In this year’s election, the popular vote for President matched the final outcome: Obama won in both cases. For the House of Representatives, that wasn’t so. The popular vote was a majority Democratic, but the Republicans retained control of the chamber. Next week, the GOP will no doubt elect teary-eyed, fork-tongued John Boehner as their leader, the Speaker of the House, once more.
According to thinkprogress.org, the disparity between the popular vote and the actual outcome results from Republican gerrymandering and the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to do anything about it. It’s a fact that both political parties gerrymander Congressional districts when they are in power at the state level. That is, they redraw district lines into distorted pretzel shapes so that the opposition is packed into as few districts as possible while they dominate the rest. However, in 2004, the Supreme Court had a chance to intervene in a Pennsylvania case of extreme GOP gerrymandering, Vieth v. Jubelirer, but the conservative majority threw the lawsuit out.
Here are some examples of this year’s results. President Obama won the vote in Pennsylvania by five percentage points, but Democrats took only 5 out of 18 of the state’s Congressional seats. Similarly, the President won in Virginia; Democrats won 3 of 11 seats. He won in Ohio; Dems took 4 of 16 seats. Make sense to you? Me, either–until I started looking at districting maps. Check them out at slate.com, and you’ll see what I mean.
Nevertheless, there is much to give heart to Democrats in regard to the House of Representatives. With many states continuing the count of provisional and early ballots into next week, Dems have already picked up three seats that were held by the opposition before the election. Eight seats remain undecided, but Democrats are leading in six of these contests–three in California, one in Arizona, one in Florida, and one in North Carolina. Republican Allen West in Florida is losing by the largest margin, but refuses to concede and is suing for a recount. In Arizona, the provisional ballots tend to be Latino votes which lean overwhelmingly Democratic, so two close races (one in which the Democrat is slightly behind) could end up going to the Dems. That leaves Louisiana, where two Republican incumbents are duking it out against each other over a redrawn district.
The best case scenario is that the final tally ends up Dems, 201 and GOP, 234. That sure beats the previous make-up of the House, which was Dems,193; GOP, 242. With any luck, and a dose of continuing outrage against conservative extremism, 2014 could finally bring about Boehner’s demise.