Republicans and Democrats battle over congressional district maps

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM NEWS


While midterm elections are less than 10 months away, over half of the states still have unfinalized or contested congressional district maps, meaning that some hopeful House Representatives don’t even know which district they might represent. With a slim Democratic majority in the House and an evenly divided Senate, the midterm elections will have a huge impact on the future direction of the country making it more important than ever for candidates to begin precise campaign strategies.

Under U.S. law, all states must approve new congressional districts after every decennial census to account for population shifts both across state lines and within the state itself. Only 33 states have adopted maps so far for the mid-term election according to Politico, with nine of these currently under legal challenges. The other 17 states are still in the redrawing and approval phase.

Not only does this mean that some representative hopefuls do not know their districts for campaign purposes, but it also means that things are heating up between political parties. While a delay in census data reporting means that states had a late start in the redrawing process, both parties are eager to preserve their parties’ interests through a process known as gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering means that the party in control of the states redistricting prosses redraws the lines in a way that will cause votes to favor their own legislators. With each party eager for greater control of national politics, however, this years’ redrawing process is particularly contentious. Not only are the parties protecting their interests in the map-drawing phase, but they are also challenging approved maps through litigation to see if they can weaken their opponents’ power.

New Mexico Republicans filed a lawsuit against their new congressional map last week. Meanwhile, Democratic star lawyer Marc Elias, who prides himself as a specialist in challenging laws to give his party an edge, has 37 active cases in 19 different states right now:

The problem is that the longer things are challenged in states, the closer the nation gets to the mid-term election and the more restless citizens on both sides of the aisle will become.

The solution is not that straightforward, however. Should truly unfair maps be approved? Elias is adamant that he won’t let his party be silenced and said to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, “If the Republicans want less Marc Elias litigation, engage in less voter suppression. I’ll make them a deal: If they stop suppressing the vote, I will stop suing them for suppressing the vote.”

Voter suppression is a common talking point from Democratic bureaucrats who have run with the narrative that conservatives are attempting to suppress votes since the 2020 election. Governor Ron DeSantis is one Republican that critics have pointed to as an example of how maps can be used as both a tool of partisanship and suppression.

Florida is one of the states that has yet to approve a map. They have three options currently on the table, one from each branch of their legislative body, as well as, in an unusual move, one submitted by DeSantis himself. However, the map that DeSantis submitted lists 17 districts as solidly red compared to 8 Republican districts and 3 competitive ones. Additionally, DeSantis’ map would halve the predominantly black districts from their current numbers and eliminate one zone that is 50% African-American.

Meanwhile, the State Supreme Court of Ohio struck down the 3-5 majority approved map for blatant partisanship, which is prohibited by the state’s constitution. Although the popular vote in the state is 55% in favor of the GOP, the map was predicted to make 73% of the state red. 

Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sided with three liberal judges for the decision. She wrote in her concurring opinion, “No magician’s trick can hide what the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates. The map statistically presents such a partisan advantage that it unduly favors the Republican Party.”

In New Jersey, state Republicans are challenging the congressional map that was flagged as being unfairly one-sided despite being drawn by an independent commission. According to a report, the map was evaluated by New York Brenan’s Center which revealed that “the new lines resulted in a partisan gerrymander as egregious as those approved by state legislatures dominated by one party.”

“It turns out the Democratic proposal, at least according to the standards advanced in Congress, would have been flagged as a partisan gerrymander,” said Michael Li, co-author of the Brenan Center report.

There are a wide range of views on the processes currently in place, with some political pundits suggesting that lessening political competition at the polls can contribute to polarizing politics in an already deeply divide nation. Additionally, others have suggested that having more checks and balances on congressional maps would be beneficial, as it would prevent aggressive gerrymandering regardless of which party is currently in control of a state.

Former-Representative Will Hurd (R-Tex) explained to CNN that non-competitive districts can be dangerous to politics because, “You shouldn’t think that, hey, once you’re in, you should be able to stay in. Because that makes you soft. That makes you stop thinking about solving problems for your bosses, which are the 750- to 800,000 people that you ultimately represent.”

So far, the Political Cook Report lists only 13 Representative seats as “toss-ups” for the Nov. election. They believe 15 additional seats lean either Democratic or Republican. The rest are viewed as solidly in one party or the other.

Politico is more generous with 42 districts flagged as competitive but still notes that this is down 16 since the last election. A simple perusal down their maps shows that the new approved maps frequently favor a “huge” or “slight” slide towards Democratic, revealing that both parties do engage in gerrymandering.

However, the final numbers won’t be tallied until all maps are approved.