KEY POINTS OF THIS ARTICLE
– As we enter a once-a-decade redistricting cycle, we look at which states have a party that currently outperforms its House delegation compared to that party’s share of the presidential vote of 2020.
– Overall, the Republican Party has outperformed 19 medium- to large-size states significantly, compared to 11 for Democrats. However, the total number of excess seats for each party in these states is roughly in balance, although Republicans have a slight advantage: 32 for the Republican Party, 28 for Democrats.
– The top three sources of excess seats for the Republican Party today, Texas, Ohio and Florida, could provide additional excess seats in the next round of redistricting, given that each state has unified Republican control of the government state. Democrats’ options for additional seats are more limited because many of their largest sources of surplus seats have a commission system for redistricting.
Presidential vote versus representation in the House
As the political world plunges into a frenzied redistricting process once every decade, it seemed like a good time to see which states currently bless a party with a disproportionate share of U.S. House seats and yes, at the national level, one party has benefited. of these spare seats more than the other.
The “excess” of seats for a party may be due to manipulation, but it is not necessary. The vagaries of how a state’s population is distributed can make it difficult to draw districts in precise alignment with the general party balance in that state. But the way the lines are drawn can make a difference, at least on the margins.
We begin our analysis by calculating the percentage of seats currently held by each party in each state (the “real” breakdown), along with the percentage won by Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the 2020 election (the “ideal” breakdown). The 2020 presidential race is not the only metric we could have used to determine baseline partisanship for each state, but it is the simplest.
Next, we subtract the “ideal” percentage of seats from the “real” percentage of seats and then multiply this percentage by the total number of seats in the state congressional delegation. The result of this calculation was the number of “excess” seats a party holds today beyond its share of the presidential vote in 2020.
(Some technical notes: We ignore the 15 states with only one, two or three seats in the House, because such small states would distort the comparison. We also assume that the currently vacant seats in the House will be filled by members of the same party on a special time. elections are held. And we do not take into account pending expansions or contractions in state delegations due to redistribution).
So what do we find? These are the states where Republicans are currently doing better in House seats than their share of the 2020 presidential vote would indicate.
Table 1: States Where Republicans Do Best in House
Together, these 19 states gave Republicans 32.4 seats beyond their presidential tenure. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump won 17 of these 19 states, and the two that weren’t, Georgia and Wisconsin, were decided by less than one percentage point in 2020. Even more surprising, all 19 have Republican-controlled legislatures.
Some of the most impressive top GOP performances come from relatively small states. The party has squeezed additional seats in states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah, states that have just four to seven House seats in total. However, there are no seats left in the House of Representatives in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Utah and only one Democratic seat remains in South Carolina, a seat that is protected by the Voting Rights Act. So in these states, the Republican Party has essentially maxed out excess seats (Democrats won an additional seat each in three of these four states in 2018 – Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah – showing the risks to one party. dominant to spread its voters too thin on its congressional map. But Republicans regained these seats in 2020).
But the top three generators of excess seats for the Republican Party, Texas, Ohio and Florida, will be closely watched during this redistricting cycle for possible additional Republican gains. In Texas, Republicans control the governorship and the legislature, and in the past, the party has not been afraid to draw aggressive maps (as the Texas Democrats did when they were in control decades ago). Republicans also control the governorship and the legislature in Ohio and Florida, although citizen-initiated changes and restrictions on redistricting processes in both states could serve to curb some of the partisan advantage.
What about the states where Democrats are outperforming their presidential performance in the House? Here is the list:
Table 2: States where Democrats outperform the House
Here, we primarily see a list of solidly blue states – each of these 11 states backed Biden in 2020, and they all have Democratic legislatures.
While Democrats have 11 states that produce a notable excess of seats for their party, compared to 19 for Republicans, their total number of excess seats ended up fairly close to what the Republican Party got: 28.1 excess seats. . Rounded out, that’s a 32-28 lead for the GOP in spare seats. If it weren’t for the extremely narrow margin in the House today, that would be almost a rounding error in a 435-member House.
The biggest push from Democrats came from the nation’s most populous state: California currently gives Democrats 8.4 seats in excess. Ironically, the districts were selected by a nonpartisan commission rather than by a partisan legislature. Even more impressive, the number of excess seats for Democrats in California was actually higher before the 2020 election cycle, when the Republican Party managed to change four seats in California.
By contrast, the state that gives Republicans their biggest extra seat advantage offers only half the seats as California – Texas, with 4.3 seats in excess for the Republican Party.
Heading into the current round of redistricting, Democrats ‘options for increasing excess seats are more limited than Republicans’ options. The states of California, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington have commissions of one kind or another, while Massachusetts and Connecticut already have fully Democratic delegations. The states with the greatest potential for additional seats for Democrats are Illinois and New York.
Finally, there are five states where the partisan breakdown of House seats is roughly in balance with the division of the presidential vote in 2020. They are Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Perhaps appropriately, three of these five states were also central battlegrounds in the 2020 presidential race: Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
These states are not the most obvious places to look for excess additional seats in the next round of redistricting. In Arizona, Colorado and Michigan, the commissions will mark the boundaries (the first draft of the Colorado map came out a couple of weeks ago). Minnesota, meanwhile, has a Democratic governor and a divided legislature; Pennsylvania also has a divided state government, as well as a Democratic-majority state Supreme Court that already released a map in the middle of the decade.
Here’s another way of looking at patterns of excess seats in the House: There are very few states where the losing presidential party has secured any excess seats. The Republican Party has about one excess seat in Wisconsin and Georgia; Biden won both, but both states voted for Trump in 2016 and were on the razor’s edge in the 2020 presidential election.
In other words, the pattern of excess seats is another indication of how unified each state has become, up and down the ballot.
|Louis Jacobson is a senior columnist for Sabato’s crystal ball. He is also the lead correspondent for the PolitiFact fact-checking website and is the lead author of the American Policy Almanac 2022, what can I buy here. He was lead author of the 2016, 2018 and 2020 editions of the Almanac and a contributor to the 2000 and 2004 editions.|