The Fix: Redistricting

Redistricting scorecard: With parties neck-and-neck, Florida could be the key


Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) is one of the GOP’s top targets in redistricting, and a new proposed map in Georgia makes his district significantly more Republican. (Stephen Morton/AP)
Nearly half the the states required to draw new congressional maps before the 2012 election have done so, and Republicans and Democrats are neck-and-neck in the battle to create new districts for their side to win.

According to the Washington Post’s Redistricting Scorecard, a new proposed GOP map in Georgia that creates two winnable seats pulls Republicans about even with Democrats in the quest to create favorable new seats. In the states where we know how the maps are likely to turn out, the Post’s projections now have Republicans gaining one seat, while Democrats would keep their current number of seats.

It should be noted, of course, that much has yet to play out, including some crucial maps in Florida and New York. Florida, in particular, could determine which party wins the battle to create new seats.

Continue Reading »

California-size overhaul not likely with Arizona redistricting commission

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Arizona. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Oregon,Tennessee and New York.)

Just as California’s redistricting commission wraps up work on a plan that will fundamentally re-order the state’s 53-member congressional delegation, Arizona’s own commission is getting started on a re-mapping plan that could do the same – albeit on a much smaller scale.

Arizona’s independent commission, like California’s, is not supposed to consider where incumbents live when it draws its maps — a mandate that could cause all kinds of political havoc.

“People are going to get stuck together,” predicted Arizona redistricting expert Ken Clark, who supports competitive redistricting. “Population shifts have been significant enough that everything’s up in the air.”

Indeed, two draft proposals — known as “grids” — that were released by the commission over the weekend would significantly re-draw the districts from their current makeup.

“We’re wiping the slate clean, and we’re starting over,” Democratic-appointed commission member Linda McNulty said at a meeting earlier this month.

Continue Reading »

Name that district winner: ‘Upside-down elephant’

Earlier this week, we asked Fixistas for their help in picking a nickname for the newly gerrymandered 35th district of Texas, and boy did they deliver.

Like the first installment of our new “Name that district” series, many of the 140-plus suggestions this time were based on oddly shaped animals and abstract art.

In the end, though, one entry stood apart: “Upside-down elephant (spraying water).” At right, we have inverted the district for your viewing pleasure.

Congratulations to our winner, “jeff68”. And thanks to everyone for playing.

We hope to do our next contest in the coming weeks, and a great contest relies on great comments.

After the jump, some of those receiving honorable mention…

Continue Reading »

Name that district: Texas’ 35th district

Texas Republicans passed an ambitious new congressional map earlier this year that drew Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) into a very Republican district and made two of the state’s four new districts into solidly GOP ones.

The result of this redistricting maneuver is some pretty interestingly shaped districts — and fodder for our new semi-regular “Name that district” contest.


(Texas Legislative Council)
Two weeks ago, we had a great response, with Fix readers coining nicknames for Illinois’ new 7th district ranging from an amputee shellfish to the character Beavis of MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead.”

This week, we ask you to take a look at the new 35th district of Texas, which stretches (emphasis on stretches) from San Antonio to Austin and is one of two new districts with a Democratic lean.

Doggett himself is spurning his old 25th district to run in this one, and he is joined in the primary by Democratic state Rep. Joaquin Castro, a rising star in his party.

Doggett has joked about having to “live in a Winnebago” to win the new district. The good news for him is that almost all of this district runs along Interstate 35 — nearly 100 miles long, even though at certain points it’s only a few miles wide.

What does it look like to you? The comments section awaits...

Continue Reading »

It’s redistricting roulette in upstate New York

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on New York. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee.)

After former congressman’s Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) resignation in June, a whole bunch of members of Congress in the New York metro area breathed a big sigh of relief.

The state is losing two congressional districts before 2012;  Weiner essentially sent his district to the gallows, relieving the anxiety of downstate politicians of being targeted. But, when it comes to upstate New York everyone is still holding their breath about where the seat will be removed.

Continue Reading »

New California map leaves GOP on defense, if slightly less so

California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission on Friday voted to approve its final draft, releasing what could be close to the final product of the state’s new congressional map.

The new map, which shakes up the state’s delegation in a major way, looks a lot like the commission’s first draft (that analysis here), with some minor changes along the way.

