Legislative Dysfunction – Is Redistricting the Cause?

Thanks to Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report for calling attention to an article by Nate Silver, who according to Kronberg is “that rare breed of statistician who earned rock star status analyzing polls and predicting just about everything accurately in the last election.” While it seems improbable that even the most astute statistician can approach “rock star status”, it is clear that Silver’s analysis is once again astute and interesting. Harvey’s own description of Silver’s conclusions is that “redistricting has institutionalized legislative dysfunction.” This is not the first article ever written decrying the political polarization caused by redistricting. Anyone following politics closely is aware that redistricting pretty much determines which party will win which district for the majority of the legislative elections. Silver has the statistics to point out how bad it has become over the years.

For example, Silver points out that only 35 out of the 435 House of Representative districts were swing districts, that is districts where there might be a two party contest; that’s only eight percent! Harvey points out that in Texas it’s not the 7.9 million people that vote in the general election that count, but only the 1.1 million that vote in the Republican primary. That’s why there were only about a dozen genuine contested general election legislative races in Texas.

Polarization is likely the biggest factor in legislative dysfunction. The lack of genuine two-party elections leads to more and more polarization. Perhaps former Senator Jeff Wentworth’s continuous campaign for revising the redistricting process wasn’t such a bad idea after all. You can read Silver’s article here: As Swing Districts Dwindle, Can a Divided House Stand?

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