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Later today the U.S. Census Bureau will release the first official results from the 2010 census. The report will include the nation’s total resident population and congressional apportionment totals for each state. Ten states are forecasted to lose congressional seats. Eight may pick up at least one additional seat. In state capitals across the country, Republicans have considerably more power, and this clout may well come in handy when new congressional district lines are drawn. Political analysts join us to talk about the U.S census data and how the overall political landscape may be shifting. Please join us.
- William Frey Visiting fellow, The Brookings Institution and research professor, population studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
- Amy Walter Political director, ABC News.
- Kimball Brace Election Data Systems
- Stuart Rothenberg Editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. 2010 census data will be released later this morning. Republicans think they're in a pretty good spot. With state-level wins last November, they'll likely have a strong hand in upcoming congressional redistricting battles. Joining me to talk about populationships and some of the political implications of 2010 census data, Stuart Rothenberg, he is editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. Amy Walter, she is political director for ABC News. Joining us by phone from Manassas, Va., Kimball Brace of Election Data Systems. I'll be interested to hear your comments, questions a little later on in the hour. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, Amy.
MS. AMY WALTERGood morning.
REHMAnd good morning to you, Stu.
MR. STUART ROTHENBERGGood morning.
REHMGood morning to you. I wondered, Kimball Brace, are you there?
MR. KIMBALL BRACEYes, I am. Hello, there. Good morning.
REHMI'm glad to have you with us. Thanks for being here. Stu, give us an idea, some of the broad implications of this 2010 census.
ROTHENBERGWell, Diane, this is all about counting where people are living, and we have a very transient society. People move around a lot, and, increasingly, they've been moving south and often west to the Sun Belt. They continue to do that. Better weather, better, cheaper cost of living, more jobs. They've been moving there. And that means these states, many of them, are gaining population, not all of them. We have some states in the south that are likely to lose a district, like Louisiana that was impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
ROTHENBERGBut, generally, the population is moving south and west. That means more congressional districts. That means the ability to draw those states, and often Republicans are in control -- again, not in every state. In some states, there is -- neither party has control. But this is going to enhance the Republicans' chances of protecting...
ROTHENBERG...seats that they won in the last election and may allow them to gain an additional seat or two in this state or that state. There is one other major, initial consideration before we actually get into this. And that is in some parts of the south -- throughout the south, you're dealing with significant minority populations, African-Americans and/or Hispanics if we're talking Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Florida, of course. And so many of these states will be gaining seats, and some of the seats will certainly go to the minority community. And even if the Republicans are in control, there's not much they can do about that.
REHMStuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report. Amy Walter, what states do you believe are projected to lose congressional seats?
WALTERWell, Kim knows all of this quite well, and he is the -- he's the guy who crunches a lot of these numbers and make these projections before the official report comes out today. But as Stu pointed out, you know, the places that are gaining -- places like Texas could end up being the biggest winner, potential for four new seats in Texas. That is, it would then make a delegation of 38. It would surpass New York, which it already has, actually. But it could get close, of course, to big states like California, which have 53 seats. So, you know, making Texas basically the real big -- the big winner. The biggest loser -- Ohio. You know, poor Ohio, they've had just a rough, rough 10 years, obviously, with the manufacturing base moving out of there. And people move where the jobs are, and the jobs are in places like Texas…
WALTER...and Florida and Arizona, and not places like Pennsylvania, which is also going to lose a seat. New York may lose two seats. Illinois may lose a seat. Massachusetts is losing a seat. So these are -- you know, you can really see the manufacturing -- you know, what we always think about as the traditional manufacturing base of this country has suffered a great deal and with it the population.
REHMAmy Walter, political director for ABC News. Kimball Brace, why do these trends generally seemed to favor Republicans?
BRACEWell, basically, Diane, what you're seeing is that that shift to population to areas where Republicans have traditionally done somewhat better and away from the areas where Democrats have done better. So you're leaving the northeast and the upper-Midwest and heading south and heading west, and so it's the areas that Republicans have carried in a larger degree than Democrats have in those particular areas. And Democrats are losing in their areas of their strength. People are just tired of the snow, want better weather. Air-conditioning is now a popularity down in Florida, so people are heading to where it's a little bit nicer living.
