Democrats are planning to spend millions of dollars next year on just a few state legislative elections in Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and Wisconsin — states where they have little to no chance of winning control of a chamber.
Yet what might appear to be an aimless move is decidedly strategic: Democrats are pushing to break up Republican supermajorities in states with Democratic governors, effectively battling to win back the veto pen district by district. Such supermajorities result when a single political party has enough votes in both chambers of a legislature to override a governor’s veto, often, though not always, by controlling two-thirds of the chamber.
The extraordinary political dissonance of having a governor of one party and a supermajority of an opposing party in the legislature is one of the starkest effects of gerrymandering, revealing how parties cling to evaporating power.
As gerrymanders built by both parties for decades have tipped the scales to favor the party of the map-drawers, legislative chambers have proved resistant to shifting political winds at the state level. At times, those gerrymanders have locked in minority rule in legislatures while statewide offices, like the governor’s, adhere to the desires of a simple majority of voters.