First, the highlights of the map:

According to a Fix review of data provided by Paul Mitchell of Democratic-leaning Redistricting Partners and Matt Rexroad of GOP-leaning Meridian Pacific, Inc., the new map includes 32 Democratic districts, two districts that lean Democratic, three swing districts, five districts that lean Republican and 11 Republican districts.

Currently, the state’s delegation includes 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans, meaning the GOP would likely be playing more defense than the Democrats under the new map.

That may be why two of the commission’s Republican members wound up voting against the draft map.

Continue Reading »

Name that district winner: ‘Beavis eating pizza’


In Illinois, lawmakers have drawn a new congressional district (at right, rotated 90 degrees) that bears a striking resemblence to the character Beavis (right) of MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead.” (AP Photo/MTV Films)

Congratulations to Fix reader Bondosan, who has won our inaugural“Name that district” contest!

Yesterday, we asked everyone to tell us what they thought the new 7th district of Illinois looked like. The response was overwhelming and, often, quite clever. Say whatever else you want about Fix readers; they are creative.

Bondosan, though, took the cake, with his suggestion that the new 7th district “looks like Beavis eating a slice of pizza (New York style, not Chicago deep dish).”

Henceforth, we christen Rep. Danny Davis’s (D-Ill.) new district the “Beavis eating pizza” district.

And congratulations to Bondosan, whose place in electoral history is all but cemented. Stay tuned for future “name that district” posts!

After the jump, check out some other top suggestions....

Continue Reading »

Members’ redistricting concerns hinder Boehner plan’s prospects

Redistricting could jeopardize House Speaker John Boehner’s chances of passing a debt-limit bill with only Republican support.

According to a Fix review, Boehner’s plan could lose support from as many as 10 or more Republican members of Congress thanks to redistricting. That’s because those members may face matchups with fellow Republican incumbents in primaries next year, and voting for the bill could allow their opponents to get to their right on the debt issue.

Continue Reading »

Name that district! (Gerrymandering edition)

Name that district! (Gerrymandering edition)

They may not be common knowledge, but that are a number of districts on the congressional map that have their very own nicknames.

Every 10 years, states redraw their congressional lines, and often what result are some very oddly shaped districts drawn for political reasons. In recent decades, these so-called “gerrymandered” districts have come to be known by any number of derogatory noms de guerre, including the “ribbon of shame,” “earmuffs,” “bug splat”, “flat cat roadkill,” “rabbit on a skateboard,” and even simply “Z.”

Continue Reading »

Tennessee GOP confronts tough choice on targeting Cooper

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Tennessee. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina and Oregon.)

Tennessee saw a wholesale change in its congressional delegation in 2010 as Republicans picked up two open seats and knocked off Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis as well.

Heading into 2012 then, there are only two Democrats in the Volunteer state’s delegation. One, Rep. Steve Cohen, faces no danger from Republicans in his strongly Democratic Memphis 9th district. The other is Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper.

With the GOP controlling all levers of the redistricting process in Tennessee, Cooper’s marginally Democratic Nashville district would appear an ideal target, and it’s plausible that Republicans could increase their 7-to-2 edge in the state’s delegation to 8-to-1.

After all, there’s no shortage of conservative-minded voters in Tennessee, and all three Republican districts around Cooper went easily for GOP candidates last year, suggesting there are plenty of voters to add to Cooper’s district.

But it’s not quite so simple.

Continue Reading »

GOP’s second crack at N.C. redistricting map even more perilous for Democrats

A new redistricting map proposed by the North Carolina Republican Party would continue to seriously endanger Democratic Reps. Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre, Brad Miller and Larry Kissell.

Unlike the state GOP’s first proposal, though, this one puts McIntyre’s and Miller’s homes into other members’ districts. Furthermore, it would make both McIntyre’s and Kissel’s even more Republican than before.

According to numbers obtained by The Fix, under the new plan both McIntyre’s 7th district and Kissell’s 8th district would both have gone about 57 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race. Under the first proposal, the districts would have gone 55 percent for McCain.

The new map also would likely force McIntyre — perhaps the toughest of the four targets for Republicans to defeat — to move into the new 7th to run for reelection. And Miller, who is drawn into Rep. David Price’s (D-N.C.) district, would also face a tough reelection decision.

In the end, the map appears to be even better for the GOP than the first map proposed (details on that map here), concentrating more Republicans into the vulnerable Democrats’ districts while putting more Democratic voters in non-competitive districts.

