cIllinois' Democratic governor JB Pritzker on Tuesday signed off on a new congressional map that could result in the loss of two GOP seats, but the state is an outlier in a trend giving Republicans the advantage in redistricting ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Republicans control the process for redrawing the districts for 187 U.S. House seats, compared to the 75 seats determined by Democrats. The remainder are handled by independent or bipartisan commissions.
Only 19 states have passed their congressional maps so far, and it's already evident that Republicans are using their legislative majorities to gerrymander, or draw lines in their favor, in Texas, Ohio and North Carolina. The results so far are five new likely Republican seats, and a slew of Republicans in competitive seats with more politically friendly lines for their 2022 races.
Democrats have backed lawsuits that allege partisan and racial gerrymandering in these Republican maps, but they're trying to even the score with their own gerrymandering in Oregon and Illinois, and they may still cut into any GOP gains in New York, New Jersey and California (which is drawn by a commission).
"What Republicans are doing is doubling down on the gerrymandering of the last decade," said National Democratic Redistricting Committee president Kelly Ward Burton — noting the increasingly narrowing field of competitive seats. "There is a jump to want to assess the battlefield right now, and I caution against that because we're at a point in the calendar where a lot of the Republican states are done, and not a lot of Democratic states."
"Both parties are executing their strategies. We've been saying all along, we're just taking seats off the board and going on offense where possible. And they've been doing the same," said Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust.
Here's where the most aggressive redistricting across the country is taking place. Projections are based on data from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
Texas (projected GOP net gain: 1-2 seats)
In Texas' reapportionment, the Census awarded the state two new congressional seats. The state's growth, 87% of which was non-White, changed the demographics of its metro-suburban areas and resulted in more competitive races for incumbent Republicans in the last decade.
But the new map passed by Republican legislators and signed by Governor Greg Abbott takes up to eight competitive seats off the map and protects those GOP incumbents by increasing the number of Republican voters in those districts. Only three seats are considered competitive, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. The expected result is 24 Republican seats, 13 Democratic seats and one "toss up" seat in Texas' 15th.
The map also splits up the two new congressional seats, ceding one seat centered in Austin to Democrats while drawing a solid Republican seat northwest of Houston. The border district of Texas' 15th, currently represented by Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, is now open after Gonzalez announced he would run in the more Democrat-friendly Texas' 34th District, left open by retiring Democratic Congressman Filemon Vela.
At least five lawsuits against the map accuse the GOP-led Texas Legislature of racial gerrymandering and assert that the maps don't represent the state's Hispanic population, which drove nearly half of Texas' population growth. The map decreases the number of districts with a majority of Hispanic voters from eight to seven.
"Throughout the history of Texas, our communities have suffered from lack of representation. All we're asking is give us a chance. Give us a chance to have the representatives in our state mirror our communities," said Lydia Ozuna, a plaintiff in one lawsuit against Abbott led by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
But since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas hasn't gone a decade without being sued over its redistricting maps. "Those suits were drawn up before we even started the process," claimed freshman Republican Congressman Troy Nehls.
"I know we had some issues in the past in 2010 and others. But as long as [the maps] comply with the Voting Rights Act, I'm good with it."
North Carolina (projected GOP net gain: 2 seats)
After a panel of federal judges found that Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature had engaged in illegal extreme partisan gerrymandering of the state's congressional map "beyond a reasonable doubt," a court-ordered redrawing of the map by GOP legislators was put in place in 2019 which created two more Democratic seats and gave Republicans an 8 – 5 advantage.
This year, the Republican Assembly passed a map that could potentially take two seats away from Democrats and create a split of 10 Republican-leaning seats, 3 Democratic-leaning seats and one competitive seat.
Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Manning will be drawn into a more Republican district. Two Democratic congressmen have announced their retirements, David Price and G.K. Butterfield, who saw his northeastern seat extended to include more rural Republican counties further west.
