Sunday, June 21, 2009

Harris on Redistricting: "Seems Hard to Eliminate the 9th"

In a rebuttal to a Daily Kos post published recently about redistricting Missouri, GOP political consultant James Harris calls the liberal blog's map "unrealistic" and argues that eliminating the 9th Congressional district would be hard "for anything other than political reasons."

One Democrat on Daily Kos brainstormed a way to keep Rep. Ike Skelton's district blue, in preparations for the Armed Services Committee chair's retirement.

But Harris, who served as a political consultant for Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer's 2008 campaign, called that map "gerrymandered and unrealistic -- because it does not follow the criteria most states follow. Harris argues those includes 1) compactness of districts and making sure they are contiguous 2) creating districts with equal population 3) attempting to keep pre-existing municipal and county lines

"First, it contains an obviously gerrymandered 4th Congressional – a district drawn to politically advantage the Democrats. Drawing a district with the goal of protecting an incumbent or political party is not a recognized principal in redistricting. This map breaks several rural counties (violating one of the population-based criteria) and it is highly unlikely that the Republican General Assembly would draw such a map," said Harris. "Additionally, the proposed 6th Congressional is drawn into Franklin County, a collar county of St. Louis. There is no need to take away parts of the current district in Clay, Platte, and Buchanan and then shift the district across the state," he added.

"Since Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, a map that would be gerrymandered to help a Democratic incumbent is unlikely," Harris went on. "Democrats will be cautious about challenging any map that the Republican legislature passes, as the challenge would be heard before the 8th Circuit, one of the more conservative circuits in the nation.

"Finally, I would dispute the idea of eliminating the 9th Congressional if Missouri loses a seat, which might not happen due to population shifts in other states in recent years. In 2001, the two Congressional Districts with the most population growth were the 7th and the 9th, with roughly 70,000 to 75,000 more citizens. The three districts with the highest population loss were the 1st (107,000) and 3rd (26,000), both in St. Louis County, and the 5th (45,000) in Jackson County. Based on this, the more likely scenario is for the 2nd and 3rd districts to be merged and the 1st Congressional to increase in size to make up for population loss. The result would be two Congressional Districts in metro St. Louis with the 8th and 9th encompassing some of the collar counties. It seems hard to eliminate one of the fastest-growing districts, the 9th, for anything other than political reasons. Republicans have done well and picked up seats with fair districts. Democrats perform better with gerrymandered seats like the Daily Kos map," Harris said.

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