REHMGive me an idea if you can, Kimball, what the average size of a congressional district is today.
BRACEToday, what we're looking at, from an estimate standpoint, is about 716,000 people will be the average size, but there will be differences. The key here is that under the apportionment formula and under the Constitution, every state gets at least one state -- or one seat. And so, as a result, you have small states like Delaware or Wyoming that will get an individual seat despite the fact of them having much smaller population. I mean, Wyoming has only got 548,000 people. And then on the flip side is a state like Montana that's almost got a million people, and yet they will have only one seat -- is what we're looking at right now.
WALTERWell, and I think that's an important point, too, because we talk a lot here about the balance of power, that some of these states are going to have significantly, you know, more or fewer members of Congress. And yet we know, in the way that the Senate works and the way our Congress works, just 'cause you're a small state doesn't mean that you don't have outdo influence, right? So a state like Delaware or Montana or Nevada, where you have the, you know -- the current majority leader of the Senate, even though they will only be picking up one seat and will have just a total of six electoral college votes, still becomes a very significant player, so North Dakota -- same thing.
ROTHENBERGI just wanted to add one other thing. I think it's relevant. I hope it's relevant. It may not be relevant, but because of different voting patterns -- different groups vote at different rates -- you can have a state -- you can have states with similar populations in a -- of congressional districts and yet dramatically different numbers of people voting. We have...
REHMGive me an example.
ROTHENBERGWell, we have districts in this country, congressional districts -- particularly in inner cities -- where you have 100,000 total votes cast in a congressional election. And then if you look to some suburban areas or parts of the country where voting really is a civic culture, civic duty -- the Dakotas...
ROTHENBERG...Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, where these people feel you absolutely have to vote -- you have more than 200,000 people voting in a congressional district. That is a huge difference in terms of the people who will end up choosing individual members. And it -- you know, this is -- it's simply who comes out to vote? How often do they vote?
ROTHENBERGHow do they care about voting?
REHMYeah, so we're left with the question of who is going to make the decisions, Kimball Brace, as to how these districts are restructured?
BRACEWell, basically what you find is that it's generally the state legislature that makes the decision, at least in terms of congressional districts. There's only five states where a commission is set up to draw the congressional districts --I'm sorry, six states.
BRACEBut the rest are done by the state legislature. When you look at legislative districts, they do have more commissions. There's about 14 or 15 that have a commission form of drawing the districts. But there again, the majority is still done by the state legislators themselves.
REHM...has its own system, Amy.
WALTERWell, California is going to be fascinating because they passed a ballot initiative that says that regular -- "regular people" are going to draw the lines this time. So it's going to be...
REHMSo it's an independent commission.
WALTERIt's an independent commission made up of people who actually applied to be line drawers. And there was a whole complicated formula about how many people -- how they chose these people, certain number of people who are registered as Democrats, certain number of people registered as Republicans, certain number who were registered as non-affiliated. And those people -- right now, I think there are 14 of them...
WALTER...yeah -- are going to sit and help those draw these lines. Now, the interesting thing about California, too, for the first time ever. California may not be gaining another seat. So, again, it goes to show that while there is a westerly and southernly movement in terms of, you know, migration in this country, California may have maxed out. But it will be interesting to see in California where a lot of Republicans feel like, you know what, we've been really, you know, worked over by the Democratic control of legislature. They have maxed out their possible seats there. Maybe Republicans can benefit. The other people who, I think, should be worried in California are white members of Congress who represent pretty minority-heavy districts that could see their districts become...
WALTER...even -- have more minorities in them.
REHMBut, Stu, you know, in the past, we've seen some of these crazy districts drawn that make no sense whatsoever. How did they happen? And will they continue to happen?
ROTHENBERGWell, there's been a lot of controversy on this. The cases have gone on to Supreme Court. And, really, the courts have decided that redistricting is the ultimate political act. You would think that there might be some overriding concerns about compactness, contiguity. Reformers say, look, let's just draw districts that are compact, that they don't have arms and legs going out to pick up a particular village or county or street.
