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Should Dems Play Redistricting Hardball?

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding most of DeLay's redistricting scam, WaPo's Charles Babington assesses the Democrats' opportunity and willingness to pursue a more aggressive redistricting strategy of their own. Babington's article, "Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas's Redistricting," says that the list of states where a stronger Dem reapportionment strategy is feasable is "remarkably short":

Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.

The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas's: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane's impact.

However, the balance of power in the states could change significantly in November if the Dems pick up a few key state legislatures and governorships, opening up fresh redistricting opportunities. (For a map depicting which states have both of their state legislatures controlled by the Dems or GOP, click here.) More disturbing is that the Democratic will to play redistricting hardball may not be there, according to Babington. He quotes DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel describing the response to his efforts to get some pro-Democratic redistricting in the states: "I couldn't get enough fellow Democrats to see the benefits of that." Babington cites similar reluctance on the part of Democratic leaders in other states.

The SCOTUS decision serves notice that the rules of redistricting have changed. We can be sure only that the Republicans will not hesitate to ruthlessly exploit every possible chance to tweak reapportionment maps in their favor in the years ahead, and their Texas pick-ups could be replicated in several other states. If Democrats don't respond with equal fervor, securing and retaining a stable majority of congress is unlikely.

For a comprehesive guide to the redistricting methods of the 50 states, click here, and then select states in the left-hand column.