Two months into the 1982 campaign year, fewer than half the members of the House of Representatives know the boundaries of the districts they will be contesting in the primaries this spring and summer and the election this fall.
The task of drawing new lines on the basis of the 1980 census is going at a snail's pace, slowed by partisan battles and the interventions of the courts and the Justice Department.
Indications at this stage are that Republican hopes of profiting from the big population movement from Frost Belt to Sun Belt and from center city to suburb may go unfulfilled.
At this point, the Democrats are ahead of the game on the scorecards of both parties. While some Republicans still claim that they will net a dozen seats, others would happily settle for an even break.
Population shifts reported by the 1980 census are causing 21 states to gain or lose representation this year. Movements of population within states require other line changes.
So far, one member of Congress has been forced into retirement by redistricting and two others have decided to seek other offices after their districts were dismembered.
Eight others--six Republicans and two Democrats--are facing primaries against members of their own party. In addition, there are six Democratic and Republican incumbents who seem fated to go up against each other in November.
The biggest cloud overhanging the majority of House members is the uncertainty of their situations. Only 27 states with 174 members (including the six with single at-large members) have final districting plans for 1982, and the largest of them, California, may have to redraw its lines for 1984.
The other 23 states with 261 members are still up in the air--either because their legislatures have not acted or because the plans are under judicial or Justice Department review. Among the laggards are the two biggest gainers, Florida and Texas, and some of the biggest losers, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
A year ago, when census numbers showed a shift of 17 seats from Frost Belt to Sun Belt states, and the emptying of many big-city Democratic districts, Republicans were hoping for a net shift of perhaps a dozen seats in their direction. That would be a long step toward the 26-seat gain they would need for Republican control of the House.
It has not worked out that way. Republicans used their partisan advantage to push through districting plans that may net them a total of five seats in Indiana, Arizona and Utah. But that gain was probably wiped out by a Democratic gerrymander in California, sustained for 1982 by a 4-to-3 decision of the state Supreme Court.
A three-judge federal court approved a plan for Illinois that may cost the Republicans three seats. The Justice Department has stalled, at least temporarily, a pro-GOP plan that would have meant two seats in Texas.
The Justice Department, acting under the Voting Rights Act, and the courts have been protective of minority representation, which is concentrated for the most part in center-city districts with declining populations.
In states like Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, where action has been completed, none of the four blacks and none of the three white liberals representing districts that were among the top 25 population losers in the country in the past decade have been put in jeopardy by the redrawing of lines.
In every case, their districts have been extended just far enough into the suburbs to bring them up to the population standard, without jeopardizing the political or racial balance.
On the other hand, districting decisions have cost blacks opportunities they sought for added representation in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Georgia's plan, however, was blocked by the Justice Department last week, while the other three state plans are awaiting clearance by Justice.
The department rejected a North Carolina plan on grounds that it diminished black voting strength. Last week, the North Carolina Legislature passed a new plan, aimed at meeting those objections, but it has not yet been scrutinized by the Justice Department.
The Texas plan, regarded as a major victory by Republicans, flunked the Justice Department review because it diluted Hispanic votes. In Texas, however, candidates in districts not affected by the ruling have been allowed to file.
An Arkansas districting plan has been tossed out of court for violating the population equality standard. A Democratic gerrymander in New Jersey has been challenged in court by Republican House members and a Republican gerrymander in Arizona is under legal attack from the state Democratic committee.
In Washington state, after last-minute battling between the House and state Senate, the Republican legislature passed a new districting plan last Thursday that would give the new eighth seat to a Republican from the fast-growing Seattle suburbs.
The main bone of contention was the Democratic city of Everett, which was finally shifted from Democratic Rep. Al Swift's 2nd District to Republican Rep. Joel Pritchard's 1st District, marginally weakening both.
Gov. John D. Spellman, a Republican, vetoed a 1981 plan that was somewhat harmful to Pritchard, which provoked the wrath of other Republicans, but the governor is expected to sign this one. It straightens the lines, but does not alter significantly the political composition of the eastern Washington district of House Democratic Whip Thomas S. Foley.
