Now that two-thirds of the states have adopted their new legislative district maps, we have a clearer sense of what has actually happened with redistricting. The good news is, Democrats avoided the doomsday scenario some had predicted.
To put this short explainer post together, I looked at several sources but the most helpful were the ones from the Brennan Center, UVA, and Politico. I’ve linked those articles at the bottom if you’d like to read more.
So the main concern going into this once-a-decade redistricting process was that since 2010, several states controlled by Democrats had switched to redrawing maps with an independent commission, while states controlled by Republicans had kept their state legislatures in control of the process. This dynamic, it was feared, would mean that the Republicans could essentially gerrymander enough seats to win the House in 2022 outright.
However, every redistricting expert sees that this time around, the process will end up being a wash, and if one party gains an advantage, it’ll be very small. The Republicans are not ending up with several dozen new seats.
As for why, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, in most states where the Republicans had control, their philosophy appears to have been to protect their current advantage instead of trying to draw districts in a way to expand their majority. Two big exceptions to this are in Ohio and North Carolina, and the Democrats have already sued both states claiming an illegal gerrymander. (Editor’s note: A state court in North Carolina upheld the maps, but Democrats plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court.)
Another reason why this redistricting season might end up being a wash is that in the states where Democratic legislatures retained control of redistricting, they gerrymandered aggressively, like in Illinois.
I will take this moment to point out that what I don’t like about gerrymandering is that it creates fewer competitive districts, which is bad for all American voters. I am very much in favor of a federal law that bans it completely, as the Freedom to Vote Act would do. This is the act that is being talked about in Congress right now. That said, I am loathe to let the Republicans have an advantage, so for the time being I am glad that some Democratic states evened the score.
So that’s where things stand right now. Again, while we can breathe a sigh of relief that we avoided doomsday, remember that some of the advantages Republicans created during the last redistricting process are still very much in play. Protecting the Democrats’ majority in the House is going to be tough, but thankfully it is not an impossibility due to redistricting.
For additional reading:
Early Lessons from the Current Redistricting Round from the Brennan Center
Notes on the State of Politics from UVA (the first section is about redistricting)
Congressional Redistricting by State from Politico
Originally posted on Political Charge. Reposted with minor edits and permission.
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