ICYMI – CNN: The hidden dynamic that could tip control of the House
January 24, 2023
ContactJena Doyle firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. — Redistricting fights still underway “could tip control” of the U.S. House of Representatives by significantly shifting 15-19 House districts, reports CNN.
The article highlights how Democrats, including Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), took a “more systematic effort to influence redistricting” and notes that effort “yielded a more equitable set of districts than the map” drawn a decade ago.
CNN also details how two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Moore v Harper and Merrill v Milligan, could change the map. NDRC affiliates are significant parties in both cases.
Analysis by Ronald Brownstein
January 24, 2023
As many as a dozen or more states could redraw the lines governing their congressional elections again before the 2024 election, more than enough to shift the balance of power in a House where the two parties have only managed to eke out mirror image five-seat majorities over the past two elections.
The possibility that so many states could still reconfigure their House districts reflects the uncertainty looming over the political system as the Supreme Court considers momentous cases that will shape the future of voting rights challenges to congressional maps and the authority of state supreme courts to police partisan gerrymandering.
Overall, most experts agree the 2020 maps yielded a more equitable set of districts than the maps produced after 2010, when the GOP swept control of state governments in the “Tea Party” election that year and used that power to impose severely gerrymandered maps in multiple states. “The maps are keeping the House competitive because they are more fair,” says [Kelly] Burton.
But the results of the unusually large number of extended re-redistricting fights, which Burton calculates could affect control of as many as 15-19 House seats, could change that verdict on the fairness of the 2020 process.
Through the work of the NDRC (founded by Eric Holder, the attorney general for former President Barack Obama) and other groups, Democrats mounted a much more systematic effort to influence redistricting after 2020 than they did after 2010.
[T]he largest group of Democratic opportunities revolves around lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act challenging Republican gerrymanders. If Democrats and civil rights groups win those cases, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama would be required to create one more district each favoring a Black candidate, and Texas could be required to create three districts or more favoring minority candidates.
Lower courts have already ruled for the Democrats in the first three states.
Cases challenging congressional gerrymanders as violation of state laws are now pending in Florida, Utah and New Mexico (with the latter a challenge from Republicans.) In Arkansas, Democrats are pursuing both state and federal challenges to the congressional map.
Looming over the growing role of state courts to the redistricting battles is another hugely consequential Supreme Court case. In a North Carolina case (Moore v. Harper), the court could use the so-called “independent state legislature” doctrine to limit or even bar state courts from overturning state legislatures’ decisions on congressional maps (and other aspects of federal election administration.)
Over the past decade, the GOP-appointed Supreme Court majority has already ended Justice Department preclearance of congressional maps (and other election rules) in states with a history of discrimination and ruled that federal courts cannot overturn maps on the grounds that they constitute unfair partisan gerrymanders. Now, between the Alabama case and North Carolina rulings, the GOP justices could seal off two of the remaining avenues Democrats have used to challenge gerrymandered congressional maps. “The outcome in both of these cases is likely to be bad for opponents of gerrymandering, either racial gerrymandering or partisan gerrymandering,” said Seabrook. “The question is: how bad.”
The answer, for years to come, could determine control of a House of Representatives that now looks stuck on a knife’s edge between the parties.
But beyond the question of which party benefits if the Supreme Court continues to raze the guard rails against overly partisan maps is the impact on voters. Fewer restrictions on gerrymandering means more seats virtually guaranteed to elect candidates from one party or the other. In other words, more seats in which the politicians pick the voters rather than the other way around. “The alarming thing,” said Davis, the former Republican representative “is you are taking the voters out of the equation.”