A Republican veto blocked action in Wisconsin. Last week, Kansas' Republican legislature passed a plan protecting all the incumbents, but it is awaiting a possible veto by the Democratic governor. In a number of states, most recently Pennsylvania, the legislatures themselves have been unable to reach agreement--thus kicking the problem to others.
The result has been a real slowdown in the districting process--and ulcers for many members of Congress. "It delays your money-raising and, obviously, your organizing," an Ohio congressman complained last week. Similar gripes can be heard in New York, Florida, Michigan and other big states with no districting decisions.
Democrats take considerable solace in the fact that they have escaped the major losses that were predicted for them when the census numbers came out last year.
Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that last spring, when Republicans were predicting a pickup of a dozen seats from districting, "I was saying their maximum was about five seats. I think now it will be a washout."
Coelho said the early GOP gerrymander in Indiana--and the bragging Republicans did about it--"turned on the Democratic juices" and caused his party to fight back.
He also said the reason that Democrats have done so well in the court decisions so far is that "basically, the Republicans got piggish. They decided they were going to bludgeon the process. They forced things into the courts and they've lost more than they've gained by it."
Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.), head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, said he still believes that "the demographic tilt will result in a 10- to 12-seat gain" for the Republicans. Others are less sanguine. "I don't want to get into an argument with the chairman of that committee," said one GOP political operative, "but I wouldn't bet the rent money on that--not after the California and Illinois decisions."
Vander Jagt conceded that the courts have been more protective of "urban seats" than he expected, and he dismissed Coelho's charge that the cases would not have reached court were it not for Republican "piggishness."
"That's as close to total nonsense as any political statement I've ever heard," Vander Jagt said. "There's piggishness on both sides, but there's no sense pretending that judges are nonpartisan in their approach. There are Jimmy Carter judges and Jerry Brown judges" on these decisions, "and that's part of the answer, too."
Nonetheless, Vander Jagt maintained that the late date many of the lines will be drawn and the large number of substantially altered districts and districts without incumbents will make Republican financial and organizational advantages a bigger factor in 1982 than in any other recent year.
Here is a summary of the outlook in states where redistricting action appears to be final for 1982:
California--With the state delegation increasing from 43 to 45 members, Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., a Democrat, signed a Democratic plan expected to cost the Republicans three seats and gain the Democrats five. Republicans have enough signatures for a referendum on the June primary ballot, challenging the plan, but the Calfornia Supreme Court, in a 4-to-3 decision, ruled in January that the challenged plan be used this year, even as the referendum goes forward. Outraged Republicans have launched a recall movement against Chief Justice Rose Bird, a Brown appointee who wrote the majority opinion.
The Democratic plan, engineered by Rep. Phillip Burton, forces two internal Republican fights: Rep. John H. Rousselot vs. Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead and Rep. Dave Dreier vs. Rep. Wayne R. Grisham. Rep. Bobbi Fiedler, a Republican, is forced into the district being vacated by Rep. Barry M. Goldwater Jr., who is running in the GOP Senate primary, and the district of another Republican Senate challenger, Rep. Robert K. Dornan, is redrawn to favor the Democrats.
Meanwhile, new districts have been hand-drawn for four Democratic assemblymen and a San Diego county supervisor, although a new East Los Angeles district that was supposed to be ticketed for a Hispanic legislator may see a primary involving former representative Jim Lloyd, a Democrat.
Colorado--After the Republican legislature was thwarted three times by vetoes from Democratic Gov. Richard Lamm, a federal court drew a plan that protects the three Democratic and two Republican incumbents and puts a new sixth district into heavily Republican suburbs of Denver. While the GOP seems assured of gaining a seat, Republicans are frustrated at their inability to weaken any of the Democrats and gain a majority in the delegation.
Connecticut--After a legislative reapportionment committee deadlocked, a state reapportionment commission voted 5 to 4 in favor of a Democratic plan that made minimal changes in the 6th District. A close race is expected in the district being vacated by Rep. Anthony Toby Moffett, a Democrat, who is running for the Senate, but the district is less Republican in makeup than it would have been under the GOP plan. Other incumbents appear strengthened.
