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There are quite a few important fronts to be covered in the 2010 midterm elections. Not only do we want to reach a filibuster-proof majority of 60-odd seats in the Senate, but the greedy among us wouldn't mind a few more House seats as well. What happens in Congress will be largely contingent on President Obama's success over the next 20 months.

But the super-geeks, the number-crunchers, and the Census nuts (you know who you are, and you can count me among your ranks...) know that 2010 features another, nearly as important and possibly longer-lasting, political grudge-match of significance. The 2010 elections will determine...well, everything...about what happens in the next round of nationwide redistricting.

Pretty maps and food for thought below the fold...

Most of you know where I'm going with this, but for the uninitiated, a brief summary: the 2010 Census will determine, among many other things, reapportionment for the next decade (that is, which states gain seats in Congress and which lose seats). The process of redrawing district maps is almost always a contentious and partisan one, and in most states, congressional districts are drawn by the state legislatures, with the governor having veto power. There are exceptions -- Connecticut and North Carolina allow no gubernatorial veto, while Iowa, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and Maine each task a nonpartisan commission with drawing their district lines. Meanwhile, congressional redistricting is not a factor in small states with one at-large Representative (Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Vermont, Delaware).

Since redistricting will occur after the Census and in advance of the 2012 elections, the 2010 cycle will decide which party controls each governor's mansion and state legislature (at least, outside of locales that had their state elections in 2007, 2008, or 2009)...and as we can all attest to, he who draws the lines wields enormous power. Redistricting is not a reliable science (as Republicans who overreached in Pennsylvania in 2001 can tell us), but it can be pretty darned effective, at least for the first few election cycles under a given map (famously genius gerrymanders include the Democratic Burton-mander in California back in 1982, the Democrats' handiwork in Texas ten years later, and in this decade, the GOP plans in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio).

So, on to the specifics. This map shows the partisan control of redistricting as of early 2009 in all 50 states:
Redistricting Control now

This map makes things a little simpler than perhaps they really are. For example, the fact that Republicans control redistricting in Nebraska doesn't exactly mean anything for congressional purposes, since they also represent all three House seats for the state. And it does the Democrats only limited good to hold the monopoly in states like New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire where they are probably maxed-out on congressional seats. In these cases, incumbent protection (shoring up folks like Reps. Kratovil of Maryland, Markey and Salazar of Colorado, and Teague of New Mexico) will be the main benefit of controlling the process. In Oregon, our control is also only semi-workable; even though the state could very well gain a 6th seat in reapportionment, with a 4-1 majority right now it will be quite tough to carve out another Democratic-leaning district.

Nevertheless, control is important. Democrats are in a position to protect what they have and perhaps further erode GOP representation in states like Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, and (dare we dream for a near-shutout?) New York, which already has a beyond-lopsided 26-3 Democratic edge. Still, Republicans are surprisingly in a not-too-shabby position for the redistricting wars, with crucial control in seat-gaining states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. In Utah they will probably opt to strengthen Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in the name of saving three districts for the GOP (and if the Senate's version of the D.C./Utah compromise passes this year, we may see 2011-12 redistricting in Utah become just minor tinkering). But in the other four states, they are likely to become quite aggressive, which will push Democrats in the aforementioned states to play harder.

You see, these battles aren't waged merely on a state-by-state basis. Due to the high stakes for both sides in control of Congress (and no, I don't think Republicans will win Congress by 2012, but it's always a factor), redistricting becomes a national back-and-forth game of power plays. This map shows, by comparison, what redistricting control was in 2001, during the last round of cartographic fun:

Redistricting Control in 2001

Democrats were poised for effective gerrymanders in the South and California, but in the end played incumbent protection in the Golden State while inexplicably surrendering in Mississippi and Connecticut, and clearly underachieving in Alabama. Only in Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina were Democratic gerrymanders effective. Republicans more than countered with powerhouse gerrymanders in five major swing states - Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. While the Pennsylvania map started to show its cracks immediately, the others were fairly enduring, preventing considerable Democratic gains until the wave of 2008. GOP skill (and aggression) at redistricting was likely the biggest factor in congressional Republicans' history-defying eight-seat gain in 2002.