"It's racially gerrymandered," Butterfield said about the map in his retirement announcement. I am disappointed, terribly disappointed with the Republican-majority legislature for again gerrymandering our state."
Republican Congressman Dan Bishop, who was a state legislator during the redistricting process last decade, told CBS News he believes the map will remain in place throughout the decade. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court decided political gerrymandering cases are to be decided in state court. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who is taking the lead on legal cases for the NDRC, filed a lawsuit with voters 24 hours after the map passed.
Ohio (GOP net gain: 1 seat)
A ballot measure passed in 2018 means that Ohio's new congressional lines will only last four years. But Republicans passed lines that could result in 13 Republican seats and 2 Democratic seats in a state where Democrats won 43% of the House votes and won four seats in 2020. "It's insane," said Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who is running for Senate in 2022. His district was made more Republican in the new map, though he denies that Republican control of the process played a role in his Senate run. "You take a state like Ohio and you draw a 13-2 map. [Democratic Senator] Sherrod Brown won, we've got four Supreme Court justices, Obama won twice. It's clearly political."
Ohio lost a Congressional seat during reapportionment. Republican Governor Mike DeWine said the map "significantly increases the number of competitive districts." According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, five seats are considered competitive, though they lean Republican. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, who is already suing over Ohio's state legislative maps, says a lawsuit is possible. The NDRC is also backing a lawsuit over the lines that claims it violates Ohio's constitution.
Oregon (projected Democrat net gain: 1 seat)
Democratic Governor Kate Brown was the first in the country to sign off on new congressional lines, after a busy special session that included a walkout by Republican legislators and delays caused by COVID-19 cases in the state capitol. The map maintains the four Democratic-leaning seats by shoring up the districts of vulnerable incumbents, while adding a pick-up opportunity for Democrats in the state's new 6th Congressional District.
State Republicans are arguing in an ongoing lawsuit that the map ought to be redrawn , though one retired state judge acting as a "special master" for the case suggested the map will be upheld. Oregon is one of several states where Democrats are in control and are expected to press their advantage and gerrymander lines to gain House seats, in an attempt to offset potential gains in Republican states.
"Democrats are not fighting gerrymandering anymore. You got Eric Holder and Marc Elias blessing the Oregon map and saying how great the Illinois map is. If they're fighting gerrymandering, they've got a funny way of showing it," said Kincaid.
Illinois (projected Democrat net gain: 1 seat)
Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed a congressional map that could result in a loss of two Republican seats and a net gain of one Democratic seat, despite the fact that the state lost a congressional seat through reapportionment. The map pits incumbent Republicans against each other in southern Illinois, as well as Democrats Sean Casten and freshman Marie Newman in the new 6th District. Republican Adam Kinzinger was drawn into the same district as Republican Darin LaHood, though he announced his retirement shortly after a draft map was released in late October. The map also has a new designated majority Hispanic district in northern Chicago and its suburbs.
Colorado (+1 more "competitive" seat)
This is Colorado's first year with a non-partisan commission in charge of redistricting. The result is a map with three safe Democratic seats, three safe Republican seats and two competitive seats including the state's new 8th Congressional district from reapportionment in the northern Denver suburbs. Groups representing Latino communities have challenged the map, claiming it dilutes the power of Latino voters.
Still drawing: Wisconsin, Georgia and more
In Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed the map passed by the GOP assembly last Friday, ensuring the court will have a say in how the maps are drawn. Courts are already handling the redrawing process in Virginia and Washington, where the bipartisan commissions missed their respective deadlines.
Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign a map this week that draws Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath right out of her seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs, and creates a projected congressional split in the state of nine Republicans to five Democrats . McBath said Monday she'll run in Georgia's new 7th District against incumbent Democrat Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux. California and Florida revealed their draft maps earlier this month, while the commission in New York has until mid-January 2022 to send a map to the Democratic-controlled legislature.
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