Donald Lambro

It is often said of our representative system of government that the voters choose their senators while the House chooses its voters.

The Republicans, with the help of some sophisticated computer technology and the lastest census data, will do just that next year by redrawing congressional-district lines that could give their party a net gain of anywhere from three to 15 GOP House seats in 2012.

The political art of reshaping House-district boundaries began last week after the 2010 census figures showed that close to a dozen seats will be shifting mostly from the heavily Democratic Northern states to the more Republican-leaning South and West.

Under the reapportionment process to ensure that congressional districts contain roughly the same number of people, the population shift means that New York and Ohio will lose two seats each, and Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Iowa and Louisiana will each lose one seat.

Gaining House seats are Texas (four) and Florida (two), with Arizona, Nevada, Utah, South Carolina, Georgia and Washington gaining one each.

How the congressional-district lines are drawn depends on who controls the governorships and legislatures in each state, and the GOP's statehouse victories last month put them squarely in charge of five of the eight states that are gaining seats

Republicans, for example, are in control of the state governments in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where incumbent Democrats like Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the left-wing firebrand, is in danger of losing his seat. Democrats are in control of only two of the 10 states losing seats: Massachusetts and Illinois. In New York, Republicans won control of the state Senate, which will likely result in the elimination of one seat from each party.

The congressional power shift from the North to the South and West has been going on for quite some time. The New York House delegation has shrunk from 45 in the 1940s to 27 under the 2010 census. Florida's delegation is expanding from six House members in the 1940s to 27 in 2012.

Overall, Republicans will be in control of House redistricting in 196 districts, or four times the 49 districts Democrats control, according to House elections analyst David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report. However, Wasserman thinks Republicans will be more focused on redrawing congressional-district lines to lock in the 63-seat gains won in 2010 than "creating new opportunities" in the 2012 elections.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.