Five takeaways from the finalized house cards
The House battleground for 2022 is now finalized.
All 50 states have adopted new policy lines under which the fight for control of the House will be waged. New Hampshire has become the latest state to fully adopt new maps. And while legal challenges to other states’ maps are still ongoing, they won’t change anything until the November election.
Here are five takeaways from the last round of redistricting:
Democrats made some gains
Republicans may have entered the redistricting cycle with greater say in the map-drawing process. But the Democrats are actually the ones who have increased their share of districts leaning in their direction.
According to the new maps, there are 187 Democratic-leaning districts — an increase of six from the old congressional lines. Republicans, meanwhile, ended the redistricting cycle with the same number of GOP-leaning districts they started with.
The change for Democrats is largely due to aggressive map-drawing efforts in blue states like Illinois and Oregon.
Meanwhile, a three-judge panel in North Carolina rejected a map passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature that it said benefited the GOP too much and replaced it with its own map that created another Democratic-leaning seat.
Of course, legal challenges could eventually change things. But Democratic redistricting gains are expected to stand in this year’s midterm elections.
But the Republicans always came out on top
While Democrats have increased their share of supportive districts, Republicans are still poised to gain more ground overall.
That’s partly thanks to the courts kicking out Democratic gerrymanders in blue states like New York and Maryland. The decision in New York was particularly difficult for Democrats, who saw their initial map of Congress as a buffer against aggressive Republican gerrymanders elsewhere.
Republicans also pushed their advantage in states like Florida, where lawmakers approved a map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that created four more Republican-leaning seats and reduced the number of competitive districts.
The end result is that Republicans are now poised to win three or four seats under the new lines. Given that the GOP only needs to win five seats this year to regain control of the House, the party’s redistricting gains are likely to put them there most of the time.
The battlefield is shrinking
If there’s a central theme of the most recent redistricting cycle, it’s that House races are becoming less and less competitive.
This is not necessarily a new phenomenon. The number of so-called “swing” neighborhoods has been on a downward trend for decades. In 1992, for example, about 100 members of Congress were elected from these battleground districts. In 2022, this number seems to be around 40.
The shrinking battlefield is largely the result of growing partisanship. Republicans, who control redistricting in more states than Democrats, drew new lines to protect their current holdings, while Democrats did the same in blue states.
There are now six fewer House seats in this year’s midterm elections than there were last time, according to data website FiveThirtyEight.
As a result, candidates from both parties are more likely to end up in more partisan – and, therefore, more supportive – ridings. In effect, it increases the political payoff of running more partisan campaigns and discourages bipartisanship and compromise in Washington.
Representation of minorities has taken a hit
Emboldened by the most conservative Supreme Court in decades, Republicans have used the redistricting cycle to challenge key tenets of the Voting Rights Act and its provision that every racial group should have an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of his choice.
Consequently, the redistricting process has largely failed to increase the representation of people of color, despite the fact that these voters represent a growing share of the country’s population.
In Florida, state lawmakers approved a congressional map that critics say waters down the power of black residents by effectively eviscerating the North Florida district held by Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) and redrawing it into a solid Republican seat.
Similar battles took place in other states. In February, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision to reject Alabama’s new congressional map that it found violated the VRA. The Supreme Court ruling reinstated a Republican-drawn map that kept the number of black-majority districts at one instead of two.
And on Tuesday, the Supreme Court made a similar ruling with respect to Louisiana’s congressional map, staying a lower court’s order asking the state to create a second majority-black district.
The map is still subject to change, but not before the mid-terms
With the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate GOP-drawn congressional lines in Louisiana, the maps in place today are where the 2022 midterm elections will be held.
But there are still potential changes in the pipeline that could affect the country’s policy lines for years to come.
In one case, the Supreme Court will soon decide to hear an argument from Republicans in North Carolina that the state Supreme Court did not have the power to throw out the map approved by the GOP-controlled legislature because plotting new political lines is a legislative decision. responsibility and not judicial.
There are also other cases pending, including one in a Florida mid-tier appeals court. And in Ohio, new political maps are also likely to be redrawn in the coming years.
All this to say that the maps that will determine the composition of Congress this year will not be in place until the next decade. But for now, the medium-term battlefield is set.