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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Time for Redistricting Hardball?

Democrats now control both houses of 24 state legislatures (20 before the election) and have added 6 governors for a new total of 28. In light of this substantial increase of strength at the state level, should Dems now press the case for redistricting before the next census where we can?
The Democratic Strategist discussed various aspects of “the redistricting myth” in our July roundtable and posts here and here. But things have changed for the better since November 7th, and the new political reality cries out for a reconsideration. Now Jonathan Singer at MyDD kicks off a new debate about redistricting with his post “House 2008: Mid-Census Redistricting in New Mexico?.” Singer is wary of early redistricting in NM in particular, and of redistricting before the census in general:

Voters went to the polls looking for change on November 7 and as a result will have scant patience if Democrats start using the type of strong-arm tactics implemented by Republicans to maintain power over the last dozen years. Secondly, redrawing lines to create more theoretically Democratic districts has the potential to make Democratic support in the remaining districts so thin that the Republicans can come in and challenge previously safe seats, potentially negating any benefits of redistricting.

Singer’s points are well-made, but there may be some cases where pre-census redistricting makes strategic sense, and/or serves fairness. Additionally, the population is so fluid and mobile nowadays that the ten year census provides a flawed reflection of demographic reality. Further, some states conduct their state-wide census counts mid-point between the federal census, so the demographic updates are available. It’s an important strategic choice, which merits a thorough discussion.