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Republican Congressional Pickup A Win For Redistricting

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Many Republican gains in Tuesday’s elections were due to the party’s strong turnout, including in North Carolina’s Senate race. But the GOP also gained a Congressional seat in the state, which did not hinge on turnout. Instead, the victory was the final pay-off from recarving the state’s Congressional districts in 2011.

Redistricting is like the board game “Risk,” except voters are the pieces and whoever controls the statehouse gets to draw the board. The strategy is the same: conquer as much territory as possible, without spreading yourself too thin.

“The art of redistricting is to find the sweet spot where your party’s candidates consistently win districts,” says UNC Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig. “Win as many districts as possible, without threatening their reelection bids by having enough members of the other party in them.”

Republicans already owned most of the board after redrawing it in 2011. They packed Democrats into three Congressional districts. In the 2012 election, they won the rest, with one exception: Democrat Mike McIntyre, an eight-term incumbent, squeaked by state representative David Rouzer, despite the redrawn district.

Bloomberg News created an infographic breaking down the impact of redistricting on the 2012 vote.

McIntyre faced even more difficult political winds in Tuesday’s mid-term election and chose to retire instead. Rouzer won his open seat by a 20-point margin. That safely handed Republicans 10 of the state’s 13 Congressional districts, in an election where the party only received a bit more than half the popular vote.

Heberlig thinks this will be the breakdown at least until the next redistricting in 2021.

“It’s going to be a pretty boring decade,” he chuckles.

That is, unless the state Supreme Court has a say. The court is currently considering a challenge to the Republican-drawn districts. If the justices strike the map down, the races could open back up.