Governors’ Races: Why They Matter

by David Nussman  •  •  October 12, 2018   

Pro-life governors and state legislatures needed in the fight to end abortion

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DETROIT ( - Republicans now have a large majority among the nation's governors, but have a chance of losing the majority in November.

Currently, the United States has 33 Republican governors, 16 Democrat governors and one independent governor (Bill Walker of Alaska). This large of a majority among the governors is a historical landmark for Republicans. In 2017, Republicans had 34 governors after West Virginia's Jim Justice switched parties from Democrat to GOP. But when New Jersey's Chris Christie reached his term limit and Democrat Phil Murphy won the governorship, the number went back down to 33.

Having governors in office who are willing to sign off on pro-life bills and veto pro-abortion legislation is an essential part of the fight to end abortion in America. In Illinois, for instance, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had the chance to veto a bill that expanded taxpayer funding for abortion, but he signed it into law in September 2017. When Rauner did this, he contradicted an earlier statement that he would oppose the bill.

If a state is going to pass pro-life legislation, it will likely need a pro-life Republican majority in the state legislature, as well as a pro-life governor.

The ideal situation to get things passed in state government is to have single-party control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature. This is called a trifecta. Currently, there are 26 Republican trifectas and 8 Democratic trifectas throughout the United States.

If a state government passes pro-life legislation into law, pro-abortion activists could challenge the law and fight a legal battle for years until it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court. With President Donald Trump's appointee Brett Kavanaugh now sworn-in as a Supreme Court justice, this could potentially lead to pro-life victories in the decades-long legal struggle over abortion following Roe v. Wade.

The governor and state legislature races are also important because congressional districts nationwide will be redrawn following the 2020 census. States redraw congressional districts after a census to account for population shifts. The number of districts is proportional to the population of the state, and one congressman per district is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Different states have different rules governing who is responsible for redrawing congressional districts and how the new district map gets approved. But generally speaking, a so-called "redistricting plan" needs approval from the state legislature; and in most states, the governor has the power to veto it.

The congressional districts are different from state legislative districts, which the state legislature is likewise charged with redistricting.

With redistricting, there is a practice called gerrymandering, in which the people drawing the district maps do so in a way that will likely favor their political party.

For example, instead of having three districts that are statistical toss-ups between Democrat and Republican, a gerrymanderer might try to redraw it such that almost all the Republican voters are lumped into one district, leaving the other two districts as slight majorities for the Democrats.

The word is a combination of the name Elbridge Gerry and the word "salamander." Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the fifth U.S. vice president, was accused of redrawing a voting district when he was governor of Massachusetts in a way that favored his party. The controversial district map looked like a salamander; the combination of Gerry's name with the word "salamander" led to the word "gerrymander."

Even today, gerrymandering often leads to voting districts with odd shapes, sometimes humorous ones.

There are laws in place against gerrymandering; but in many cases, the laws are very hard to enforce. Some have proposed enshrining mathematical equations into law restricting the geometry of voting districts. Measures like this would supposedly put a limit on the extent of gerrymandering.

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