Down 4 Or More Going In

You probably expected an article about President Biden’s State of the Union Address that technically wasn’t a State of the Union Address. Sorry, this is being written on the morning before and if I write about the speech, it will be the subject of Sunday’s article.

Today I want to cover what should be the biggest story of the week even though most of the press won’t treat it as such. Intrigued? Please continue to read.

Earlier this week the preliminary 2020 census numbers came out and based on my rough figuring the Democrats will go into the House mid-terms spotting the Republicans at least four and probably more House seats. I’d like to take a bit deeper dive into that today.

Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will pick up one seat a piece while Texas gains two seats. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all lose one seat. That means that those 13 states will have to redistrict. That is a tremendous opportunity for gerrymandering and shenanigans.

Every state handles redistricting differently. That is consistent with the Constitution and in theory is both fair and fine. In practice that is another matter. Party control of the state legislature and in many cases the Governor’s mansion are really the key factors.

Gerrymandering (effectively creative and self-beneficial cheating) in redistricting has gone on for almost as long as America has existed. The term itself dates back to the early days of our country. The advancement in computers has turned it into a precise art form.
Let me run down the thirteen states as I see them: (All prediction will be evaluated from the Democratic perspective.)

Colorado is completely controlled by Democrats so I expect that to be a one seat pickup.

Florida is in total Republican control so that is a sure loss.

Montana is also in total Republican control and again a sure loss as it probably should be.

In North Carolina the Republicans control the legislature and the governor is not involved so a sure loss. The North Carolina Republicans are so radical they won’t care if they are challenged and lose in court; they have been there before.

Oregon is all blue and will be a pickup.

Texas is in total Republican control and like their counterparts in North Carolina, Texas Republicans don’t care whether their changes are legal or not. Two more in the loss column.

In both California and Illinois despite total Democratic control it is difficult to see a situation where the Democrats don’t lose a seat in each.

Michigan is an interesting case. The redistricting is handled by an independent commission so despite the legislature being in extremist Republican control and the governor being a Democrat it is impossible to call.

New York is in total Democratic control even if the legislature and Governor Cuomo aren’t always on the best of terms. The numbers would seem to indicate a Republican pickup but I’ve seen New York Democrats do some creative redistricting in the past. This one is a question mark but will definitely not be a pickup.

Ohio is solid red so count that as a seat lost.

Pennsylvania is perhaps the most interesting of the 13. Redistricting is handled by what I will call a hybrid Board. It is certainly not totally independent with four members being appointed by elected officials and the fifth member being selected by those four. The legislature is Republican controlled and the Governor is a Democrat. Should be worth watching but totally unpredictable.

West Virginia is solid red and if you think the Democrats can tread water there, I suggest you feed the unicorns on your front lawn. A definite Democratic loss.

The current Democratic margin in the House is about ten – it changes over time as members come and go – but with the predictable impact of redistricting I contend that the 2022 midterm election starts as close to a dead heat when talking about control of the House. I think the Democrats have an opportunity to pick up a few seats in the Senate (and that is far from a sure thing) but if they lose the House they may as well take a two year vacation and take President Biden with them.

Keep in mind we only have the topline numbers at this point. We lack breakdowns and interestingly the population growth slowed substantially based on them. We know the Trump administration messed with the census significantly. Just how valid the numbers are we will not know for some time and arguably never will. I have to wonder if this was a census on “reverse steroids”.

Regardless of accuracy they are the numbers we will conduct the 2022 – 2030 elections under. A bit of free employment advice: consider getting into election/redistricting litigation. There will be plenty of work to go around.

The question in my mind is will Democrats show up in sufficient numbers to overcome Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression? They are starting the “House inning” down four or more.

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