The Washington Post

How redistricting leads to a more partisan Congress — in two charts

Think Congress is too partisan? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

The once-in-a-decade redistricting process has taken the nation's already-polarized congressional map and -- you guessed it! -- made it even more polarized, says a new study from the nonpartisan election reform group Fair Vote.

According to the group's analysis, 89 of 435 congressional districts performed between 46 percent and 54 percent for each major political party in recent years. In other words, those were the real swing districts.

But under the new congressional map created by redistricting -- the districts where candidates are currently campaigning for seats in the next Congress -- there are just 74 districts that fit that "swing district" bill.

Here's the comparison:

Graphic courtesy of Fair Vote

In other words, starting with this election, there are now 15 fewer competitive districts than there were in 2010, and 83 percent of congressional districts now clearly favor either Republicans or Democrats.

Here's what that looks like on the new congressional map:

Graphic courtesy of Fair Vote

The result is that the blue districts will, almost without fail, elect liberal Democrats, while the red districts will, almost without fail, elect conservative Republicans. And because these members basically need to please only one side of the aisle to win reelection, their incentive is to toe the party line just about 100 percent of the time.

(A side note: the Fair Vote study also shows the inherent advantage Republicans have in the House, with 195 districts leaning their way, compared with 166 that leans Democrats' way. A big part of this is because Democratic voters are more concentrated in urban areas.)

Redistricting is handled by the state legislatures in the vast majority of states -- which leads lawmakers to draw safe districts for incumbents or, at least, draw districts that their party will be able to win.

There is an emerging movement to put that power in the hands of nonpartisan redistricting commissions. But for now, partisan politics still dominates the drawing of districts.

And the map above is the result.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Chris Cillizza · October 16, 2012

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.