Tag Archives: redistricting

The New Census Is Here! The New Census Is Here!

Hey, it’s time for hardcore #vtpoli folks to get their nerd on. After an unprecedented delay (caused by Trump administration incompetence/attempted sabotage), we’ve finally got the U.S. Census numbers for 2020!

This means that the most nerdly of all political processes, redistricting, can finally get serious. (The best place to geek out is the state’s Center for Geographic Information, which has already whacked out a whole bunch of Census breakdowns.) And now I return to my playground of barely-informed speculation on what the Census means for Vermont legislative districts.

The state’s total population of 643,000 was something of a surprise. That’s a 2.8% increase from 2010, and belies our reputation as a place that people are fleeing from. (Our growth rate is a far cry from the U.S. overall, which grew by 7.4%, but still, we’re growing.)

The population gains were concentrated in the northwest. The only counties that gained residents were Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Orleans. The driver of Vermont population growth is Burlington; as its housing situation gets tighter and tighter, people are buying homes farther and farther away from the Queen City.

The two counties that saw the biggest declines: Windham (down 6.98%) and Rutland (down 6,83%).

Chittenden County now has enough people to warrant eight Senate seats, up two from its current allotment. That’s bad news for the VTGOP. If Chittenden does, as it should, gain two seats, they will almost certainly come at the expense of Republican areas like the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland County. And the Republican presence in Chittenden is vanishingly small. The county’s current allotment of 36 state representatives includes 33 Dems (or Dem/Progs or Prog/Dems), and only three Republicans. All six senators are either Dems, Dem/Progs or Prog/Dems, and the GOP is simply uncompetitive. You can assume that any new seats will be filled by Dems or Progs.

And by the way, Chittenden County deserves two more House seats because of its growth.

Also by the way, since many towns in Franklin, Grand Isle and Lamoille are becoming bedroom communities for Burlington, those counties will almost certainly trend blue. Windham and Franklin aside, Vermont’s population declines are in Republican-leaning areas, while the growth is in Democratic counties.

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The Soft Abuse of Redistricting Power

Here’s a little bad news for those who think Vermont’s political processes are above reproach. The nonpartisan group RepresentUs, which opposes political abuses of the redistricting process, has rated Vermont as at “high risk” for such abuse. Along with such bulwarks of clean politics as Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Florida. Not exactly stellar company.

To be clear, RepresentUs isn’t ranking states by the likelihood of gerrymandering or the historical record or the mendacity of a state’s politicians. It simply considers the legal framework of the process. In practice, Vermont’s redistricting process has been fairly clean. But state law leaves the door open to partisan abuse.

Vermont gets low grades on two points: Political officeholders have the final say on redistricting, and the law doesn’t require transparency. You can see how those points could allow politicians to game the system.

By and large, they don’t. Well, they don’t do outrageous things; they don’t create districts that look like abstract art or imaginary amphibians. But partisanship can, and sometimes does, affect the process.

In fact, we might see a more partisan flavor in Vermont’s 2022 redraw, especially in the Senate.

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Bernie’s Trickle-Down Politics

In the aftermath of the Vermont primary, in which Hillary Clinton failed to reach the 15 percent threashold needed to qualify for convention delegates, there’s been more pressure on superdelegates who back Clinton to switch to Bernie Sanders. Because to vote for Clinton, the story goes, would be to ignore the wishes of the electorate.

Which fails to consider the disenfranchisement of the 13.6 percent who voted for Clinton. I’m not making that complaint; I have said the parties have the right to determine rules for choosing a presidential candidate, and I stick by that. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy, that’s all. Both candidates benefit, and lose, in different ways that roughly cancel out.

What I am here to say is there are very good reasons for Pat Leahy and Peter Shumlin and Billi Gosh to support Hillary. They may believe she’s the stronger general-election candidate. They might value her long and loyal service to the Democratic Party, contrasted with Bernie-come-lately who has been harshly critical of the party but has also benefited, throughout his political career, from his arm’s-length affiliation with the Democrats.

And here’s another one, a big one, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

Hillary Clinton has raised $26 million for the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties so far this campaign. And Sanders? $1,000.

That’s no typo. Clinton is doing more to boost the party’s 2016 prospects than Sanders by the proportion of 26,000 to 1.

… Clinton has pledged to rebuild the party and has begun to make good on that promise. Sanders, by contrast, has shown little concern for the very real crisis the party faces beneath the presidential level.

Let me pause here and state, clearly, that I don’t blame Bernie for making this strategic choice. He has a revolution to build, and that costs money. His first priority is fully funding a presidential campaign, which is a very costly undertaking. He is doing what he needs to do.

However, as Milbank documents, the Democratic Party structure is in critical condition.

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