Divide and conquer

Let’s say you live in a state that is 60% white, 30% black and 10% Hispanic. If you were in charge of desegregating your state’s schools you would probably want every classroom to reflect that racial balance.

But if you were in charge of reapportionament/redistricting, that same racial breakdown in each district would probably violate the Voting Rights Act.

Every ten years we have a census, and that census is used to apportion congressional seats among the states. Every state gets at least three (2 senators and a Representative) but some states get more. California currently has 55 which was no change after the 2010 census, while Texas has 35 (+3) and New York has 27 (-2). Seven states have the minimum.

Two things affect reapportionment – population growth and interstate migration. The recent trend has been for people to move south and west, away from the frozen rust-belt.

Following reapportionment the states (other than the seven with the minimum) have to redraw districts that are approximately equal in population. Because some areas have denser population than others some districts are small in size and others fairly large.

The two main issues on redistricting have to do with party affiliation and race. Let’s go back to that hypothetical state and say that it is 55% Republican and 45% Democrat with 10 House seats. If, as would be expected, the GOP controls the state government, they could try to craft 10 congressional districts that all had a majority of Republicans.

Needless to say, the Democrats would not be pleased about that. But in real life people don’t live evenly spread out – some areas will be heavily GOP while others are heavily Democratic. If the districts were divvied-up fairly, the GOP would get five, the Democrats would get one four and the last one would be about 50/50.

But it’s not that simple, especially in the south. Once upon a time the southern segregationists used gerrymandering to dilute the votes of black people among majority-white districts, thus preventing them from winning elections.

So now they have to do the opposite – create “majority-minority” districts where a person of color is almost certain to win. So now our hypothetical state is ideally arranged so that 3 districts are majority black, one is majority Hispanic, and the others overwhelmingly white.

But wait! There’s more! There are other rules that say districts have to be contiguous, should utilize existing boundaries and should not unnecessarily divide communities and/or neighborhoods.

Add to this the fact that people in power like to stay there, leading to the creation of “safe seats” for party leaders on both sides. Put it all together and you’ll see why redistricting is a guaranteed headache and a series of lawsuits every ten years.

Next year’s election will be the first using the 2010 reapportionment. But not all states have settled their redistricting issues. Some of those issues might not be settled for years.

My own two-faced back-stabbing Representative (Dennis Cardoza) got his comeuppance for betraying Hillary when his former district was divided into two Republican districts. He decided to retire, and we will soon have the first GOP representative for this area since . . . ever. Buh-bye blue dog, hello elephant.

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27 Responses to Divide and conquer

  1. HELENK says:

    Herman Cain campaign says they will be making a “major announcement” in Georgia tomorrow. #Decision2012
    7 minutes ago via web

  2. HELENK says:


    demographics will play a part in the next election

  3. HELENK says:

    I am having a temper tantrum!!!!!

    what the hell is happening to my country?????

    first the Seattle thing about no advertizing for Buy American now this

    Florida banks say no to Marines for the Toys for Tots


    When I was working one of the best times of the year was the Christmas Train. It ran every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It collected toys for tots. One of the most popular for the crews was to run the train to Camp Pendleton and have the families of the guys and women overseas see the train and get a toy. They had a hookup to Iraq so many could see there families. Many children, not only children of service members got the only toy they were going to get for Christmas due to this program

  4. Dario says:

    Myiq, I usually agree with you, but in this case it seems to me you don’t understand the issue. There’s nothing wrong with what the courts are demanding. Historically schools were segregated and districts were broken up until the courts intervened. Breaking up a voting district dilutes the voice of the people being represented. For example, a very clear district where Hispanic people live, should not be broken in four parts and each quarter combined with adjacent big all white districts. That’s what politicians did. Segregating children is detrimental to their learning because learning is about experiencing unknowns.

  5. elliesmom says:

    Redistricting probably played into Barney Frank’s decision to retire. He lost New Bedford from his district making the overall demographic a little more conservative. I don’t doubt that in the long run he would have won – this is Massachusetts, but he would have had to get off his duff and campaign. That and there seems to be a Kennedy who wants his seat. And we all know that the last name Kennedy makes you “eminently” qualified.

  6. Lulu says:

    Years ago I sat on a non partisan commission to redraw the lines for county offices that had multiple offices. County court at Law judges, JP’s, county commissioners, constables, library districts, where to put a badly needed county annex were to be hashed out. And the hospital district. Every collection of ten houses claimed they needed a clinic. The county is dominated by a small city but has a significant rural population and minority population that deserved representation. It was hell. We were ready to murder everyone. We drew a district so a minority could have a chance to be on the county commission that was called “the lollipop district” in which we were threatened with a lawsuit. Armed rebellion was threatened over which end of the county a satellite county offices would be located. It took a year and pretty much everyone was pissed off so we knew we had done our job. Redistricting at every level is a nightmare.

  7. 1539days says:

    The secret of the 2010 elections is that Republicans won hundreds of state legislative positions all over the country and gained a few governor’s mansions. In many cases, they are in charge of redistricting. It’s the continuing eradication of the Democratic Party. Democrats will likely lose more House seats, taking away the back bench for Senate runs. Also, less Democrats in the state house means less of a back bench for the House of Representatives.

    And the right was worried about Obama messing with the Census.

    • Lulu says:

      The Obama machine destroyed local Democratic organizations. It may never come back. Everything is about him so there is nothing after him.

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