The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 23, 2013

Republicans win Congress as Democrats get most votes in history


It's a predicament presidents previously have faced. Before Obama, five of the last six elected presidents --Democrats and Republicans — had a House controlled by the opposition party at some point during their tenure. President Jimmy Carter was the one who didn't.

Still, it's rare for one party to win more House seats while securing fewer votes than the other party. The last time it happened before 2012 was in 1996, when Democrats won the nationwide House vote by 43.6 million to 43.4 million as Republicans held their majority and Bill Clinton was re-elected president, according to the House Clerk's office.

Redistricting is intended to ensure House members represent roughly equal size populations. Yet from the first Congress, party leaders began exploiting the map-making exercise by weakening the voting strength of some groups to gain partisan advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering.

Democrats aren't immune from engaging in the political bloodsport of redistricting. With control of the process in Illinois, Democratic lawmakers from Obama's home state approved a map on Memorial Day weekend in 2011 that led to the defeat of five Republicans in the 2012 elections.

In most cases, state legislatures are charged with overseeing the redistricting process, which is done to reflect demographic shifts recorded in the census. The 435 House districts boundaries are adjusted based on population migration during the past decade.

Republican-controlled statehouses dominated redistricting that occurred after 2010 through a combination of planning and good fortune.

The party began preparing two years in advance of the 2010 elections by concentrating on candidate recruitment and fundraising. The Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on state legislative races, called its effort the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP.

In the 2010 campaign, the Republican Governors Association outspent the Democratic Governors Association, $132 million to $65 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign giving. The Republican State Leadership Committee outspent the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, $21 million to $5 million.

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