ROTHENBERGBut the courts have said, no. This is politics. There's no right or wrong way to draw a district. Now, there were some caveats to that as race has been introduced as an element. And the court has even said that if a district is drawn in such an outrageous way, that might raise questions. But for the most part, it's about political folks getting together, making political decisions, trade-offs. What district do you -- how do you want this district drawn? How do you not want it drawn?
REHMStuart Rothenberg, he is editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. We'll take a short break. Do join us now, 800-433-8850.
REHMWelcome back. We have a message posted on Facebook from Ed. Kimball, it's for you. "Is there any chance other states will pass amendments, taking control of redistricting out of the hands of politicians as Florida did this past election cycle?"
BRACEWell, at this point in time, it's generally, probably, too late. Those kinds of things have to be done with an election if it's a voter-induced sort of thing. And it's really kind of too late now to do something. There's still a possibility that you might see state legislature take some of its power and give it to the hands of a commission. We see that, for example, in the state of Rhode Island, where the legislature, through a bill, says that a commission will now make the initial recommendation on how to draw the boundaries.
REHMNow, here's an e-mail from Kaye in Dallas, Texas, who says, "Isn't it possible all the supposedly Democratic-leaning migrants to red areas might actually dilute the Republican influence and change the voting patterns in favor of Democrats?" Amy.
WALTERIt's a great question. And it's one, I think, that a lot of people have asked, which is, you know, if you get all these Midwesterners who supposedly have been voting for Democrats all these years, and they move to Florida and Texas and Georgia and North Carolina, aren't they going to turn the states blue? But that sort of takes away -- you have to -- it's an interesting idea. But bottom line, you know, a lot of these people that are moving, first of all, are the people who are most able to move, right? So these are people who are not older. They're usually younger. They have younger families. They're looking, in many cases, for a job opportunity.
WALTERAnd in some cases -- I remember asking this question for folks in Colorado, you know. If all these people from California move to Colorado, why isn't Colorado turning bluer? And people are also moving to states that they feel like they identify more closely with. So if they say, maybe I live in Pennsylvania right now, but I really think of myself as a Westerner. They go there, and they take in sort of the ethic and the ethos of that place...
REHMUh huh. Interesting.
WALTER...and they become part of that.
ROTHENBERGI think Amy is right. Some people move, and they bring political values with them. Other people move, and they're moving because they want to -- they're looking for a new lifestyle. And they readily adopt the political values of the area they move to.
REHMHere's an interesting question from Mark in Little Rock, Ark., who says, "There are so many people in this country now, even when compared with only 20 years ago. Shouldn't we have a bigger House of Representatives?" Kimball Brace.
BRACEWell, that was actually a court suit this year that took place, went to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court said, just a couple of weeks ago, that that's really a political decision for Congress to make. But, indeed, you do see a great deal of change. I mean, we started off with about 34,000 people in a district back in 1789. We're now up at, as we said before, 716,000. So there is somewhat of an argument to be made to try to bring down the size of the districts, that they've gotten too big.
WALTERWell, and it also brings up a really good point, too, about, do you really think -- we're talking about representative government -- that one person can accurately reflect the views of 716,000 people? And so we hear voters all the time saying, you're not representing us. You don't understand us. Why aren't you looking out for us? And it is impossible thing to do. We could also go to New Hampshire, which has the largest legislative body, I think in -- right? -- in, like, the world.
ROTHENBERGI think in the world.
BRACEAnd, you know, yes, about 400-and-some-odd members.
WALTERYeah, yes. And when you really are -- when you say, this is my state representative, you know who that person is because they represent you and, like, six other people and your neighbor and your dog and, you know...
ROTHENBERGThe other side of this, of course, is that you get a body that is so large that it becomes so...
ROTHENBERG…unwieldy, that it's difficult for them to do anything except in a very formal, structured, organized way, which is top down. And that kind of contradicts the whole notion of the individual representing the folks in the district.
REHMAmy, you spoke earlier about Ohio, which could lose one or maybe even two seats. So what are the implications there?
WALTERWell, you know, you look at Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, Michigan. You think of those as the places, first of all, where, you know, Democrats traditionally have looked to those for the presidential win -- right -- picking up those states. You look at those, also, as places traditionally where the battle for control of Congress is fought. Ohio was a big battleground state this year and in 2006 -- the year when Democrats took control of Congress -- it was flipping seats in that state that really turned the tide. And, I think, for Ohio, in general, you know, you're looking at a state that really is struggling so desperately to retain its identity and to try to figure out who it is in this sort of new economic world order. And, you know, losing another two seats just continues to tell people in that state that a candidate...
