How Republican Gerrymandering Backfired in 2018

Republicans don’t seem to realize that gerrymandering legislative districts can backfire. What looks like a reliably Republican district now may not be that way in a few years. This is especially true in suburban and exurban areas where people are constantly moving in from urban areas, and the populations are growing.

Not only do populations grow but the demographics change. Many of “reliably Republican” voters from previous years have now passed away. They have been replaced by younger voters with different political views. And these younger voters are more likely to be racially diverse as well.

Although they didn’t know it before Tuesday’s elections, many Republicans have now learned that legislative districts can radically change over a period of just a view years. And they have learned that gerrymandering can backfire.

A case in point is Dallas County, Texas, where the state GOP had implemented very severe gerrymandering after the 2010 census. According to The Texas Tribune:

“Amid their zeal for control, Republicans in 2011 opted for keeping their numbers up in the county and dismissed the possibility of creating a district with a black and Hispanic majority that could’ve made their seats safer in a Democratic wave election”

“Going into Election Day, Republicans held seven of the 14 House seats in Dallas County. But a collapse of the Republican-leaning redistricting scheme has left them with just two seats — and even those were won by narrow margins.”

Michael Li, a redistricting expert with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University had this to say about the Dallas County experience:

“The lesson is you can get too clever in gerrymandering,” Li said.

According to The Tribune:

The Republican control of Dallas County seems to have buckled under the combined pressure of increased Democratic turnout and nearly a decade of population growth that’s further diminished the county’s white population.”

Jose Garza, a voting rights lawyer who helped challenge the GOP’s gerrymandered district map, said that in wave elections past voting patterns don’t predict current voting behavior. This means that a 55% GOP district may turn into a district where only 48% of the voters support Republican candidates.

“Republicans shaved those things off a little too close because they got greedy,” Garza said.

Here is the factual situation that Republicans were not prepared for:

“The Republican losses in Dallas County are as much a product of the 2018 blue wave as they are of 2011 redistricting, when the GOP was forced to confront a politically inconvenient demographic reality. The 2010 census showed that people of color, who tend to support Democrats, were behind all of Dallas County’s growth in the last decade. Meanwhile, the county’s white population decreased by more than 198,000 people.”

The 2018 midterm elections showed that not only are urban voting districts almost completely Democratic, but suburban voting districts are rapidly becoming the same way. Most of the population growth in the United States takes place in metropolitan areas.

The harsh truth for Republicans who have gerrymandered their way to political power is that The Times They Are A’Changing.” The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives proves the point. Eventually gerrymandering backfires and now Republicans find themselves the minority party in the House, just as they are the minority party in the United States.

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