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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Redistricting and Its Limits

One of the things you hear frequently these days is that whatever happens in the congressional elections on November 2, Republicans are going to be poised to obtain a long-term advantage in the House via control of a greater number of governorships and state legislative chambers just prior to the decennial reapportionment and redistricting process.
But such projections often fail to note that the current House districts were carved out at a time when Republicans held an impressive advantage in the larger states that gained and lost House seats in the 2000 process. At pollster.com, George Mason University’s Michael McDonald supplies an important reminder:

The best case for Republicans is that they will be in the same position as they were ten years ago: they will control the redistricting process in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas and they will control a point in the process to block Democrats in California, Illinois, and New York…. We know how well that worked out for them. The best case for Democrats is that they will block Republicans in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas and they will control California, Illinois, and New York, a significant improvement from their position ten years ago.

It was conventional wisdom going into 2002 to suggest that Republicans had used redistricting to obtain a “lock” on control of the House. It turned out that the lock lasted exactly two election cycles. And GOPers are very unlikely to do better this time around.
Yes, redistricting matters, but mainly on the margins, and in any event, Democrats may wind up in a stronger position than they were a decade ago.

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