REHMYou don't count.
WALTERRight. But they do count, they're just -- they're going to -- somebody wrote a great piece today -- maybe it was in Bloomberg -- where they were looking at, you know, the number one industry in Ohio. This is rubber and tires and manufacturing cars and glass. And, now, it's the Cleveland Clinic that it's known for, which isn't bad. But they -- the Cleveland Clinic does not employ as many people as a GM plant.
REHMYeah, exactly, and what about Illinois, Stu Rothenberg? Democrats there are at less of a disadvantage.
ROTHENBERGYes. Yeah, that's one of the states where Democrats control both the governorship in both Houses of the legislature. That will give them the opportunity to redraw these districts. And it reminds us that you really need to look at state by state and what the state procedures are, whether they are commissions, how partisan the state is. Illinois is likely to lose a district. And therefore, one of the Republicans who won this last time could find himself or herself without a district. But, yeah, this is one of those cases. There are a lot of cases where Republicans are going to be drawing maps. But this is a big state with new lines that could change things significantly that could benefit Democrats.
REHMNow, Kimball Brace, Karl Rove wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal titled, "Time for Republicans to Deliver." He wrote this on Nov. 4. He's saying that the number of states in which GOP majorities will redistrict to draw lines that boost their numbers in the House for the next decade. Is he right?
BRACEHe is in an overall sense. Indeed, the Republicans, with the 2010 election, picked up a number of states where now they are much more in control and, in a lot of instances, totally in control. So they have the potential of drawing better districts for their members and worse districts for members that have got a D behind their name. But it remains to be seen on what kind of bartering can be done by the legislature, and whether or not Democrats can pull off something and try to convince people to draw them just a little bit different here or there. When you draw districts, it's just a little bit that may do the swing, given where you are. So it really depends on whose hand is on the mouse.
REHMAnd, of course, there were a lot of questions about the 2010 census, Kimball, whether, for example, illegal immigrants were counted.
BRACERight. Well, under the census rules and the residency rules, people that would be illegal would be counted. They are, actually, people here in the country, and that's what the Census Bureau is designed to do. Now, the Census Bureau will be putting out a file on citizenship, and that will be coming out in late January. The key will be how many states will actually make use of that information in their drawing of the districts. Clearly, the courts have said that we look at total population. But for analyzing the impact of the districts and how you're drawing them, there are a number of courts -- three circuits, in fact -- that said that for purposes of analyzing, you do use citizenship voting edge population for the purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of that district.
REHMAnd one last question for you, Stu, before we open the phones. What are the implications of the way these battle lines are being drawn for the 2012 presidential election?
ROTHENBERGWell, obviously, electoral college votes are determined or made up. It's a combination of how many representatives you have, plus the two U.S. Senators, so the number of electoral votes that Texas will have depends on how many congressional districts they have, plus two. And that's -- it goes state by state. So to the extent that you have transfers from the northeast or the north, the Great Lake states down to the south. It means more electoral votes for southern states and western states, states that in recent years have been more likely to go Republican.
ROTHENBERGAnd it takes them away from states that have been -- again, in more recent years -- more likely to go Democrats. So states like New York and Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan are likely -- maybe Iowa, are likely to lose population. Therefore, they'll lose House seats. Therefore, they'll lose electoral college votes. And the southern states that have been going Republican will gain them.
REHMAll right. We'll open the phones now. First to Ann Arbor, Mich. James, good morning. You're on the air.
JAMESHi. You know, what you've just been talking about is a question that absolutely mystifies me. How is this constitutional or legal? If a district is organized in such a way as it heavily favors one party or another, isn't that tantamount to disenfranchising the voters who do not belong to that particular party, depriving them ultimately of them having a say in that district? And if so, how is this allowed? How is this constitutional?
ROTHENBERGThe courts don't think so. The Constitution doesn't talk about political parties. There's no -- we don't have a history of saying, well, these districts have to have balanced parties. What you're talking about is really your notion of equity. And I don't want to disagree with your notion. And it might be better for the country, frankly, if we had more competitive districts. But the courts don't see this as a question of equal protection in terms of Democrats or Republicans. They have obviously seen it in terms of race that is an issue, but not in terms of party.
