would have created an independent commission to handle redistricting.

"When you're drawing the districts with an eye to representing communities of interest rather than partisan strength, you're going to have more competitive districts", he said.

Other reports by BadHub

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