2010-2011 Redistricting Project
by Sandwich Repairman, Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 07:34:08 PM EST
Bumped from the diaries -- Jonathan... This is a great project, one that I'm sure we'll be keeping an eye on here at MyDD in the coming year.
The next census is coming up in just 17 months, and 2009 ushers in the last round of state legislative elections before congressional districts have to be redrawn. Tom DeLay and his crazy 2003 Texas remap showed us how important this can be; without the Lone Star State's mid-decade redistricting, Democrats actually would've gained House seats in 2004 (kudos to John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Brian Higgins, Charlie Melancon and John Salazar). Granted, the House is not as close anymore, looking like about 256 Dems to 179 Republicans after this year's elections. But even that is partly a result of GOP-controlled redistricting in 2001 (MI and PA for example). And Republicans are already plotting to retake the House by gerrymandering 30 House districts. While I welcome any discussion about whether maximizing the number of Democratic seats would conflict with the goal of maximizing the number of liberal/progressive House members, I suggest that our first goal should be to maintain Democratic control of the House. Not every election will be as kind to us as 2006 and 2008. The 1996 through 2004 House elections were like trench warfare.
This is actually a two-part process: in 2010, the Census tells each state how many House seats it gets (reapportionment), then in 2011, each state draws new boundaries for its House districts (redistricting). Redistricting is especially important in states gaining or losing House seats. We can't be sure which ones those are until the Census tells us in 2010, but this nifty map (PDF) offers projections based on 2007 population estimates.
EXCLUSIONS: Seven states (AK, DE, MT, ND, SD, VT, WY--plus DC if our new President and Congress give it a vote!) have only 1 House seat. None are projected to gain a 2nd seat, nor is any state with 2 seats expected to lose one. So these states don't concern us. Another 7 states--AZ, HI, IA, ID, ME, NJ, and WA--use nonpartisan or bipartisan redistricting processes (though the state legislature has the final ability to approve or reject maps in Iowa and Maine). So we're really looking at 36 states.
And what do we need to do in those 36 states? In short, everything we can in 2009 and 2010 to make sure redistricting is controlled by Democrats, then in 2011 pressure governors, state legislators, and whoever else makes redistricting decisions to draw maps with the highest possible number of Democratic districts (no more lame incumbent protection that costs us 10 seats in CA!). This means looking at governorships and state legislatures, and at how the redistricting process works in these 36 states. It could also mean some tough debates with state Democratic parties and incumbent House members who'd prefer their district to be more Democratic at the expense of putting others in play--for us, incumbent protection must generally take a back seat to getting more seats in Democratic hands.
GOVERNORS: Luckily, we're in relatively good shape these days in the Statehouses. We have 21 Governors to the Rs' 15 in the 36 states in question. Two states have governor's races in 2009: NJ doesn't concern us, but Tim Kaine is term-limited in VA, so that should be a key priority. The Republicans seem to have picked their candidate while we have a primary between Terry McAuliffe, state Sen. Creigh Deeds, and Del. Brian Moran. There are 36 governors' seats up for election in 2010. AK, AZ, HI, IA, ID, ME, SD, VT, and WY don't concern us here. So that leaves 27 governors' races we need to watch; 16 that are now Democratic vs. 11 that are now Republican. Since a lot of new governors were elected in 2002, 12 of these are term-limited in 2010: Sebelius, Granholm, Richardson, Henry, Kulongowski, Rendell, Bredesen, Riley, Schwarzenegger, Perdue, Carceri, and Sanford (7Ds, 5Rs). We could see close gubernatorial races in 2010 in CA, IL if Blago runs, MI, MN, NV, OR, PA, SC, and WI.
STATE LEGISLATURES: We start 2009 controlling 60 of 98 partisan legislative bodies (Nebraska has a nonpartisan unicameral legislature). The National Conference of State Legislatures has this map showing which party controls each state's legislature and this table showing the party composition of each. Those that look close enough to warrant our attention and participation include the KY Senate, LA House, VA Senate, and VA House in 2009; and the AL Senate, CO Senate, IN House, MI Senate, MO House, NV Senate, NH Senate, NY Senate, OH House, OK Senate, OR Senate, PA Senate & House, SC Senate & House, TN Senate & House, TX Senate & House, and WI Senate & House in 2010.
What I'd really like to see is for this to become a big, ongoing project of online progressives, like the Road to 60 in the US Senate or the Oil Accountability Project. If we pay attention to and get involved in the right state-level elections, we can put control of the next round of redistricting in more Democratic hands. If we follow that up with strong persuasion and accountability, we can preserve and grow the Democratic House majority in Congress.
So here are my questions for you: What do you think of this idea? How does the redistricting process work in your state? What is the current (2009-10) partisan makeup of your state's US House delegation? How many more Democratic seats or fewer Republican ones could we get through better redistricting? I await your comments.