Bloomberg’s Nonpartisan Redistricting Study
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released a report showing that nonpartisan reforms to the redistricting process can increase the competitiveness of legislative elections at the state and federal level. In the most recent elections, the report found that across the country, 49 percent of candidates elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and 57 percent of candidates elected to state legislatures won their races with margins of victory greater than 30 points, or faced no opposition at all. States with nonpartisan redistricting had races that were, on average, 14 percent closer for the state legislature and 24 percent closer for Congress, and candidates in state legislative districts drawn through a nonpartisan process were 20 percent less likely to run unopposed. Mayor Bloomberg joined former Mayor Ed Koch in urging the New York State Legislature to create an independent commission to re-draw state legislative and congressional district lines in advance of the 2012 elections.
“The current system for drawing districts protects incumbents, pro- motes ideological extremism, and reduces voter choice,” said Bloomberg. “Gerrymandering is part of the reason why compromise and bi-partisanship are so rare these days. Voters in California and Florida overwhelmingly passed redistricting reforms in recent elections, and there’s no reason why, working with Ed Koch and our state legislative leaders, we can’t do the same here. It would be one of the best things to happen to Albany since the building of the Erie Canal.”
The report compared state and federal legislative elections in 35 states that give redistricting authority to the legislature to the 13 states where there is some form of a nonpartisan process (only 7 states have non-partisan congressional redistricting). The 13 states with a nonpartisan process have, on average, 20 percent fewer uncontested state legislative races. Margins of victory were 14 percent lower (24 points vs. 28 points) in state legislative races and 24 percent lower (21 points vs. 28 points) in congressional races. The experience of the two states (Arkansas and Ohio) that give the governor and other state-wide elected officials control over the redistricting process largely mirrored that of the 35 states in which partisan redistricting occurs through the legislature.
The report also found that the three states with a “Top Two” election system or a nonpartisan legislature (Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska) also produced substantially more competitive elections, and large cities with nonpartisan elections were found to have city council races that were 24 percent closer than their partisan counterparts. Bloomberg supported recent, successful efforts in California and Florida to remove or reduce partisan control from the redistricting process.