Why the GOP rules

Hank Hayes • Updated Jul 26, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Death, taxes and gerrymandering — they all happen.

Right now, Tennessee is super red — Republican red.

Southwest Virginia might be the same color, but Republican voters statewide hold only about a 1 percentage point lead over Democrats.

Those two observations come from an Associated Press (AP) finding under a new mathematical formula called the “efficiency gap” to measure partisan advantage in the 2016 elections. The statistical method is designed to detect cases in which one party might have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.

After the 2016 elections, Republicans hold full control of two-thirds of all state legislatures, as well as both chambers of Congress. In many cases, Republicans won a greater share of seats than they did votes. Overall, Republican U.S. House candidates last fall received just slightly more votes than Democratic candidates — equal to 1 percentage point — yet Republicans maintain a 10 percentage point majority in the chamber, according to AP. AP analyzed the results of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year and found a decided advantage for Republicans. The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populous states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in either their U.S. or state House districts. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last census in 2010.

The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected, based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.

The 2010 mid-term elections gave Tennessee Republicans the governorship, control of both the state House and Senate, and seven of nine Congressional seats, making 2011 the first year in the state’s history when the GOP would control redistricting.

In 2016 state elections, AP said, about 61 percent in each district voted Republican compared to about 38 percent for Democrats. Republicans currently hold a 74-25 advantage in state House seats, and a 28-5 advantage in the state Senate.

In Tennessee’s Congressional elections, 64 percent voted Republican and 36 percent voted Democrat, according to AP. The Republican advantage continues to be 7-2. Both U.S. senators are Republicans.

In Virginia, Republicans hold a narrow two-member majority in the state Senate, but they hold a 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates. All 100 house seats are up for election in 2017, and the question remains whether Democrats can flip that or even loosen the Republicans’ grip.

Republicans also hold a 7-4 advantage over Democrats in the U.S. House, but both U.S. senators are Democrats.

This gerrymandering debate will never end. The political party in power always calls the shots. I have confidence the court system and electorate can make the necessary political adjustments.

Hank Hayes covers business and politics for the Times-News. You can reach him at; hhayes@timesnews.net.