by Steven Sullivan , Connor Semelsberger
October 8, 2020
With several major companies launching advertising campaigns to “get out and vote,” political parties describing this election as the deciding factor in our country’s future and survival, and politics seeping into daily conversation more than ever, its clear that voting in the 2020 election matters now more than ever. With such high stakes, it is easy to focus solely on the presidential or U.S. Senate races, but did you know that in a census year like this, state elections are just as important?
The U.S. Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years, and the information from the census is used to determine the distribution of U.S. House seats across the states for the next 10-year period. The first step in this process, known as reapportionment, is to divide the 435 Congressional seats among the 50 states based on population. The president determines the amount of seats for each state based on the population numbers from the census and sends a notice to Congress. Congress then communicates the exact number of representatives for each state to the governors. Once the governors are given their total number of seats, the state is responsible for drawing the boundaries of the Congressional districts, a process known as redistricting. Once the districts are drawn and submitted to Congress, the new make-up of Congressional districts will be in effect starting in 2022.
In most states, the legislatures draw the congressional district boundaries which then are approved by the governor. Because the states have so much control over the boundaries, it has become a very political process in which both parties jockey to have partisan control of state legislatures and governors mansions during redistricting in order to draw the boundaries in a way that favors their respective party. What this means is the 2020 state elections not only impact who will represent you in the state legislature but will also have a huge impact on who will represent you and your values in Congress for the next decade!
Between reapportionment and redistricting, there is great chance for a dramatic shift in political power. As our country’s population has shifted from northern and midwestern states like New York and Illinois to states in the south like Texas and Florida, so does the number of congressional seats and the power that comes with it. There are also several large states with close partisan margins that, if flipped, could dramatically change which party is in the driver’s seat for drawing the new congressional lines. Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas are not only battleground states for the presidential election, but also have one or both state legislative chambers that are within 10 seats of changing partisan control.
Among all the noise of the 2020 election, the important role that state governments play in setting up the power dynamics of the U.S. House of Representatives has been vastly overshadowed. As you consider who to vote for in the upcoming election, remember the importance of the down ballot races and gather appropriate information to make sure you support state candidates that reflect a biblical worldview. And as always, remember to pray, vote, and stand.
Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.
Steven Sullivan is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs.