Over the past few weeks there has been a flurry of diaries about the Wyoming Rule (California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, and my Washington map below). Many of these diaries asked at the end what they thought about the Wyoming Rule, and the intent of this diary is to examine some of the benefits and drawbacks of the Ruie itself.
The primary benefit of the Wyoming Rule is that the districts are smaller for many states – or about 75%-80% the size of the current projected district size. California would go from 52 seats to 68, Washington from 10 to 12, and Oklahoma from 5 to 7. Other states would stay the same – Hawaii, Nebraska, and Rhode Island. (The number of districts for each state was researched by borodino21). The range between states would drop from about 400k (Rhode Island to Montana) to 300k (South Dakota to Alaska).
The smaller district sizes in most states means that there are more opportunities to preserve communities of interest. For some states like North Carolina, this means it may be possible to create additional minority-majority or minority-influence districts. In other states, it may be possible to draw more CDs that encompass only one county or city.
While I do not wish to subscrible to albguy's method of creating as many Democratic districts as possible (while I do enjoy his method of pushing the limits of a redistricting map), the smaller districts may make it harder to create all Democratic seat maps.
In Washington, a more realistic map under the Wyoming Rule likely means two safe(r) Republican seats in Western Washington and two or three safe Republican seats in Eastern Washington. Now perhaps one or two of those districts may be better considered swing districts (especially a Vancouver to Yakama district), but the result of the Wyoming Rule is a 7-5 delegation (compared with the current 5-4 delegation with the possibility of a 6-4 delegation after the 2011 redistricting).
The Wyoming'd New York faces a similar problem. In jsramek's New York – the delegation would be 30 Democrats and 6 Republicans. This map also includes the cracking of Staten Island, which would probably not be politically viable – even for a solidly Democratic state legislature. While this is better than the 8 Republicans representing NY in the 2011-2012 Congress, many of the maps made for the Redistricting Contest would contain 1 or 2 Republicans out of New York's 28 Congressional Districts.
The resaons for these results is that the smaller district sizes make it more difficult to crack Republican strongholds – or areas without overwhelming the nearby Democratic area. So, back to New York, at least 4 upstate districts are created as Republican vote sinks, instead of the possibilty of spreading them out. In Western Washington, eastern King, Pierce, Thurston and Clark counties are Republican areas, as well as Lewis and most of Cowlitz counties. In some maps, it is possible to divide those populations and combine them with more Democratic areas such as Vancouver, Olympia, Tacoma, and Bellevue to allow for Democrats to win those districts (but as in the 2010 elections, Republicans held on in WA 8 [East King and Pierce County] and won in WA 3 [SW Washington including Olympia]). With smaller districts, you can create two safe Republican districts in those Republican areas in exchange for two additional safe Democratic districts (and possibly another swing district).
So, where does that leave us? I think the advantages of the Wymonig Rule outweigh the drawbacks. More representation is better from a democracy standpoint, but it also helps Democrats in the big picture. For all of the concerns about not being able to maximize Democratic seats, the Republicans would not be able to either. In addition, more Congressional seats will also help Democrats in the Electoral College.