Gerrymandering: Why did the GOP win the Senate but not the House?

I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. The Republican control of State legislatures in 2010 let them hijack the census and use computers to create hyper-gerrymandered districts to a degree that was never possible before, which is responsible for their recent run of electoral success. In reality, these explanations say, Democrats are a nationwide majority, but they are handicapped in district elections, requiring them to have 10%+ majorities to win these heavily gerrymandered districts.

If so, how did Democrats win the House? Are we to believe they’d have won significantly more seats than they did, if not stymied by Republican gerrymandering? Okay, but why did the GOP win in the Senate, where gerrymandering is not an issue?

Gerrymandering is baked in at the national level. Instead of carving up House districts in ways that will favor one party of the other, we have smaller states, where Republicans dominate, able to outnumber the more populous ones, which generally favor Dems. In the Senate the two Dakotas and their 1.4 million citizens account for twice as many Senators as California’s 36 million.

A party can control the Senate, the nation’s highest legislative body, with states representing about 30% of the electorate, if they’re the right states. I’m not cool with this at all but the people of this country mostly seem to be.

There’s an unofficial sort of natural gerrymandering that happens with the Senate, because Democrats tend to concentrate themselves in a few highly populated states such as Illinois, California and New York, whereas Republicans are widely dispersed in rural, low-population states like Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, the Dakotas, etc.

So this packs Democrats into states that add up to few Senators while Republicans spread themselves broadly and collect a lot more Senate seats.

Of course, there are a few Democratic states that achieve the same effect - Delaware, Rhode Island, etc. But not as much as Republicans do in the Midwest.

The main reason the senate didn’t feel the blue wave has to do with the fact that senators have 6 year terms. As a result, unlike the house, on any given election, 2/3 of the senate isn’t up for change. Out of the starting gate, the Republicans had a 42 to 23 advantage before a single vote was cast with Democrats having to defend 26 seats vs only 9 from the Republicans, and many of those Dems are in Republican leaning states. With such an uneven map it was difficult for Dems to maintain the status quo (which would require them to win more than 2/3 of the senate elections) much less take the senate.

Fortunately for the Dems, the reverse is true for the next two cycles.

If Democrats would disperse themselves so that they moved en masse from California and New York into low-population states like Wyoming, they would totally reshape the political landscape, but they don’t want to do that.

Gerrymandering, with the advent of sophisticated computer programs, has become less of the art form that it was in the past an more of a science. But there’s still a trade-off between the number of seats you can obtain and the safety factor of said seats. If you want to maximize your short term power you can do so by reducing the margin needed to obtain the seats but you sacrifice surety of holding them in case of a wave election. A smaller number of seats could be made waveproof , but then you’ve only got a smaller number of seats.

Exactly. The GOP was very lucky this time around due to the 1/3 Senate vote every 2 years.

Successful gerrymandering means that your party wins a lot of seats by thin margins in each one, while losing a few seats by very large margins. This means that, if there’s a larger shift to your opposition than you anticipated before you have a chance to draw new maps to compensate, your opponents can flip all of those thin-margin seats at once. By contrast, in a more natural districting, you’d have some seats where your party has a large margin, some where the margin is close one way or the other, and some where the other party has a large margin, and so when there’s a shift, it’s only the few close seats that switch.

So that’s how the Democrats were able to take the House so strongly, this year.

As to why the Senate stayed Republican at the same time, it’s mostly because of the six-year terms, as others have said.

these days many tech jobs are work at home and you can live where you choose. Even with that a lot of people are not real fond of living in rural areas in red states if they are now in a place like NYC, LA, San Fran, etc.

At the moment, Republicans have a natural advantage in terms of # of states, which is of course the relevant statistic for the Senate. Obama beat Romney by 3.9% in the popular vote and 332-206 in the electoral college, but only won 26 states to Romney’s 24. This is of course due to the relatively large number of low-population states which trend right (deep south, great plains, big sky, southwest).

Regarding gerrymandering, this election shows that Republicans were really smart about how/where they gerrymandered. Instead of relying on razor thin margins across the board, they were able to weather some of the storm this year by engineering districts that could withstand the D+7 environment.

Go Midwest, Young Hipster

Oh, gerrymandering definitely kept the Democratic wave from being bigger than it was. In North Carolina, for instance, 10 Republicans were elected to the House, all but one with less than 60% of the vote, as against only 3 Democrats, all of whom got at least 70% in their districts.

The Senate is intentionally gerrymandered. It’s designed to over-value the power of less-populated states. As it currently stands, that leads to GOP strength, since the GOP currently is the party of the rural white voter (not always true in the past by a long shot!).

Thus, the over-representation in the Senate by the GOP.

This Washington Post link explains it well: How gerrymandering kept Democrats from winning even more seats Tuesday. With 50 percent of the votes, Democrats only won 23 percent of the seats.

This is due to super-packing. Democrats are basically guaranteed 3 seats, but need about a 30-point swing to go from 3 to 4. It wouldn’t matter if they got 30% or 50% of the statewide vote, they’d still get three seats. They’d have to get 52.5 percent to pick up a fourth seat.

I don’t know where this quote is from, but someone posted it in a discussion on the article:

The North Carolina maps were ruled unconstitutional, and yet they still got to use them this election. Our election process with Gerrymandering and voter restrictions is a national shame.

In NC, the Republicans won 50.3 of the vote, but maintained control of 10 out of 13 (76.9%) of the seats.

In Pennsylvania, they were able to get the GOP-gerrymandered districts redrawn. I wonder (and am hopeful), that this process will be repeated in other states - but it takes willpower and organization.

Maryland needs to redraw a couple of districts:

Federal judges toss Maryland congressional map for partisan gerrymandering

Speaking as the Maryland Democrat, I say hallelujah.

I agree that our congressional districts are a disgrace, and will gladly support their being redrawn if other states are forced to follow suit.

ETA: it was thrown out on First Ammendment grounds? What was the argument here?

Remember Roscoe Bartlett!!!
Just kidding about that, of course.