Trump Down-Ballot Backlash? Watch California and New York.

California and New York are two states that will almost certainly wind up in Hillary Clinton’s column on election night, but despite this certainty, these states are not without intrigue. The 2011 redistricting process — predominantly bipartisan in both states — yielded a number of competitive congressional districts. The competitive races in these states will largely determine the scale of any Democratic pickup in the House of Representatives. Several months ago, our initial analysis found that Democrats would likely achieve a net gain of 12–15 seats nationally (with help from the elevated minority participation that accompanies a presidential year election). Given the number of competitive districts, Democrats have a chance to win as many as 10 Republican seats in these two bellwether states, alone. However, the unprecedented impact of Donald Trump’s candidacy complicates any forecast of the behavior of traditional voting coalitions. These states could just as easily produce an electoral draw.

Redistricting Increases Competition

As we noted in a previous article, bipartisan redistricting processes can enhance the number of competitive congressional districts, contradicting what most observers think of when they contemplate the effects of redistricting. California and New York stand out as examples of states where the 2011 redistricting process did just that. In California, citizen-initiated propositions created a bipartisan commission to oversee redistricting. As a result, we have seen the return of competitiveness to California congressional elections.

In the 2012 election — the first after redistricting — eight contests were decided by fewer than 10 percentage points, and 10 more were decided by a margin of less than 20 points. This increased competitiveness continued in the 2014 election. Although the 31st Congressional District was the only district where party control changed hands, several races featured close margins. Consider the following outcomes: (Read More)