REHMKim, putting aside what the courts have said, what do you think?
BRACEWell, you also have to take a look that if you were to create competitive seats, then the likelihood that you're going to have more people upset with you because you're going to have the 48 percent of the people that voted for somebody else won't have their choices reflected. So it really kind of depends on where you come down to the question of what's equitable.
WALTERYeah, and, you know, the other thing is, when we -- we talk so much, and we'll be theorizing so much between now and when these lines are actually drawn about who's going to win and who's going to lose, and which party is going to gain and which is going to lose. But you know what? These things never work out on paper in reality, and -- or they don't necessarily translate from paper to reality. First, because you have to get buy-in from the legislators and members of Congress to how these new districts will look. Some member of Congress that you go -- you are talking to you and you say, listen, here's a way we'd like to draw these new districts.
WALTERNow, I know that the president or McCain or another figure got 70 percent of the vote in this district. You're very happy with that. We're going to bring it down to 60 percent, so we can make another district more competitive. And they say, no, no, no, no, no, no. I want it to say 70 percent. I don't want to -- I don't have to worry about my reelection. Some legislatures get a little too cute by half, sort of going to what the caller is saying, which is they want to, you know, make sure that they just squeeze out one more district.
REHMWell, and you...
WALTERAnd what they end up getting is, it could all fall apart. The other thing is, look at we saw in a place like Ohio, which Republicans drew the last time around. Those seats have been flipping and flopping for the last two, four, six years, and people also -- you got to remember, too -- the 10 years between when these lines are drawn and when we redraw them again, patterns continue to evolve. So the exurbs may get bigger. The suburbs may get smaller. People will move in and out of these districts.
REHMBut, clearly, what James is concerned about is what is called gerrymandering.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Baltimore, Md. Good morning, Bob. You're on the air.
BOBGood morning. I have a comment and a question on and along the same line of equity. I'm a member of a minority underrepresented here in Maryland. I'm a Republican. And thinking statistically about this, one meaningful way to seek fairness, it seems to me, and with some degree of rigor, would be to say, just look at the presidential vote for the past two or three elections. And in a state like Maryland, which typically votes Democratic -- and, in fact, always votes Democratic -- but still the Republican candidates get between 40 and 45 percent. So it just seemed to me that in Maryland, for instance, we might have at least one more Republican. We have one out of nine, I believe. I wonder what your guests think of using that sort of a test or bias, not as a legal question, but as a fairness question.
BRACEWell, as one of those persons that do do the actual line drawing, when we do put together the databases for use in redistricting, we are using presidential votes. It's the one indicator that you can have statewide. I mean, you've got governors and U.S. senators, but we always try to take some statewide races because we know that the candidates are uniform across the state. So that helps in the evaluation of the districts.
BRACEBut you also have to take into account that the top of the ticket doesn't always indicate how everybody is voting throughout the ticket. Indeed, you see changes and differences. So when we are building these kind of databases, we're taking into accounts votes at the top of the ticket then all the way down to the state legislature to try to then evaluate, as we're drawing districts, what's the likelihood that they might go one way or the other.
REHMBut, Kim, what efforts are underway right now to try to lessen the partisan nature of most redistricting efforts?
BRACEWell, there have been efforts around the country. We talked about the Florida circumstance before. They did pass two referendums in last year's election -- or this year's election to take away some of the control of the legislature. There, again, the legislature is in court to try to challenge some of that information, so it continues to be something that people are looking at. Really, the key is to work with your legislators. They're the ones that -- yes, indeed, they're going to have a hand in it, but they're also the ones that know the territory. I work with legislators, right and left, all around the country. They, more than anybody else, knows the particulars of neighborhoods and how people are feeling and -- because they're talking to them all the time, so there is something to say about keeping that, that input into the process with legislators.
