NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional Districts

From the diaries, again. Dave has been on fire lately--Chris

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.    

Tags: 2006 elections, House, Long Island, NY, Redistricting (all tags)

Comments

22 Comments

Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

Who controls the NY legislature?  At redistricting time, there should be about 4 majority GOP districts with 80%+ Repub voters, and all the rest should be majority Democrat.

It's the opposite of the Delay approach in Taxas.

by Bear83 2006-07-26 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

Nobody controls the NY legislature.  The state Assembly is automatically Democratic and somehow the state Senate is automatically Republican.  The result is perpetual gridlock no matter which party controls the Governor's Mansion.  The mission of NY state Republicans is to screw NY City (over 40% of the stae's population), no matter who is Mayor.  The weird result is that Bloomberg, the GOP Mayor is launching assaults locally to get the stae Senate into Democratic (e.g. friendly to the City) hands.

For years the State has been ruled by an uneasy troika of Governor-(Assembly) Speaker and Senate Majority Leader that has automatically been split.  Individual legislators have little voice, no influence, and wait on the sidelines while the three men (so far it has always been men) bicker.

If Democrats pick up the Governorship (almost a given this year and some state Senate seats this gridlock would finally, finally be broken and something like democracy with a small d would be restored.  This might allow some friendly redistricting in 2012.  It is harder to concentrate Republicans but several extra seats could be picked up by a friendly legislature.  Divide Staten Island's Republican voters into two separate districts and voila, the City's only Republican seat (despite that 60,000 registration edge) is automatically gone.  Move a few other boundaries around and more will go.

by David Kowalski 2006-07-26 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

There is a small chance that the State Senate could flip this year, which would alter that dynamic.  

Other than that, I'd just point out that NY Democrats' main problems in two seats that should have been competitive this year (Fossella and King) was in candidate recruitment.  In the 13th, many higher-profile Staten Island Democrats passed on the run before it fell to Stephen Harrison, a community activist with not enough experience.  He's trying his hardest, but the very fact that he's the nominee is in a sense a concession by the Dems.  In the 3rd, Suozzi could have given King a hell of a run, but Schumer convinced him to launch a kamikaze campaign for governor instead, to satisfy some obscure vendetta Schumer has against Spitzer.

by antidoto 2006-07-26 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

Too true. Suozzi's excuse for taking on Evil Pete King is that Tom's an executive not a legislator.

Puhlese. If we lived in a world where Republican politicans did what they were best suited for and not what will merely help the party gain power, Bush would be MLB commish and Suozzi would be the Congressman from Nassau county.

When the hell with Dems start playing by the new rules?!

by dereau 2006-07-26 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

One other thing.  The Gov in NY has no official role in NY Congressional redistricting.  The map only has to be passed by the state legislature.  The Gov does not sign it.

by John Mills 2006-07-26 05:07PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

The mission of NY state Republicans is to screw NY City (over 40% of the stae's population), no matter who is Mayor.

Just to note, the part of the state which is heavily dependent on the fortunes of NYC, the downstate area (NYC, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland) comprises over 62% of the state's population, as compared to just under 42% for the city alone.  (2005 Census Bureau estimations)

by Ed Fitzgerald 2006-07-26 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

The Repubs continue to control the State Senate because of incumbent protection.  The Dems in the Assembly draw their lines, the Repubs in the Senate draw their lines, each House signs off on each others lines.  The Gov has no official role and generally stays out.

by John Mills 2006-07-26 07:47PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Reg Data and Congressional Districts

The state legislature is split so every Congressional redistricting since 1980 has ended up in the courts with the legislature blessing the court drawn lines at the last minute.

by John Mills 2006-07-26 01:09PM | 0 recs
State of the NY Senate

Democrats control the Assembly by a 105 to 45 margin.  Republicans control the Senate 35 to 27.  There is a lot of room for Democrats to improve in the Senate.  I made these maps a bit back by coloring in the official state maps.  

by ortcutt 2006-07-27 01:12AM | 0 recs
Re: State of the NY Senate

Great maps.  The Dems need break the Repubs hold on LI and upstate to flip the Senate.  The Repubs have been doing everything they can to keep their majority including forcing State Sen Mike Balboni out of the AGs race so they wouldn't be forced to defend his LI Sen seat.  A lot of the LI Senators are in their 60s and 70s so it is only a matter of time before those seats come open and we have a chance to pick them off.

by John Mills 2006-07-27 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data

Excellent analysis.  

