Democrats would need to flip 24 seats to retake the U.S. House in 2018. But at least two-thirds of that tally may be permanently out of reach, thanks to a dirty geographical trick played by Republican lawmakers in 2010. That’s according to a new Brennan Center analysis of gerrymandering — the process lawmakers use to draw legislative districts for their own partisan advantage. A bit of background before we delve into the nitty-gritty. Every 10 years, congressional districts are redrawn following the Census. On paper, this is done to ensure the people’s House is representative of the country’s people — states gain or lose districts based on population changes, and district boundaries shift to reflect our ever-changing demographics.
In most states, this redistricting process is handled by the state legislature. This is where the trouble begins: legislatures are composed of partisan lawmakers who have partisan interests — like keeping themselves in power. Over the past several decades, lawmakers have become adept at drawing district boundaries to benefit their parties.
There are any number of ways to do this. If you want to create a 100 percent safe seat for a friend, for instance, you draw a district with a safe partisan majority. You can also decide to concentrate all of your political opponents in one or two districts, diluting their power everywhere else. Or, you could spread them out thinly everywhere, making it hard for them to achieve a majority anywhere.