ROTHENBERGVery quickly, Diane, to answer Bob of Baltimore. One of the problems is -- I don't know if this is a problem, but it's a reality -- is that this is done state by state. Redistricting is done by each state. They decide on their own lines. And so for the folks in Maryland, if they decided, okay, you know, John McCain won 40 percent, so it'll give them 40 percent of the House seats. I think they'll think to themselves, but wait a minute. What are the folks in Illinois and Ohio going to do and Texas going to do? And why should we adopt this fair approach, partisan fair approach, if they're not going to do it in Texas or Florida? Why is that in our interest? So the problem is it's so decentralized, the decision-making.
REHMStuart Rothenberg, he is editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. When we come back, more of your phone calls, e-mails. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd let's go right back to the phones. To Ron in Raleigh, N.C. I gather, Ron, you were a former census worker.
RONYes, Diane. I was a clerk in the census office. And one of the things that I saw there that kind of worries me is that the data, as far as I'm concerned, is not all that accurate. And being used for redistricting purposes, this is rather important to the -- our country moving forward, and I'm feeling like we're basing all of these redistricting on erroneous data.
BRACEWell, that has been a concern. It is the concern of the Census Bureau itself. There -- they have seen in their studies, in their analysis of past censuses, there is a certain degree of error. It's always been the case. They brought that down over time. In fact, in 2000, there were some clues that they may have overcounted in some areas. So they have gotten it better, but it is subject to some degree of shift. And you're certainly not going to capture everybody. This is a free society. People do have the capability of not responding despite what the census workers try to do of going to the doors at least six times to try to get people to fill out the forms.
REHMThanks for your work, Ron. Here's an e-mail from Graham. He says, "As you've mentioned a few times on the show, Ohio has seen hard times. But some recent indicators suggest things are heading in the positive direction. Please let your guest know that, though our population has declined, Ohio is one of only two states where unemployment rate has dropped for eight consecutive months. The Fed noted this year that Ohio had the fifth fastest growing economy in the country. Important to clarify because not only do we have one of the premier health care facilities in the world with the Cleveland Clinic, but number of other indicators that show positive growth in the Buckeye State. Yay for Ohio."
REHMWell, I should say. And...
BRACEThat is one thing that's important to note. However, Diane, you got to keep in mind that the census is taken as of April 1.
BRACEAnd so what the people and how they were, where they were, on April 1 is what counts.
REHMAnd here's another from Elkhart, Ind. Dennis says, "With the advent of software for this purpose, why can't redistricting be done solely on headcount and not special interest? Seems we would have a more blended political scene if the lines were drawn on numbers only." Kim.
BRACEWell, that is the case in the State of Iowa. Under their law, they -- the persons that are doing the redistricting can only use total population.
BRACEThey even cannot use racial population in the State of Iowa, so they're -- they've adopted something that is similar to what your caller was looking for.
REHMLet's go now to Evans, Ohio. Good morning, Roger. You're on the air.
ROGERGood morning. Thank you. I'm really disappointed in the court position that this is a political question. It seems to me it has implications for governance, too. It's not just about party representation. It's issue representation and individual representation that seemed, to me, to be constitutional issues. And my main concern is that this contributes to the pulverized Congress, that as long as representatives only need to serve their base, district or structure, so they don't need to speak to their entire constituency but just to a base, that harms the discourse.
ROTHENBERGCan't disagree with that point. I'm very sympathetic to it. I think that these very partisan districts do tend to produce very partisan representatives. On the other hand, I'm not sure if we change the district that much it would change who is elected. As long as we have closed primaries...
WALTERThat's exactly right.
ROTHENBERGAs long as, you know, you have just Republicans who can vote in the Republican primary and who votes which Republicans. It's the more ideological, the more concern. Just as more liberal Democrats vote in Democratic primaries. But I do think the way districts are drawn have to have some effect. You know, there was a time when the argument was a district should represent interests. The farmers in a district should be represented, the farmers in a state or this community.
ROTHENBERGNow, we even divide -- sometimes we divide cities. We divide counties. We divide communities of people, and they get very upset. So, you know, I think, Roger is right in terms of the polarization, but there is no single philosophy out there on how to draw districts. And when we had the other caller, who suggests, what if lines were just drawn basis on numbers?
