After the Republicans took control of most of the state legislatures in the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010, they had control over the post-census redistricting process and they worked hard to draw those seats to gain maximum political advantage. Adam Serwer points out that it worked brilliantly:
The votes are still being counted, but as of now it looks as if Democrats have a slight edge in the popular vote for House seats, 49 percent-48.2 percent, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Still, as the Post’s Aaron Blake notes, the 233-195 seat majority the GOP will likely end up with represents the GOP’s “second-biggest House majority in 60 years and their third-biggest since the Great Depression.”…
After Republicans swept into power in state legislatures in 2010, the GOP gerrymandered key states, redrawing House district boundaries to favor Republicans. In Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates received half of the votes in House contests, but Republicans will claim about three-quarters of the congressional seats. The same is true in North Carolina. More than half the voters in that state voted for Democratic representation, yet Republicans will fill about 70 percent of the seats. Democrats drew more votes in Michigan than Republicans, but they’ll take only 5 out of the state’s 14 congressional seats.
This isn’t just a Republican thing. Democrats do it too:
Republicans point to Illinois and Maryland as examples of Democrats playing the same game, and it is true that Democrats in those states drew maps favorable to their interests. In Maryland, Democrats got 62 percent of the combined vote in House races and 88 percent of the congressional seats; in Illinois they won 54 percent of the vote and about two-thirds of the congressional seats.
Which is why redistricting should not be done by the legislature at all. It should be done by an independent commission with clear standards for how a district should be drawn. When you see districts like this, it’s patently clear that it’s not based on any criteria other than what is best for the party in control.