Tag Archives: Redistricting

The Trifecta States

By Jim Ellis

In the trifecta of political parties controlling the House, Senate and Executive branches in a state, how many will actually benefit from that power in the redistricting process?

Oct. 11, 2021 — As the redistricting cycle moves forward, predictions are being made as to which party will benefit most through the decennial district boundary drawing process. Most analyses favor the Republicans as the party best positioned to gain under 2021 redistricting largely because of the number of states they control outright, but this could be an over-statement.

When a state features one party in control of the governor’s mansion, state House, and state Senate, the horse racing term of “trifecta” is used to describe such a political situation. Since Republicans hold 23 trifectas and Democrats just 15, it appears on the surface that the GOP will be the big gainer in redistricting.

Let’s look a bit closer because the aggregate trifecta number doesn’t tell the whole story.

On the Republican side, though they control 23 states, their redistricting position is lessened when examining their ability to extract a net gain of congressional seats.

Of their 23, in one, West Virginia, they are a sure bet to lose a seat. In this case, Republicans hold all three of the state’s CDs, but reapportionment reduces the Mountain State to two districts. Therefore, Republicans will unavoidably absorb the loss.

In two of their states, Arizona and Montana, a non-politician commission will draw the maps. In another dozen (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) the GOP is already at the max level of partisan members and can’t stretch the new plan further.

In Iowa and Texas, though Republicans have trifecta control, legislative rules lessen their complete power; hence, the redistricting outcome is affected.

Finally, the GOP only has effective redistricting control in six states, and in two of those, Oklahoma and Tennessee, it could arguably backfire if the party tries to expand their ratio further. Therefore, it is in really just four states, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio where we could see Republican redistricting gains.

The Democrats find themselves in similar position. From their 15 trifectas, they only have redistricting control in five, possibly, and realistically, three states. In five of their 15 (California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington) redistricting goes to a citizens’ commission.

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The Lost California Seat

Los Angeles, California-area Congressional Districts


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2021 — Continuing our series about the states losing seats in reapportionment and which members might be on the outside looking in, today we analyze the Golden State of California. The largest US House delegation will downsize one seat, meaning it will send 52 members to the next Congress.

To put the California population change into historical perspective, during the 1980 census the state gained seven new US House seats. In the 2010 census, for the first time in history, California did not add, and now we see actual reduction.

For the second time, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission will draw the congressional map and under specific criteria. The districts are supposed to be constructed on a nonpartisan basis without regard to specific incumbents’ residences or political situation, adhere to the Voting Rights Act pertaining to their substantial number of majority minority districts, and keep cities and counties whole where possible.

Looking at the actual census population by district as opposed to the previously published census estimates, changes in which districts may be on the chopping block are evident. Under the estimates, it appeared that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) was the low population CD, but his 28th District seat now is 12th from the bottom. The new low is veteran Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), whose 40th District needs to gain 70,139 people.

Of the current 53 districts, 35 must gain population while 18 will shed; hence, the reason the state is losing a seat. From a county perspective, it appears the Los Angeles members will be most at risk. A total of 18 congressional districts encompass LA County including nine that are wholly-contained. The other nine districts cross county borders into such places as Kern, Orange, San Bernardino, and Ventura.

Of the 18 districts wholly or partially within the LA County borders, Democrats represent 15 and Republicans just three. Only one of these 18, the 23rd District of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), must shed population. Though certain other places in the state are also resident-low, there is a good possibility that the seat reduction will come from one of the Los Angeles districts, particularly among the nine seats wholly within the county since all of those contiguous seats must gain residents.

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Redistricting Is Now Underway

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 13, 2021 — Now four full months past the original deadline, the Census Bureau finally is scheduled to deliver to the states their census tract data, thus enabling the map-drawing process to begin.

While data was received yesterday, it will still be awhile before the public begins seeing even preliminary maps. The data must first be configured to the individual state’s redistricting software. Secondly, most state processes mandate hearings for public comment once the data is released. Each of these factors will happen prior to actual map construction. This notwithstanding, the critical element for each state, having the necessary data, is at long last occurring.

At the end of last year, we published a redistricting outlook that suggested Republicans, even though they control the process in a preponderance of states, could still find themselves down several seats in reapportionment and redistricting simply because of what could happen in the states that are gaining and losing congressional seats. (Go to: Ellis Insight Redistricting Outlook)

Some notable changes have occurred since the original piece was written, and now it appears the tables have turned toward the GOP as the party in best position to benefit nationally from the decennial district reconstruction process.

Below is a recap of the state situations that have changed:


Alabama: The original reapportionment prognostications suggested that Alabama would lose a congressional district. Republicans, because they control all but a Civil Rights-protected seat, were sure to take the loss. Likely due to a population surge in the latter part of the decade, Alabama did not lose a seat, thus the GOP saves a sure net loss.


Colorado: Though Colorado has adopted a redistricting commission for the first time, the swing toward the Democrats suggested that their party would gain the new seat. The Colorado commission is the first to release a congressional map, based upon Census Bureau estimates, and while the new 8th District looked solidly Democratic, the newly configured 7th District, currently Democratic, slightly favors the GOP.

