In the wake of the 2010 elections, many observers believed that Republicans would have the upper hand in the upcoming Congressional redistricting process and use it to build on their already sizable majority in the House of Representatives. Following the Republican wave of 2010, Republicans enjoyed control of both the Governorship and legislature in 20 states. The Democrats controlled only 11 states and 18 states were split.
However, as the minutiae of the redistricting process begin to play out, this does not seem to be the case. Two factors are largely responsible. First, Republicans won so many seats in 2010 that there are few left for them to win through redistricting, and second, the changing demographics of the U.S. population simply favor the Democrats. Most places where news seats are being added will tend to elect Democrats while the populations of Republican parts of the country are shrinking.
Two states in the midst of their redistricting processes demonstrate that Democrats are actually gaining seats – Illinois and California.
Illinois is one of the few cases where Democrats control both the legislature and Governorship. For this reason, observers expected Republicans to lose seats. The influential Cook Report originally predicted Republicans to lose two seats. Both houses of the legislature have now approved a new map, which is awaiting Governor Quinn’s signature, and Republican losses may be double that.
4 Republican districts have the potential to go Democratic:
8th – Rep. Joe Walsh (R) defeated Melissa Bean (D) here in a close race in 2010. The old version of this district was close in Presidential years, with Obama defeating McCain 56-43%. As now drawn, Obama would have won 62% in the district (all numbers on how new districts would have voted in 2008 are courtesy of the awesome folks at Daily Kos Elections – formerly Swing State Project).
10th – Rep. Bob Dold (R) squeaked by with 51% of the vote to replace now Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in 2010. The district is slightly more Democratic after redistricting, with Obama’s victory going from 61% to 63%.
11th – Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) upset Debbie Halvorson (D) here 57-43%, but Obama’s margin of victory swells from 53% to 61% on the new map.
17th – Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) unseated Phil Hare with 53% in 2010. Obama’s margin expands from 56% to 60% in the new district.
California is an odd beast in the redistricting menagerie. A number of states use bipartisan citizen commissions to draw new maps as California does rather than relying on the state legislature, but in a new development this cycle, the California commission is strictly forbidden from using incumbency as a factor in its redistricting decisions. Commissions usually start with existing districts and modify them to factor in demographic changes, this frequently has the effect of helping protect existing incumbents. The California commission, on the other hand, now completely throws out the existing map and starts again from scratch. This has the effect of drawing many incumbents into districts with other neighboring incumbents and creating some districts with no natural incumbent at all.
The bipartisan commission issued its first maps last week. These are not final, and are offered for public comment. The commission must have a final map by August 15.
Because the lines are not final, it’s too early to know how each district will lean for sure, but expert opinion is that it is not good news for Republicans. Here’s the initial take of Cook Report redistricting guru Dave Wasserman, lead author of the massive – and massively geeky – Better Know A District:
“First CA impression: Dems +4. Gallegly (R), Dreier (R), Miller (R), Bilbray (R) lose out, Loretta Sanchez (D) keeps winnable district”
David Jarman, at Daily Kos Elections thinks Wasserman missed one other Republican at risk: Ed Royce (R), in the current 40th, centered on Fullerton.