Hawaii--About 90,000 voters were transferred from the fast-growing Oahu and out-island 2d District to the Honolulu-based lst District by a bipartisan reapportionment commission, but both seats are expected to remain safely Democratic. The League of Women Voters has filed a court challenge, based on the use of registered voters, rather than total population, but the suit is not expected to change the lines significantly, nor is a pending Justice Department review under the Voting Rights Act.
Idaho--Only 20,000 voters had to be shifted from the western to the eastern district to equalize population, and the Democratic governor approved the Republican legislature's plan, which is expected to keep both seats in GOP hands.
Illinois--With the delegation being cut from 24 to 22 seats, the GOP stands to lose two or three seats. The politically divided legislature deadlocked and a three-judge federal court (two Nixon appointees and one Carter appointee) jarred the GOP by choosing the Democratic plan. That decision, affirmed by the Supreme Court, protected three Chicago black members, Reps. Harold Washington, Gus Savage and Cardiss Collins, by extending their underpopulated districts into the suburbs, and also strengthened downstate Rep. Paul Simon, a Democrat who won by only 1 percent of the vote in 1980.
The approved plan, crafted by Illinois House Minority Leader Michael J. Madigan, squeezes five of the 14 Republicans into a situation where only two or three can survive. Rep. John Edward Porter was thrown into the same district as Rep. Robert McClory, and McClory retired rather than face a primary fight. Reps. George M. O'Brien and Edward J. Derwinski were put in the same situation in their part of the Chicago suburbs, and they will battle it out in the March 16 primary. Rep. Paul Findley was given much more Democratic territory in his downstate district and will be hard-pressed in November.
That all this happened in a state where Republicans control the governorship and one house of the legislature makes Illinois a disaster area for the GOP second only to California.
Indiana--Here, Republicans used their control of the entire state government to put through their most successful gerrymander to date, jeopardizing four of the six Democratic incumbents while strengthening four of the five Republicans and creating a new district almost sure to go Republican. Rep. Floyd Fithian, a Democrat whose district was carved up four ways, is leaving Congress to run for secretary of state. Democratic Reps. Andrew Jacobs and David W. Evans have ended up in the same Indianapolis-based district and will fight it out in the May 4 primary. Rep. Philip R. Sharp, a Democrat, is left with a much more marginal district, so Indiana could go from 6-5 Democratic to 6-4 or 7-3 Republican.
Iowa--In a rare example of civics textbook redistricting, Republicans, who control the entire state government, approved a nonpartisan legislative service bureau plan that may cost them a seat in the evenly divided six-member delegation. The most significant political change is in the district of freshman Rep. Cooper Evans, a Republican who won by only 3 percent in 1980. He faces the same opponent in 1982, but now his district has lost six GOP counties and picked up Johnson County, the home of the University of Iowa, where Reagan received less than one-third of the vote in 1980.
Republicans believe the district is still marginally Republican, and see an improved chance for a victory in the redrawn 5th District if and when Democratic Rep. Tom Harkin runs for another office.
Maine--The legislature will not redraw the lines for the two districts until 1983 because the legislature doesn't meet this year. A scrap is expected this year in the 1st District, which Rep. David F. Emery, a Republican, is vacating to run for the Senate.
Massachusetts--Despite, or perhaps because of, Democratic control of the governorship and legislature, the one-seat loss as Massachusetts drops from 11 to 10 seats may be a Democrat. Freshman Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat and maverick liberal who jumped party lines to oppose conservative Democratic Gov. Edward J. King, has been thrown in with Rep. Margaret M. Heckler, a Republican. Despite Frank's pleas to his former colleagues in the legislature, the lines were drawn in a way that makes most of the district familiar territory to Heckler. But Democrats outnumber Republicans and, after talking about giving up, Frank has announced that he will challenge Heckler in what is sure to be an expensive, heavily publicized race.
