June 28, 2006

The long-awaited decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Tom Delay gerrymander is out, and it's a split decision (literally: it was 5-4, with something like six different opinions). A couple of the districts will have to be redrawn on Voting Rights Act grounds, which may help the Democrats pick up a seat, but the principal of mid-term reapportionment was sustained by the Court. This could be super good news for the Democrats over the long run, since legislative districts can now be redrawn everytime the party captures the governorship and state legislature in a state. Rather than waiting until the next census, the party can rely on any big year at the ballot box to make changes (ie., Ohio in 2006, anyone?).

UPDATE: A more pessimistic view of the decision is here. Certainly, in states where Democrats now have control of the state government, like Illinois, creating even more Democratic districts will be tough, because of the Voting Rights Act. While that constrains the party from encouraging immediate reapportionment, the key will be how well Democrats do in statewide races in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio, where the Republicans have a decided partisan edge in House membership even though the states are split down the middle between the parties. Should the Democrats capture the governorship and the legislature in just one of those states, since today's ruling gives a stamp of approval for the redrawing of districts as early as next year, it would wipe out much of the current GOP edge in the House.

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