NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional Districts
by David Kowalski, Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 01:51:08 PM EDT
New York Democrats enjoy a huge voter registration edge over the state's Eepublicans with 5,489,521 Democrats (63.6% of the two party total) versus 3,143,233 Republicans. New Yorkers have been willing to give Republicans the keys to the governor's mansion and NY City Hall but not Presidential electors and increasingly not US Senate or House seats. In 1994, Democrats held just 16 of the 31 House seats in New York. Today that figure is 20 of 29 and iot may well get more Democratic. How "fair" is this division? What, if anything do district registration numbers say about the 2006 elections?
Congressional districts appear to be devised to give each party a split close to its statewide share of two party voters. Democrats have more voters in 18 districts and Republicans enjoy the edge in 11 with one district having a meager 573 registration edge. Proportioning the seats according to voter registration would give Democrats 18.44 seats and Republicans 10.56 seats. Of course, this is a very tale mathematical exercise. NY's congressional districts were devised to protect incumbents with each party losing a seat after the last census. How do these districts look?
Oddly, the districts are skewed very badly in favor of the Republicans. Democrats hold a 72.7% to 27.3% two-party edge in their 20 districts which include two majority Republican districts on Long Island, NY-1 and NY-3 having clear Republican edges and a third Long Island seat held by the Democrats has the aforementioned 573 registration Republican edge with over 325,000 voters registered in one of the parties. Republican districts are clearly less Republican than Democratic districts are Democratic with an overall 56.1% Republican share of two party registrations.
All of these statistics boil down to some surprising truths. Wonder why NY freshman Democrat Brian Higgins, who won a close race in 2004, is not getting more of a Republican challenge? The district, NY-27 has an 83,000 registration edge to the Democrats. Game, set, match, Mr. Higgins.
Why does Sue Kelly have so many eager democratic challengers in NY-19? The republican registration edge is an uneasy 52.7% to 47.3% or 16,000 registrations in the best Democratic year in the state since (maybe) 1964.
Why do people keep touting Dan Maffei in NY-25 to upset James Walsh. Look hard at the narrow 53.7% to 46.3% registration edge and consider the year.
Since Tim Bishop wins consistently in NY-1 with a 38,000 Republican edge on Long Island, other suburban and upstate races seem like strong possibilities. The Republican registration edge has been a lot less than their voting edge, for example in NY-24 (open seat, was Boehlert) where Rs lead with 56.7% registration. Bad incumbents with boorish behavior bring more Republican districts like NY-20 (Sweeney,63.6%), NY 29 (freshman Randy Kuhl)into question. NY-13 defies this pattern with lots of blue collar Reagan Democrats and under 40% GOP registration. That is why so many people mourn the weak race put in so far by Stephen Harrison.
NY-3 (Peter King, 59.5%) straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Like other formerly Republican districts, it has a Republican registration edge (59.5%). King has, unlike other Republicans on the Island, won. He's also outperformed his registration figures. Dave Mejias is a good candidate in a great year but will have a tough time winning.
Quiet John McHugh in NY 20 has the second most Republican district in the state (60.2%). Unlike Sweeney, he hasn't made himself the central issue of the campaign. And that brings us back to Tom Reynolds who has the largest war chest of any Republican running for federal office in NY state this year with over $3 million cash on hand. Reynolds comes over as the kind of swaggering bad guy who gets away with a lot. For one thing, he inexplicably was able to warn away Rahm and the DCCC from NY-24 by claiming he knew all sorts of dirty upstate tricks.
So, yes, New York has lots of opportunities this year. This is no dream sequence, friends.
And finally, a cautionary tale. In heavily one-party states like NY or California, republicans should get a smaller percentage of House seats than their statewide share of the vote. That is one consequence of winner-take-all congressional voting. Only the packing of Democrats into urban districts has kept (for example) 20 Republican seats in California and 9 in New York. Hasta la vista, Ahnuld and your redistricting plan. (oh, do I want to go over those California districts).
Hint: if they don't want a challenge, they are vulnerable as hell. It is a house of cards in NY-24, ready to come down if the DCCC cries boo. For one thing that hot shot state senator Meier got under 51% of the vote in his last election. For another, Arcuri has been elected the county attorney for Oneida (Syracuse) and has held that traditionally "tough" office for 12 years. For a third, GOP performance in 2004 got a 9% boost statewide over 2000. For a fourth, national Republicans pushed Sherwood Boehlert around a lot for his moderate views and were going to take his Chair away without replacing it while less senior but more extreme GOPers would get the goodies. Call it bad vibes from a local favorite or what goes around comes around.