Sunday, November 7, 2010

Redistricting -- The BIG Prize in the 2010 Midterm Election

That was a stunning turnaround last Tuesday! The last count I had on seats gained by the Republicans was 64 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and six in the U.S. Senate, making it the biggest reversal of fortunes in a midterm election since the 1930s for either party. That's good, but the really good news might be even better.

The genius of the founders who drafted the Constitution of the United States of America is still with us. They designed it that way, to assure tyranny would become nigh unto impossible to replicate here.

Republicans now have the ability on the heels of the 2010 Census to redraw the maps for the congressional districts nationwide. That's because they didn't just sweep national races, but they picked up 680 legislative seats in local state legislatures, which might be even more pivotal in repudiating the socialist Obama agenda in the years ahead.

In addition, there were overwhelming victories in statehouses and governors' races across the country last week. Both state legislatures and congressional districts will have to be redrawn to conform with Census results. It's a grueling and politically charged process that typically gives the party in power an inherent advantage for a decade, allowing them to preserve current strongholds or to put others in play. It's almost too good to be true, and Republicans will be well advised to wield the power they now hold judiciously and responsibly.

For the GOP, that's a turnaround that couldn't have been timed better.

The smackdown suffered by this president and his ill-fated socialistic policies will reverberate for years to come. This isn't about everyone who voted for Obama suddenly becoming bigoted, or misunderstanding Obama's messaging through overuse of his prodigious oratorical skills. Instead, it is a complete repudiation of his policies, and as I had hoped it sets the stage for a new dawn in American politics.

It is now estimated as results continue to trickle in that Republicans will have unilateral control over the redrawing of 195 congressional districts. Democrats have just 45. The remainder are in states where either both parties have a chance to influence redistricting or where decisions will be made by independent commissions.

However, as good as the news is this week, it does not guarantee there will be another Republican surge in two years. There are well-established rules that dictate the composition of the districts, such as making sure districts have a similar number of voters and are compact and contiguous. It's not as easy as it appears, but it helps to be controlling how it's done.

And while redistricting has more recently become a refined science, Democrats can find at least some hope in looking at their own history: They had a redistricting advantage 20 years ago and then were hastily swept out of congressional power in 1994.

The new 2010 Census data will be provided by the end of this year and will determine whether a state has gained or lost population. Those findings determine the number of congressional seats a state gets. States will then get detailed Census data in early 2011 to help them divvy up legislative districts. States gaining or losing seats often get the most attention.

I read a story last week about a political consulting firm specializing in redistricting. Election Data Services Inc., projects eight states will gain seats with the new Census numbers. Texas would get four; Florida would get two; Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington would each get one.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined in sponsoring an ill-advised bill to prematurely give Utah that seat in exchange for creating a seat in Washington D.C., straining at the very outer limits of the Constitution.

That bad move will come up again in Hatch's re-election bid in 2012. Senator Bob Bennett's "go along to get along" political philosophy proved to be his demise. All incumbents from both parties will likely tread more carefully, no doubt, because of Tuesday's results.

Evidence in Utah was Jim Matheson's (D-UT) public statement he will no longer support Nancy Pelosi if she seeks to run for minority leader in the House. He narrowly escaped defeat. He's going to be screaming to high heaven when the boundaries get redrawn to accommodate Utah's new House seat. I suspect his days are numbered and he knows it. He's now a caucus of one among so-called "blue dog Democrats," the only one who survived nationwide.

EDS projects 10 states will lose seats, including New York and Ohio (two each), Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania losing one each.

For the most part redrawing boundaries is politically charged, even in states where independent commissions do the work. So in those 18 states where maps will be redrawn, including Utah, Republicans will now control governorships in 13 of them. Election gains this week in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania assure Republican control over the process.

The GOP will control both chambers in 10 of those 18 states' legislatures. Three others are divided or yet to be decided.

Even states without a change in their congressional makeup face intense battles. In North Carolina, Republicans claimed control of both the House and Senate for the first time in more than a decade. Even in a state where you don't gain or lose, you still have to redraw the lines because of the Census. That's why redistricting might just be the biggest prize of all in these 2010 midterms.

I have no illusions about how painful the course we must pursue will be. I hope and pray Republicans are up to leading in the shared sacrifice required. If they continue to protect an unsustainable status quo of big government and tax and spend politics, their domination will be short-lived.

The American people have spoken, and they are now on high alert.  Politicians beware.


  1. Phil and I just watched a new documentary about gerrymandering. It left me certain I wanted to vote for an independent districting committee instead of letting the representatives create districts. I think it's nuts what they're able to get away with when they do their own.

  2. Utah is one of those states with an "independent commission." However, the influence of the majority party cannot be easily dismissed in the process.