Fixing Gerrymandering in Washington

Posted on January 08, 2016

Washington state has long suffered from noncompetitive congressional elections. It has experienced one of the longest incumbent winning streaks in the nation: no U.S. House incumbent has lost in Washington since 1998. 

Fixing Gerrymandering

This report explores reforms options to increase competition in Washington's congressional elections. To demonstrate the difficulties in generating competitive single-winner congressional districts in a winner-take-all system, this report analyzes the likely impact of five redistricting methods in Washington’s ten congressional districts. It shows the effects of drawing congressional district plans from scratch according to different criteria. It contrasts the state’s current districts with:

  • a gerrymandered plan designed to boost Democrats
  • a second gerrymandered plan to boost Republicans
  • a plan that approximates what an independent commission might draw if governed by the criteria used in California’s independent redistricting process (which cannot make use any partisan data); and
  • a plan that implements fair representation voting in multi-winner districts following the approach taken in the Ranked Choice Voting Act.

We conclude our report by simulating fair representation voting in Washington State Senate elections, assuming a 50 member body elected in 10 five-winner districts, under each one of our congressional election plans. We find that, no matter how gerrymandered the plan, fair results were still produced in the 10 five-winner districts. This underscores the relative ability of reforms that grant voters more power to achieve fairness compared to reforms that merely change how district lines are drawn. 


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