Every ten years since 1790, the federal government has
undertaken the enormous task of counting every person in the country as part
of a requirement in the Constitution. These figures – used by businesses
and demographic experts – help to determine federal contracts and aid. The
original intent of a national census, however, was to assess changes in the
population for equal representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The census conducted in 2000 will be used to determine the number of House
seats that each state is assigned; this is known as reapportionment. Each
state must then redraw all of its congressional districts based on
population shifts in a process known as redistricting.
With nearly all House districts being redrawn, the political landscape for
the 108th Congress is unclear. Below is an assessment of the
reapportionment and redistricting that will occur before the 2002 federal
elections get started.
The Census and Sampling
The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed the American people on April 1, 2000.
Millions of questionnaires were mailed and thousands of counters canvassed
the country. The final numbers of the census count, and the official number
of representatives each state will receive, will be released from March to
While the vast majority of Americans were counted accurately, many people
and groups were missed or undercounted. People of color, people living in
poverty and transient persons were the most challenging to capture. Some
Democratic members of Congress proposed a sampling process to estimate the
extent to which these constituencies were not represented and most
Republicans favored numbers garnered from a hard count only.
While the final state numbers are forthcoming, it appears that the following
states will lose House seats: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Mississippi, New York (2), Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (2) and Wisconsin.
States that stand to gain include: Arizona (2), California, Colorado,
Florida (2), Georgia (2), Nevada, North Carolina and Texas (2).
The movement of these seats in Congress is consistent with that of the last
200 years, as Americans move West and to the Sun Belt.
To determine these numbers, each state gets one representative, then the
remaining 385 are split among the states based on new population figures.
Most districts will be roughly equal in population; the figure for the 1990s
was around 640,000 to 660,000. Small states regardless of size,
are ensured one representative.
Redrawing federal and state legislative lines is generally a responsibility
left to the state legislatures, and many do it differently. For federal
lines, seven states will have only one delegate making these decisions:
Vermont, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, North and South Dakota. Seven
states – Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, Connecticut and New
Jersey – employ an independent commission. The remaining 36 are mapped by
the legislatures. Each district is required to be nearly equal in
population and must be contiguous and remain as compact as possible.
In 1991 and 1992, new Justice Department regulations required states to
attempt to bolster the representation of minorities by concentrating
constituencies in one district. A series of court cases since then has
determined that race may not be a deciding factor in drawing lines, but can
be considered. Political parties, communities and incumbency protection can
also be factored.
Most states will roll out their plans for districts over the next year; some
will work into next year. The goals will be to allow time for candidates
and voters to know their districts well before the state primaries. States
with early congressional primaries, therefore, will be required to produce
maps earlier than those that normally have primaries in August or September.
The Justice Department requires 16 states to submit their plans to the
department for approval because their maps in the past did not meet its
requirements. These shortcomings were mostly based on race and occurred
mostly in the southern states.
The Gay District
Some in the gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgender community have expressed
interest in creating a majority-minority district that would create a gay
majority in a given place. This plan is difficult because it would require
finding nearly 400,000 GLBT persons in an area that is compact and
contiguous. Further, it is also not likely to be looked upon favorably by
map drawers or the Justice Department because data used in drawing maps is
derived from the census, which has never included a question regarding
sexual orientation on its surveys.
Scenarios for Select States
While the new numbers and new lines have yet to be announced or implemented,
one thing is certain: Redistricting will produce a dramatic increase in
marginal and vulnerable incumbents, both early and late in the cycle. At
their time of need – even if it is a perceived need, or does not come to
fruition – incumbent members of Congress will come to their supporters,
including the Human Rights Campaign, to ask for help. Like other political
action committees, HRC will be expected to increase its contributions to
most of its friends.
Here are several examples of what might happen following redistricting. It
is important to remember, however, that these decisions have not yet been
made and are therefore subject to change.
Long known as a GOP stronghold, Arizona’s current delegation consists of
five Republicans and one Democrat. Control of redistricting, however, was
taken out of the hands of the all-GOP House/Senate/governor by the voters on
Nov. 7, 2000, and handed over to an independent commission that will have
two Republicans and two Democrats elect the final member of the committee,
who must be an independent. One or both of these new districts may be drawn
to have a Democratic majority of voters; if so, the state’s delegation may
end up with a 5-3 or 6-2 Republican advantage.
After gaining seven seats in the 1990s reapportionment, California will get
only one new seat this time, due to slower growth as a result of a recession
in the early 1990s. Also new for this cycle is an all-Democratic lineup of
the governor, the Senate and the Assembly. Because Democrats picked up four
seats in the 2000 election, the first priority of map drawers is likely to
protect these new Democratic incumbents – Mike Honda, Jane Harman, Susan
Davis and Adam Schiff – all of whom HRC supported in 2000. A new
Hispanic-majority district may also be created in the Los Angeles area,
which had the most relative growth in the state. Democratic mapmakers could
attempt to shift precincts around in the 53 districts to force some marginal
Republican seats into pick-up opportunities for Democrats.
