Congressional Redistricting & Responsiveness to Constituents: Professor Mark Smith Discusses the Case of Representative Reichert on Crosscut

Crosscut’s Tom James interviewed UW Political Science Professor Mark A. Smith for an article discussing Representative Dave Reichert’s relationship to his congressional district and the constituents in it. The article notes that Reichert has recently come under pressure because he has not spoken out against Trump. Furthermore, his constituents are criticizing him for not holding any public meetings to face them and their questions. 

James interviewed Professor Smith to help shed some light on this situation. Smith notes that the incentives that Representative Reichert faces may explain the congressman’s lack of responsiveness to some of his constituents. Addressing how Reichert’s district changed due to redistricting, Smith argues, “if you shift to a less competitive district, the incentives are gone.” Thus, before redistricting, Reichert’s district was more competitive, which led to a much smaller margin of victory. And “having a smaller margin of victory keeps politicians responsive to their constituents: They know losing even a few votes could cost them their seat.” Moreover, Smith argues that this development also has an impact on their work in Washington DC:     

“When politicians aren’t worried about keeping diverse factions happy back home, it can also make them less effective in their work in Congress. That’s because they’re less motivated to figure out ways to compromise with colleagues across the aisle.” 

The article titled “Is Dave Reichert getting a bit comfy in his district?” was published on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Crosscut is the Pacific Northwest’s reader-supported, independent, non-profit electronic journal that strives to provide its readers with facts and analysis to enable them to intelligently participate in civic discourse.