Redistricting is, and has always been, a filthy game, which is why (soapbox alert) I'm strongly in favor of independent commissions doing the map-making. These lines should be based on geography, and should only carry as racial a tone as is required under the Voting Rights Act (that is, minorities should be given a chance to elect someone of their choosing, within geographical logic, but racial gerrymandering to dilute one party or the other should not be accepted). Party should not even be a consideration. Nonpartisan redistricting has the potential to hurt the GOP in some places (like Arizona) and the Democrats in others (like New Jersey and Washington). The last two elections have shown how popular sentiment can override even the craftiest gerrymandering, but it should not take a landslide to undo tactical power grabs like these.

Still, the vast majority of this country still functions under the old system, and as long as that's true, we must work to play the game deftly. We should all resolve to devote a little time (or money) to state legislative or gubernatorial efforts in our states, as well as whatever energy we put into the (eminently worthy) battles in Congress. Here is a brief summary of the redistricting situation as it stands, and my take on which legislatures or governor's mansions may be key to redistricting after the next Census...note that I'm excluding states (like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kansas, or any of the one-party delegations in Congress) in which redistricting is unlikely to become interesting:

States likely to still be run by Democrats after 2010
Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon -- in reapportionment, Illinois will likely lose a seat and the other two are both possibilities to gain one seat each.

States likely to still be run by Republicans after 2010
Florida (as long as Gov. Crist runs for reelection, and barring an unlikely win for nonpartisan redistricting on the 2010 ballot), Georgia, South Carolina, Texas (Democrats need two more state House seats to achieve a power split, which I am skeptical about), Utah -- all these states are likely to gain seats in reapportionment; Texas is expected to gain four!

States very likely to remain split after 2010
Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri

And now, the battlegrounds for redistricting:

Current redistricting control: Split (GOP Governor, Dem Legislature)
Congressional delegation: 34-19 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: no change or possibly -1

The Governator is, of course, term-limited, which gives Democrats a better-than-even shot to pick up his governor's mansion and take the monopoly in California. Here's hoping they use it with more savvy in 2011. One major unknown here is whether California will hold even at 53 districts, or will lose a seat. (This would be the first time in its history that California didn't gain from reapportionment.) Since California's 53rd seat is expected to be just on the fringe, the D.C./Utah compromise, which would expand the House permanently to 437 seats, might make the difference here. If California does lose a seat, it will likely be a Bay Area Democrat, so should the unfortunate happen, Dems will try to compensate by softening up a GOP seat elsewhere.

Current redistricting control: Democrats
Congressional delegation: 5-2 Democratic

The game here is defense. In 2010, we will need to reelect Gov. Bill Ritter and hold both chambers of the state legislature so that all five Reps. can be protected in redistricting. Of course, the GOP is unlikely to take all three in one cycle, so a power split is the worst case scenario (and power splits usually mean incumbent protection anyway).

Current redistricting control: Split (GOP Governor and Senate, Dem House)
Congressional delegation: 5-4 Democratic

The precarious 52-48 Democratic majority in the state House must remain if we want to keep Reps. Donnelly, Ellsworth, and Hill in office.

Current redistricting control: Split (GOP Governor, "Dem" Legislature)
Congressional delegation: 6-1 Republican
Expected seat change in reapportionment: -1

I put "Dem" in quotes because the state House Speaker is a Republican and many conservative Louisiana state Democrats could conceivably defer to Jindal on redistricting. With the state likely to lose a seat, Republicans will seek to cut out Rep. Charlie Melancon, while the obvious solution would be one New Orleans-area seat that eliminated either Rep. Scalise or Rep. Cao (likely to lose to a Democrat in 2010). One complication may be that the Voting Rights Act seemingly protects Cao's 2nd District as a black-majority Scalise and Melancon are both safer choices for elimination. Louisiana is probably the GOP's best shot at picking up redistricting control, considering the trends in legislative elections there.

Current redistricting control: Split (Dem Governor and House, GOP Senate)
Congressional delegation: 8-7 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: -1

This is a big one, as Michigan was one of the Republicans' best (as in worst) gerrymanders last round. The possibilities here run the gamut: Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is term-limited, while the state Senate only holds a narrow 21-17 GOP majority. Only the Democrats' 67-43 advantage in the House seems locked-in, so at worst we are looking at an incumbent protection plan. Should the Dems pick off the Senate and hold the governor's mansion, they may seek to undo everything that was done in 2001.

