Across the U.S., Republicans control 30 statehouses and the Democrats control 18. That is the largest number of one-party controlled state legislatures since 1914.
Minnesota is currently the only state where there’s not one party in control of the state legislature – Republicans have a majority in the state Senate chamber, while Democrats hold the state House chamber.
The Democrats’ so-called “blue wave” in the 2018 midterm elections was not big enough to put a major dent into the Republican’s control of state legislatures.
As a scholar of state politics, I believe partisan gerrymandering is a major reason why the Democratic wave fizzled as it reached the states. It is also why Democrats will likely have a difficult time regaining control in states as the redistricting process begins in 2020.
The Power of Partisan Gerrymandering
Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing legislative districts that overwhelmingly favor one political party over another.
It creates safe seats for candidates of a particular party. Districts are created that contain mostly voters that support the majority party in the legislature, because in the redistricting process, the majority party gets to determine district boundaries. Recently, the Republican Party has simply been better at it.
In 2010, the Republican Party used redistricting to draw state legislative district lines that helped the party hold back the 2018 blue wave.
For example, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina, a majority of people across each state voted for Democratic state House candidates. However, the Republican party still won a large majority of the legislative seats.
Because Democratic voters were spread out across many districts with very few districts having a majority of Democratic voters. Democratic candidates would need to win the votes of many Republicans to win the seat.