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Analysis

We Don’t Know Who Will Win the House. That’s Because the Maps Are Rigged

Thanks to extreme gerrymandering, the midterms won’t reflect the voice of the people

November 4, 2018

With one day to go before the midterm elections, Democrats have a clear edge in the race for control of the House of Representatives, but they're far from a lock. That's despite the substantial polling lead they've held for months on the generic congressional ballot.

The reason the result is still as uncertain as it is: extreme Republican gerrymandering in multiple states, which means Democrats could fall short of a House majority even while comfortably winning the popular vote, thwarting the will of voters and undermining democracy. That was the outcome in 2012, when Republicans won a decisive 234-201 House majority despite receiving 1.4 million fewer votes

Extreme gerrymandering gives one party an unfair election advantage

Democrats would likely need to win the nationwide congressional vote by a significant margin to be favored to win even a bare majority of House seats. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved such a large margin of victory in decades. And even if Democrats do win a majority in 2018, maps engineered against them will make it hard to hold many of those seats in 2020.

The Brennan Center, in partnership with Development Seed, created an interactive map that visualizes the potential impact of gerrymandering on the 2018 election. The map shows how the projected share of Congressional seats increases or decreases depending on the distribution of the popular vote.

Extreme gerrymandering is a key driving force behind the wide disparity between the popular vote and congressional representation. The current congressional maps were last redrawn en masse after the 2010 elections, which gave Republicans unified control of a number of key states, including Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Using piles of voter data and sophisticated software, the GOP drew maps in these states and others that gave them a substantial edge. 

Regardless of the midterm outcome, we must sound the alarm on extreme gerrymandering

Even if Democrats do win a House majority Tuesday, they may well end up with fewer seats than they would under fairer maps. So whatever the results, extreme gerrymandering will continue distorting our elections until we make it a thing of the past.

(Image: Mark Wilson/Getty)