One thought - "Democrats hold a 72.7% to 27.3% two-party edge in their 20 districts"

A lot of this is driven by the location of the population.  Since 1990, downstate NY (South of Rockland County) has gained population while upstate has lost.  Most of the city and close in suburban seats are very heavily tilted towards the Dems with huge registration advantages.  From the tip of LI to Rockland County there are only 3 Repubs and two are pretty far out on LI making it tough to add Dems from the city/close in suburbs.  

The only seat you could redistrict to the Dems advantage without an incredible gerrymander downstate is NY-13 held by Vito Fossella which actually wouldn't be that hard with some political will.  The others have already changed hands over the past 10 years.  

by John Mills 2006-07-26 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

Great analysis.

One small correction though. Accuri was DA for Oneida County, but that is not the county where Syracuse is (Syracuse is in Onondaga Co.) No biggie, since Syracuse is not in that congressional district.

by upstate guy 2006-07-26 03:27PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

Could you clarify this?

"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."

Are you saying that the DCCC has backed off supporting Arcuri?  I haven't heard anything like that, anywhere.

by HellofaSandwich 2006-07-26 04:40PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

I don't think it is so much that they have backed off as they have not thrown themselves as fully into Arcuri's race as they should have.

NY-24 is very winnable but as with the rest of these upstate districts there needs to be concerted effort to organize and mobilize democrats for a district wide race where no such effort has been undertaken before. It takes money and it takes organization.

This is one reason why I consistently tell people that despite NY-24 being an open seat with a more friendly enrollment percentage it is in fact NY-20 that is the most likely turn over district in the state.

All it would take to change that however is a concerted effort by Rahm and other democratic organizations to ensure that Arcuri has all the resources he needs and NY-24 would take it's rightful place at the top of the list.

by Andrew C White 2006-07-26 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

This was not one of the districts that the DCCC announced advertising for in its fall buy.  Considering the nature of the seat, the cash-on-hand position of the two likely candidates and the cost of advertising this was a no brainer.  OTOH, the DCCC is committed to advertise in support of Ron Klein v. Clay Shaw in a race with a combined $5.2 million cash-on-hand where over $6 million has been raised.  Will anyone notice their buy?

by David Kowalski 2006-07-27 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

Are your sure?  Mike Arcuri is on the 2nd wave of the Red to Blue campaign.  Ron Klein was in the first wave.  I can't believe that the DCCC is going to ignore NY-24.  That doesn't make sense.

by John Mills 2006-07-27 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and CDs

Typo alert: McHugh is NY-23 not NY-20

It is also important to talk about the non-affiliated voters in these districts. A straight R-to-D description is simply misleading.

Take NY-20 for instance. R's have a 2-to-1 advantage over D's. However the real ratio is 2-to-1-to-1. R's hold just under 50% of the total enrollment while D's hold 25% and "blanks" or non-affiliated voters account for another 25%.

The fact is that this "strongly Republican district" has a less than 50% Republican enrollment.

Then you start to understand how Chuck Schumer has won the district twice and Eliot Spitzer has won it once. Hillary Clinton lost the district but not by much.

Drill down even further and you start to see that Democrats have been winning local elections a lot recently and the tale the numbers tell is that all those non-affiliated voters come out and vote for Democrats these days.

Now this "strongly Republican district" doesn't look quite to strongly republican anymore.

by Andrew C White 2006-07-26 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data

Some points:

1.  The Democrats and Republicans are getting the same share of NY congressional seats that is appropriate for their share of NY voter registration (about 2:1 Dem).  The reason the Republican districts are "oddly shaped" is mathematics.  Normally, in a single member district system, the majority party would win far more districts than their share of voters are entitled to.  That is because voters don't neatly separate themselves out into different corners of the states.  A 2:1 edge statewide could translate itself into a 2:1 in each district -which means the party with the edge takes all the districts.  In this case, gerrymandering leads to the same result that proportional representation would.  Its the same principle why African-American majority districts are usually so oddly shaped.

2.  The strangest contours to the district map are New York City, where all but one of the districts are safely Democratic.  They are shaped essentially so that each ethnic group with some political clout gets their own district.  This even applies to the one Republican district, which also is the Italian-American district.

