The midterm elections are being closely watched for the answer to a high-stakes question: Will Republicans have a majority in Congress for the next two years? But it is the outcome of a lower-profile battle over state legislatures that could strengthen the Republican party for a decade.
Republicans are within reach of gaining control of eight or more chambers in statehouses around the country this fall, according to interviews with Republicans, Democrats and independent political analysts. That would give Republicans the power to draw more Congressional districts in their favor, since the expected gains come just as many legislatures will play a major role in the once-a-decade process of redrawing the boundaries of those districts.
Redistricting, it has often been said, turns the traditional definition of democracy on its head: rather than allowing voters to choose their leaders, it allows leaders to choose their voters.
The new districts are supposed to reflect the population shifts measured by the census. In practice, though, officials in both parties often try to gerrymander districts to help themselves and their parties win more elections.