While viewing a map of congressional districts, one may believe they are examining an unsolvable puzzle. The same type of puzzle where you dump thousands of tiny colored pieces out of a box onto your kitchen table and immediately realize you have a bad case of buyer’s remorse.
Similarly, on the district map, small jagged lines paired with long shapes seem to stretch through and around counties in a way that can best be described as completely unconventional. These shapes have come about as a result of the two parties gerrymandering congressional districts in an attempt to have a competitive advantage during elections.
The Cook Partisan Voter Index, taken from the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. The greater the margin between the political parties, the least competitive said congressional district is considered.
For example, a district that is D+10 is considered safe for the Democratic Party. The same applies to a R+10 district for Republicans.
Yet a 10-point margin doesn't even come close to just how uncompetitive some of these districts get:
- The Cook Political Report shows that over three-fourths of congressional districts in the US are solid red or blue;
- At least 85 percent of House districts end up not being competitive come November; and
- Some districts are so one-sided that other parties don't even bother to field a candidate because they know it will be a waste of resources.
Here are 6 congressional districts in the US (3 controlled by Democrats; 3 controlled by Republicans) that show just how bad America's competition problem really is:
- New York's 15th District (D+44)
- New York's 13th District (D+43)
- Pennsylvania's 3rd District (D+41)
- Texas' 13th District(R+33)
- Texas' 11th District (R+32)
- Georgia's 9th District (R+31)
About the Districts
New York's 15th Congressional District
The representative for the 15th congressional district of New York, pre-2018 elections, is Jose E. Serrano. The population is 721,177 and includes a significant portion of the Bronx. Serrano is running for re-election in 2018 and has been a member of the House since 1990.
Prior to New York redistricting in 2012, Serrano served the 16th district. In the November 2016 election, Serrano beat Republican candidate Alejandro Vega and Conservative Eduardo Ramirez with 95.3% of the vote.
New York's 13th Congressional District
Charles Rangel, who had served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1971, left his seat open for the 2016 election. Espaillat defeated eight other Democrats in the 2016 primary ,and went on to defeat Republican candidate Tony Evans, Green candidate Daniel Vila Rivera, and Transparent Government candidate Scott Fenstermaker with 88.8% of the vote.
Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District
The representative pre-2018 elections for the district is Republican Mike Kelly. In February 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new congressional map for the state of Pennsylvania, resulting in half a dozen competitive Republican-held congressional districts being allocated to Democrats.
This came about after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the original map constituted an illegal partisan gerrymander. Since redrawing the state’s congressional map in 2011, Republicans have consistently won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats, even though Democrats exceed Republicans in statewide party registration.
The new map is believed to meet every standard of nonpartisan criteria including being compact, minimizing county splits, and preserving the interest of the communities. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra McCloskey Todd stated on behalf of the majority that voted for the new congressional map:
“An election corrupted by extensive, sophisticated gerrymandering and partisan dilution of votes is not ‘free and equal’. By placing voters preferring one party’s candidates in districts where their votes are wasted on candidates likely to lose (cracking), or by placing such voters in districts where their votes are cast for candidates destined to win (packing), the non-favored party’s votes are diluted. It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation.”
Texas' 13th Congressional District
The representative since 1995 through 2017 has been Republican Mac Thornberry. Thornberry is seeking re-election in 2018 and votes with the Republican Party on the majority of bills.
The population for this district is 699,400 and includes counties such as Baylor, Wichita, and Sherman. In the 2016 election, Thornberry faced no opposition in the Republican primary and won with 90% of the vote in November 2016.
No Democrats filed to run in the race. However, Libertarian candidate Calvin DeWeese and Green Party candidate Rusty Tomlinson did file.
Texas' 11th Congressional District
Texas’ 11th congressional district has a population of 719,994. Some of the counties this district includes are Andrews, McCulloch, and Mills.
The representative predating the 2018 elections is Mike Conaway, who has held the position since 2005. Conaway won the November 2016 election with 89.5% of the vote against Libertarian candidate Nicholas Landhold. He ran unopposed in the Republican primary in March 2016.
Georgia 9th Congressional District
Georgia’s 9th district has a population of 697,518 and includes counties such as Dawson, Banks, and Union. Republican Doug Collins has held his position as a Republican member of the House of Representatives since 2013 and is seeking re-election in 2018.
Collins ran unopposed in the 2016 general election after winning a 5-person race in the primary. He beat his Democratic opponent in 2014 with over 8o% of the vote.