The SDGOP spin blog really overworked itself trying to portray local reporting on the advantage Republicans derive from gerrymandering as “fake news.” Three consecutive posts hyperventilated that that Sioux Falls paper was lying to us on behalf of the South Dakota Democratic Party when it reported the following facts and interpretation:
Nearly 2 in 5 votes cast in 2016 state House races went to Democratic candidates, but the party captured only 14 percent of seats in the chamber.
That’s the widest “efficiency gap” among any state, according to the analysis, which used the same mathematical formula cited last fall by a federal appeals court that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as intentional partisan gerrymandering [Dana Ferguson, “Gerrymandering a Factor in South Dakota Democrats’ Woes,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.28].
The SDGOP spin blog claims that South Dakota Democrats fail to win legislative races in proportion to their numbers due to their weakness as a party, not due to where Republicans have drawn the district lines. Of course, amidst what the SDGOP spin blog brands “fake news”, Ferguson reports exactly that contention:
“It’s a fantasy for the AP to say the Republican victories can be attributed to gerrymandering,” Dan Lederman, chair of the South Dakota Republican Party, said. “That margin of victory isn’t due to gerrymandering, it’s because of weakness in the Democratic Party” [Feguson, 2017.06.28].
When the SDGOP shouts at us to pay no attention to its men behind the redistricting curtain, that’s a good sign we should pay attention. Why else do you think Republicans fought the anti-gerrymandering Amendment T so hard last year?
The SDGOP spin blog fans its smoke from two major fallacy pots:
First, gerrymandering and minority-party weakness are not mutually exclusive conditions. I can grant that the South Dakota Democratic Party is weak in voter registration, candidates, money, and organization and still acknowledge that gerrymandering doesn’t help Democratic fortunes, just as I can grant that my car has engine trouble but also complain about Republican punks popping my tires.
The original Associated Press analysis looks at Congressional and state legislative races nationwide and finds evidence of gerrymandering favoring Republicans. The report acknowledges that Republicans had several advantages in 2016: more incumbents, voters spread more widely across suburban and rural districts. And of course, Republicans were in a position to gerrymander in 2010 because they had won more legislative races. But far from offering “baseless supposition to blame that all on line-drawing” as one national Republican leader in the AP report, the AP analysis uses empirical data to show that Republican-drawn election maps have some positive influence on their election results.
Second, “fake news” is not any article one’s party leaders disagree with. Dana Ferguson and the Associated Press fake nothing in their reports. Ferguson and the AP cite facts, data, and experts. They cite interpretations from Republicans and Democrats. The only “fake news” appears to be the SDGOP spin blog’s effort to label this honest reporting “fake news” and then to peddle the preceding fallacy of the false dilemma, that we must choose between believing that gerrymandering matters or that South Dakota Democrats are weak.
Bob Mercer suggests that the main factor in Democratic success in legislative races is voter registration. I don’t have to label his blog post “fake news!” to defend the position that redistricting matters. I can acknowledge his data and analysis as true, encourage Democrats to work hard to register new voters, and still, with perfect consistency, say, “And by the way, when all those newly registered voters help us claim majorities in Pierre in 2021, let’s make sure we draw fair election boundaries and create an independent redistricting commission.”