Current redistricting control: Split (GOP Governor, Dem Legislature)
Congressional delegation: 5-3 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: likely -1

Along with California and Nevada, this represents the Democrats' richest hope for achieving a redistricting monopoly. Gov. Tim Pawlenty can run again, but it is not clear whether he will and whether he will be targeted if he does. Meanwhile, legislative majorities seem solid.

Current redistricting control: Split (GOP Governor, Dem Legislature)
Congressional delegation: 2-1 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: +1

2010 will be a banner year in Nevada, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid up for reelection, Gov. Jim Gibbons' approval ratings in the dumps, and term limits finally taking effect in the Dem-run legislature. The Dem edge in the State Assembly is 28-14, quite strong even if term limits end up helping the GOP, but the Senate is dicier at 12-9. Meanwhile, picking up the governor's mansion seems likely if Gibbons survives his primary, and a tossup at worst if he does not. Though it is a small state, winning the monopoly here is disproportionately important given the marginality of Rep. Dina Titus' seat and the strong probability of a new 4th District.

New York
Current redistricting control: Democrats
Congressional delegation: 25-3 Democratic with one vacancy (NY-20 special election on March 31)
Expected seat change in reapportionment: -1 and possibly 2

The population losses are almost all upstate, which is why two upstate seats were eliminated in 2001, but by 2011 it will have been 20 years since NYC lost a seat, and growth is hardly robust anywhere in the Empire State. If not for Gov. Paterson's increasing unpopularity and the narrow numbers in the state Senate, this would be a lock for Democratic monopoly, but we must remain a tad cautious about that. Meanwhile, one wonders how much further we can push the numbers in such a slanted delegation.

Current redistricting control: Split (Dem Governor and House, GOP Senate)
Congressional delegation: 10-8 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: -2

A Democratic monopoly is very unlikely considering the solid GOP edge in the Senate, so we need to focus on reelecting Gov. Strickland and maintaining our 53-46 House majority to return some sanity to Ohio's congressional map.

Current redistricting control: Split (Dem Governor and House, GOP Senate)
Congressional delegation: 12-7 Democratic
Expected seat change in reapportionment: -1

This is virtually a carbon copy of the Ohio situation, with GOP Senate control likely to continue. Two major differences: Gov. Ed Rendell is term-limited and elections for the 203-member Pennsylvania House are famously volatile, much more so than those for the 99-member Ohio House.

Current redistricting control: Split (Dem Governor, GOP Senate, even House)
Congressional delegation: 5-4 Democratic

With Gov. Phil Bredesen term-limited and the House evenly split (49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and a rogue GOP House Speaker who was elected by the Democratic caucus), the stakes are unusually high in the Volunteer State, historically not a major player in redistricting wars. The reason is that if Republicans win the monopoly, they could crack as many as three Democratic seats out of five (the Nashville-based 5th and Memphis-heavy 9th are safe, but three others are traditional Yellow Dog territory). More so than in Louisiana, a GOP takeover here would be damaging.

Current redistricting control: Split (Dem Governor and Senate, GOP House)
Congressional delegation: 6-5 Democratic

These elections are in 2009, so now is the time to get involved. The governor's mansion is open as always, and both legislative chambers are tight (Senate is just 21-19 Dem, House is 53-45 GOP). A GOP sweep is possible if we get complacent, and a Dem monopoly is a bit less likely, so it's time to play defense here in a big way. A GOP gerrymander would probably crack both Reps. Nye and Perriello, both promising young freshmen in Pelosi's caucus.

Current redistricting control: Democrats
Congressional delegation: 5-3 Democratic

The battle for Wisconsin is competitive on three fronts, with Gov. Jim Doyle not a sure bet to either run for or win reelection and narrow Dem edges in the legislature (18-15 in the Senate, 52-47 in the Assembly). The Upper Midwest and Rust Belt (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York) seems to be key this decade in the redistricting wars, and it's a region where Democrats can't much afford to lose ground.

Make no mistake that the drama can be high even in commission states. Arizona is expected to gain one or two seats, which could affect any of three Democratic Reps. (Harry Mitchell, Gabrielle Giffords, and Ann Kirkpatrick), while Iowa and New Jersey are each expected to lose one seat. With the House at 437 as a result of expanded D.C./Utah representation, it's an outside possibility that Washington could add a tenth seat. All this will be worth watching.

