Category Archives: Redistricting

New Jersey Redistricting: Likely Up First

Because New Jersey, Virginia, and Mississippi all have 2011 legislative elections, they will soon receive the new block data from the US Census Bureau, and be the first to do so. Once revealed, the people charged with drawing the political maps can begin implementing their tasks.

New Jersey draws its districts by special commission. Five Democrats and five Republicans are chosen by various individuals and entities to serve. If the ten members deadlock, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice is charged with appointing a tie-breaking individual. Twenty years ago, the last time reapportionment reduced the Garden State’s congressional delegation (in 2012, the state will drop from 13 to 12 seats), the commission drew six Democratic districts, six Republican seats, and paired a Democrat and a Republican into a marginal district in the middle of the state. It’s possible a similar blueprint could be utilized again.

The Hill Newspaper ran a story yesterday suggesting that Reps. Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7) may be the members on the cutting block because they have the least seniority in the delegation. Though nothing will be certain until the actual census block data is available, eliminating the Runyan district, in particular, may be easier said than done.

Redistricting is much different from normal politics, because member seniority and committee assignments matter far less than if a particular district is in a corner of the state or center, and whether or not its region is growing or contracting. Based upon the mid-decade Census reports, it appears that the area closer to New York is the part of New Jersey declining in population, not the southern portion of the state. Thus, a district like Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 11th, bounded on all sides by other districts, and Rep. Scott Garrett’s boomerang-shaped 5th district at the top of the state might be tempting candidates for pairing with a neighboring member. Among Democrats, Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ-6) might be easier to collapse into a district with a Republican incumbent.

Looking at the southern portion of the state, assuming inhabitant numbers have kept pace, Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ-1) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) appear to be in the best position. Andrews represents the Democratic stronghold of Camden, which is bordered on the west by Pennsylvania. This means the only choices in moving this district are to expand north, south, or east. Because the Camden-based district is already compact and contains a definable community of interest, it would be difficult to eliminate this particular seat. LoBiondo’s district borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Maryland to its south. To the west is the Andrews seat, so the only real option is to move District 2 north. This would take him into Runyan’s 3rd district, which is an east to west district that borders both Pennsylvania and the Atlantic Ocean. Rep. Chris Smith’s 4th district is to the north, thus completing NJ’s central-south sector. It is very likely that enough population will still exist to feed all four seats, thus keeping them all.

Though New Jersey is not a Voting Rights State, look for the commission to keep in tact Rep. Chris Smith’s (D-NJ-10) African American-based seat in the Newark metropolitan area. Like all New Jersey districts, the 10th will have to gain population. The nearby city of Paterson, which is more than 80% minority, might make sense to include in a new 10th. This would cause Pascrell’s 8th district to be radically redrawn, thus making it a collapse candidate.

It’s already clear that the northern seats will have to move south and the southern seats will come north. Thus, the members in the middle (Districts 6 (Pallone), 7 (Lance), 8 (Pascrell), and 12 (Holt) may have the highest risk of being paired.

Many configurations are possible and a potential radical re-draw can literally do almost anything, but the population drag suggests that geography and demographics will be more of a determining factor than seniority or stature within the House. Commissions and courts tend to be more sensitive to communities of interest and demographics than legislatures, but it is always difficult to tell what will eventually happen at the beginning of the process. Welcome to the world of congressional redistricting.

Preemptive Redistricting Moves

Next Tuesday, the Census Bureau will release the 2010 state population figures, and we will know then just how many congressional seats each state will possess for the next decade.

Even before we see the numbers, office holders are beginning to make contingency plans in case their state re-map places them in an adverse re-election position. One such man may be Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). The congressman was originally elected in 2006, unseating then-incumbent Rep. Chris Chocola (R), and won again easily two years later. This past November, however, produced a much different electoral result as Donnelly barely escaped defeat, beating Republican Jackie Walorski 48-47%, on a margin of just 2,538 votes.

With Republicans controlling the redistricting pen in 2011, Donnelly already is publicly speculating about his future options should the GOP place him in unfriendly political territory. He is letting party leaders know that he would seriously consider a race for governor — the seat will be open because Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is term-limited — if he deems his re-election prospects to be poor. Many believe that attempting to draw a 7R-2D Hoosier State map is a stretch, hence Donnelly’s rhetoric could be part of a strategic preemptive strike designed to keep his northern Indiana seat intact. This is a great example of the political “game within the game.” Expect many more plays of this type in the coming weeks.

The House in 2012: The Vulnerables

Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.

Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?

One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.

If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.

Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.

Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.

The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.

California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.

Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.

Bean Concedes in Illinois; Progress on Other Races

Add one more new Republican seat to the completed House totals. Educator Joe Walsh, enjoying strong support from the Tea Party movement, has successfully unseated Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) as the remaining absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted yesterday. Walsh leads by only 282 votes of almost 200,000 cast, yet Rep. Bean decided to forego a recount and conceded the race, telephoning Walsh to offer her congratulations.

The IL-8 race may be the biggest surprise outcome of Election 2010 because Bean appeared on no one’s major target list, even though the 8th district is heavily Republican. She first won the seat in 2004, defeating 35-year Rep. Phil Crane (R). Ms. Bean consistently repelled mediocre opponents in 2006 and 2008 until Walsh came from almost complete obscurity this year to score the upset victory.

Overall, the House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two New York races still undetermined. Two others, TX-27 (Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz; 799 vote margin) and NC-2 (Renee Ellmers unseating Rep. Bob Etheridge; 1,489 vote spread) are subject to an official recount, but the respective outcomes are not expected to change.