Though this map is just a preliminary draw, should this be the direction in which the commission heads Republicans could actually reap a one seat gain when the 2022 election cycle concludes.


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Lamb Decision Affects Redistricting

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2021 — Last week’s news reports indicating that western Pennsylvania US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon/Pittsburgh) will enter the open Senate race on Aug. 6, could mean the congressional district he leaves behind becomes a redistricting victim.

Assuming the reports are accurate, and the congressman does launch a Senate campaign, he will be the only Pennsylvania US House delegation member to create an open seat. All others appear poised to run for re-election. This means the Lamb district will likely become the top option for elimination since reapportionment reduces by one the 18-member Keystone State delegation.

The Census Bureau is now telling the states they will finally begin receiving their redistricting data the during the week of Aug. 16. It appears the total data transmission will come in two waves, so all states should have what they need to begin holding public input hearings in early September, and then drawing districts. This is more than six months behind a typical redistricting calendar.

Based upon the latest available information, the state will have 17 congressional districts with a population number of what appears to be just under 765,000 individuals. Looking at the current 18 districts, all must gain population, hence the reason the state is losing another CD. Since 1930, Pennsylvania has lost more congressional districts than any other state.

The region requiring the least new population is Pennsylvania’s southeastern sector, in and around the city of Philadelphia. The western segment is the area that needs the most population with the exception of Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg/York) south-central 10th District that will require the lowest human increase, most likely fewer than 20,000 persons.

The three seats needing the greatest influx are all in west Pennsylvania, surrounding the city of Pittsburgh. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson’s (R-Howard) predominantly rural 15th CD looks to be the district most in need of additional residents, likely over 85,000 individuals. Next is Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Butler) 16th District that begins north of Pittsburgh and moves all the way to Lake Erie. This seat would need approximately 80,000 more people. Third is the district south of Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler’s (R-Peters Township) 14th CD, that must also gain another 80,000 bodies.

Lamb’s 17th District that encompasses almost half of Allegheny County, all of Beaver County, and a sliver of Butler, needs over 50,000 more people, which pairs well with Rep. Mike Doyle’s (D-Pittsburgh) downtown 18th District that will likely require approximately 65,000 new residents. Therefore, eliminating District 17 with now no incumbent to protect it would allow the downtown seat to be filled and remain solidly Democratic, but also meet the population needs in the districts to the south, southeast, and north of Pittsburgh.

Politically, such a configuration would likely change the 9R-9D delegation to 9R-8D, and that will be a hard sell for the Republican legislature to make to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, especially when he knows a partisan Democratic state Supreme Court could well have the final say once the inevitable lawsuits are filed.

Such a configuration involving the elimination of current District 17 works fairly seamlessly, though, particularly if the final map improves for the Democratic incumbents in the politically marginal eastern PA seats of District 7 (Rep. Susan Wild-D; Allentown/ Bethlehem/Easton), and 8 (Rep. Matt Cartwright-D; Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre/Mt. Pocono). This might be enough to sell a map that forces the Democrats to take the one-seat loss in the west.

There are many ways to re-configure congressional maps, and we will soon see many versions coming from Pennsylvania and all other multi-district states. Rep. Lamb’s move to the Senate race, however, if in fact he ultimately makes the statewide jump, will significantly change the course of Pennsylvania congressional redistricting.

Re-Mapping Ohio

Ohio’s Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2021 — Thanks to the state of Ohio, the redistricting calendar has new life. The Buckeye State’s lawsuit against the Census Bureau and a negotiated out of court settlement led to an agreement that all 50 states will receive their redistricting census tract data on or around Aug. 15 instead of well into October or beyond.

Typically, states receive their individual data, mandatory for drawing federal congressional districts that must be drawn to a factor of plus or minus one person, during the early part of the year. The Census Bureau largely blames this year’s delays on COVID-19, though a great deal of the problem centers around the bureaucracy attempting to impose differential privacy on part of the data, meaning some of the key statistical information would not be released. The states not having full access would lead to the new districts being less statistically reliable.

Even the August data distribution agreement, however, creates a tenuous situation for the states to complete their redistricting work and still adhere to mandatory internal local deadlines. This is particularly true for the states like Ohio that are losing or gaining congressional representation.

Ohio grew at a percentage rate of just 2.3 through the decade, ranking 44th in the nation and just over a full percentage point below the national average. The 2020 census numbers add to the continuing trend for this state of failing to keep pace with national population growth. In the 1980 census, for example, Ohio held 21 congressional districts. It would lose two congressional seats in the 1990 apportionment, one more in 2000, and two more in 2010 to bring us to its current total of 16. The 2020 census reduces the delegation to 15 seats.

Currently, the Ohio US House delegation stands at a party division of 12R-4D. Since the count is so lopsided in the Republicans’ favor, it looks on paper that the GOP would be the party that loses one of its members.

Looking closely at the individual district population data, however, that may not be the case. Despite the Dems having only four seats, three of their four are among Ohio’s most under-populated CDs, while one, the 3rd District of Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), actually must shed the most population, some 34,000-plus residents according to the latest published figures (July 2019). Adding the last year of population statistics could change the situation, but at first glance the statewide and district totals suggest alterations will only be minor.
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