Yesterday’s release of the Census Bureau data allows the 2012 Congressional reapportionment process to begin. Drawing the new maps will be the subject of considerable speculation for the next six months. The GOP will gain at least six seats, and they are practically assured of pickups in Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah. Also, several vulnerable Republicans will see favorable territory added to their districts.
The liberal Huffingtom Post does not agree with this assessment. Their current headline article is “Reapportionment Not Necessarily Good News for Republicans” by Robert Creamer. He is the same author who wrote their analysis explaining why Democrats would keep control of the House.
Every state is different in handling redistricting. Most have their state legislatures draw the new lines but some have non-partisan commissions handle the job. We had stalemates a decade ago and the courts had to step in. New GOP seats will obviously be created but that is not possible everywhere. Once again, another advantage is that vulnerable GOP lawmakers will gain through the addition of favorable voters.
The new Census data demonstrates that states with lower taxes, smaller government and fewer unions saw the most population growth. The average top personal income tax rate among gainers is 116 percent lower than among losers.
The total state and local tax burden is nearly one-third lower, as is per capita government spending. In eight of ten losers, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. In 7 of the 8 gainers, workers are given a choice whether to join or contribute financially to a union.
Listed below are some preliminary predictions of what could occur in various states which are gaining or losing population.
OHIO – The state has been reduced to 16 seats after losing many manufacturing jobs. The GOP goal in redistricting is to retain its 13 seats, but it will be difficult to reduce Democrats to just three districts. This year’s election resulted in five new Republican congressmen, and they all have competitive districts. Furthermore, the state GOP has to protect Rep. John Boehner, the new House Speaker.
Ohio has a reapportionment board composed of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and one Republican and one Democrat appointed by the state legislature. The most significant population loss took place in the North East section of the state, which is the Cleveland area. The city’s Rep. Marcia Fudge (D) is protected by the Voting Right Act but her district will have to be expanded to the west to take over territory now held by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D).
The top GOP targets are Kucinich and Rep. Betty Sutton. The GOP would like to combine Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Betty Sutton into one district, but this would create a problem for Rep. Bob Latta (R).
They also want to avoid a situation where Sutton is challenging freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R). Rep. Jim Jordan, the new Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, has said he will not challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). He could change his mind if his district is abolished. GOP Reps. Bill Johnson and Bob Gibbs are also considered the most vulnerable.
Another option is to pack Columbus into one heavily Democratic district to protect the six surrounding seats. The three current Cleveland area districts could be made safe for the Democrats by expanding them to incorporate Youngstown and Toledo. The end result would have the same partisan composition, but it could preserve the 13 GOP seats.
Most observers believe it will be impossible to keep all 13 Ohio Republicans, and it is more realistic to settle for 12 Republican and 4 Democrats. This would involve removing one Democratic seat and one GOP seat, and then shoring up some of the freshmen.
Ohio has not been this low in Congressional seats since the 1820 reapportionment. At that time Ohio had 14 of the then 213 seats in the U.S. House. It should be noted that proportionately the 1820 Ohio delegation is double the state’s current size.
PENNSYLVANIA – The redistricting process in the state is very political, and always has been. This time they lost one seat which is better than a decade ago when two districts were abolished. Pennsylvania saw population growth in the poconos and parts of the south, and they almost avoided losing a seat. The population loss came in the western part of the state, primarily Allegheny County.
The top GOP target has to be Rep. Mark Critz (D) who has an usual and heavily gerrymandered district. An obvious solution is to place him in a district with either Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle or Jason Altmire. Republican areas in the Critz district could go to vulnerable Rep. Tim Murphy (R). Another alternative is to increase the Democratic base in the 14th district which make Doyle’s seat very secure, but could weaken both Critz and Altmire.
An additional scenario is to target Rep. Tim Holden (D) who represents a conservative area and is surrounded by GOP districts. Another GOP goal is protecting freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County.
NEW JERSEY – The state lost one seat and the redistricting process will not be easy. New Jersey has a 13 member reapportionment commission which is evenly divided between the parties with one swing vote. They have many different options to consider.
They could combine Reps. Chris Smith (R) and Rush Holt (D) in the center of the state, but their districts have not lost population. The growth has been in the south and at the shore, while population losses have been in the north. The districts which were hit the hardest by declines are those of Democratic Reps. Rothman, Pascrell, Payne and Sires.
The best alternative could be combining Reps. Rodney Frelinghusen (R) with Bill Pascrell (D). Another alternative is combining Frank Pallone (D) with Leonard Lance (R).
MICHIGAN – This is the only state to actually lose population. That did not even happen to Katina devastated Louisiana. With a one district loss, Michigan will have 14 seats.
Most of the population decline has come in the past four years, and a significant amount is due to the decline of the automobile industry. The state has been rewarded by the new GOP U.S. House with three committee chairmanships, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Intelligence.
It would be logical to combine the two Detroit districts which have clearly lost the most in population. The city should have just one district, but that will not happen because of the Voting Rights Act. This legislation prohibits undermining minority groups.
