In state legislatures, Republicans make gains

In the 88 state legislative bodies that held elections this week, Democrats held a big advantage over Republicans. 52 bodies were under Democratic control, with 33 in Republican hands. (Two are evenly split, and one is non-partisan.)

After the election, the situation is nearly exactly reversed, with Republicans in control of 52 bodies, and Democrats, 31. The New York and Oregon senates are still undecided at this moment.

According to analysis from Ballotpedia, an almanac of state politics, in 27 states both houses now have Republican majorities. 17 have Democratic majorities.

Adding in the Governor’s mansion, 20 states have the complete legislature and the governorship in Republican hands. For Democrats, the corresponding number is 11.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a slightly different count, and some results are still pending. But any way you look at it, the election represented a huge gain for Republicans in statehouses across the country.

One of the ways this Republican shift will manifest itself is in the redistricting process that states will carry out soon, perhaps next year. Not only will states redraw boundaries of U.S. Congressional districts, but states will redraw their own legislative districts. Counties and cities will do so, too.

On Congressional districts, John Fund writes in today’s Wall Street Journal that “Republicans will control the drawing of at least 195 districts. Assuming Republicans prevail in recounts and recapture control of the New York State Senate, Democrats will have total control of the process in 65 seats. The parties will share control in the drawing of another 86 seats. Eighty-eight seats will be drawn by commissions in six states.”

Gerrymandering in CaliforniaGerrymandered Congressional district in California

Fund notes that citizens don’t like gerrymandering — bizarrely-shaped districts drawn for the advantage of politicians. In California, Fund says that the 2000 redistricting of California went to the extreme, with the result that “Only nine of the state’s 865 legislative and congressional elections held in the years since have seen a switch in party control.”

As Fund writes: “But at its core it allows incumbents to pick their voters, rather than having voters pick their representatives.” So in California, 61 percent of the voters decided to place redistricting authority in the hands of a citizen commission. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opposed this idea.

3 Comments

  • Anonymous43 -

    Citizens’ Commission sounds like a great idea.

    However, anything not controlled by a political party is bound to be opposed by a powerful elected official.

    That means this idea is especially good!

  • Anonymous Mike -

    Hi, I work in aerospace and have written programs, so I know that Computers do what you told them to do, not what you wanted them to do.

    That said, all congressional districts should be drawn by using a mapping program that evenly divides states into districts based on the number of voters registered in a state on a certain date (January 1, 2011 would be a good date). It would keep the politics out of the drawing.

    Later

    Mike?

  • Mike, I’ve long thought an idea like that would be super. At minimum we should all have laws like Iowa, which says the federal districts must be made up of whole, contiguous counties. (Except, I suppose, where population density makes it necessary for a district to be less than a whole county). All redistricting should be as non-partisan as possible, making more districts competitive.

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