Connecticut's unfair districts

by Jack Santucci // Published July 29, 2006
There's nationwide buzz about who should represent Connecticut Democrats in the Senate, but nobody's asking who should represent Connecticut in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004, 55% voted for Democrats, and 44% voted for Republicans. But the state sent 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats to Congress. A minority of voters elected a majority of the state's House delegation.

CT Republicans are over-represented by almost 16% while Democrats are under-represented by 15%.

Party Votes Votes % Seats Seats % Skew

Republican 629,934 44.09% 3 60.00% 15.91%

Democratic 785,747 55.00% 2 40.00% -15.00%

Green 7,182 0.50% 0 0.00% -0.50%

Concerned Citizens 2,545 0.18% 0 0.00% -0.18%

Working Families 3,196 0.22% 0 0.00% -0.22%

Lyon (write-in) 130 0.01% 0 0.00% -0.01%

Vassar (write-in) 4 0.00% 0 0.00% -0.00%

TOTALS 1,428,738 100.00% 5 100.00% 0.00%

Can Nutmeg Dems blame the spoiler effect, that ugly breakdown a single-winner plurality voting system experiences when small parties "steal" votes from their ideologically similar big brother?

No. Working Families and the Concerned Citizens ran candidates in District 5. Assuming those votes would have gone to the Democrat, the Democrat still would have been over 55,000 votes short of a win.

The answer is in the nature, construction and composition of Connecticut's congressional districts.

The nature is single-member, winner-take-all. In winner-take-all districts, a plurality of voters (yes, possibly fewer than 50%) win 100% of representation. The districts were constructed by the state legislature after the 2000 decennial census. CT-05, then represented by Jim Maloney (D), was diced up among (the former) CT-06, CT-01 and CT-03.

The composition: Connnecticut Democrats live in packed districts. In CT-01 and CT-03, the two Democrat-held seats, Democrats outnumber Republicans by margins of 46% and 49%, respectively. Republicans enjoy more efficient advantages in the other three: 2%, 5% and 8%. (Source: results of 2004 races.)

Can Democrats blame gerrmandering? No. They drew the map for reasons beyond the scope of this post (but discussed at Connecticut Local Politics).

Democrats are thus packed partly because they live densely in cities. Had this delegation been elected at-large under proportional voting, the majority of Connecticut voters would have elected a majority of House members. As long as single-member, winner-take-all districts remain the way we choose to represent localities, Democrats will populate packed districts where the voices of Republican voters are effectively silenced.