Missouri--The legislature failed twice to produce a plan for cutting back from 10 to nine districts, and a three-judge federal court (two Democrats and one Republican) did the job in a way both parties judge likely to cost the Republicans a seat. In saving separate districts for two St. Louis Democrats, Reps. William L. Clay and Richard A. Gephardt, the court created serious political problems for two freshman Republicans, Reps. Wendell Bailey and Bill Emerson. Emerson is cut off from the St. Louis metropolitan area, where he lives, and Bailey has to pick a district with a Democratic incumbent, with the guessing that he will go against Rep. Ike Skelton. The decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court, but Republicans are not optimistic about overturning it.
Montana--The legislature will not act on redistricting until 1983 because census data were not available in January when the state legislature convened. Each party is favored to hold its seat this fall.
Nebraska--The Republican plan makes minimal changes in the three districts and Republicans are favored to retain them all.
Nevada--With the state gaining a second seat, there was a sharp battle over how to draw the lines. Democrats in the legislature wanted to split Las Vegas and thereby gain control of both districts, but a bipartisan conservative coalition, backed by the veto threat from Gov. Robert List, a Republican, made Las Vegas the center of one safe Democratic district and the rest of the state a battleground with perhaps a slight Republican edge. With Democratic Rep. James D. Santini running for the Senate, the GOP is hoping for a one-seat gain.
New Mexico--The Democratic plan strengthens the two Republican incumbents and creates a new northern district expected to elect a Hispanic Democrat. The lines are technically vulnerable to change if the more controversial state legislative districting is overturned, but are not really expected to change.
Oklahoma--The Democratic plan appears likely to lock in the present 5-to-1 Democratic advantage in House seats by strengthening the position of all six incumbents. Republicans, who polled 47 percent of the state's congressional vote in 1980 (with one Democrat uncontested), have collected enough signatures on a petition challenging the Democratic plan to force a referendum, but local observers give it little chance of success.
Oregon--With a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor, Oregon adopted a plan that is likely to give its new fifth seat to the GOP. Freshman Rep. Denny Smith, a Republican, will run in the new 5th District, which has about half his old territory, and state Sen. Bob Smith, also a Republican is favored in the other Smith's 2nd District.
South Dakota--Lagging population cuts the state from two seats to one, and both parties view Democratic Rep. Thomas A. Daschle as the favorite to defeat Republican Rep. Clint Roberts in their expected showdown.
Tennessee--The Democratic legislature redrew the lines for the delegation, up from eight to nine seats, in a way designed to get two more Democratic representatives, but Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander withheld a veto, believing the plan would backfire. The Democrats redrew the district of Rep. Robin Beard, a Republican who is expected to run for the Senate, to make it more of a battleground. A new 4th District, 300 miles long, split evenly in the 1980 presidential race and has drawn celebrity candidates: Republican Cissy Baker, daughter of Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr., and Democrat Jim Cooper, son of former governor Prentice Cooper.
Rep. Harold E. Ford, a Democrat and the lone black in the delegation, has had his underpopulated Memphis district extended into the suburbs and will face more of a challenge than he has in the past.
Utah--With Republicans holding a veto-proof majority in the legislature, Democratic Gov. Scott Matheson did not attempt to block a plan that solidifies the two GOP incumbents and creates a new Provo-based 3d District where the Republicans will also be favored.
Virginia--Only minor changes were made in the district lines by a conservative Democratic legislature, as Virginia remained at 10 seats. But four of the nine GOP-held seats will be closely contested: the northern Virginia 8th and 10th districts of Republicans Stanford E. Parris and Frank R. Wolf and those being vacated by two other Republicans, Paul S. Trible Jr., a Senate contender, and retiring M. Caldwell Butler.
West Virginia--After considering more drastic changes, the Democratic legislature passed a plan making only minor adjustments in the four districts, now divided equally between the parties. The biggest fight is expected in the 2nd District, whose incumbent, Republican Cleve Benedict, is running for the Senate. One county was shifted from the district to accommodate state House Speaker Clyde M. See, who is the likely Democratic nominee