Republican Gov. Jeb Bush has a solid GOP majority in both the Senate and
House in Florida, and is likely to ensure that the party retains a majority
of the congressional delegation. Currently, Democrats hold eight seats in
Florida while the Republicans have 15 seats. The two new seats that Florida
is likely to be allotted could easily be drawn for Republicans in the
fast-growing Orlando area or in South Florida. Republicans could also focus
on adding GOP precincts to districts held by Democratic Rep. Jim Davis, 11th
Congressional District, and/or HRC Democratic endorsee Karen Thurman, 5th
Congressional District, making both re-elections more difficult than in
In 1990, the Georgia congressional delegation consisted of nine Democrats
and one Republican, Newt Gingrich. The post -1990 redistricting and the
elections of 1992 brought one new seat, and therefore, eleven new districts,
represented today by eight Republicans and three Democrats. The governor
and both chambers of the legislature now are controlled by Democrats, who
may choose to draw lines in a way that may add more Democrats to the
Democrats control both legislative chambers and the statehouse but only four
of the state’s eight districts. To add to their strength, they may choose
to add more Democrats to the Montgomery County-based 8th District, in an
attempt to oust Republican Rep. Connie Morella, an HRC ally who had a
tougher than expected re-election in 2000. The district was drawn to favor
a Democrat but Morella has been able to win with a moderate voting record.
Democratic Reps. David Bonior, 10th Congressional District, and Sandy Levin,
12th Congressional District, have been re-elected several times to the
House from marginal, conservative precincts in Macomb County. Both could be
in jeopardy as the all-GOP lineup focuses on pickups – which could total two
or three seats. If Bonior decides to run for governor, mapmakers could
combine these two districts into one, which may still be marginal for Levin.
In the upstate part of Michigan, Democratic Reps. Jim Barcia, 5th
Congressional District and Bart Stupak, 1st District, hold marginal seats
that could be loaded with additional Republican voters.
An HRC ally, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, 1st Congressional District,
also faces an uncertain future. A third of Nevada residents did not live
there in 1990, and public officials are constantly pressed to introduce
themselves to their own constituents. Nevada picks up one seat and in the
split-controlled Nevada legislature, the shift of a few precincts from
Berkley’s 1st district to the new district could damage the lawmaker’s
prospects for re-election and require her to raise more money and run a
tough campaign, following the two difficult races she won in 1998 and 2000.
In the 2000 cycle, HRC supported 17 of the 20 members of Congress who
represent greater New York City, including two Republicans. Because New
York is slated to lose two seats, it is likely that one will come from
upstate New York while the other will be extracted from Metro New York. At
first glance, the three incumbents, all Republicans, that HRC has not yet
supported seem relatively safe in their districts: Vito Fossella, in a
Staten Island-based district, Felix Grucci, in the eastern end of Long
Island, and Peter King, representing much of Nassau County. What is left is
a game of political musical chairs, where there will be fewer seats in
Congress than members of Congress. Some senior members, such as Charlie
Rangel, is a ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, are
certain to be protected. Sophomore members such as Reps. Joe Crowley and
Anthony Weiner will be less likely to be protected.
The Keystone State stands to lose two of its 21 seats in reapportionment,
dealing a significant blow to a state that has had its delegation shrink
continuously for many years. As the GOP took control of the Pennsylvania
House in the 2000 elections, the redistricting process is entirely in the
hands of the Republicans this cycle. Many speculate that map drawers could
add additional GOP precincts to the Montgomery County-based 13th District,
possibly weakening HRC Democratic ally Rep. Joe Hoeffel’s re-election
prospects. Two Democratic-leaning seats currently held by Republicans could
also benefit with more GOP voters in the western part of the state – where
Reps. Phil English and Melissa Hart call home.
The threat to real friends is also quite real. In Utah, for example, the
GOP-controlled legislature could easily redraw a map that would make
re-election quite difficult for Rep. Jim Matheson a Democrat in the 2nd
Congressional District, whom HRC endorsed in 2000. In a state where Gore
received just 26 percent of the vote, and the Democratic nominee for Senate
garnered just 32 percent, the GOP could carve the three Utah districts into
Republican leaning districts, thus making Matheson even more vulnerable than
he is today. In the 1992 redistricting, many Democratic neighborhoods were
cut from the 2nd Congressional District in an attempt to damage then-Rep.
Wayne Owens’ prospects for re-election.
Losing one of its nine seats, the axe is likely to fall in the Milwaukee
area, where Democratic Reps. Tom Barrett, 5th Congressional District, and
Jerry Kleczka, 4th District, calls home. These Democratic districts could
shrink to one – leaving it quite safe – and the surrounding GOP seats to be
more marginal, though not significantly. Barrett is mentioned often as a
gubernatorial candidate, and is more likely to run if his seat is carved
out. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from the 2nd Congressional District,
will have to pick up more population, which could come from conservative
rural areas, Democratic precincts in Janesville or other industrial towns.
If Madison is split into two seats, Baldwin’s core base would be diluted,
and could be a concern for her. Democrats that control the Senate will
balance the GOP governor and House.
To account for the ever-changing face of America, and its growing and
transient population, new lines will be drawn for all federal and state
legislative districts in time for the 2002 elections. The process is
partisan and likely to produce significant changes in the makeup of the next
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