Continue Reading »

Dale Kildee retiring from Congress

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) is retiring from Congress after 18 terms.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of this
term to enjoy more time with my wife, three children and ten grandchildren,” the 81-year-old lawmaker said in a statement. “This has not been an easy decision. I have worked hard for the people of the 5th District and will continue to work hard for the remaining eighteen months of my present term of office.”

Continue Reading »

The top 10 battles between Members of Congress in 2012

Some of the most memorable House campaigns in recent memory have been redistricting-forced contests in which two Members of Congress face off.

Friday Line

While House members typically do everything they can to avoid challenging one another, sometimes the way line-drawers craft the districts in the decennial redistricting process make such showdowns unavoidable.

The aggressive approach both parties have taken to redistricting so far in 2011 — maps in Texas, Illinois and North Carolina all push the limits — means that there will be member-versus-member matchups galore in 2012.

Continue Reading »

Oregon redistricting gives GOP slight bump

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on South Carolina. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado,Minnesota and South Carolina.)

Oregon’s state legislature has passed a new plan for its five congressional districts, and the new map looks a whole lot like the current one.

Republicans say they feel marginally better about their chances of beating Democratic Reps. David Wu and Kurt Schrader, but neither of their districts are much more GOP-friendly under the new map.

(Check out this great illustration by the state legislature, which allows for easy comparison between the proposed districts and the current ones.)

Observers thought the map in the state was headed for the courts, as it has the last two decades. That’s because the two chambers of the legislature are so evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, including a tie in the state House. (A deadlock in the legislature pushes the map to the courts.)

Instead, last week the legislature worked out the details and passed a map where both sides came out happy. Or, at least, satisfied.

Looking for changes on the new map requires a magnifying glass. (Lucky for you, we have one.)

Continue Reading »

North Carolina GOP targets four Democrats in redistricting proposal


(North Carolina General Assembly)
There may be a new king when it comes to gerrymandering this cycle, and it’s the North Carolina Republican party.

State legislators, looking to reverse decades of Democratic-drawn maps and give their party a chance to win multiple seats, released a map Friday that not only does just that but is also likely to be a case study for any aspiring map-drawer.

The map makes four Democratic-held seats much tougher for the incumbents to hold, and Reps. Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Brad Miller are all going to have to fight for their political lives. Republicans, who currently hold just six of 13 seats in the state, will almost surely win at least a couple of these.

Continue Reading »

South Carolina Republicans struggle to draw new GOP seat

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on South Carolina. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado and Minnesota.)

Republicans in South Carolina may be handing the state’s new congressional seat to Democrats.

That’s if you believe those close to the process in the Palmetto State, where politics is truly a blood sport and the redistricting debate represents yet another characteristically hazardous political battle.

Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, and they were widely expected to be able to draw the state’s new congressional district – the 7th – as a Republican seat. But internal squabbling is throwing that sure-thing into doubt.

Continue Reading »

Conflict over the Iron Range highlights looming legal battle over Minnesota redistricting

This is the 20th in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Minnesota. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey and Colorado.)

Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack pulled off arguably the biggest upset in the country in 2010, knocking off longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar. Whether the Minnesota Republican can do it again rests very much in the hands of a few judges.

With the Republican state legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton unable to find any common ground on redistricting, the matter is headed for the courts. Again.

Continue Reading »

Michigan map highlights GOP redistricting challenges

Michigan Republicans released an entirely unsurprising draft congressional map on Friday, with the two big changes being the drawing together of Democratic Reps. Sandy Levin and Gary Peters and the shoring up of GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.

But a closer look at the proposed map shows it as illustrative of the redistricting challenges the GOP faces this year.

Republicans control nine of 15 congressional districts in what is otherwise a blue state. And with Republicans in charge of the entire redistricting process and the state set to lose a seat prior to 2012, GOP strategists and elected officials are essentially stretching their districts even further in order to save all of their incumbents.

But they just can’t do all that much. The result is a map on which the GOP did itself some good where it could, but was largely limited in a lot of cases.

Continue Reading »

Bookmark alert! New redistricting home page and scorecard

The decennial battle over redistricting is in full swing, and to help keep you up to date on all the latest developments the Post has launched two great new tools for both the casual redistricting observer and the over-the-top junkie.

