This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some Elections Are Demographically More Important Than Others

Since the Constitution requires that Congressional Districts be redrawn after each decennial census, the election just before the census data come out winds up laying the groundwork for districts for the following decade. As it turned out, the Republican Party won a lot of seats in 2010 and has been in the position of driving the redistricting bus in the majority of states that still leave that process to the governor and legislature. As the Associated Press notes:
Republicans romped last November, gaining 63 House seats to secure the majority, winning 11 governorships, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, and seizing control of the most state legislative seats they've held since 1928. The GOP is capitalizing on its across-the-board control in 26 states — governorship plus legislature — in the census-based drawing of a new political map that will be a decisive factor in the 2012 elections and beyond.Nearly half of the states have finished redrawing House lines based on population changes, although lawsuits and Justice Department reviews loom. The immediate post-election claims that the GOP could add 15 to 30 seats in the U.S. House through redistricting have proven unfounded, in large part because Republicans captured so many seats last November. Instead, the GOP has used the redistricting process to shore up its most vulnerable lawmakers, people like Ellmers and Farenthold."Redistricting starts with Republicans at a peak," said Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. "They hold a solid majority of seats in the House. It's hard to gain much more."
The exceptions to this trend occur in states like California that have put redistricting in the hands of nonpartisan committees.
In California, Democrats have the potential to gain 3 or 4 seats based on the map drawn by the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, an independent panel that paid more attention to geography and ethnicity than incumbency. Longtime Republicans Gary Miller and Ed Royce face uncertain futures as does David Dreier.
We will see how this plays out in the 2012 election and the following four Congressional election cycles until things are changed once again by the 2020 census.

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