When the census results come in, state legislators around the nation will begin the process of re-drawing each state’s congressional districts. They must make sure they are equal in population. But where they can, legislators will also work to give their own party the advantage.
Before Election 2010, Democrats were on pace for a very decent redistricting round. They were going to control the creation of 129 districts — only 7 fewer than they controlled after the 2000 election. Republicans, having won a few legislatures on the last decade, were on track to draw 108 seats on their own, about ten more than they controlled in 2000. Tuesday’s election changed all of that, creating a lopsided redistricting advantage for the GOP.
More important than the absolute numbers of seats is the fact that Democrats were on top in some pretty important states. Democrats can’t gain any seats by gerrymandering Massachusetts (they already hold all of them there), but a bit of re-mapping in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, Iowa and New Mexico can dramatically alter the composition of the U.S. House.
Democrats held all those states, but lost them all on Tuesday. And Republicans gained full control in a few other big ones, like Ohio and Michigan.
The chart below shows the states where the parties control the legislature (and where necessary, the governorship) and the total number of seats that each party will control. The third column is for states that use non-partisan commissions (Californians just adopted a commission system), states that have split control, and states that have only one at-large seat.
Republican gains since the 2001 re-mapping are in red. States projected to lose one or more House seats are in italics, and states set to gain them are in bold. (Note: There is a possibility that Missouri will lose a seat instead of Minnesota. The totals would not change.)
|REPUBLICAN CONTROL (197)
|DEMOCRAT CONTROL (49)
|SPLIT/COMM./AT LG (189)
Gerrymandering cannot guarantee party power, of course. And in Florida, Republican legislators will be hindered in their map-making by a ballot initiative that is supposed to make for fairer districts. But still, the near-absence of Democrats from the levers of redistricting power should provide the GOP a big advantage in the 2012 House elections.