First is our new redistricting home page, which contains all our latest stories and blog posts, as well as a primer for the uninitiated.

Second is our “Redistricting Scorecard” — a new tool that allows readers to get the latest on the redistricting battles in all 50 states, along with other vital state-by-state information about which party controls the process, how many seats either party currently has in the House and which party is expected to gain or lose seats once the line-drawing process is finished.

Be sure to bookmark these pages, so you can get your redistricting fix any time you need it!

Incumbents lose, Democrats win with California redistricting proposal

A new redistricting proposal in California would draw nearly half the state’s congressional incumbents into districts with one another and significantly expand Democrats’ ability to win seats in the Golden State in 2012 and beyond.

The state’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission voted this afternoon to release its first draft proposal for the new congressional map. The proposed map was expected to include huge changes and shake up the delegation by drawing numerous members into districts with each other — and it definitely did that — but in the runup to the release it wasn’t as clear which party would benefit from all those changes.

In the end, Democrats came out as the clear winners, and if the plan is enacted as proposed, Democrats would have a good chance to expand on their current 33-to-19 advantage in the state’s delegation by several seats.

Continue Reading »

If scandal doesn’t get Weiner, New York legislators might

It’s almost too perfect.

Just two weeks after the New York legislature’s job of drawing new congressional districts in the state’s northern reaches became tougher with the special election victory of Rep. Kathy Hochul (D), its job drawing districts downstate became a piece of cake.

Or at least that’s how it looks right now.

Over the last week and a half, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has turned himself into the sacrifical political lamb and plopped himself (and his 9th district) down on a silver platter for a state legislature that was going to have to make some very tough choices about whose seats to eliminate in the coming round of redistricting. (The state is losing two congressional districts due to slower population growth than the nation as a whole.)

And now, if you ask those who know about redistricting in the Empire State, they say Weiner could very well find himself without a district for the 2012 election — no matter how his sex scandal plays out over the next few days or weeks.

“People look at this as a possible release valve that wasn’t there before,” said a senior Democrat monitoring the process.

Continue Reading »

Redistricting battles hit a fever pitch

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s that we appear to be headed for an extremely contentious round of redistricting over the next 12 months or so.

In Illinois, Democrats used their one big opportunity to gain seats in the decennial process of drawing new districts to kneecap the state’s Republican members of Congress, drawing nine of 11 of them into districts with other incumbents.

Republicans, who have many more opportunities nationally to draw the lines in key states, registered their first big potential gerrymander in Texas by releasing a map that draws three of the four districts the state is gaining in reapportionment to be Republican-leaning and decimates Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s seat by making it much more conservative.

In both cases, the maps go further than even the smartest experts had expected them to, giving the party in power a chance to win more seats than projected.

Given that Texas and Illinois are two of the first large population states to tackle redistricting so far this year — all 50 states have to redraw their lines before 2012 — we appear to be headed for a no-holds-barred redistricting cycle.

Continue Reading »

The GOP’s big Texas gerrymander

A new proposed congressional map in Texas goes to surprisingly long lengths to stretch the number of Republican districts in the state’s delegation.

Despite the Lonestar State voting 55 percent for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race, the GOP-controlled legislature’s proposed map features 26 districts that went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out of a total of 36 districts, according to a Fix analysis based on data from the Texas Legislative Council. That’s 72 percent of districts that favor Republicans on paper.

The big changes are the four new districts the state gained in the decennial reapportionment process thanks to its rapid population growth. Of the four, three lean Republican while one is solidly Democratic. The other big change is the shifting of Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Texas) district from a strongly Democratic district to a strongly Republican one.

The new Republican-leaning districts went 53 percent, 57 percent and 58 percent for McCain, while the Democratic district went 38 percent for McCain. Doggett’s district would go from 40 percent McCain to 56 percent.

In effect, Republicans appear to be trying to give themselves a good chance to gain three of the four new seats, leaving Democrats to gain just one.

Continue Reading »

Illinois redistricting plan: DeLay Lite?

State legislators in Illinois are in the process of pushing through a redistricting plan that could cause one of the biggest shakeups in a congressional delegation in history.

But is it on par with the biggest gerrymander in recent history?

Redistricting experts are already comparing the map to the one passed by Texas Republicans in 2003 under the guidance of then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). The Texas map eventually led to the exit of seven Texas Democrats, while the Illinois map draws 10 of the state’s 11 congressional Republicans into districts with other incumbents and could knock out six of them.

