Both in terms of time and in terms of the number of states, we are just past the mid-point of the release of redistricting data by the census. By the end of this month, we will have the data for all 50 states, and the discussion about redistricting will move from the theoretical — how could we draw the districts — to the practical — what are the 50 (actually 43, since 7 states only have one representative) states doing in terms of drawing the lines and in which states could there be a viable voting rights challenge to the lines.
First off this week, Delaware and Wyoming. Both states grew a little faster than the rest of the country this past decade. That doesn’t change the fact that Wyoming is still smaller than the average House District, and, while Delaware may be one of the bigger districts, it is still about 200,000 short of being large enough to get a second seat. That means that the only issue in both states will be legislative lines.
Next up is Nebraska. Half of the population in the state is contained within three counties — Douglas (Omaha), Sarpy (the southern suburbs of Omaha), and Lancaster (Lincoln and the Univesity of Nebraska). All three counties (and some surrounding counties) grew during the past decade. Outside of the counties in close proximity to these counties, most of the rest of the state lost population. As a result, the second district (comprised of Douglas and part of Sarpy) is about 20,000 people to big. Technically, Nebraska could barely get away with leaving the Second intact without falling afoul of one man, one vote. Nebraska’s problem is the Third Diststrict (covering the western three-quarters of the state) which is about 46,000 people short. Some of the people from the First (covering the remainder of Eastern Nebraska) will have to go to the Third. The bottom line is some minor shifting on the edge (maybe around the Sioux City suburbs) to the Third, and maybe some parts of Sarpy County to the First. Whether or not that will make the Second a little bit more competitive, I can’t tell.
Like Nebraska, Kansas stayed constant in terms of the number of seats (but has four to Nebraska’s three). Like Nebraska, except for some isolated pockets, most of the growth occurred near the major urban centers. In Kansas, that means the Topeka-Lawrence-KC suburbs in the east and Wichita in the South. Right now Republicans control all four seats, but the Democrats did manage to pull some wins in the Second District (Topeka and most of Eastern Kansas) and the Third District (the KC suburbs and Lawrence) in the last decade, and — given the national tide — actually did respectable in the Fourth in 2010 (Wichita and Southern Kansas). Given the hollowing out of rural Kansas, the First District (western and central Kansas) is around 60,000 people short of where it should be. Currently, the Second and the Fourth are within 6,000 of where they should be, but since those are the two districts which actually border the First. They both could be asked to give up some. The easier line drawing would be to keep the Fourth intact (or at most give up there slight excess — Harvey County would do the trick) and make most of the changes in the Second. The Third, on the other hand is about 53,000 over the target number. The bad news for Democrats is that Wyandotte and Johnson County (the immediate KC suburbs) are just about perfect for a district (only 14,000 short of the target, making it within the allowable variance). Democrats would probably prefer keeping Douglas and getting rid of the southern part of Johnson County (which has some theocratic leanings). In the 2010 Senate Race, the Democratic candidate won Wyandotte and Douglas while losing Johnson by around 2-1. However as Johnson is the largest county in Kansas, its going to be difficult to split up Johnson.
That leaves North Carolina, the biggest of the five states this week with 13 seats. North Carolina’s problem for several cycles has been that it has just enough minority population to have Voting Rights Act issues, but the minority population centers are too far apart and not quite large enough to make drawing districts easy.
Population shifts are going to cause major problems, even though the number of seats stayed the same. Several seats are clearly outside the allowable variance from the target size. The First District (a Democratic seat in the northeast) is about 100,000 people too small. The Fourth District (a Democratic seat comprising Durham and Chapel Hill) is about 80,000 too big. The Fifth District (a Republican seat in the northwest) is about 50,000 too small. The Sixth District (a Republican seat in the center of the state, just west of the Researh Triangle) is around 30,000 too small. The Eighth District (a Democratic seat in the southern part of the state to the east of Charlotte) is around 30,000 too small. The Ninth District (a Republican seat in the southern part of the state to the west of Charlotte) is about 110,000 too big. The Tenth District (a Republican held seat in the western part of the state) is about 50,000 too small. The Eleventh Disrict (Heath Shuler’s seat in the southwestern part of the state) is about 40,000 too small. The remaining seats are within 15,000 of target.
Heath Shuler’s seat is the big challenge in redrawing the lines. It has to take voters from the Tenth District (which will then have to take voters from the Ninth). Other than the Eleventh, most of the changes will be moving voters from one safe district to another safe district for the same party. (e.g. from the Fourth to the Thirteenth and Twelfth and from the Thirteenth (and Second) and Twelfth (and Seventh) to the First and Eighth.
Next week, there are some big states on tap. The next seven days will see the release of the data from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. With states like California and Pennsylvania with large urban areas comprising multiple district, my discussion will be limited to roughing how many seats the urban areas are due. I will leave to the locals (like DocJess for Philadelphia) to fill-in what might happen within those urban areas.
Besides the huge number of seats in California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the other interesting story from the number will be Hispanic voters, espeically in Arizona and California. While this week’s releases continued the national trend of major growth in the Hispanic population, none of them (except for North Carolina with African-American voters primarily) have enough minority voters to bring the Voting Rights Act into play. While North Carolina now has enough Hispanic residents for that ethnic group to be a potential Voting Rights issue, the numbers appear to be dispersed enough to not make it an immediate issue. However, it could be an issue in North Carolina by 2020 if the trends continue.