Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 28, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
While President Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney in last week's election, and Democrats held on to the Senate, Republicans maintained control in the House of Representatives, despite receiving fewer votes in those races nationwide.
Much has been made of the Electoral College count versus the popular vote totals, but in the 438 races for the House of Representatives, more votes does not necessarily translate into a majority.
The House has 438 representatives, from all 50 states, distributed according to population, and each representative is up for reelection every two years.
Taken in total, the Democrats received about 49 percent of the votes in all 438 of those races. The Republicans received about 48.2 percent, but the Republicans will have a 39-seat majority in the House when the new Congress is seated in January.
Of course, this is because each race is separate from every other. A candidate need only win by a single vote, so Democrats had heavier support than Republicans, but clustered into fewer races.
It is nearly the opposite of the effect the Republicans saw in the presidential election. While Obama won the popular vote by about 2.5 percent, he won the Electoral College by a landslide, 332 to 206.
Support for Mitt Romney was clustered in states worth fewer electoral votes, so his heavy margins in very red states, like Wyoming, where he had a 41-point advantage over the president, didn't affect the outcome of the election.
House districts, however, swing in partisan directions for a different reason, though. Many congressional districts are gerrymandered--drawn so their boundaries encompass a reliable bloc of voters for a particular party.
Every 10 years, after each census, districts are redrawn and seats in the House are reapportioned, depending on each states' change in population. The last census was completed in 2010, and Republicans swept back into office during the Tea Party revolution, so they controlled the redistricting process, redrawing many boundaries to maximize their hold on the House.
The tactic worked, and the House is likely to remain Republican at least until 2020, when the new census and a new Congress will take up their pens once again.