More on Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Winners & losers in the redistricting tug of wars

Nov. 19, 2020 — In yesterday’s Update, we ended with the paragraph, “Considering the states that are losing and gaining seats, party control, and changing political trends, the Republicans are still likely to lose a small net number of seats in the transfer process despite holding the most redistricting power.”

This statement generated some questions about why the Republicans could lose seats in the apportionment transfer when they hold the balance of power in more states. Today, we delve deeper.

At this point, and remembering these are only estimates that could change when the actual apportionment formula produces the official number of seats that each state will possess, it appears ten seats will move from one state to others. Therefore, it is projected that Texas (3), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will gain districts, while Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia will lose a seat apiece. We will now explore each individually:

States That Lose

• Alabama – Even though Republicans have full control and a 6R-1D delegation, the Republicans will take the loss here. The Democratic district is a Voting Rights seat, so the loss will come from the GOP column even though they hold the redistricting pen.

• California – The lopsided California delegation, even with Republicans gaining one to three seats here when the votes are all finally counted, will likely yield the Democrats losing the district. California is a commission state that operates under strict guidelines. Therefore, the mathematics suggest, in what will potentially end as a 43D-10R delegation that the transfer seat loss will come from the Democratic column.

• Illinois – Though the state delegation features only five Republicans from a group of 18 members, the Democrats control the redistricting process here and 10 years ago produced the most lopsided of partisan gerrymanders. Expect them to figure a way for the Republicans to take the one seat loss.

• Michigan – The voters adopted a new redistricting commission, but the composition parameters look to favor the Democrats. Therefore, expect the 7D-7R delegation to recede by one Republican seat.

• Minnesota – This state features the only state legislature where each party controls one legislative chamber. Though this gives the Republicans a seat at the redistricting table, the population loss in the northern part of the state, where they have two seats, will likely result in the 4D-4R delegation lessening by one Republican seat.

• New York – Democrats are in full control here, and though the GOP looks to have improved their position in what now appears to be a 19D-8R delegation the politics of the situation suggests that the Republicans will absorb the seat loss even when considering population reduction in New York City.

• Ohio – Though Republicans have the redistricting pen in the Buckeye State, the current 12R-4D delegation split suggests that the Democrats can’t go any lower. Therefore, despite having the power, the numbers suggest the seat loss comes from the Republican side just as it did 10 years ago.

• Pennsylvania – Republicans strengthened their grip on their control of each house in the legislature, but Democrats hold the governorship in the person of incumbent Tom Wolf. A stalemate will likely end up going to the Democratic partisan state Supreme Court that already engineered a late-decade redistricting, so expect the Republicans to eventually lose a seat in the current 9D-9R delegation split.

• Rhode Island – Despite overwhelming Democratic control of the state’s political lineup, Rhode Island will lose one of its two seats. Therefore, it is clear that Democratic Reps. Paul Cicilline (D-Providence) and Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) will be paired and must face each other in a looming Democratic primary.

• West Virginia – This is the third state where Republicans are in full control but will be forced to lose a seat. The state reduces from three seats to two, so the 3R delegation is forced to give up one GOP member.

Totaling the state projection in the losing column suggests a potential aggregate eight-seat Republican loss.

States That Gain

• Texas – Republicans again control the redistricting pen in the state that gains the most districts, but they also have to protect weakening Republican districts around Dallas and Austin/San Antonio. Therefore, the three-seat gain will likely split 2R-1D, thereby improving the Republican position by just one seat at the most.

• Florida – The state gains two districts, but it’s likely the parties will each gain one from the aggregate addition. The majority Republicans need to protect two new South Florida seats, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new Democratic seat added to Miami in order to strengthen the 26th and 27th Districts that the GOP just converted in the November election. A new Republican district would then appear elsewhere in the state.

• Arizona – The state is now trending Democratic, and though it is a commission state despite Republicans controlling both legislative chambers and the governorship, expect the new seat to go the Democrats’ way.

• Colorado – Despite more growth in the more conservative areas of the state, Democrats are in total charge here. Therefore, expect them to increase their 4D-3R delegation by one seat.

• Montana: The new Republican trifecta with the party gaining the governorship for the first time since 2005 will allow them to add a Republican to their current at-large delegation.

• North Carolina – The state Supreme Court engineered a late-decade redistricting that cost the Republicans two seats. With Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper having no veto power over redistricting, expect the GOP legislature to add the new seat to the Republican column.

• Oregon – The Democrats have the redistricting pen here, so expect the 4D-1R delegation to grow by one Democratic seat despite two of their districts generating much closer results in the last election.

The aforementioned is only a rudimentary projection analysis and is, of course, subject to much change. Despite the GOP advantage in most of these states, however, mitigating factors suggest they could find themselves losing a net eight seats in the aggregate district transfer. If accurate, this means the party would have to gain closer to 15 seats in the next election to re-claim the House majority rather than less than 10 that would be projected if the maps weren’t subject to change.

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