Why Redistricting Can Lead to a More Balanced US Congress

At its peak in 2016, the Republican structural advantage was daunting. Only 195 districts leaned toward Hillary Clinton in the president...


At its peak in 2016, the Republican structural advantage was daunting. Only 195 districts leaned toward Hillary Clinton in the presidential election that year, compared to 240 that leaned toward Mr. Trump. The middle congressional district voted for Mr. Trump by nearly four percentage points, six points more favorable to Republicans than Mr. Trump’s two-point deficit in the national popular vote. The result raised the possibility that Democrats could only win the House in a national landslide.

But the Republican advantage collapsed, even before the start of the redistricting of this cycle. A series of court rulings in North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia have eroded or eliminated some of the party’s most valuable gerrymanders, slashing the House’s Republican advantage by a third ahead of the 2020 election.

At the same time, unfavorable electoral trends have eroded the Republican Party’s longstanding geographic advantage: the party’s tendency to more effectively translate its votes into seats than the Democrats, who win lopsided margins in urban areas but tend to lag behind in less populated areas. Mr. Trump’s weakness in traditionally competitive suburbs — as well as his relative strengths in less competitive rural and urban areas — has made his coalition somewhat less effective at winning House seats than previous Republicans. This halved the Republican advantage.

Together, the shrinking Republican geographic advantage and weakened Gerrymanders were just enough for the Democrats to narrowly win the House with a modest victory in the popular vote in 2020.

The Republicans were expected to regain their edge this cycle as the party would attract more seats than the Democrats. But the Republicans had fewer opportunities to improve on their previous cards. In some states, new court rulings and constitutional amendments limited what Republicans could do with their powers. In others, Republicans had already drawn the lines so overwhelmingly to their advantage a decade earlier that there was little opportunity for them to go much further. They chose to bolster the most vulnerable incumbents as often as they eliminated additional Democratic seats.

Democrats, on the other hand, had more opportunities to be more aggressive than they had been a decade ago. Their 2018 midterm election victories gave them more leverage in the redistricting process in many states, and Democrats hadn’t embraced particularly effective or extreme gerrymanders a decade earlier. Overall, Democrats eliminated 12 Republican-leaning seats in the last presidential election in New York, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon. No state court has acted to weaken Democratic gerrymanders in those states.

Republicans, on the other hand, have faced a series of unfavorable court rulings.

In Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, courts have either limited Republican gerrymanders or selected surprisingly Democratic cards. Ultimately, Republicans may eliminate only a handful of Democratic districts, such as those in northern suburbs of Atlanta, Nashville and, possibly soon, eastern New Hampshire.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why Redistricting Can Lead to a More Balanced US Congress
Why Redistricting Can Lead to a More Balanced US Congress
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