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Revving Up for the 2012 Elections

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After a year like 2011, who’s ready for another? While there are a lot of unknowns about the economy and what Washington may throw at the business community, there are some things we can be certain about in the coming 12 months.

For instance, we know that in a little more than 10 months, Americans will go to the polls for the most anticipated and expensive election in our history. Voters will cast ballots for President, Representative, and in 33 states, Senator.

Under new campaign finance rules that allow more money to be spent by independent organizations and funded with corporate dollars, you can expect to see $4 billion spent nationwide for all federal elections. Talk about an economic stimulus plan.

With the House currently controlled by Republicans and the Senate in the hands of Democrats, don’t expect a lot of legislation to pass between now and Election Day. The gridlock in Washington will be used for political purposes. What you are likely to see are debates on issues that force members of Congress to make votes that can be used against them.

The Bush Tax Cuts and a host of other popular tax incentives are set to expire on December 31, 2012. The last time Congress voted to extend these incentives, Democrats in Congress and President Obama argued they should only go to taxpayer who made less than $250,000 annually. You can bet the House will vote this summer on extending the tax cuts even though the plan won’t stand a chance in the Senate. The purpose would be to put House Democrats on record as opposing the tax cuts. Democrats will counter with the argument that Republicans want to give the tax breaks to the wealthy.

The truth is the extension of the Bush tax cuts and all the other expiring tax breaks that benefit individuals, families, and small businesses won’t be addressed until after the election during a lame duck session.

Will Redistricting Play A Role?

The political posturing and constant gridlock is one reason why approval ratings for Congress are at an all time low, and this should be a concern for both parties. Incumbents typically hold an advantage in elections, but the last three elections have been “wave” elections with high turnover.

While Republicans maintain a comfortable hold on the House, and they aren’t likely to lose the majority, there are 14 incumbent Republicans that hold seats in districts that voted for Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008.

These Kerry/Obama Republican districts are found mostly in the Northeast and Midwest in states where redistricting clouds the picture for election predictions. Half of those Kerry/Obama districts are in states losing at least one seat in the House.

Redistricting occurs not only when a state gains or loses representatives in the U.S. House; it can occur to reflect pockets of new population growth or changes in a region’s makeup reflected on the Census. As a result of the 2010 Census, 17 states will lose or gain seats in the House of Representatives, requiring significant changes to the borders of the congressional districts.

Florida gains two House seats, bringing its total up to 27. The states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington will all gain one seat.

Seven states lose one House seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennylvania. Ohio and New York will each lose two seats.

In these states losing seats, the legislatures or commissions must redraw the boundaries. Republicans hold an advantage since they control a majority of state legislatures. In Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri, the new maps will likely protect Republicans by merging two Democratic districts.

In states where there is no change in the number of districts the maps may still be redrawn. The controlling party can address growing or declining counties or regions and try to strengthen its own party members with friendly remaps. One wild card in the remapping process is the Voting Rights Act, which requires the Justice Department to review redistricting plans in several southern states to guard against voter discrimination. And since the Democrats control the Justice Department for the first time during a redistricting process since LBJ was president, the new maps may become a political issue between Southern Republican states and the Obama Administration.

There are a lot of factors that will play into the 2012 elections and it’s anyone’s guess what the final results will be. ACCA will be monitoring them throughout the year and will continue to update you as Election Day 2012 draws near.

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Charlie McCrudden

Posted In: ACCA Now, Government

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