3 racially discriminatory maps and an illegal Gerrymander supporter could help the GOP win the house
Earlier this year, federal judges found that maps of congressional districts adopted in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana did not provide sufficient representation of black populations in their respective states. In July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map was an illegal partisan gerrymander.
Nonetheless, these four maps, all drawn and adopted by Republican politicians, will be used for the 2022 midterm elections. These racially discriminatory maps and illegal partisan gerrymanders will likely cost Democrats between five and seven House seats.
That could mean a lot, as polls continue to show a tighter-than-expected race for control of the House in 2023.
As polls tighten and President Joe Biden’s approval rating rises, forecasts for GOP House gains are plummeting. The average expected House majority the GOP is expected to win fell from 21 seats at the end of June to just 11 on September 1, according to FiveThirtyEight. GOP’s projected gains fell from 20-35 mics to 10-20 in Cook Political’s Prospects for the August 30 elections.
If the fight for control of the House draws even closer, the GOP may win control on the back of these four controversial state cards.
Violations of voting rights in the south
In Alabama, Republicans drew a new seven-district map that lumped much of the state’s black population into one Democratic-favoring district and dispersed the rest into six predominantly white districts with a strong Republican lean. Since black Alabamans make up 27% of the state’s total population, a seven-seat congressional district map should provide two majority black seats, per Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Civil rights and voting groups challenged the map in federal court where a three-judge district court panel, made up of two Donald Trump appointees and one Bill Clinton appointee, found that the map violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered the state to draw a new map with an additional majority black district. When Alabama asked the court to lift the injunction on the district map as it appealed its decision, the judges rejected it, noting that it was a “simple case of the section two”, supported by “an extremely strong body of evidence”.
Similarly, Republicans in Louisiana passed a new map of congressional districts over Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto with five majority white districts heavily favoring Republicans and a single majority black district favoring Democrats despite the fact that the Black Louisianans make up 33% of the state’s population. A district court judge ordered that a new map be drawn since the “representation of blacks under the adopted plan is not commensurate with the share of blacks in Louisiana’s population.”
But in both cases, the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority intervened to overturn the district court’s orders and allow the two states to keep their unrepresentative maps, saying it was too close to an election to change the maps. . The court also said it will hear arguments in its fall session on whether Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act actually requires states to add new opportunity districts for minorities to reflect the growth of the minority population.
A Georgia district court judge also ruled that the state’s Republicans should have included a majority-black Third District because black Georgians make up 33% of the state’s population and have grown in number. 500,000 since the 2010 census. But, following the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, the judge refused to block the map with only two majority black districts from being used in the 2022 election .
“Those are three seats that would have been Democratic seats that won’t be Democratic seats,” said Michael Li, a senior redistricting attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit that advocates and litigates on voting rights and non-partisan redistricting.
Gerrymandering supporter in Ohio
In northern Ohio, which lost a House seat after the 2020 census, state Republicans led the most controversial redistricting process after refusing to comply with a constitutional amendment passed by the Ohioans in 2018 to prevent partisan gerrymandering.
The voter-approved amendment created a redistricting process designed to encourage bipartisan agreement while prohibiting the passing of maps that unduly favor one party over the other.
The redistricting process gives the state legislature the first chance to draw congressional constituency lines. But they only pass if the map is backed by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses that includes half of the minority party – in this case, the Democrats. If the legislature fails, a seven-member redistricting commission, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, gets a turn. If the commission’s card doesn’t receive bipartisan support, the lawmaker gets another chance, but its card will only be valid for four years, instead of the usual 10.
Twice, the Ohio Supreme Court, in 4-3 votes, found that Republican-adopted congressional district maps “disadvantaged the Democratic Party in violation” of the state constitution. But a map went into effect for the state’s primary elections and will remain in effect until the 2024 election.
This map would have given 10 seats to the Republicans and five to the Democrats, but three of the Democratic-leaning seats are highly competitive compared to just one of the GOP-friendly seats.
Predictions of the election results from this map submitted to the court showed that the most likely best-case scenario for Democrats was to win four seats in Congress. That would be just 27% of the state’s congressional delegation despite Democrats winning 47% in recent statewide elections. It’s also a best-case scenario. Democrats could win as few as two seats.
That’s a stark difference from the map the Ohio Supreme Court said the state should adopt. This map would give Republicans nine seats and Democrats six.
By adopting the current map, Democrats risk losing between two and four seats they would otherwise gain if Ohio politicians followed the lead of the state Supreme Court.
Those four states alone cost Democrats between five and seven seats they would otherwise be able to win, depending on the general political climate. It could mean a lot after Election Day if the vote is close.