ROTHENBERGI guess my reaction is kind of, what does that mean? Someone randomly puts a pencil down at a point in a state and draws a line -- a horizontal line and a vertical line? The decision about who to include, how to draw the district is going to be a personal one, and it's going to be political in that different people are going to have different views on how to draw them. But, yeah, there are a lot of problems with this, with the kinds of districts that were drawn that really do lead, I think, to an angrier, more partisan, more polarized Congress.
REHMBut what if you did have an open primary? Wouldn't that help, Amy?
WALTERNo. I think Stu is exactly right, which is, the bottom line, regardless of how competitive a district is on paper, the people who come out of their primaries are the people who are going to vote for. And if you know that the Democrat is usually going to be the most liberal one in the field, and the Republicans going to be the most conservative, that's what you're going to end up getting in the general election. And so, you know, it's beyond just opening it up. It's also helping voters understand the importance of voting in a primary, which seems -- you know, in many of these states, they're in the summer.
WALTERPeople are gone on vacation. They don't get as much attention as the general election. But they're, in many ways, just as important. I think part of it, too -- it's not just so much as the -- how the districts are drawn, but it is the way in which the members themselves are interacting with one another. Polarization has been part of the American map forever, right? I mean, Jerry Mander (sp?) was -- is not a modern figure -- or I think it's Gary, right, was his last name?
WALTERAlbert Gary. So this has been going on for quite some time. The difference, it seems to me, is in the discourse, where there -- sure, you could get Republicans and Democrats, who maybe fundamentally disagreed on anything, but they could say -- especially, a region could say together, the Northeast or the South or the Midwest could say -- these are the issues that matter to our part of the country: the environment, jobs, manufacturing, environment.
WALTERThat's what's missing. And I think because people are now getting penalized for working with a Democrat or a Republican -- you know, working across the aisle -- that they choose not to do that. But their interests remain similar.
REHMAnd that's precisely the point I think Bob in San Marcos, Texas wants to make. You're on the air, Bob. Bob, are you there? Okay, let's go instead to Jenny in St. Louis, Mo. You're on the air.
JENNYMy question is, with the shift in population, how much more contiguous do you think the redistricting sites will become in the individual state legislatures? Do you think we'll see any more of these episodes as we saw a few years ago in Texas with the state troopers out looking for state legislators?
REHMI remember that very well.
WALTERI do, too, (unintelligible).
REHMAmy, what do you think?
WALTERWell, I think it -- at the legislative level, it could be very contentious, though in so many of these states you do have, you know, Republicans with significant majorities in the state House and state Senate, and they have the governor. The real question is how many of these will go to court? And it seems to me that that's where we're going to see a lot of these battles. We did in 2002, and I suspect we'll see a lot of it in 2012.
REHMDescribe what happened in that Texas state legislature battle, Stu Rothenberg.
ROTHENBERGWell, I hope I remember. But some legislators refused to actually show up in the legislative chamber. They hid out. They went to a hotel, as I believe.
ROTHENBERGIs that right? Is that right, Amy?
REHMAnd then they left the state.
WALTERThey left the state so that they couldn't have a quorum or something.
ROTHENBERGIn a neighboring state and so that the sergeant at arms couldn't go get them. You know, we do have these situations sometimes in contentious legislative battles where members won't show up, and there won't be a quorum.
ROTHENBERGSo it was that kind of thing, that the legislators left the state and had to be, you know -- you have the -- like, the sheriff's going out looking for these members...
ROTHENBERG...and wanting to almost arrest them to bring them back, so they will vote on these things.
REHMLet's go to Pelham, N.C. Hi, Ken.
KENHi. I just wanted to bring something new into this. I understand the Constitution's belief in one person, one vote. So with the Supreme Court giving corporations that right of being an individual and the lobbyists that attack our legislators when they're away from home at sessions and all, the one person, one vote really doesn't mean anything in our government today. An example of this is the Virginia Uranium problem that we're having, where the lobbyists are swarming into the Virginia legislature, and now the Washington legislature, to pass a bill to allow mining of uranium in Virginia.
REHMOkay. That's a little off our subject. But how does it affect this whole question of redistricting, Kim?
BRACEWell, it's partly the question of representation and how do members feel in terms of different issues that come about. That is part of the reason why the Founding Founders wanted to have two different chambers. They felt that having a lower House would be closer to the people. And yet your caller wanted the overarching -- everyone to be considered. And that's what the Founding Fathers did with the state -- with the U.S. Senate, feeling that it would represent the state's interest from that time.