The Illinois map is expected to pass today, and Democratic governor Pat Quinn (D) is expected to sign it if it comes to his desk.

“In the pantheon of gerrymanders, this one appears to have similarities to the Texas re-redistricting of 2003,” said George Mason University political science professor Michael McDonald.

David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said the Texas map and Illinois map “compare pretty well.”

But is it really an apples-to-apples comparison?

Continue Reading »

Republicans ramp up redistricting efforts

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which played a key role in delivering the GOP nearly unprecedented control over the current round of redistricting, is taking on an increased role as an advisory arm for GOP state legislators who are drawing the new congressional lines in key states.

The RSLC’s decision to step forward is growing evidence of the committee’s prominence on the political landscape, as it will take on much of the redistricting role traditionally filled by the Republican National Committee.

The RSLC’s assistance will be available to all states, but will be focused on the 18 states that are adding or losing congressional seats. Only a handful of states have completed their new legislative district maps so far, with plenty of important states who have just started the process or will do so in the months ahead.

“We saw a need here. It’s very important for the long term in terms of protecting gains made in the U.S. House and legislatures in this past year,” said RSLC chairman Ed Gillespie. “We need to make sure Republicans are maximizing our opportunities in this once-every-decade process.”

Continue Reading »

Hochul’s win throws a major wrench into New York redistricting

The conventional wisdom on how New York legislators will redraw their congressional maps went out the window Tuesday night, with Democrat Kathy Hochul stealing a Republican-leaning western New York district in a special election.

The Empire State’s congressional delegation has to shrink by two members due to growth that lagged the national average over the last decade.

Control of redistricting is split between the two parties. Under that arrangement, both parties are likely to lose one seat, and the thinking had long been that one upstate Republican and one New York City-area Democrat would be left without seats when the game of musical chairs ended.

But Hochul’s win throws a sizeable wrench into that premise. And by Wednesday morning, her win was forcing consultants and incumbents all over the state to re-evaluate their expectations about the congressional redistricting process.

“It screws it up majorly,” said one Democratic strategist familiar with the redistricting process.

Continue Reading »

Missouri map set after state House overrides Nixon’s veto


Missouri House of Representatives
Missouri’s new congressional map is all but set after the state House on Wednesday overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of the Republican-drawn plan.

State House Republicans were able to pick off just enough Democratic votes to nab the two-thirds majority required to override the Nixon veto, and the state Senate, where Republicans hold more than two-thirds of the seats, is set to complete the override this afternoon.

(Update 4:45 p.m.: the state Senate has now voted to override the veto.)

The new map will, as expected, displace Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), putting him into the same St. Louis-area district as Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) in a matchup Carnahan isn’t likely to win. (Missouri is losing a congressional seat because it grew slower than the rest of the country.)

Continue Reading »

Colorado deadlocks on redistricting, with plenty at stake

This is the 19th in a weekly Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Colorado. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina ,Wisconsin,Maryland. Michigan, Louisiana and New Jersey.)

Colorado could very well be the first state to put the drawing of its new congressional districts into the hands of judges.

A nasty war of words between Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature has gone on for weeks now, with the legislature’s bipartisan 10-person redistricting committee unable to work together on a map.

Given the amount of turnover in the Colorado delegation over the last decade — both sides have held five of seven seats at various points — and the distance between the two sides’ proposals, the Centennial State is emerging as a key redistricting battleground, with the next map potentially swinging two or three seats over the next ten years.

And given the stakes, neither side is budging.

With control of the process split — Democrats control the state Senate, and Republicans control the state House — compromise is looking increasingly unlikely. And most involved now say the matter is on a collision course with the courts.

But before we get into the potential legal action, let’s look at where the two sides stand.

Continue Reading »

The decline of the majority-black district, and what it means

The last decade hasn’t been kind to majority-black congressional districts across the country.

While the black population nationally ticked up 12 percent in the just-released Census numbers, eight of the top 10 majority-black districts across the country actually experienced population loss, losing an average of more than 10 percent of their black population, according to a review of Census data by The Fix.

Many of these districts lost voters of other races too, and are now in need of significant expansion during this year’s redistricting process.

The population loss is really more of a migration. The black population is moving from the major metropolitan areas – where most of these districts are – and into the suburbs. In fact, of the 15 districts with the greatest black population growth over the last decade, all of them are in the suburbs of these metro areas.

