Governors and Gerrymandering: Update

Democratic governors in seven “red” states, and Republicans in two “blue” ones, will help insulate 81 likely Congressional seats from gerrymandering after 2020. Redistricting for another 61 seats will likely remain entirely in Republican hands compared to just seven seats in states with unified Democratic control.

Yesterday’s election helped limit potential gerrymandering after the 2020 Census in a half-dozen states but not, unfortunately, in the largest prizes.  Democrats appear to have failed in their bids to win the gubernatorial elections in Florida, Georgia, and Ohio, and in all three states Republicans maintained their control over the state legislatures as well.  Barring Democratic legislative victories, all three of those states will remain prospects for Republican gerrymanders in 2021.

Democrats did win or retain the governorships in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and will likely face either Republican or split legislatures when redistricting maps are redrawn after 2020.  Together those states will probably encompass 64 Congressional districts after reapportionment.  Two states, Maryland and Massachusetts, with a likely total of seventeen seats, will see Republican governors facing off against Democratic legislatures in 2021.  I would not be surprised to see a new Republican representative sent to Washington after the 2020 Census from both these states which now have uniformly Democratic Congressional delegations.

Because the Democrats failed to win the governors’ races in Florida, Georgia, and Ohio, all three states will be prime targets for Republican gerrymanders in 2021.  (Iowa, with its four Members of Congress, matters much less.)  Ohio and Florida accounted for three to five “excess” Republican seats after the 2010 Census, and Georgia may have added another.  Because the Democrats fared less well in these larger states, the GOP will be drawing district lines for 61 of the 149 seats in “trifecta” states where they control both the governor’s mansion and the two houses of the state legislature.


1Both Michigan and New York appeared in the earlier version of this chart.  However both states will be using nonpartisan redistricting commissions in 2021 and have been excluded from the analysis here.

Governors and Gerrymanders in 2021

Elections this fall may limit the extent of gerrymandering for some 200 House seats after the 2020 Census.

Americans will elect thirty-four governors to four-year terms this fall, giving them all a say in how their states’ Congressional and legislative districts will be drawn after the 2020 Census.1

In 2010, Republicans took control of many state legislatures and governors’ offices, which offered them the opportunity to draw district maps that favored their party. During 2011-2012 when those maps were drawn, Republicans controlled both the executive and legislative branches in nineteen states and appear to have won fourteen percent more House elections in those states than we might expect based on historical data.  Democrats controlled just eight states and won four percent more seats than expected.  In thirteen states partisan control was split between the branches, and there the partisanship of the governor appears to have been the controlling factor. In split control settings, the governor’s party won about six percent more House seats after 2010 than expected.

The election in November has the potential for influencing how dozens of Congressional district lines will be drawn in the aftermath of the 2020 Census.  In a number of states Democrats are poised to break the Republicans’ lock on control of government by taking back the governor’s mansion.

I have categorized the governors’ races by their competitiveness using the most recent ratings for those races as compiled at Wikipedia.  Since the next redistricting will involve the results of the 2020 Census, I have used state-level population projections to estimate the number of seats each state will be awarded after reapportionment.  Most states’ representation in Congress will not change, but a few states like Texas are projected to add seats, while Rhode Island may lose one of its two representatives in the House.  Forecasting the results of state legislative races this fall, and more importantly two years hence, is obviously a dicey proposition.  I have instead assumed that all legislatures will be controlled by the same parties that control them now.  Based on these data I estimate that redistricting for some 188 seats, or 43 percent of the House, may be affected by the results of this year’s gubernatorial elections.

An “S” (“split”) code in the legislative column indicates that the two houses of the state legislature are held by different parties.

The first two columns of this table present the likely outcome of this fall’s race for governor in each of these states.  The “Consensus Rating” is based on translating each prognosticator’s ratings like “Safe Republican” or “Likely Democrat” into a numerical score and averaging them.  I also present the most recent ratings for each race from the well-known site,

In these more competitive states Democratic candidates for governor appear to be well-positioned to win back these offices from the Republicans.  Only in Massachusetts and Maryland are we likely to see Republican governors winning re-election while their states’ legislatures remain in Democratic hands.  In ten states from Georgia to Michigan to New Mexico, Democratic candidates are poised to oust Republican governors even if their states’ legislatures do not change hands.  As my results from the post-2010 redistricting showed, governors appear to have most of the clout in redistricting battles, reducing the chances of gerrymandering in places like Michigan, Ohio and Florida, all of which had an “excess” number of Republican seats beginning with the 2012 election.




1Governors in New Hampshire and Vermont serve two-year terms.