Analysts Look to 2011, When Partisans Redraw the Political Map

How this year's statehouse races will affect the coming decade

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While much has been made of the House and Senate races in the midterm elections, the contests for state legislatures haven't gotten as much attention. Yet these are races worth watching, since they, along with the gubernatorial elections, will determine who controls the once-a-decade redistricting process when it starts up in 2011. When electoral maps are tweaked and redrawn, it can cluster voters together or move them apart, and the effects, analysts explain, can be significant and lasting.

  • 5 Battleground States  "If either party can achieve what politicos call the 'trifecta'--control of the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature--in a given state, it will be able to draw congressional districts within that state unencumbered by any need to compromise with the other party," explains Nick Baumann at Mother Jones. "Five states bordering the Great Lakes--Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin--are the central battleground in the fight to control redistricting. Sure, the Republicans might take back the House of Representatives on election night. But winning gubernatorial and state legislative races in these five states could allow the GOP to dominate the House for much longer than the next few years."

  • What Might Happen  According to Lois Romano at The Washington Post, "Republican operatives are predicting that the GOP will pick up as many as 500 additional seats [in state legislatures], and wrestle majorities in legislatures away from the Democrats in anywhere from 10 to 18 states."

  • How Barbour Benefits  At GQ, Ana Marie Cox agrees with Baumann that "Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania matter the most; they're all set to have their crucial swing-state maps re-drawn in such a way that may cause them not to swing so heavily any more." Cox adds that "Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican Governor's Association, will get a lot of credit if the state-level races run the GOP's way. There's talk now of his stepping into the Presidential race in 2012. But in a very real way, he already has."

  • History Shows That Redistricting Matters, writes Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect. "During the last redistricting in 2001, Republicans had the advantage at the state level and leveraged it to give the GOP a structural advantage in the House of Representatives. Some 25 Democrats lost their seats in 2002 and 2004 due to redistricting; the Republicans' famous 1994 takeover also came on the new map." Fernholz adds that when districts are redrawn to lean more solidly red or blue, it frees up the party to spend more in the districts where races remain close. Thus, he says, the 2010 midterms represent "a decade of votes on every issue that matters."

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