And that could play right into the hands of a Republican Party that controls redistricting in an unprecedented number of states and will be drawing many of these districts.

“The practical effect is great for the GOP; in state after state, it’s allowing Republicans to pack more heavily Democratic close-in suburbs into urban black districts to make surrounding districts more Republican,” said Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

In effect, the Voting Rights Act makes it permissible for Republicans to combine as many black voters – the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in the country – into some of the most creatively drawn districts in the country. This is known as “packing,” and while it makes for a series of very safe Democratic districts, it also takes Democratic voters out of neighboring districts — making them easier for Republicans to win. (“Packing” is a form of gerrymandering — the process of benefitting politically by drawing districts that are often oddly shaped.)

Continue Reading »

Uncertainty reigns in New Jersey redistricting

This is the 18th in a weekly Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on New Jersey. (And make sure to check out the first 17 installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina ,Wisconsin,Maryland. Michigan and Louisiana.)

The 2002 round of redistricting was a rare moment of harmony in New Jersey politics, with all 13 members of the congressional delegation coming together and agreeing on a compromise map that they all felt had their best political interests in mind.

That was then; this is now.

With the state losing one seat in the decennial re-sorting of congressional districts, there is plenty of consternation about just which area will get the ax.

With no member of the delegation likely to retire and only one statewide office – that of Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – up in 2012, it’s quite possible that all 13 members will be seeking reelection and two incumbents will be running against each other.

As for who those two incumbents will be, it’s really anybody’s guess.

New Jersey is one of six states that has a redistricting commission. Six appointed Democrats and six appointed Republicans – two each from the parties’ chairmen, Assembly leaders and Senate leaders – work together. If a majority of the 12 can’t come to an agreement, a neutral 13th person plays the role of mediator/tie-breaker.

It’s a system that could lead to some middle ground in the process. The question now is where that middle ground will be found.

Continue Reading »

The most likely redistricting victims

We’re through the first big week of congressional redistricting, and everything has more or less gone according to plan.

In Indiana and Louisiana, Republicans did their best to push Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Jeff Landry (R-La.) out, while a commission in Iowa did what commissions do and overhauled the map to a significant degree. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) is targeted for elimination on a proposed map in Missouri, and in Arkansas and Oklahoma, there were few changes for a pair of small delegations that were unlikely to change anyways.

So far, things have gone pretty much as expected. In fact, Donnelly, Landry and Carnahan have long been considered three of the most obvious sitting ducks when it comes to redistricting. Seeing them actually get the short end of the stick then isn’t terribly surprising.

The easy pickings are now done. From here, redistricting winners and losers get a little harder to game out.

Continue Reading »

Indiana Republicans move to take out Donnelly, shore up Young with redistricting proposal

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) knew today was not going to be a great day for him. And he was right.

Republicans in Indiana’s state legislature came out with a redistricting plan for the state’s new congressional districts this morning that, as expected, hands Donnelly the very short end of the stick.

The GOP plan, which is expected to sail through the legislature given Republicans’ large majorities, would also take steps to shore up freshman GOP Rep. Todd Young in southern Indiana.

The goal for Republicans is a map where they can hold onto a seven-to-two edge over the next decade. (Republicans currenbtly have a six-to-three edge in the congressional delegation.)

Democratic Reps. Peter Visclosky and Andre Carson will be tough to beat in heavily blue Gary and Indianapolis districts, respectively, but if Republicans can take Donnelly’s seat and keep their 2010 gains, the delegation should be more than three-quarters Republican for the foreseeable future. (See The Fix’s preview of the map-drawing in Indiana from November.)

Continue Reading »

Despite GOP control, Louisiana redistricting proves a cruel mistress

This is the 17th in a weekly Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Louisiana. (And make sure to check out the first 16 installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina ,Wisconsin,Maryland. and Michigan.)

Redistricting can be a maddening process, even when one party controls all the levers of the process.

That reality is what Louisiana Republicans, who must shrink the state’s congressional delegation from seven to six, are facing right now.

A bill supported by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal was torpedoed by the Republican-majority state Senate at the last minute Tuesday in favor of a Democratic-backed bill that some in the GOP say could cost Republicans a seat.

