How Gerrymandering Kept the Blue Wave Smaller Than It Should Be

How Gerrymandering Kept the Blue Wave Smaller Than It Should Be November 30, 2018

The New York Times has a report on the effect of gerrymandering in the midterm elections for the U.S. House and for state legislatures as well. In states that are heavily gerrymandered, the number of seats wasn’t even close to the results of the popular vote. In North Carolina, for instance, where the maps have already been declared unconstitutional but too late to redraw them, it’s this bad:

When the blue wave came to North Carolina, the red levees held.

In a year in which Democrats picked up as many as 41 House seats, including in places as conservative as Oklahoma and Utah, they lost all three of their targets for pickups in one of the nation’s most closely divided states. Democrats in North Carolina earned 48.3 percent of the total vote cast in House races but won only three seats; Republicans had 50.4 percent of the vote and won 10 seats.

And in Ohio:

North Carolina and Ohio are two of the most gerrymandered states, said Michael Li, senior counsel in the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. And in both of those states, Democrats failed to pick up a single House seat despite winning close to half of the popular vote. They hold only four of 16 seats in Ohio — and in the Ohio House, Republicans maintained a veto-proof supermajority with a bare majority of the popular vote.

By contrast, Pennsylvania, which voted under a new nonpartisan, court-ordered map, went from 13 Republicans and five Democrats to nine Republicans and nine Democrats. This didn’t quite match the popular vote, which broke for Democrats 55 percent to 45 percent, but the shift underscored that voting lines can matter as much as votes.

This is why we need independent redistricting commissions to draw the maps every ten years rather than allowing politicians, with a clear incentive to rig the game, to do it. The courts have made clear that they won’t do anything about this, so it’s up to voters to put referendums on the ballot to amend their state constitutions, as Michigan and three other states did this year.


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