Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new report from the Democratic Leadership Council reveals which states are the worst of the worst when it comes to drawing competitive congressional districts.
In which state did congressional winners have the largest average margin of victory? Massachusetts, at 72.53%.
Which state could expect the largest increase in voter turnout if congressional elections were more competitive? Or, to put it differently, in which state does gerrymandering most inhibit voter turnout? Louisiana, where turnout might go up 59%.
There are, of course, reasons to excuse the particular states that come out as worst. Massachusetts' congressional races are uncompetitive in part because of the way the lines are drawn, but also because the state is overwhelmingly Democratic. Louisiana has a lot of room to grow in terms of congressional turnout because it holds its gubernatorial elections (which typically induce voters to come to the polls) in odd-numbered years.
One of the large findings of the report, however, is worth considering: Voters are attracted by close elections. Turnout could have increased by 15% nationwide in both 2002 and 2006 with more competitive congressional lines. That's 11 million additional votes each year
The basic elements of redistricting reform -- making sure districts aren't drawn to protect incumbents or to benefit a particular political party -- tend to make elections more competitive. But, if you believe that increasing voter turnout is important, this research might suggest a further step: drawing district lines intentionally to promote competitiveness. Of course, if you take that principle to its extreme, you'll end up with districts that still look like salamanders.
(Hat tip: Election Law Blog)
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