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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Republicans Won't Necessarily Gain in Redistricting

At National Journal, Eliza Newlin Carney explains:

Democrats are pioneering new ways to collect big, unregulated donations for redistricting expertise and legal challenges. A growing redistricting reform movement, coupled with a spike in public interest, has given civil rights groups fresh tools with which to engage. And for the first time in decades, voting rights questions will land before a Democratic-appointed Justice Department.

To some degree, Republicans are victims of their own success. Having expanded their House majority into swing districts in 2010, they now have the most to lose in states that must eliminate congressional seats in the wake of the census, and even in some that will grow. In Louisiana, for example, which will lose a seat, the 6-1 GOP delegation will invariably shrink—setting up an intraparty fight over whose district gets erased.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Republicans,” said Michael P. McDonald, an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University. “They won too many districts in 2010. And Louisiana is the canary in the coal mine for Republicans. These battles are going to play out in state after state.”

As in Louisiana, GOP legislatures have the last word over redistricting in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Florida will gain two seats, and Texas will gain four, while Ohio loses two and Pennsylvania loses one. Yet in all those states, noted McDonald, incumbents must fight over a finite number of GOP strongholds—a tussle that invariably will pit entrenched Old Bulls against newly elected Young Turks.

Take Texas, where former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay staged his controversial mid-decade redistricting to expand the Republican majority in 2003. The Lone Star State’s four-seat gain might appear to translate into four new GOP seats, said J. Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. But Hebert added:

“That clearly is not going to happen. Because the reason Texas is gaining seats at all is because of Latino population growth. And they are going to have to respect that, or run the risk of violating the Voting Rights Act.”