How many House seats should each party get?


The logic of gerrymander: Yesterday, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake offered an interesting report about attempts by Dems and Reps alike to gerrymander the House for the next ten years.

Along the way, Blake noted a complaint by Missouri Republican Eric Greitens. Greitens doesn't think the GOP has gerrymandered Missouri's House districts aggressively enough.

Under the new proposed map for Missouri, Republicans would have the edge in five of the state's eight House districts. Greitens says the map should have been gerrymandered in such a way as to give the GOP seven of the eight House seats.

Here's the relevant part of Blake's report. We'll post the text of Greitens' tweet in italics:

BLAKE (1/6/22):  More recently, former Missouri governor and 2022 Senate candidate Eric Greitens on Wednesday attacked his state’s GOP map-drawers. Greitens complained, not that the map was unfair, but rather that it didn’t include as many GOP districts as possible.

Some RINOs in Jefferson City have proposed a new congressional map that would mean Missouri—a state that went +19 for President Trump—could have soon be represented by 5 Republicans & 3 Democrats.

Absolutely not—MO must pass a 7R-1D map!

To be clear, Trump took 57 percent of the vote in Missouri in 2020 and 56 percent in 2016. A map in which the GOP was favored in five of eight districts would give the GOP 62.5 percent of the state’s congressional seats.

Greitens wants a gerrymander which would give the GOP seven of Missouri's eight House seats. Under the map which has been proposed, the GOP will be favored in only five of the eight House seats.

This is where the basic logic of the gerrymander comes in:

Blake notes that Trump took 56 and 57 percent of the Missouri vote in his two presidential races. On that basis, he seems to suggest that 5 of 8 House seats—that's 62.5% of the total—would be a fair allocation for the GOP.

In the simplest possible sense, that would be a fair allocation of seats. However, consider this:

Suppose a state is 57% Republican, and it has eight House seats. Uh-oh! If the electorate is 57% Republican on a uniform basis throughout the state, and if no gerrymandering occurs, the GOP will end up winning all eight of the state's House seats!

In short, there's nothing in our constitutional framework which guarantees either party a "fair" (or proportional) percentage of House seats in any particular state. It's natural to think that some such principle of fairness ought to obtain, but there's no such expectation or guarantee within our congressional framework.

Greitens wants the GOP to win seven of Missouri's eight seats. Just this once, let's be totally fair:

If Greitens had wanted to be extra greedy, he could have gone for all eight!

Jamie Raskin wants all eight:  Here in war-torn Maryland, Jamie Raskin wants all eight. We're not saying he's right or he's wrong:

BLAKE (continuing directly): Democrats in Maryland have cried foul over their party drawing seven of eight districts to be Democratic-leaning, rather than all eight. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) has argued that the latter approach is warranted because of how much Republicans have stretched their own, superior advantage in redistricting elsewhere. (The GOP gets to draw more than twice as many districts.)

Raskin said Republicans “are now in the process of trying to gerrymander us into oblivion from Texas to Georgia to North Carolina to Michigan to Wisconsin.” He suggested not drawing eight Democratic-leaning districts would amount to unilateral disarmament...



  1. Fascists (Right-wingers) shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of the United States government.

  2. Where we can, we should gerrymander the hell out of the Republicans.They do it to us all the time. Here in Illinois, that's what we've done

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Somerby puts his thumbs on the scale a bit here. He talks about Missouri as a state in which hypothetically 57% of the voters are Republican, uniformly distributed. That isn't the case in Missouri for several reasons. First, Trump voters are not the sum total of the Republican party. Some didn't vote for Trump. Party affiliation in Missouri is not that close: 38% Democrat, 45% Republican with many so-called Democrats considering themselves conservative. Second, Republicans are not evenly distributed across the state. Three counties went for Biden by large margins: Boone, Jackson and St. Louis, all counties around large cities in Missouri. So Somerby's hypothetical does not fit Missouri's actual demographics and is thus specious. There should be three seats going to Democrats given the actual voting patterns.

    In Maryland, the situation is not close either. There are 55% Democrats, 31% Republicans. The state went 65.4% for Biden, taking the majority in 8 precincts. The Democrats won 7 of 8 House seats because the House districts included major cities such as Frederick, which were heavily Democratic.

    In both states there are large rural areas with low populations which vote Republican. If district lines are drawn to include only those areas, excluding cities, then you get more Republican representation, but not equal population density in those districts. Is that fair? I don't think so.

