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Morning Jay: The Down Ballot Rout

6:30 AM, Nov 4, 2010 • By JAY COST
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One of the most important results of Tuesday's election occurred below the governor, Senate, and House lines on the ballot. The Republicans overwhelmed the Democrats in state legislative races all across the country, picking up more than 500 seats and flipping a dozen and a half legislative chambers.

The following charts list the number of seats the Republicans gained (or, in a few cases, lost) in every legislative chamber in the country, except those that did not have elections this week (Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia), Nebraska (which has a non-partisan unicameral legislature), and those for which sufficient returns were not available as of this writing (New York, Oregon, and Washington).

Let's run through the list by region, starting with the Northeast.

Now the South.

Now the Midwest.

Now the West.

We can combine the gubernatorial results with the state legislative results to get a read on which parties control which state governments. The following maps are from the National Conference of State Legislatures.  This was the picture before election day.

Credit: National Conference of State LegislaturesCredit: National Conference of State Legislatures

And now after election day.

Credit: National Conference of State LegislaturesCredit: National Conference of State Legislatures

This is a hugely important advance for the Republican Party. For two reasons. First, state legislatures are like the minor leagues of baseball. In future years, these gains will yield a new crop of Republican recruits for the House, the Senate, and maybe even the White House itself.

Second, next year state governments will begin redrawing the House legislative lines, and this offers the Republican party an advantage that it has not enjoyed in 50 years. As Sean Trende notes:

[D]uring the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the Democrats controlled redistricting. Most of these seats were in the South, where state legislators deftly drew Congressional boundaries to slow down the Republican advance.

This all changed in 1990. Although Republicans controlled almost no seats in redistricting, Democratic control was reduced by the good GOP gubernatorial year of 1986. These Governors forced compromises where the GOP made advances in redistricting that had been impossible in previous decades.

In addition, a new interpretation of the Voting Rights Act limited the ability of Southern Democrats to gerrymander their states effectively. They tried, mightily, but by 1994, the GOP was riding a wave into control of seats.

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