Overall, reapportionment would seem to benefit the Republicans slightly in that GOPers hold the reigns in heavyweights like Florida, Georgia, and Texas (and are on the move in Louisiana, Tennessee, and possibly Virginia), but Democrats could just as easily nab the advantage with a few key victories, such as picking up the governorships in California, Nevada, and Minnesota, and/or winning the Senate in Michigan. For Democrats, though, it's really about defense across the board.

While redistricting is among the messiest and most brazen games in politics, it's one about which all political junkies should be informed. The decennial (and sometimes more frequent) process surrounding district maps eventually affects all of us, not just the statistics geeks and number-crunchers who, admittedly, constitute its most avid fans. What this great American tradition -- and I call it "American" because most developed democracies do not put district-drawing in the hands of politicians -- broadly teaches us is that local politics (who happens to be your state legislator, for example) can have national consequences (hello -- this is Congress, folks). Until the nation goes the way of Iowa or Arizona, we should be following the goings-on in our state capitals. To say nothing of state politics -- and the sheer importance of these deserves a diary of its own -- we must care who draws the maps lest any of us see ourselves surreptitiously thrown into the district of a Congresscritter about whom we have long groaned. (Yes, Rep. Kingston, I mean you.)

Originally posted to Nathaniel Ament-Stone on Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 08:10 PM PST.


I will have redistricting in mind during the 2010 cycle

28%15 votes
32%17 votes
3%2 votes
32%17 votes
1%1 votes

| 52 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (12+ / 0-)

    And for the record, I'm not that much of a pathetic loser with nothing to do on a Friday night. I wrote this earlier today and just got back home.

    FWIW, when the Census starts coming around I look forward to reading and writing diaries about redistricting happenings state-by-state. For hardcore political junkies, the next few years will be positively delicious (if tough economic times allow us to keep our laptops, that is).

    The Republican Party is neither pro-republic nor pro-party. Discuss!

    by Nathaniel Ament Stone on Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 08:13:14 PM PST

    •  Good diary ... (4+ / 0-)

      Please re-post this on a non-Friday evening. My brain is good for a martini about now; the Machiavellian intricacies of redistricting politics -- not so much.

      "We will learn an enormous amount in a very short time, quite a bit in the medium term and absolutely nothing in the long term." Grantham on 2008 Crisis

      by Bronxist on Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 08:37:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another great diary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew C White
      But to quibble, the split in New York is 25 D, 3 R and the vacancy in NY-20. The three Rethugs are Pete King (NY-03), John McHigh (NY-23) & Chris Lee (NY-26).
      •  fixed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew C White, emilysdad

        I always forget just how lopsided the New York delegation is.

        The Republican Party is neither pro-republic nor pro-party. Discuss!

        by Nathaniel Ament Stone on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 05:47:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It will be tough (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          to carve out one of the last remaining Republican districts but it is possible. New York is trending democratic across the board... and, most importantly, across upstate.

          Even with Gov Paterson's troubles the Governors Mansion will likely stay in Democratic hands with Andrew Cuomo a likely replacement.

          The State Senate is shakier having just turned over to Democrats but the Republican hold has been tenuous for awhile and I would expect to see the Democratic margin widen in 2010 putting it safely in Democratic hands for years to come.

          The trick with trying to eliminate one of the last 3 republican congressional districts is that a couple of the new Democratic held districts will need shoring up. In order to make them safer for Democrats there won't be much left to weaken Republican hold on their 3 remaining districts.

          However... creative carving around Buffalo and Albany could take portions of those 2 solidly Democratic areas and spread the wealth around to neighboring, more rural and therefore more Republican districts.

          Like you I prefer independent, non-partisan redistricting but given the Republican actions in Texas I have strong feelings in favor of giving them a serious butt kicking on the drawing board this time around.

          •   Democrats need two more State House seats (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Andrew C White

            Well, that doesn't tell the tale, quite.  There is one seat here in Dallas County that was decided by 22 votes, after a re-count.  I submit that it's heading toward the Dems, and in 2010 we will control the house.  The state Senate, maybe not so much.

            The 2010 Census data won't be in and available until sometime in 2011, in time for the 2012 Texas Leg session (it only meets regularly every two years).

            So, work the ground game and let's win two more seats!