    It seems to me that Democrats should get 3 seats in Missouri because of the Democratic, high population density urban areas in geographically distant areas of the state (Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis). In Maryland, 1 Republican seat is what you get if you create a safe district by excluding Democratic voters. If you instead spread Democratic voters into adjacent areas to make more geographically equal districts (in size and pop), then you get more competitive districts because each additional seat will include more equal numbers of red and blue voters. It doesn't seem like Republicans can improve their standing no matter which approach they take. That's as it should be because Maryland is a much more Democratic state than Missouri is Republican.

    Somerby seems to want to do some both-siderism and imply that Democrats don't care about gerrymandering when it is to their own benefit, and aren't particularly interested in fairness. That's incorrect, because these are more complex issues than Somerby admits, and because political considerations are not as clear cut as he wishes to make them.

    Personally, I think redistricting should be done by non-partisan panels and courts, not by political partisans. Somerby doesn't discuss that, which contributes to my belief that he is grinding an axe, not presenting an issue of "fairness". He wishes to portray Democrats as hypocrites, but he has to manipulate the numbers in order to do so, which is a no-no among journalists, but not propagandists such as Somerby. Reader beware.

  5. Digby says that based on the last election, Democrats are likely to gain 4 districts, so that the redrawn map will be slightly more favorable for Democrats. Her explanation is:

    "In some places, Republicans opted to shore up safe seats rather than gerrymander as aggressively as possible. Meanwhile, where Democrats could, they aggressively gerrymandered themselves."

    Shoring up safe seats means creating districts where there are more Republicans compared to ones that are more balanced red/blue and thus more at risk during a competitive House race. In other words, Democrats have been more willing to be spread out into red districts in order to give themselves a chance of winning more seats, with more effort, compared to if they had all been put into safe blue districts consisting of mostly Democrats. So, Republicans and Democrats have both been gerrymandering, but using different strategies for achieving their political goals.

    It is difficult to argue that gerrymandering is something wrong or unfair when it is the way seats have been apportioned throughout our history.

    Note that Marjorie Taylor Greene has been upset because more Democrats were put into her very safe red district. The Democrats were upset too and some have been moving away because of being added to her district. I can't say that I blame them, but it shows that voters too have a say in what happens, even if it is inconvenient to express their political will.

    In CO, the main competition for Lauren Boebert was suddenly living outside her district when the boundaries were redrawn (not by Republicans but by an independent commission). She decided to drop her campaign, which I think is unfortunate. There are other incumbents who are deciding not to run again because their districts have changed and they may have too much difficulty with the new numbers.

    1. 3:39 all kinds of wrong. Gerrymandering involves gaining an undue advantage; historically it's impact was largely motivated by racism, but was not hugely significant until the 1990's when right wing extremism became normalized. Generally it has been the Republicans that have been trying to gain an undue advantage through redistricting; at first Dems won some court cases against unfair redistricting but the Supreme Court being packed as it is today, Dems are looking at other strategies such as redistricting unfairly in MD to spur a lawsuit that the SC might take an interest in.

      It is terribly easy to argue that Gerrymandering is wrong; it was universally seen as corrupt until the Republicans embraced it fully, and now it is just the Dems fighting against it. MTG is not against redistricting, she is for voter restriction laws that would for example prevent Dems from moving to her district and then, you know, voting.

      There is no both sides here. A dentist in Israel might gas a jew just like the Nazis but the intent and outcome are completely different; so too with Dems and Repubs with respect to Gerrymandering.

  6. "If Greitens had wanted to be extra greedy, he could have gone for all eight!"

    He-he. No, dear Bob, as you demonstrated: if he wanted to be extra fair he would've gone for all eight.

    But hey, dear Bob, this is politics, and of course fair's got nothin' to do with it. It's all about power and money, and wheeling-dealing.

    ...oh, and thanks for the laughs.

  7. Hey Bob, you still blocking me?

  8. One of the saddest sights you'll see is if you go to Solomons Island, MD there's a giant TRUMP flag flying over the town; this area was one of the neatest places to live before the 80's, back when it was teeming with scientists from CBL. Even Somerby's Baltimore wasn't quite the hell pit it became since then.

    Hilariously Somerby throws his hands up in the air and says that the constitution provides no specific solution so it is what it is, oblivious to how our country actually works.

    Somerby's experiences of rejection and intimidation have come home to roost, producing a man so afraid of his shadow, he buys whatever nonsense Republican grifters are selling, and then says just the dumbest things. He seems hell bent on ruining his previously well earned reputation.

  9. "How many House seats should each party get?"

    House seats don't belong to either party a priori. Elected representatives "get" to represent districts by winning an election. The idea that a district is in the pocket before the voters have cast their votes is contrary to democracy and a form of corruption.

    Asking which kind of corruption we prefer is just wrong. The answer isn't to create red or blue districts but to ensure fair redistricting, so that is the process that needs to be reformed.

    Somerby has an odd way of thinking about these things.


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