Shameless self promotion

So, I had pretty much the biggest thrill a Political Science professor and NPR lover could have when I returned from class last week to discover voicemail and email messages from NPR’s Mara Liasson.  She was doing a story on redistricting and primary reforms as a solution to extreme political polarization.  Since North Carolina has considered moving to non-partisan commissions to draw district boundaries, I got to be part of the story:

Several states are trying to do something about so-called hyperpartisanship by changing the way congressional districts are drawn and the way elections are held.

Their goal: force members of Congress to pay more attention to general election voters than to their base voters on the right or left…

One reason is that congressional district boundaries are drawn by politicians to make their seats as safe as possible. It is a system where politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around.

Several states are trying to change that. The redistricting process occurs once every 10 years, after a new census is taken, and in North Carolina, there is a bill to have the lines drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Office.

“It would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of professional staff who would be forbidden from drawing those districts for political purposes,” says Steve Greene, a political scientist in North Carolina.

Population, not political affiliation, would be the only criteria. Greene says that would be a big change for North Carolina’s congressional district map.

“Right now, North Carolina has nine Republican seats and four Democratic seats in a variety of really crazy shapes,” he says. “To be honest, that has got to be one of the most effective gerrymanders in what is really essentially a 50/50 state.”

A couple of observations.  There’s a clear argument from many quarters that this is supposed to help with polarization.  Since I’m at least modestly familiar with the PS literature that says redistricting reform will likely do little to change this, I pushed back somewhat, but argued that this kind of reform is still very much needed and a very good thing for democracy.  Alas, that didn’t make the story.

Other interesting observation… if you listen, it sounds more like I’m in the studio than talking on the phone.  Technology!  I used a cool app called Report-It so that I recorded the conversation on my Iphone while talking on the landline and then uploaded the Iphone audio file for NPR to use my quotes.  Pretty cool!

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

8 Responses to Shameless self promotion

  1. Jason says:

    Cool! You sounded very reasonable, although NC State is probably not happy that you were introduced as “a political scientist in North Carolina.” Makes you sound like a roving political scientist, roaming the state dispensing your wisdom.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Yeah, our news service guy is a good friend of mine and he was not happy that they did not mention my NCSU affiliation. Steve Greene– North Carolina political scientist for hire! Maybe there’s an FX show in there.

  2. Mika says:

    Once upon a time I red an article (or something) by some prominent (i.e. his name was familiar to me) US political scientist who argued that it is actually a good thing that politicians not bureaucrats (or was it bipartisan commissions?) draw voting districts. I was quite amazed since I somewhat respected the scientist in question, never thought he could defend something so undefendable. Why people bother to vote at all when they know beforehand that their district “belongs” to republicans or democrats?

    Right now I can’t remember who the scientist was. It bugs me. Do you happen to know who it was? 🙂 The article might have had something to do with California. Or not… I’m holding my breath.

  3. Mika says:

    Or maybe the article was about running elections in general and not just about redistricting? Which I also don’t understand. Voters have to be able to trust that everything in how elections are conducted is done fair and impartial way, me thinks.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Sorry, no idea who that would’ve been. I certainly do not recall coming across political scientists who argue for either of these things.

      • Mika says:

        Ok, cheers. And thank you Stefan for trying but it wasn’t that one. I have a hunch that it wasn’t a scientific article or paper but it was a magazine article or WaPo or NYTimes OpEd written by a scientist. Oh well, Morris Fiorina came to my mind when I started thinking who it was and now I’m stuck with him even though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t him 🙂

  4. Stefan says:

    Perhaps it was this paper by Thad Kousser, Justin Phillips, and Boris Shor entitled “Reform and Representation: Assessing California’s Top-Two Primary and Redistricting Commission,” which stated: “Our analysis provides a clear lesson for the immediate impact of California’s twin electoral reforms of 2012: neither the Citizens Redistricting Commission nor the top-two primary has halted the continuing partisan polarization of California’s elected lawmakers or their drift way from the average voter in each district. If anything, polarization has increased and the quality of representation has declined.” It’s at

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