Multiple sources say Rep. Charles Boustany (R) played a key role in killing the Jindal-backed proposal and passing a plan authored by Democratic state Sen. Lydia Jackson that he sees as more favorable for his 7th district.

Four state Senate Republicans voted against the initial Jindal-backed bill, which fell one vote shy of passing; then seven Republicans crossed over to support Jackson’s bill.

Jindal threatened Wednesday to veto the state Senate bill. But then a committee in the GOP-controlled state House rejected the bill before it could reach the House floor.

Ensue standstill.

Continue Reading »

Iowa redistricting proposal matches two pairs of incumbents against each other


Courtesy of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency
Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting commission threw an early wrench into the state’s redistricting process Thursday, proposing a map that would put Republican Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King into the same district, while also drawing Democratic Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack into the same district.

The state is dropping from five districts to four districts due to slower-than-average population growth over the last decade, meaning that it was a foregone conclusion that two incumbents would be drawn into the same district.

But instead of making minor changes, the proposal is a wholesale re-drawing of the congressional map and pairs up two sets of incumbents, while leaving Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in his own district and creating an open seat in the southeastern corner of the state – where the potential candidates include former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack (D).

Continue Reading »

Maxed out in Michigan

This is the 16th in a weekly Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future”. The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Michigan. (And make sure to check out the first 15 installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina ,Wisconsin and Maryland..)

Michigan has the unfortunate distinction of being the only state to actually lose population over the last decade, a shift that will cost it a House seat in 2012.

And given that Republicans control the redistricting process, Demcorats should watch their backs, right?

As it often is with redistricting, it might not be so simple.

Much like in other big states, Republican gains in Michigan in 2010 make it virtually impossible for the party to add winnable seats in 2012 without severely risking the districts they currently hold. That’s in spite of the fact that Republicans control all levers of the redistricting process in the Wolverine State.

In fact, the situation in Michigan is very much like the situation in another blue-tinting state we have looked at previously – Pennsylvania.

While the GOP controls 12 of 19 seats in Pennsylvania, it controls nine of 15 seats in Michigan. In both cases, many Republican-held districts went for President Obama in 2008 and will need to be shored up to ensure GOP incumbents have a chance to win them for the next decade.

And in both cases, the fact that the state is losing a seat means the map could be drawn any number of ways, with Republicans likely aiming to combine two incumbent Democrats into one district. In Michigan, that conversation has centered around two-term Rep. Gary Peters (D), a strong campaigner in a swing district in Oakland County, just north of Detroit.

Continue Reading »

New lines in the Old Line State? Maryland Democrats could go after 7-to-1 edge

This is the 15th in an occasional series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future”. The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Maryland. (And make sure to check out the first 14 installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina and Wisconsin.)

Democratic state legislators in Maryland enacted one of the most effective gerrymanders in the country in 2001, successfully turning a four-to-four split in the state’s congressional delegation into a six-to-two Democratic advantage by 2002.

With Democrats again in charge of the redistricting process in 2011 and with the delegation still at a six-to-two edge for the party, the question now is whether they can rid the state of one of those remaining GOP districts.

It will take some doing, but with Democrats having very few chances (outside of Illinois) to create new winnable seats for their party, Maryland presents a rare opportunity.

Continue Reading »

New lines in the Old Line State? Maryland Democrats could go after 7-to-1 edge

(Cross-posted from The Fix.)

Democratic state legislators in Maryland enacted one of the most effective gerrymanders in the country in 2001, successfully turning a four-to-four split in the state’s congressional delegation into a six-to-two Democratic advantage by 2002.

With Democrats again in charge of the redistricting process in 2011 and with the delegation still at a six-to-two edge for the party, the question now is whether they can rid the state of one of those remaining GOP districts.

Continue Reading »

The top 10 states to watch in redistricting

The decennial re-mapping of all 435 congressional districts in the country (aka redistricting) is a very complicated process. Every state does it its own way, and the process is highly dependent on local elected officials whose names few people know and who, oftentimes, aren’t exactly answerable to the public.

But the relative lack of knowledge about the process is directly counter to its importance; what happens over the next year will set congressional maps for the next decade and — Republicans hope — pave the way for 10 uninterrupted years of GOP control of the House.

Regular Fix readers know about our “Mapping the Future” series, which goes through each state and how the map might be drawn.But if you don’t have time to read about every state, which are the ones you should pay the most attention to — and why?

Continue Reading »