John Ryder gets some help from Charlotte Bergmann as he explains the population changes in the 2010 Census.
“My job is to make it fair and legal,” said John Ryder of redistricting the United States, the task he was assigned by the Republican Party.
The Memphis lawyer described his goals to members of the Midtown Republican Club Tuesday.
“Why do we do this?” he asked. “It’s painful, arduous and makes work for lawyers. Well, every ten years the Constitution says an actual enumeration of the people must be done. It says inhabitants, not citizens.
“Why do we have 435 members of Congress? It’s a very elaborate formula that was determined in 1938 when it was fixed at 435. The average congressional district now is 730,000 people, whereas it was 238,000 in 1938.
“After the November election the states that are losing representatives are theirs and the states gaining are ours. In Texas, we gained 4, Florida 2, South Carolina and Georgia, 1 each as well as Arizona, Utah and Washington. New York lost 2, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota lost one as did Louisiana from Katrina. What actually happened there was a whole congressional district moved to Houston.
However, in Louisiana we got control of the state senate. Then a switch gave us control of the House. It’s the first time since the Civil War and we have the governorship there, too, he noted. Similarly, we have both the House and Senate in Minnesota – a first ever.
“We have more than 700 state legislators nationwide now,” Ryder said. “In the South, the Democrats have the Senate in Virginia and both houses in Mississippi and Arkansas. It’s a huge shift. In the 1990s we got 5 out of 232 seats. What this means is the Democrats are sure to sue us.”
So what will happen in redistricting?
Two rules must be followed, Ryder says. “First you make everyone equal. Second, you must preserve minority voting rights. Of course, every member wants the district they have now. Every Republican wants a perfect Republican district with 70% Republican. But this is really a legislative process. It is really the legislature that determines what happens. We’re still getting census data. In Tennessee, the process for redistricting won’t start til this session is over.
“Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia with go first because they have elections this year.
“Tennessee is about 57% Republican. We’re on a Republican trend right now. In 2008, McCain outperformed Bush in 2004 here.” While the state grew about 11% in population, Shelby County only grew 2%. That means the 9th district is 74,000 below what it needs to be. The 6th district is up 74,000. The 7th district is 53,000 over. The movement has been from west Tennessee to middle Tennessee,” he notes.
“‘Blest is he who lives in a corner ‘ is a maxim in elections,” Ryder said. “That means there will be a ripple effect across Tennessee. Ryder will have to work to adjust the changes.
“We don’t need to play games,” Ryder says, finding the trend in Republicans’ favor. “My goal is to make sure it’s all fair and legal.”