Regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are victorious in 2016, most prognosticators regard both the presidency and the Senate as up for grabs. So why do so many see the GOP as a lock to keep control of the House? Gerrymandering gives Republicans a massive advantage because they drew far more congressional districts, 55 percent of the total, than Democrats, whom just 10 percent of districts intended to favor.
The above map shows this disparity in striking detail, with every district rendered as the same size (see the interactive version for detailed explanations of each state . One can immediately see there is far more red than blue on the map: Large states that Obama carried twice like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin were ruthlessly gerrymandered by Republicans. Meanwhile, independent or nonpartisan bodies drew the districts in large blue states such as California and New York, further exacerbating the problem nationally.
Given this dramatic disparity between the parties regarding partisan intent in redistricting, it should come as no surprise that the deck is stacked for Republicans. Mitt Romney carried the majority of congressional districts, with 226 to Obama's 209. Obama won nationally by nearly 4 percent, but lost the median district by 1.6 points. Thanks in large part to this uneven playing field, Republicans enjoy their largest House majority in 84 years.
As we have demonstrated in a series of articles this year, such pervasive gerrymandering gives Republicans a significant boost in their quest to win congressional districts. While there are many factors to account for, it is very probable that gerrymandering was responsible for Republicans keeping control of the House in 2012 despite losing the popular vote nationwide. If Democrats are victorious next year in the presidential race and successful in recapturing the Senate, the prospect of gerrymandering costing the party a majority in the House remains very real.
It is undeniably clear that our electoral system is flawed. When a political party can consistently maintain a majority in a legislative chamber regardless of the electorate's wishes, that system is broken and needs fundamental reforms. Read below for some proposed solutions.
We must end gerrymandering and one way to do that is through independent redistricting ballot initiatives, as were done in California. However, most important states don't have this tool for direct democracy, which is why we must elect more Democratic governors for the 2020 round of redistricting, as the next article in our nonpartisan redistricting series will detail. Until Republicans stop gerrymandering countless large states, Democrats must fight fire with fire and gerrymander the states we control to help level the playing field. Ultimately, Democrats simply cannot afford to spend another decade locked out of the House and we must use every method available.