The Democrats emerged from Tuesday's voting with a substantial advantage over the Republicans in the key state legislatures where congressional redistricting laws will be written and among the nation's governors who are empowered to sign or veto those laws.

In terms of unchecked power to enact new congressional and legislative district lines, the Democrats enter the 1990s far better positioned than the GOP, but this did not prevent officials of both parties from claiming victory on the day after the nation went to the polls.

"With Ann Richards's win in Texas, Lawton Chiles's victory in Florida, and Zell Miller's win in Georgia, Democrats hold the redistricting process in three states that combined will gain eight new congressional seats," said Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), chairman of Democratic Impac 2000, an organization seeking Democratic congressional gains in the redistricting process. "Clearly the momentum Republicans said they needed for redistricting going into the 1992 elections hit the skids as a result of {Tuesday's} elections."

Republicans countered that the election results placed them in a better position than they were a decade ago, with the GOP setting up "roadblocks" through partial control of the redistricting process in a number of key states that will gain or lose congressional seats. The key state in this category was California, which will gain seven seats to reach a House delegation of 52.

"We said all along that the No. 1 race for us was the California governorship," Republican National Committee spokesman Charles Black said. "While the Democrats in the {California} legislature next year will control the ink, {newly elected} governor Pete Wilson {R} will decide whether the ink dries or not."

But in the grass-roots battleground of American politics, Black acknowledged that "we have been frustrated in our inability to make long-term gains at the state legislative level. Frankly, the Democratic Party is still clearly the majority at the state and local level even though we have been very successful in presidential races."

In the complex politics of redistricting, the Democrats emerged yesterday with unfettered control of Texas, which will gain three House seats, Florida, which will gain four, along with Georgia and Virginia, each to gain one. In addition, the Democrats control both branches of the legislature and the governorship -- the "triad" in redistricting parlance -- in Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia, which will each lose a seat.

This power means that the party will be able to draw lines in these states without interference from the GOP. There are no major states where the GOP holds such unchallenged power, in contrast to 1980, when the GOP controlled both Pennsylvania and Indiana.

But the Republican Party did emerge from the 1990 elections with control of one or two legs of the triad in a number of key states in addition to California: New York, which will lose three seats; Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, which will lose two each; Massachusetts, Iowa and Kansas, which lose one each, and Arizona, which will gain one seat.

In the redistricting process, which is to be completed before the 1992 election, most states provide that the plans for both legislative and congressional redistricting be written by the legislature, subject to veto by the governor. Most, but not all, states provide that legislatures can override a governor's veto with a two-thirds vote.

In those states in which the GOP controls one or more leg in the triad, Republican influence over the redistricting process is not guaranteed. If no agreement can be reached, the courts can take over the process, with no guarantee of the outcome. The other alternative in states with split partisan control is for the two sides to compromise, dividing the gains or losses between them.

No two states better reflect the consequences of partisan control over the redistricting process than California and Florida.

In California, when the Democrats redrew congressional lines in 1981 when two new seats were added, the state's House delegation went from 22 Democrats and 21 Republicans in 1980 to 28 Democrats and 17 Republicans in 1982. This Democratic gain represented the worst of Republican nightmares -- one that Gov.-elect Wilson may be in a position to prevent from reoccurring.

In Florida, Democrats have repeatedly used control of the redistricting process to stave off what has appeared to be a steady march toward a Republican realignment, and it now appears that the Democrats may be able to block the GOP for the third decade in a row.

In the 1970s, for example, the GOP steadily gained strength in the Florida state Senate, reaching 13 seats to the Democrats' 27 in 1980. Republican leaders had every reason to believe that with the huge influx of predominately GOP voters to the state, the party would gain when new state Senate lines were drawn. Instead, under the careful guidance of Democratic demographers, the GOP ended up further behind with only eight seats in 1982 compared with the Democrats' 32.

In one of the key outcomes in Tuesday's elections, Florida Democrats held off a bid by the GOP to take over the state Senate, which by 1990 had a 23 to 17 Democratic advantage after continued Republican gains through population and voting shifts in the 1980s.

"The president's presence might have hurt," said Republican state Senate caucus chairman William "Doc" Myers, referring to President Bush's campaign appearances in the state. After spending millions of dollars in attempting to win the state Senate, Myers said yesterday, "We are sitting here licking our wounds, but thankful we still have got 17 {seats}."

In Tuesday's contests, the key GOP victories, in addition to the crown jewel of the California governorship, were holding the governorship in Illinois with the victory of Secretary of State James Edgar (R), who will be able to veto actions by the Democratic legislature, and holding on to the state Senates in New York and Pennsylvania to prevent complete Democratic control of those two key states.

James Nathanson, deputy political director of the Republican National Committee, pointed out that Democratic incumbent Govs. Mario M. Cuomo of New York and Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania had only token opposition, but that neither had the coattails to give their party control of the state Senate. "The real story is they should have been able to cream us. The Democrats have the advantage in the off year, and the suckers lost," Nathanson said.

Other significant redistricting developments on Tuesday included:

In Minnesota, the victory of Arne Carlson (R) gives the GOP veto power over plans drawn by the Democratic legislature.

The Republicans lost full control over redistricting in Kansas with the gubernatorial victory of Joan Finney (D) and the apparent Democratic takeover of the Kansas House.

William F. Weld (R) will be able to exercise gubernatorial veto power over plans drawn by the Massachusetts Democratic legislature, and GOP gains in the state Senate produced enough seats to sustain a veto, according to the RNC.