Other Redistricting Reruns Less Likely
While emboldened Georgia Republicans contemplate redrawing the state’s Congressional district lines, additional mid-decade re-redistricting efforts like those undertaken in Texas and Colorado in 2003 aren’t likely to happen.
“I don’t see anybody going back and doing redistricting” again, said Tim Storey, a redistricting specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “The stars just don’t line up, the way the elections broke. There’s still a lot of divided government.”
Storey said that while the Texas re-redistricting was successful from a partisan point of view — Republicans defeated four Democratic House incumbents on Election Day — state leaders were all too aware of the negative publicity surrounding the Texas and Colorado Legislatures after they redrew the Congressional boundaries. Colorado’s Republican-drawn map was later struck down in the courts.
Besides Georgia, Election Day results gave one party or the other full state house control in three additional states: Indiana, Missouri and Oregon. If Democrat Christine Gregoire wins the still too-close-to-call Washington state governor’s race, her state would be a fifth in which one party has taken total control.
But other than Georgia, none seems likely to pursue redistricting.
In Indiana, where Republicans now control all levers of state government for the first time in more than a decade, state law calls for a commission to draw Congressional boundaries when the governor and Legislature aren’t able to agree on a plan. That’s exactly what happened before the 2002 elections.
With the victory of Rep.-elect Mike Sodrel (R) on Election Day, Republicans will hold seven of the state’s nine House seats in the next Congress, so it’s hard to see how they can do much better. (Democrats have now called for a recount in the 9th district, despite Sodrel’s 1,400-vote advantage, and if the result stands, Hill has hinted that he may try to get his old job back in 2006.)
In Missouri, where Gov.-elect Matt Blunt (R) guarantees GOP control of the previously Democratic governor’s chair, a compromise redistricting plan passed the Legislature prior to the 2002 elections, leaving Republican lawmakers little legal basis for redrawing the lines now.
In Oregon, where Democrats will control both the Legislature and the governorship, the most recent Congressional map was drawn by a court. But Democrats already enjoy a 4-1 edge in the Congressional delegation, and given the huge conservative swath of territory in the eastern part of the state, it is difficult to see how the Democrats can move to 5-0.
And even if Gregoire defeats Republican Dino Rossi in Washington state’s governor’s race, a bipartisan commission draws the House boundaries, which means that there can be no new redistricting until after the 2010 Census.
Two states that had been in Democratic hands following the 2002 elections — Oklahoma and New Mexico — had considered re-redistricting as Republicans in Texas and Colorado redrew their Congressional lines. Ironically, both were places where Democratic lawmakers from Texas sought refuge to foil quorum calls during the redistricting debate there in 2003.
But there will be no re-redistricting in Oklahoma in 2005: the House fell into Republican hands on Election Day. And in New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has so far resisted calls from state and national Democratic leaders to reconfigure the state’s three House districts.
Moreover, New Mexico state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D) — who ran twice unsuccessfully against Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and had promoted re-redistricting in his own self-interest — is leaving the Legislature at the end of the year. His successor as Senate leader hasn’t been chosen yet, so it is unclear whether that person will favor another look at redistricting.
Perhaps more than anything, though, the advancing calendar decreases the likelihood of more redistricting.
“We’re moving into ’05,” Storey said. “We’re halfway through the decade. The next redistricting isn’t all that far off.”