            Torture is Wrong! 10% of the US population on Food Stamps: help your food bank.

            by tom 47 on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 01:09:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Some thoughts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment, JesseCW

    CA's map titled toward incumbent protection in the 2000 redistricting because of what happened with Gary Condit. They could probably make a Democratic leaning district by taking parts of Eastern Riverside County and merge it with Imperial County.

  •  Colorado (0+ / 0-)

    The Democrats probably have maxed out their chances there. If I were in charge of redistricting I'd probably ad in more of Boulder County to CO-4 and give some of the most conservative Weld County precincts to CO-2.

    Also, if I really wanted to try to get another Democratic leaning district, I'd perhaps try to link El Paso County to the Denver exurbs. I would try to see if I could put Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman into one district.

    That, however, would require some fancy drawing. I think that the 5-2 split would be good.

  •  Maryland (0+ / 0-)

    A 7-1 split there is probably the best that could be done. The problem here is taking care of the Baltimore/Washington exurbs. What I might do is create one super Republican district taking in the most Republican parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carolll, Harford, and Montgomery Counties. It'd follow 32.

  •  NY (0+ / 0-)

    The key there would be to strengthen NY-13 and get rid of Peter King by connecting NY-3 to precincts in NYC.

  •  VA (0+ / 0-)

    Even if the Republicans control VA they probably won't be able to really impact NVA that much. In 2001 they conceded one DC suburban district (VA-8) to the Democrats. They made VA-10 the safe Republican district. VA-11 was to be the "swing" district with a slight Republican lean.

    But demographic trends have made two of the three (VA-8 and VA-11) districts safely Democratic. VA-10 is now a tossup district, if not Democratic leaning. The legislature would probably not be able to change much of the balance there.

    They could perhaps make VA-2 by taking out the Black parts and perhaps adding Pouquoson. That is one district they could endanger.

  •  Texas (0+ / 0-)

    I wouldn't count Texas Democrats out considering the major gains they have made in retaking the House and the large urban counties from the huge deficits under Bush.

  •  PA (0+ / 0-)

    PA is probably headed toward an incumbent protection plan. The Democrats have probably maximized the districts they can win, save for perhaps Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Jim Gerlach and (PA-6). PA is slated to lose one or two districts in the next redistricting, so they could easily eliminate Gerlach and Dent's districts.

  •  Ohio (0+ / 0-)

    What is key to OH is holding onto the Governorship and Secretary of State's offices. They also need to win the Auditor's position. All three sit on the state legislative redistricting board.

  •  As much as I like getting more D seats, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew C White, Pizzapotamus

    we have to END gerrymandering. It's no more fair when we do it than when they do it.

  •  Great analysis (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew C White

    People need to keep in mind how critical this is.  Much of what we suffered through since 2000 was due to major gerrymandering by the R's in states such as FL, MI, PA. and OH.  

  •  A radical notion, but ... (3+ / 0-)

    Let's assume for the moment that in 2010 the US House isn't in serious jeopardy of flipping back to the dark side.  In that case, we need to promote the notion of focusing on state legislative races, particularly in "battleground" states.  I would gladly pass on winning five House seats in this election to have a shot at 25 seats throughout the decade.

    •  Me too... but... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, GayHillbilly

      consider the economy and the likelihood that it will take awhile to get straightened out.

      Consider that mid-term elections traditionally go against the President's party.

      And it quickly becomes apparent that we can take nothing for granted. I get scared by a lot of the triumphalist talk I see on DK (not saying yours is but I see people talking about a "permanent democratic majority" and I just cringe).

      I think we will probably be in good shape in 2010 but consider also that we've just had two huge wave elections in a row that have included winning a few seats we probably shouldn't ought to hold.

      That said... the state legislative and gubernatorial races are absolutely critical regardless!



  •  What about a census conducted by Obama? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Have you taken into account that a census which is run by Obama should find more citizens which are historically undercounted?

    •  That's what the argument (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is about regarding the census. The Republicans will fight tooth and nail against any attempts to properly count poor and immigrant communities that are typically under counted. A full count would almost certainly benefit Democrats while the current undercount (or worse) benefits Republicans.

      Expect census methodology to be a HUGE fight between now and then and a HUGE crying game on the part of Republicans claiming we're cheating by counting everyone.

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