Florida has more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the balance of power in government doesn't even come close to reflecting that.
An Associated Press analysis has found that a political map-making process controlled by Ohio Republicans resulted in the party winning almost two more U.S. House seats and five more Ohio House seats in the last election than would have been expected in neutral circumstances. In Florida, Republicans had about 11 more seats in the state House than would be expected, one of the largest margins in the country.
The victor in more than 40 percent of all state Assembly or House races last November ran unopposed by a candidate from the other major party. Despite operating under the bipartisan system since 1992, plans can get caught up in lengthy legal battles before settling on new district boundaries.
The chief architect of a Republican legislative redistricting plan has previously said politics played a key role in drawing lines, but in ways that helped incumbents in both parties. Del. Yet Republicans won 57 percent of the House seats, claiming 63 seats to the Democrats' 47.
A previous efficiency gap analysis conducted by Simon Jackman, a former professor of political science and statistics at Stanford University, found that the Republican advantage was even higher in the 2012 and 2014 Missouri House elections.
Democratic House Minority Leader David Toscano said the reason why more Democrats are running this year is obvious.
"Obviously if you're the party in power and your members wanted to draw districts that helped themselves get elected, to a certain extent that's naturally going to benefit the majority", Kottkamp noted.
The next round of redistricting will be after the 2020 census, and it could be a very different process. The Republican edge in Michigan's state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin's Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found. "The GOP is strong in Wyoming because of the common interest among Wyomingites in the long-standing conservative principles that make up the heart of the Wyoming Republican Party", Mulholland said.
Other districts - such as Beatty's, where 9 of every 10 voters favor Democrats - are virtually impossible for Republicans to win.
Part of the problem with Democrats is institutional, said Schale.
"Too often we've settled for the first person who raised their hand, and that was not always the best option", Schale said.
Experts interviewed by the Associated Press acknowledged those factors, but the new analysis shows partisan gerrymandering also likely plays a significant role.