The relocation of large numbers of African American voters will likely lead to substantially different districts outside several major cities.
In the Detroit area, for instance, Democratic Reps. John Conyers Jr. and Hansen Clarke lost nearly one-quarter of the 800,000 black voters in their districts since 2000, with many of them migrating to nearby districts. The expansion of Clarke’s and Conyers’s districts could help Michigan Republicans eliminate a Democratic district in the area.
The same goes in Ohio, where Rep. Marcia L. Fudge’s (D) loss of 29,000 black voters means that her district will have to grow and Republicans can more easily collapse some nearby Democratic districts.
There is also an opportunity for the GOP to create some new black-majority districts. If Republicans make the district of Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) majority black, it could help keep freshman Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) safe by taking Democrats out of his neighboring district. And Republicans could push Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), a white Democrat whose district is primarily in Philadelphia, into a majority black seat, a move that might help them shore up all the suburban seats they hold nearby.
In Louisiana, the current New Orleans-based 2nd District lost nearly 120,000 black residents over the past decade, largely due to Hurricane Katrina. In order to keep the black population as high as it was before, the district had to be expanded significantly, reaching to the state capital of Baton Rouge.
As a result, the Baton Rouge-based 6th District, which Democrats held briefly last decade, dropped from 34 percent black to 24 percent black.
“It keeps those districts a lot safer for those guys,” said Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis.
Hilary Shelton, the Washington bureau director for the NAACP, said his organization is prepared to fight the over-packing of majority-black districts and hopes that Republicans won’t overplay their hand.
“On one hand, we like to see cohesiveness of those who share common values,” Shelton said. “But it is important that we don’t end up with the kind of packing in districts that” diminishes the influence of black voters.