Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The post from yesterday about Senate Republican plans to create a new Orthodox Jewish district in southern Brooklyn received some attention that's worth going back to (not the typos; that I apologize for and have been fixed).
One commentor, mugwump, made this observation:
What this article neglects to mention is that most of the D senators in that area were unopposed in 2010, and this simulator doesn't correct for that since it uses raw vote totals. So what you're saying is that Democrats will win SD-17 if no Republican runs. In reality the number of R votes in the Orthodox seat (and in Golden's as well) is likely to be far higher.
That's a fair point. While working on the piece, I reached out to CUNY Center for Urban Research to see if they could help me figure out if there were more metrics we could look at.
What I got back late last night was a thorough breakdown of the voting registration totals for the proposed districts. Since we can't know the true voting breakdown in an actual election for a district that hasn't been created yet, this is probably the next best metric behind the simulation highlighted in the article yesterday.
According to the state Board of Elections' most current enrollment figures, the 27th Senate District has 83,731 active Democratic enrolled voters, and 25,482 Republicans, with 30,785 unaffiliated enrolled voters. That's 58.1 percent, 17.7 percent, and 21.3 percent of the total enrollment respectively.
According to the analysis by the CUNY folks, the proposed 17th Senate District would have an enrollment that looked like this:
Democrats: 79,003 / 62.1%
Republicans: 19,393 / 15.3%
The CUNY data doesn't provide information on unaffiliated voters.
Now, on a technical note, the numbers LATFOR used for determining voter totals in districts is an older set of enrollment numbers. There are actually more Republican voters and less Democrats in the 27th now--just under 500 less Dems and about 1000 more Republicans.
It's also worth noting that these sorts of numbers are present in the enrollment numbers for the 9th Congressional District, which saw a Republican elected in a special election last year.
That seems to be the playbook Senate Republicans are working with--the right sort of Republican can motivate even Democrats to come on board in the new 17th State Senate district. But if that were a recipe for certain success, you'd have to wonder why Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver feels like keeping the 9th district around.
But I stand by my point: in trying to carve out two districts for Republicans in southern Brooklyn, Senate Republicans increase the chance they'll lose both. As the numbers above show, the new Orthodox Jewish district--all things being equal--would appear to favor a Democratic candidate.
I also mentioned Senator Marty Golden's numbers in yesterday's post. The percentage of Democrats enrolled in the district Golden would represent in the draft maps would increase from 50.4 percent Democrat currently to 51.4 percent in the proposed district.
Again, to be fair: Republicans increased by a nearly equal proportion. But upping the percentage of the opposing party's voters in your incumbents district might not be the best reelection strategy. But more it goes to show that, in a process designed to help those who draw the lines, there's only so much Senate Republicans can do (and you see the real need for a 63rd seat; 62 seats would make the districts even larger, likely bringing even more Ds into places like Golden's district).
The question will be, are they beginning to stretch these districts to the point of breaking?