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Republicans and Redistricting

Summary:
2021 will define politics in the US for the next ten years. With the 2020 census complete, state legislatures have now begun the redistricting process.For those of you that don’t know, every ten years the American political system undergoes a major shakeup, known as redistricting, in which congressional district lines are redrawn to accommodate for population changes amongst the states. Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution requires that Representatives are reapportioned amongst the states after the decennial census, to ensure that that no state is over or under represented (relative to their population) in the House.However, since state legislatures have primary control over the ‘times, places and manner’ of congressional elections, the act of dividing their state into districts,

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2021 will define politics in the US for the next ten years. With the 2020 census complete, state legislatures have now begun the redistricting process.

For those of you that don’t know, every ten years the American political system undergoes a major shakeup, known as redistricting, in which congressional district lines are redrawn to accommodate for population changes amongst the states. Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution requires that Representatives are reapportioned amongst the states after the decennial census, to ensure that that no state is over or under represented (relative to their population) in the House.


However, since state legislatures have primary control over the ‘times, places and manner’ of congressional elections, the act of dividing their state into districts, from which their representatives are elected, is entirely up to them. While some states have, in the interest of fairness, opted to have their district boundaries drawn by independent or bipartisan commissions, a great deal are still drawn by whoever happens to control the state legislature at the time.

The parties that are in control are able to advantage themselves by drawing district lines in their favour. This practice is known as gerrymandering and is done by a method known as ‘packing and cracking’ in which the redistricting party will attempt to group all opposition party voters into a single district with an incredibly high victory margin (packing) and spread their own voters out amongst numerous districts with low victory margins (cracking), meaning that while the opposition wastes a great deal of votes in the safe district, their votes will tip the scales in marginal districts.

But what about this decade’s round of redistricting?


Now that the 2020 census is complete, state legislatures have begun their redistricting efforts - meaning that the parties who have gained or maintained power at the state level are in a position to make the rules for the next decade’s elections.

Interestingly enough, while Republicans performed comparatively poorly on the national level, it was the opposite story at the state level - holding every previous majority as well as flipping the State Senate and House in New Hampshire. In fact, it is estimated that Republicans will have control over 188 district boundaries compared to 73 for the Democrats (Wasserman, 2021) - the rest being controlled by independent or bipartisan commissions. On top of this, Republicans control the legislatures in some of the 2020 Election’s most contentious states, such as Texas and Florida which are also the states that look likely to gain representatives due to an increase in population. With this significant advantage, Republicans need only find a way to gain seven more seats to secure a majority in the next election. This news should provide new hope for any supporters of the GOP that might have given up.


However, while on the surface this seems promising to Republicans, it is less encouraging when we consider that in the 2011 round of redistricting they were in control of a far greater proportion of district lines. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it means that a great deal of Congressional Districts already benefited the GOP and so redrawing these to create an even larger advantage, even when we consider the heightened accuracy that their boundaries will get from the more recent information available, will be very difficult. And secondly, if the Democrats have been able to win a majority in the House despite the last round of redistricting heavily favouring Republicans, the fact that the 2021 round of redistricting provides a smaller additional advantage than the one that Democrats were already able to overcome may mean little for the Democrats’ prospects at the midterm elections.

All things considered, it looks like the GOP are in for a rough one!

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