Redistricting Roundup: The Four Good Pieces of Redistricting News that should Uplift the GOP
Updated: Apr 12
After scales began to tilt towards Democrats, who shifted from earlier hopes of trying to mitigate redistricting losses to hopes of making the House a slightly pro-Democratic institution, they have recently been rebuked by State Courts and Republican Legislatures. Currently, our analysis estimates that Democrats have gained about five seats in the House through redistricting alone, enough to even the partisan bias of the chamber. Republicans hope to gain in New Hampshire, Maryland, Missouri, and Florida to negate Democrats’ gains and keep the chamber slightly, albeit clearly, biased towards the GOP. These gains mean that the parties would be expected to split the seats roughly equally in a neutral political environment. Redistricting has effectively been completed in 44 states, with only serious questions yet to be answered in Missouri, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Louisiana.
GOP Lawmakers Could Skirt a Court Order for Fairer Maps in Ohio—At Least For 2022
After Republican Ohio State Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner chose to side with Democrats and request proportionate maps to overrule Republicans’ original brutal gerrymander in Ohio, Democrats hoped to gain as many as three seats in Ohio through redistricting. But the Republican-led redistricting commission has continued to defy this court order, viewing it more as a suggestion. Republicans most recently passed an 11.4-3.6 map (in a neutral political environment), creating two safe Democratic districts (OH-03 and OH-11) as well as a Lean D OH-01, a Tilt R OH-13, and two Likely R districts (OH-09 and OH-10). A map like this is significantly more biased towards Republicans than necessary, given that President Donald Trump only won the state by 8 points in 2020. In 2022, this map could even end up with a 13-2 split in favor of Republicans. After the Ohio Supreme Court requested a new lawsuit against the new map, they released a timeline on March 29th that clarifies the new lawsuit will not be decided until after Ohio’s May 3rd primary date for 2022. Since the House is nearly a lost cause for Democrats in 2022, the party may be perfectly happy if more fair maps are installed for the more contentious House elections later this decade.
State Courts in Maryland Overrule Democratic Map as an Illegal Partisan Gerrymander
Democratic lawmakers in Maryland did not pass an optimal 8-0 gerrymander this cycle, stopping slightly short by passing an extreme 7.2-0.8 map including seven seats left of the nation. This map also included convoluted district borders even in safely Democratic districts, likely to satisfy incumbent demands regarding areas they wanted to represent. After a Maryland court struck this map down as an illegal partisan gerrymander, Democratic lawmakers responded with a slightly more compact 6.8-1.2 map, still including seven seats left of the nation. The map also notably packs minorities in the DC area, only creating two districts in the state where Black voters outnumbered White voters. This packing helps protect Steny Hoyer, a white Democratic incumbent serving in a district racially gerrymandered to include a plurality of white voters, from being defeated by an African-American primary challenger. The new map makes MD-01 a safe seat for Republican Incumbent Andy Harris and leaves MD-06 slightly vulnerable in Red Wave elections (such as in 2022) as only a D+5 district. Democrats cannot even be sure this map will be accepted by courts, as a fairer map should have roughly a 6-2 split.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis Could Influence Republican State Legislative Leaders in Florida to Pursue a More Extreme Gerrymander
While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has publicly displayed interest in pursuing an optimally gerrymandered map for the GOP in Florida, State Legislature members have expressed their discontent with his released draft. DeSantis has released a map that breaks up a (possibly) constitutionally mandated black-plurality FL-05 district stretching from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, cracking African-Americans in North Florida into four deep-red districts. He also packed the cities of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg together, connecting the two with only water. On March 29th, DeSantis vetoed his Republican state legislature’s map, a more moderate gerrymander that aimed to gain Republicans roughly a seat through redistricting. Although State Legislature leaders previously appeared resistant to the idea of adopting DeSantis’ map, especially since Florida State Courts could reject it. But recently, these lawmakers have softened their stances and—even if they refuse to disband FL-05—could pursue more aggressive gerrymanders in the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas.
The Missouri State House Declines to Send the State Senate’s 6-2 Map to GOP Governor
While National Republicans have pushed Missouri Republicans to crack MO-05—a deep-blue Kansas City-based district—and pursue an aggressive 7-1 gerrymander, Republicans in Missouri have firmly rejected this idea, worrying that this gerrymander could backfire in unfavorable political environments. After the State Senate shored up Ann Wagner’s suburban St. Louis MO-02 district with a slight gerrymander, many expected the State House to accept the map and pass it to the governor. But, on the evening of March 29th, the Missouri State House rejected the map and formally requested a meeting with the State Senate to discuss it. So while Republicans in Missouri are still extremely unlikely to pass a 7-1 map, this current map can only possibly get better for the GOP.
Learn more here about the 2022 Battle for Redistricting.