REHMAnd we have an e-mail from Ron from Ohio. "Are districts drawn contiguously? Or can they be fragmented? Are there rules governing the shape or physical size?" Stu.
ROTHENBERGWell, some states have those requirements built into their legislation, that districts need to be as contiguous and compact as possible, but many states obviously don't. If you look at some of the states that have been drawn over the past decades, in California or North Carolina or Georgia or Pennsylvania, they've been drawn purely for political purposes by politicians. And, I guess, maybe we shouldn't expect politicians to...
ROTHENBERG...use any other measure other than politics, but they do. But, no, in many states, counties are divided. Cities are divided. Little communities are picked up because they happen to be either upscale Republican or African-American, and the legislators either want to use those -- they either want to kind of take those pockets and keep them from another district where they might change the partisan color, or they might throw a particular district to make it more Republican or Democrat.
REHMAnd following up on that, Dan in Oviedo, Fla. wants to know -- he says, "This election, Florida passed an amendment called Fair Districts Florida, meant to eliminate the extreme gerrymandering by requiring districts to be compact and contiguous. Republicans won big this year with the governorship, cabinet and a veto-proof majority in the legislature, so how would your guests address how the intent of a Fair Districts amendment can be fulfilled, if it all, was such partisan leadership?" Amy.
WALTERWell, this may be a better question for Kim to answer.
REHMAll right. Let me just remind you, you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Go ahead, Kim.
BRACEWell, it is a question that Florida is going to be grappling with. The thing that -- I mean, Stu is right in terms of considerations. They vary across the different states, but all states do say that the districts have to be contiguous. That is the one feature that is in just about everybody's state law. Now, a lot of them say compact and compactness is only in the eyes of the beholder, but certainly contiguousness is something that just about every state does have. There might be a fight on whether or not a point contiguity is accepted, but basically you can't have two parts of a state being represented (unintelligible).
REHMOkay. And one final e-mail question from Arum who says, "Does apportionment depend on the number of U.S. citizens or on the entire population regardless of voting eligibility? If it is the latter, I find it ironic that beneficiaries of reapportionment will be Republicans in states, like Texas and Florida, where population growth is largely driven by immigration and the interests of the Republican Party are often directly opposed to those of the immigrant populations." Stu Rothenberg.
ROTHENBERGWell, again, I think Kim is -- can speak to this better than I can. This has been ongoing controversy about who you count. Do you use statistical measures to augment populations that you think are missing? The census is supposed to count people who are resident in the United States. And that includes people who are not United States citizens, I believe. Kim, is that not correct?
BRACEThat is correct.
BRACEBasically everybody is counted.
REHMOkay. So what is the deadline for redrawing these districts, Kim?
ROTHENBERGThe deadline varies according to the different states. It's generally the filing deadline by which the persons are going to be elected by. So the filing for the primaries that will take place in 2012 is the practical deadline. That starts in, like, the state of Illinois with a filing deadline of basically late November, early December of the year in '11 for the election in March of 2012.
WALTERBut -- yeah, and as we've seen in the past, if there's a court battle, we could have these lines up in the air for some time. And we've also seen cases where -- in North Carolina and Texas, where even after redistricting, after there were elections held in those districts, court decisions came down and the lines were redrawn. And then they had to have special elections in those districts.
REHMSo do you expect to see lots of court challenges? What do you expect after (unintelligible) ?
ROTHENBERGOh, there'll be -- oh, I'm sure there'll be lots of court challenge.
BRACEOh, absolutely. The lawyers are going ape.
REHMThey're going ape. Oh, my gosh. You know, the election process could be so much simpler. We've made it this complicated, and it gets worse every year somehow.
WALTERWell, just think if they had the technology back in the 1800s. We might have had the lawsuits, too. What do you think? Yeah, probably.
REHMOkay. And it's worth pointing out that most of the people in this conversation have no representation because we live in the District of Columbia.
REHMAnd that includes me.
REHMStuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, Amy Walter, political director for ABC News, Kimball Brace of Election Data Systems, thank you all so much. Merry Christmas to you.
BRACEThank you there.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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