Examining The Changing Electoral Map In 2016

Graphic by Melissa Mason

The electoral map is ever-changing. Some states that used to be a safe bet for one major party or the other are becoming swing states. And a number of former swing states that used to decide presidential elections are not looking so competitive this year.

How much of that has to do with the unconventional nature of this election? And how much of it has more to do with a permanent shift in the American electorate?

Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, says this is not a new trend.

In fact, he says, the map is actually changing less rapidly compared to other time in our Democracy’s recent history.

We pretty much have the same list of swing states,” says Grossmann. “But there is some slight change this year due to some acceleration of big demographic trends. One being that the Democrats are doing a lot better among minority voters over time, and the other being that Republicans are doing better among less educated white voters over time. And both of those trends have accelerated this year.”

Michigan is still referred to by many media outlets as a swing state. But our great state hasn’t really been a purple state since 1988. For the past several cycles, Michigan has decidedly favored Democrats in presidential elections. And yet nine of Michigan’s 14 members of Congress are Republicans.

Part of the reason for that is because Republicans tend to vote more in non-presidential election years, but it’s also because of the way our districts are drawn. Republicans win by respectable margins in their districts, but pale in comparison to the overwhelming majorities Democratic politicians receive in their elections. Why is that?

David Daley is a journalist and author, the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and author of a book about gerrymandering and the electoral map titled“Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. He argues that our districts were drawn in such odd shapes to force Democratic voting blocs into the same districts, and leave the more monied parts of our state in Republican districts. He highlight’s Michigan’s 14th Congressional District in his book (see picture above).

It’s like a psychedelic Willy Wonka lollipop,” says Daley. “If you drive from the old Silverdome to the new Ford Field, you pass through something like six congressional districts along the way. This is not an accident. These votes are being parceled out in order to slide as many Democrats as possible into one place and in order to parcel out as many Republicans as you can in the others.”

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: npr.org

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