Adding Walsh means Republicans gained a total of four seats in Illinois and actually took control of the congressional delegation by an 11-8 count. Redistricting, however, is exclusively in Democratic hands next year, so expect the delegation complexion to drastically change when the new lines are drawn. Walsh will certainly be a prime Democratic target. The state is likely to lose one seat in the 2010 apportionment.

More will soon be known about the New York races since absentee ballot counting finally began yesterday. In NY-1, where GOP challenger Randy Altschuler leads incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) by 383 votes, more than 11,000 Suffolk County absentee ballots were opened. We hopefully will get a clue today as to those results. In the Syracuse area, the count is again finally moving. Votes from the smaller, more rural counties have been tabulated and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle’s lead over freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) has grown to 729 votes. More than 6,000 votes remain from Onondoga County, an area that tends to favor Democrats. In Election Night counting, Maffei scored 54% of the vote here. Among the ballots remaining, however, the Congressman will have to exceed that total in order to surpass Buerkle. To reclaim the lead, Maffei will have to break 56% among the outstanding votes. Both of these elections are still too close to call.

Regardless of the outcome of this latest round of counting on Long Island and in the upstate region, no winner will be declared until all the military and overseas ballots have been received. Under New York law, the acceptance deadline is Nov. 24th, still a week away. It is likely, though, that the candidates leading the race at the end of the current respective count will hold on through the end, as the ballots still to come will be few in number.

Turning to Alaska where the trends continue to favor a write-in victory for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), counting laboriously moves forward. For the first time, however, Murkowski is officially leading.

It was long believed the trends — she was receiving 98% of the write-in votes — would allow her to overcome challenger Joe Miller (R), but now she has actually done so. At the end of counting yesterday, Murkowski had 92,164 votes to Miller’s 90,448. Miller, however, is challenging 7,601 ballots that have already been counted for the Senator but, so far, he is succeeding in actually removing only a handful of votes from the official tabulation. He is challenging the entire process in court, however. It now appears to be a virtual certainty that Murkowski will end the election with more votes than Miller, and the long-shot lawsuit will likely be his last hope of turning around the outcome. Eventually, Sen. Murkowski will be certified as the winner of this race.

Our State-by-State Scorecard

The following is a list as to how the state congressional delegations will divide based upon party preferences and their individual structures for redistricting. The red states highlight the places where Republicans have a majority in the congressional delegation; the blue where Democrats control:

  • Alabama: 6 Rs – 1D – GOP in total control of redistricting
  • Alaska: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Arizona: 5Rs – 3Ds; Independent commission; state will gain one seat
  • Arkansas: 3Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • California: 33Ds – 19Rs – 1 undecided; new commission for redistricting
  • Colorado: 4Rs – 3Ds; split control with Rs taking state House by one vote
  • Connecticut: 5Ds; Dems in total control
  • Delaware: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Florida: 19Rs – 6Ds; Rs in control, but new ballot initiative places severe restrictions on drawing redistricting maps; state will one or two seats
  • Georgia: 8Rs – 5Ds – Rs in total control; state will gain one seat
  • Hawaii: 2Ds – Dems in total control
  • Idaho: 2Rs – Independent commission
  • Illinois: 10Rs – 8Ds – 1 undecided; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Indiana: 6Rs – 3Ds – Rs in total control
  • Iowa: 3Ds – 2Rs – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Kansas: 4Rs – Rs in total control
  • Kentucky: 4Rs – 2Ds – Split control
  • Louisiana: 6Rs – 1D – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Maine: 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Maryland: 6Ds – 2Rs; Dems in total control
  • Massachusetts: 10Ds; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Michigan: 9Rs – 6Ds: GOP in total control; state loses one seat
  • Minnesota: 4Ds – 4Rs; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Mississippi: 3Rs – 1D; Split control
  • Missouri: 6Rs – 3Ds; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Montana: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Nebraska: 3Rs; GOP in virtual control
  • Nevada: 2Rs – 1D; Split control; state will gain one seat
  • New Hampshire: 2Rs; Split control
  • New Jersey: 7Ds – 6Rs; Independent commission; loses one seat
  • New Mexico: 2Ds – 1R; Split control
  • New York: 20Ds – 7Rs – 2 undecided; Split control; state will lose one or two seats
  • North Carolina: 7Ds – 6Rs; GOP controls; Gov has no veto over redistricting
  • North Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Ohio: 13Rs – 5Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose two seats
  • Oklahoma: 4Rs – 1D; GOP in total control
  • Oregon: 4Ds – 1R; Split control; could gain one seat
  • Pennsylvania: 12Rs – 7Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose one seat
  • Rhode Island: 2Ds; Dems in total control
  • South Carolina: 5Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • South Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Tennessee: 7Rs – 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Texas: 23Rs – 9Ds; GOP in total control; could gain as many as four seats
  • Utah: 2Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • Vermont: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Virginia: 8Rs – 3Ds; split control
  • Washington: 5D – 4R; Independent commission
  • West Virginia: 2Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • Wisconsin: 5Rs – 3Ds; GOP in total control
  • Wyoming: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor

Notes: Republicans have the majority in 33 states; Democrats 16; with one split delegation (MN).

Because of their off-year calendar for legislative elections, New Jersey and Virginia will be the first two states to begin redistricting, and will do so shortly after the new year.

California is listed as having only one outstanding congressional race because Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) has now pulled ahead of Republican attorney David Harmer by more than 2,200 votes and trends suggest that the incumbent will retain this seat.