Thursday, November 09, 2006

Here is the real election story.

Okay, we know the Democrats took back the House, appear to control the Senate (watch out for Joe folks!) and that Rumsfeld is gone. But the real story is getting very little publicity.

Now the House is important but the problem for the Democrats is that years of Republican domination have meant that the districts have been drawn up in favour of Republicans. Consider that the Democrats won almost all the competitive races for the Senate this time through. But they didn't come anywhere close to winning most the competitive House races. The reason is gerrymandering, that process by which the state legislatures draw up the congressional districts to benefit the party which controls the state legislature. This is done every ten years.

So if you draw up districts in a way that favors X party then X part is going to have an easier time winning for the next ten years. There are several ways to do this and often they involve bizarre looking districts that twist in odd ways. If you have five districts, four of which vote Y but one votes X heavily you can draw the districts so that X area is split into five groups. So 20% of X voters are put in each district. They are outnumbered. So party Y wins five seats instead of four. Or you can do the opposite. If you have five districts that are pretty competitive but most the Y voters live in one area you can redraw the districts so that most of them are in one district. Instead of fighting five races you get a cake walk in four of them and lose one. You maximize your seats that way.

And all this is done at the state level. This means that if a party controls the state legislature they can control how the lines are draw. Of course the Governor gets in the way so you prefer to have one of your own there as well. And now we get to the real story of this election.

Democrats currently control 28 state mansions. There are only 22 governors who are Republicans now. Until a few days ago the Republicans control 20 state legislatures, that is they controlled both houses of the state legislature. Democrats controlled 19 of them and 10 were split (Nebraska has a one house, non-partisan legislature). Now the Democrats hold 23 legislatures and the Republicans were knocked down to 16 and 10 are still split.

And if we look at states where one party controls the legislature and the state mansion the Democrats are well in the lead with 15 states versus 10 for the Republicans. All in all the Demcrats gained 275 plus state legislators on Tuesday.

We are getting close enough to redistricting that one would prefer to start accumulating legislatures in one's pocket to insure the boundaries are drawn in your favor in as many states as possible. And right now at least that process will help the Democrats. And when this happens it will make it easier for Democrats to win office in those states for the next 10 years.

On Tuesday the following switches took place. Democrats took control of both the House and Senate in Iowa and New Hampshire. And they added to their bag the House in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon and Indiana and took the Senate in Wisconsin.

As of today the Republicans control the state legislature in Pennsylvania but that is only today. Tomorrow can be another story. After the election there the GOP had a one seat advantage -- just one seat. And that one seat was won in an election where there are only 19 votes difference between the Democrat and the Republican. But almost 300 absentee and provisional ballots have not been counted yet! And three other races were decided by very thin margins making recounts possible. And both parties can be working to convince an elected member of the opposition to switch sides as well.

Pennsylvania already has a Democratic governor. So taking control of the legilslature is very helpful. Consider that there are 19 US House seats up for grabs in Pennsylvania. Four of them were decided in very close elections Tuesday. Seven districts give Democrats very large wins. New boundaries moving some of those Democrats into more competitive districts could mean the Democrats still have their 7 safe seats plus they gain four new seats as well.

Whoever wants to dominate national politics, via the House, over the coming decade are going to need to shore up control of the state legislatures now. And the ones managing to do that are the Democrats not the Republicans.