It may not be so easy this time

By Adam Roberts

FOCUS ONLY on elections and you risk missing how, once in a decade, decisions are made that greatly influence who gets to hold power in America. In the year after the 2020 census it is up to states—either through their legislatures or through special commissions—to redraw voting districts to adjust for population change. Where politicians or their appointees oversee this, they get a chance to gerrymander. By drawing lines craftily, such as by concentrating their own likely voters and dividing those of their opponents, they can lock in a partisan advantage that endures for ten years.

Last time around, Republican strategists did so skilfully. Democrats, clobbered by the Tea Party wave, did badly in elections for state legislatures and governors in 2010. Republicans won those easily in Midwestern swing states, such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, then got to decide on redistricting the following year. The result: such states have become some of the most grossly gerrymandered. In Wisconsin, for example, even if Democrats won 54% of the votes cast in legislative elections, Republicans could still expect to enjoy a nine-seat majority in the state assembly.

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