The reason why you saw so many sobering takes about the Democrats’ election results at the state level is because of what they mean for gerrymandering.
Once the Census is completed (here’s a nice recap of where we stand), each state will begin the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing both the Congressional (for the U.S. House of Representatives) and Legislative (state Senate and state House) districts. Many states allow their state legislatures to draw up the maps, which is why gerrymandering so often is the result.
As far as I’m concerned, no politician should be allowed to determine how their own district is drawn. A politician’s incentive is to make a district the least competitive possible, so it is easier to get re-elected. Furthermore, if politicians represent a “safe” district, they also have no incentive to serve all of their constituents — they can safely cater just to their own voters with no consequence. Instead of being a nation whose politicians pick their voters, I’d much rather be a nation whose voters pick their politicians.
And I’m not alone. Survey after survey shows that a clear majority of Americans disapprove of gerrymandering. It is an issue that crosses the aisle.
We’ve seen the devastation that gerrymandering can cause. After the Republicans, and the Tea Party, dominated the 2010 elections, they were in total control of redrawing maps in 55% of the states. Although some of those maps were overturned, it took years to get those lawsuits through the courts. Meanwhile, Republicans enjoyed years of minority control.
Take Wisconsin as only one example. As recently as the 2018 midterms, Democrats won 54% of the total votes in the state but only secured 36% of the seats in state legislature, due to the gerrymandered districts.
Back to 2020, there was a lot written about the Democrats’ disastrous results in this November election. As we all know, that was due to an expectation that we had a real shot at breaking up some Republican-controlled state legislatures by gaining control of one of the state legislative chambers. As we know now, almost no state chamber flipped to one party or the other.
But here’s the thing that most articles overlook — the Democrats have actually secured important wins, such as securing majorities in some state houses or securing the governorship since the last time maps were drawn. For example, returning to Wisconsin, the gerrymandered maps mean that Republicans still control the state House and state Senate following the 2020 elections, but thanks to the 2018 midterms, they have a Democratic governor who can veto the maps by the legislature.
The other change since 2010 to be aware of is that several states have been successful in using ballot measures to change the system of how maps are drawn in their state. So instead of having politicians draw the maps, the state relies on a commission to draw the new districts. So ultimately, the big difference between 2010 and 2020, is that 10 years ago, the Republicans had single party control over 55% of the available Congressional seats, whereas now they only have single party control over 38% of the seats.
If you want to see how your state’s redistricting works, check out this nifty interactive tool at All About Redistricting.
Although we are in a much better place in 2020 than we were in 2010, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight for more progress in those Republican-controlled states. There are actions we can take. After all, we’re talking about maps that will be used for the next 5 election cycles!
Stay loud. When you read about shenanigans Republicans are pulling to dilute Democrats’ power in their states, call them out. We’ve seen what loud, public pressure can do even with Republicans in power. This is no time to get quiet about such issues.
Get involved with All On The Line which is targeting action in key states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. You can learn more by attending one of their trainings which you can find on Mobilize. Check out their current trainings HERE.
Lastly, I will cover redistricting throughout 2021 and let you all know what’s going on and how we can influence these critical maps.
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