Even if Rep. John Conyers (D), 81, retires some Democrats are threatening a law suit to preserve his district. The state also lost a seat in the last census when the districts of Democratic Reps. John Dingell and Lynn Rivers were combined. If Dingell, 84, does not retire this time, the solution will probably be found by combining the 9th and 12th districts.
The 12th is held by Rep. Sander Levin (D), 79, the outgoing chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. His retirement would also solve the problem. In 2010, the campaign in the 9th district cost both parties a combined $9.1 million. Rep. Gary Peters (D) was narrowly re-elected and the addition of the Levin territory would give him a safe seat.
In some respects the Michigan decline is similar to what has happened throughout the industrial Midwest. In 1930 the area represented 60% of the population but this has now declined to just 40%.
MISSOURI – In drawing new lines Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has to contend with a GOP dominated the state legislature. Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in the State Senate, but not in the House of Representatives. If Gov. Jay Nixon (D) were to veto a map and the legislature couldn’t override, the case would go to the courts.
The city of St. Louis lost population but the district of Rep. William Lacy Clay (D) is protected by the Voting Rights Act. The best guess is that Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) will have to give up most or all of St. Louis City to Clay. This would make Clay’s district even more Democratic than it is today.
Carnahan and Rep. Todd Akin (R) could be thrown together but Akin would probably keep enough of St. Charles county to win that fight. Missouri last lost a seat after the 1980 Census, and Democrats who controlled the legislature at that point combined the seats of two newly elected Republicans.
GEORGIA – The population has shifted from the southern part of the state to the Atlanta metro area. This means the districts of Reps. Jack Kingston (R), Sanford Bishop (D) and freshman Austin Scott (R) will have to be expanded. It will be fairly easy to create a new seat.
Freshman Rep. Rob Woodall (R) needs to lose almost 250,000 constituents, and Reps. Tom Price (R) and Tom Graves (R) both have to lose 150,000 people. All of the districts in the Atlanta metro-area have to shrink and the new seat wll probably be based in suburban Gwinnett County.
WASHINGTON – The reapportionment process is handled by a non-partisan commission which traditionally protects incumbents. Every seat will have to shrink in order to create the new 10th district. This will probably be good news for freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera (R).
She will want to lose Olympia and gain areas in more rural Klickitat and Yakima counties. The commission will try to create a competitive new seat in south Puget Sound area. Both parties will want to protect their vulnerable incumbents, Reps. Rick Larson (D) and Dave Reichert (R).
NORTH CAROLINA – In 2001 Democrats drew the lines and they did a great job in maximizing their strength. In 2010, Republicans received 55% of all Congressional votes cast but Democrats have seven of the thirteen districts. It would have been eight, but Rep. Bob Etheridge was defeated last year. Gov. Beverly Purdue (D) does not have a veto, and the GOP controls both houses of the state legislature.
They can draw the lines in any manner, and the GOP is almost certain to target Reps. Larry Kissell, Brad Miller or Mike McIntyre. They will probably pack Democrats into David Price’s 4th district. They could shift it from a +7% Democratic advantage to a +15% advantage. Another alternative is for parts of Asheville to be added to GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry’s district to weaken Rep. Heath Shuler (D).
UTAH – The state is gaining a seat and this is an almost certain pickup for Republicans with a new district around the Southern Range. The key question is will the GOP try to draw the lines to get rid of the lone Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson or will they strengthen him. My guess is Matheson will be pleased with the new district.
They will probably keep the Democratic-leaning and fastest-growing parts of Salt Lake County in his district, but they will also not make this a Democratic stronghold which could be won by a liberal. Matheson is a Blue Dog Democrat.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the third district has one of the most Republican seats in the nation. If the GOP wants to take on Matheson they could add GOP turf from the Chaffetz district. The third district now has a +26 advantage and it could be reduced to a +15 advantage which would still make it entirely safe.
MASSACHUSETTS – The state lost one seat and will be reduced from 10 to 9 districts. The Boston Globe says:
Some political observers expect that US Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat first elected in 1980, will not seek reelection in two years. Other members of the delegation, including Michael Capuano of Somerville, Stephen Lynch of South Boston, and Edward Markey of Malden, could be potential candidates to take on US Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who faces reelection in two years.
IDAHO, MONTANA AND RHODE ISLAND – Population equality exists within each state, not across state lines. Every Representative has different number of people in their district, and after ten years their are significant inequalities. Over the past decade, Idaho’s population grew by 21.1% but it still did not gain a Congressional seat. The state currently has one representative for every 783,791 people.
Another ironic situation is next door in Montana. Only 63,152 fewer people live in Montana than in Rhode Island, but they get two districts to Montana’s one. Rhode Island was the third slowest growing state. Both Rhode Island and Maine could easily be down to a single Congressional seat the next time. In 1920, Rhode Island had 5 districts, Maine had 6, Vermont and New Hampshire 4, and Massachusetts 18. Also in 1920, New York was at 45, California had 13 and Florida 6.