Republicans gained a net total of 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the 2010 midterm elections.
They accomplished this by defeating 53 Democratic incumbents and winning 15 open seats that had previously been occupied by Democrats for a grand total of 68 new districts under GOP control. A total of 31 of these new GOP districts also voted for President Obama in 2008.
There are 715 new state legislators — 25 of whom are party switchers from the Democratic side. These include nine state legislators in Georgia, five in Louisiana, four in Alabama, two in Mississippi, two in Texas, and one each in Kansas, South Dakota, and Maine.
Our discussions with major beat writers in various states lead us to believe there will be 25 more state legislators switching from Democrat to Republican before the next election.
Also remember that in addition to the federal congressional districts that will change, so too will state level districts, and these 715 new state lawmakers will want to strengthen their hold on their territories.
Add to that, congressional boundary lines are set to be redrawn now as a result of the 2010 Census. As a result of the 2010 election, Republicans certainly hold the upper hand in states where redistricting is accomplished at the pleasure of the majority party.
The No. 1 goal in redistricting must be to guarantee the safety of the districts you’ve recently claimed from your opponent. But there is also the added temptation to create new districts for your party, and this year, 12 seats will be shifting from several states to others.
Half of those seats will be transferred to Florida and Texas alone.
Two states will each lose a couple of seats, and eight others will each lose one. Of these 12 new seats, we see a net gain of two new Republican districts.
Bear in mind that there may also be federal lawsuits filed this year over redistricting. Particularly in Florida, which recently passed a “fair districts” amendment to their state Constitution that seeks to expunge politics from the boundary drawing process. Also, Texas will be under the gun because it’s a voting rights state that has seen a large influx of Hispanics. Texas must submit its redistricting plan to President Obama’s Justice Department for approval.
Gerrymandering is always an issue, so our analysis will also examine current district populations, and the new targeted district population that each state must try to achieve.
After the 2000 census, the average national district population was 646,952 citizens. The 2010 census dictates an average of 710,767 citizens per congressional district.
As you will see on the chart,
Republicans will face the challenge of having to protect 16 congressional seats that must either lose or gain 75,000 constituents or more — seven of those seats must see over 100,000 constituents shift either in or out of their boundary lines. This is quite a challenge indeed.
Although Texas is set to gain four congressional seats, the tremendous influx of Hispanics into the state dictates that the GOP almost certainly must create two majority Hispanic districts. Both of these will vote Democrat, though they may try to break up an incumbent Democratic district in the process and thereby “create” only one net Democratic seat in Congress.
The GOP will also be forced to reckon with the Hispanic issue in Florida as well, as they attempt to create two new districts there.
In fact, the Hispanic population will greatly affect redistricting in a number of states. California has 2.7 million more Hispanic residents today than it did in 2000; Texas has 2.4 million more; Florida 1.3 million; and Arizona 736,000 more.
While these four states saw the greatest overall numbers of Hispanics added to their population, there are a number of other states that saw a far greater percentage increase in their Hispanic population.
For example, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Alabama all saw their Hispanic population more than double. An additional 17 states saw their Hispanic population increase by 70 percent or more. And 16 more states (including Arizona and Florida) saw their Hispanic population go up by 50-69 percent.
So while it’s true that Republicans certainly have the upper hand in redistricting, their advantage is fraught with demographic and population difficulties, not to mention the near certainty of Democratic lawsuits and an enemy Federal Justice Department.
Brad O’Leary is the best-selling author of "America’s War on Christianity" (AmericasWarOnChristianity.com) and God and America’s Leaders (GodandAmericasLeaders.com).
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