The Census 2010 results ushered in lots of talk of the changing makeup of U.S. cities and states. The census was not only a conversation piece for the American people, but for the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives as well. The districts they represent, in some cases, will be redrawn as a result of population gains or losses in their areas.
The redistricting process will be quite interesting in California and Florida, in particular. Both states have some of the highest populations in the country. They are made up of diverse and growing groups of voters, particularly Latinos. Since Congressional representation is based on population, both states send a fair amount of representatives to Congress every two years.
Now, U.S. representatives in both states will face non-partisan commissions or lawmakers who will no longer be allowed to consider popular factors, such as where the legislator lives, when drawing the new districts. The change has lawmakers uneasy because their districts are no longer as safe as they once were. Even Republicans, who currently have a majority in Congress and many statehouses face a loss of seats if they are assigned to voters who may have differing political views.
In California, voters passed a law in 2008 and an amendment in 2009 that established a 14-member commission to do what state lawmakers used to when they redrew Congressional districts. The group is made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four Independents. In addition to federal level seats, the commission also draws state Assembly and Senate seats.
Florida’s Congressional districts are still drawn by state legislators, but they are not allowed to consider partisan factors, such as keeping districts “safe” for incumbents when drawing new lines. This is where uneasiness can take off because legislators will be faced with the possibility of adding or removing thousands of voters who could make or break their elections every two years.
Redistricting is a major issue for not only the country, but African-Americans in particular. Redrawn districts could weaken the black voice in Congress, as traditionally ethnic communities become represented solely by majority interests. To add to this problem, African-Americans have not had a population boom since the last census was taken in 2000 and total number of people determine how many representative a state gets.
Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about their prospects for keeping their districts moving forward. There is a greater push for fairness in the creation of districts that has led to the development of independent commissions, such as the one in California. Lawmakers in some states have long complained of gerrymandering by state legislators, a technique used to draw districts in a specific way to keep them either solidly Republican or Democratic.
Whatever the outcome, many Americans can expect their Congressional districts to look different. The fight will continue all the way to the ballot box in November 2012 when lawmakers in newly-drawn districts will see just how receptive voters are to their policies.