Maybe Redistricting Won't Save California After All

| Mon Jun. 13, 2011 12:52 PM EDT

Will California's new independently drawn district lines increase the number of swing districts here in the Golden State? And will that lead to more moderates of both parties getting elected? Maybe, but David Dayen is skeptical:

If you actually get serious about what is really a competitive district, you come up with something like the Sacramento Bee’s analysis. In a story with the preposterous headline “California Legislature may see more swing districts under draft political maps,” the actual analysis shows that swing districts will increase in the State Senate, for example, from one district… to two.

....The reason for this is simple: Californians self-segregate. Unless you re-gerrymander with absurd district lines, it’s impossible to create a critical mass of swing districts. The liberals live in one place and the conservatives live in another. That’s just the way it is.

David's point is that analysts claiming a big increase in swing districts are using a definition of "swing" that's purely theoretical. In practice, existing districts that already meet their loose criteria for being in play never change parties. So there's not much reason to think that new districts that are similar will show much swinginess either. I've already linked to a couple of optimistic analyses which suggest that redistricting will lead to a bit more moderation in California politics, so David's counter-analysis is worth taking a look at. He's pretty good at this stuff. We'll find out who's right next November, I guess.

But there's one thing everyone agrees on: the new lines will benefit Democrats. The 2001 redistricting artificially limited the number of Democratic seats, so even a normal, non-gerrymandered redistricting is bound to increase Democratic representation considering that California has gotten even more strongly Democratic over the past ten years. Republicans may be very close to becoming an endangered species here.