NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Not Much Competition In House Races

November 14, 2002

Gerrymandering of congressional districts is threatening democracy in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to legal scholars and political observers. They say the tenor of House politics -- divisive and partisan -- is a consequence of gerrymandering, and that more competitive races would attract more voter interest and perhaps make the House less dominated by partisan motives. The recent elections, they say, point up just how non-competitive Congressional races have become.

  • Only 39 out of 439 House races were won with less than 55 percent of the vote.
  • Even of the 49 races not involving an incumbent, 35 were won with 55 percent of the vote or more.

Yet real political competition could be observed in races for governorships and Senate seats. That's because these races were not subject to the machinations of redistricting.

  • In 36 gubernatorial contests, only three were won by upward of 60 percent of the vote, and 23 of the 36 races were won with less than 55 percent of the vote.
  • While 14 Senate races were won with more than 60 percent of the vote, another 14 of those 34 seats were won with under 55 percent.
  • In fact, 20 of the 36 statehouses shifted from one party to another.

Some political analysts are proposing that redistricting be taken out of the hands of blatant partisans and placed in the hands of less partisan groups. Currently, a dozen states include some element of nonpartisanship in their redistricting process.

Source: David J. Garrow (Emory University), "Ruining the House," New York Times, November 13 2002.


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