Anyone who pays passing attention to politics understands the concept of gerrymandering to benefit one party at the expense of the other. However I doubt that many of us fully appreciate what devastating results can be obtained by an exceptionally successful gerrymander.
Yesterday here in Virginia all 40 State Senate seats were “contested” under the new district lines drawn up by the Democrat controlled body. The results are startling.
Of the 40 seats, only 25 were contested by nominees from each party. Of the 15 uncontested races, 11 featured a Republican compared to just 4 Democrats running unopposed. This means that there were 11 districts so crammed full of Republican votes that the Democrats didn’t even bother running a yellow dog. This is the first clue as to how effective the Democrat’s gerrymander was. Of the four Democrats running unopposed at least two of them are “minority districts” that obviously present Democrats with a delicate problem when drawing new lines.
Of the 25 contested races (in this calculation I include the 19th District, where Brandon Bell ran as an “independent” but with solid Democrat financial support) , Democrats won a whopping 16 to just 9 for the Republicans. This seems like a bad sign for the GOP, but wait for the punchline. In those 25 districts the total two-party vote was 945,679 and of that total the Democrats received 475,438 to the Republican’s 470,241 for a tiny margin of just over 5000 votes.
That razor thin margin means that tn the 25 contested races, the Democrats received 50.28% of the vote to the Republican’s 49.72%, yet the Democrats won 64% of the seats! And that is counting Bryce Reeves as a win in the 17th District with a margin of 86 votes. If the recount flips that seat back to Edd Houck, then the Democrats will win 17 of 25 races for a mind boggling 68% winning percentage while receiving 50.28 percent of the vote. If you remove the 19th District from the “contested” category, it gets even worse with Democrats winning perhaps 17 of 24 races for a 71% win rate.
Now let’s dig a bit deeper. In the 9 apparent GOP wins, the average margin of victory was 9158 votes. In the 16 Democrat victories the margin was 5476 votes. Of the 9 Republican wins, only 2 were close. Bryce Reeves over Edd Houck by 86 votes and the 20th where Stanley beat Reynolds by 643. The next closest margin for a Republican was 4978 votes! No less than 7 Democrats won with margins below 3500 votes. All of these figures show what a superb job the Democrats did of maximizing their votes through the redistricting process.
In summation, Virginia Republicans lost the 2011 Senate campaign back in 2007 when the last Senate elections were held and the Democrats won a 22 -18 majority. Had Republicans controlled the Senate this year they would be waking up to a majority of roughly 25-15, well outside the margin of squishy members of the Republican caucus. Instead, at best, its a 20-20 tie and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling will now have his run for governor considerably complicated by his position as tie-breaker over the next two years, and “moderate” Republicans will now hold the balance of power in the chamber.
In contrast, in the Virginia House of Delegates whose redistricting was controlled by the GOP, Republicans appear to have increased their majority from 59 to 66 of 100 seats.