3.  Gerrymandering won't help the Democrats that much in New York, even if it were possible.  The one pickup would be NY-13, which is the Republican enclave in New York city and surrounded by Democratic territory.  Every other Republican district is winnable by the Democrats already without changing the lines.  Furthermore, to try to make them more Democratic would jeopardize neighboring Democratic districts.  For example, on Long Island the parties are at parity and it helps the Democrats to have most Republican voters there packed into NY-3.

4.  Party registration figures are a good indicator, but the best indicator is the presidential vote in each district, the presidential race being the most visible race and probably the best expression of voters' philosophy.  In New York City in particular, many people who always vote Republican in federal elections are registered Democrats, since the city Republican party is so weak that it doesn't contest many down ballot races and you have to vote in the Democratic Party if you want a say in who represents you on the city council or in Albany.  NY-13 has a 57% Bush re-elect percentage, the highest in the state and the same percentage as in CA-50 where a strong Democratic challenger couldn't overcome ingrained voter preferences.

5.  The reason the New York State Senate is Republican is because the New York State Democratic Party wants it this way.  Take a look at who they are running against Republican incumbents this year, or how much money they have raised.  Having full control of the state government would mean  that the voters would expect the Democrats to actually accomplish something in Albany, other than divert more and more money from taxpayers into pensions for state workers.  This is the last thing Democratic politicians want.  I know I sound cynical, but collusion between the two parties is done more openly in New York than in other states.  Except in very rare instances, an incumbent in state politics will draw a weak challenger or no challenger at all; there is more competition at the federal level.

by Michels 2006-07-26 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data

"The reason the New York State Senate is Republican is because the New York State Democratic Party wants it this way."

This is false today.  My local State Senator Liz Krueger is the Dems campaign chair and she is committed to winning a Dem majority in the State Senate and has a multiple cycle plan to do so.  The problem is

1 - The Repubs in the State Senate draw their own lines every 10 years and gerrymander them to an extent that makes it difficult for Dems to win the seats.  Example - THe 2002 redistricting which helped Repub Marty Gold oust incumbent Dem Vinny Gentille in Brooklyn.

2 - Dems in the Assembly will never give up a safe seat to be in the Senate minority while Repubs in the Assembly jump at Senate seats.  This is one of the reasons the Dems tend to have weaker candidates for the Senate.

3 - The Dems grabbed some easy seats in 2004 including the seat held by Guy Valella in the Bronx.  It gets harder as you have to run in heavily gerrymandered seats but it is doable if you target a few seats each cycle and properly fund challengers.

by John Mills 2006-07-26 07:57PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data

I agree with your other points especially that the ability to pick up a lot more Cong seats in NY is not going to be easy.  

by John Mills 2006-07-26 07:58PM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data

"NY-13 has a 57% Bush re-elect percentage, the highest in the state and the same percentage as in CA-50 where a strong Democratic challenger couldn't overcome ingrained voter preferences."

2004 was a special election though, especially for the people in the 13th who live right across the harbor from Lower Manhattan. Though Staten Islanders are probably the most conservative people in the city, Bush's 57% in the 13th was pretty much an anomaly, based on his percieved "strength" on terrorism issues, and the overall Staten Island custom of trying to be different from the rest of the city.

A better gauge of true feelings in the 13th would be the election of 2000, where Gore beat Bush 52-44. Thus, since the Republicans have lost their advantage on dealing with terrorism, this seat would be ripe for picking, if only we had a high profile candidate.

by ctman1638 2006-07-27 01:17AM | 0 recs
Re: NY Voter Registration Data and Congressional D

If NY State Senate goes to the Dems thanks campaigners like Andrea Stewart Cousins and local grassroots groups' work like this coalition TakeBackNY, the most echoed quotation from a prominent Dem at the party convention in Buffalo this spring was something along the lines of: "Give me a pencil, a map, and half hour and I'll give you two seats in Congress."

Cousins is in a rematch with the #2 Republican, Fat Nicky, who won by 18 votes after hundreds of bllots were thrown away by a GOP judge.  

Take Back NY. Give "whoever" said that line a pencil, a map, and all time he needs.

by dereau 2006-07-26 09:19PM | 0 recs

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