by Max Matheny
The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.
The new congressional map passed by the Texas Legislature. Colors indicate partisan leaning of each district. Photo by WashingtonPost.com.
In November voters will get a chance to elect their representatives. However it might not be the same one as the one they elected in the 2020 elections. This is due to Redistricting, which is a process where each state will draw maps to divide a state into equally populated districts and these districts will in turn elect representatives to send to congress. Each district can have a certain amount of voting bias as certain areas can have prefered political preferences. As a result, some state governments have taken to intentionally drawing district lines to benefit one party or another. This is called “gerrymandering”, and parties have used this process for years to favorably draw maps in their favor. This process of redistricting takes place every ten years, after the census data is released.
The last time this happened was in 2010, and at that time, there was a significant shift in the electorate when republicans experienced enormous gains in rural areas, picking up a net gain of 63 seats out of the 435 total seats. In these elections, republicans also spent a good portion of their campaign funds on much cheaper state elections, giving them a majority in many statehouses. This allowed them to gerrymander districts to favorably benefit their party. In the most infamous case, North Carolina Republicans had drawn a map giving them 11 out of the 13 seats, and eliminated any hope of the democrats gaining seats. Since then, there has been significant pushback on gerrymandering since then and many states have passed laws in an attempt to thwart gerrymandering. The North Carolina map that was previously mentioned was overturned by a federal court and redrawn to be fair.
Only five states will not have to draw their congressional house maps as they only have one seat. Those states include Vermont, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska. Though Republicans do not control the legislatures of many of the states that they had in 2010, analysts made the prediction that some of the maps would be worse for the democrats. Such is the case in Ohio, where republicans have drawn a map that would've likely resulted in sending twelve republicans and three democrats to congress. But when shown a side-by-side comparison between the two maps, Tyler Moore, a student, said that it looked much less of a gerrymander. However a majority of the gerrymandering has not been done in favor of the GOP. Democrats in states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Illinois, and New York have drawn their maps in a way that republicans have very little hope of recapturing some of these districts. Whereas most republican states such as Indiana and Texas have drawn their maps in making democratic seats safer in order to protect their incumbents.
This cycle, in an effort to curb gerrymandering, some states have established bipartisan or independent commissions that would aim to better reflect the constituents. These have seen mixed results with some states electing to ignore the commission and proceeding with their own agenda anyways. Others have passed maps to better reflect the electorate such as the map passed in Michigan. However, once these maps have been passed, many have faced lawsuits alleging they are racial gerrymanders and violate the 14th amendment of the US constitution. These will face long and drawn out battles in court, and it is likely that most of these maps will remain unchanged. Already the Ohio Supreme court has thrown out the map passed by the legislature alleging it violates an amendment passed by the residents of Ohio, banning partisan gerrymandering. Though Ohio is a unique case, the courts have been active in the map drawing process. Such is the case in Virginia, where the court drew a fair map after lawmakers failed to agree on a new map. Ultimately, this new map will typically give the democrats six out of the eleven seats in a state that has a history of voting democratic.
A majority of the new maps make only minor changes to the maps and most states have only gerrymandered to protect the seats of their incumbents. However this comes at the cost of competitive districts which have decreased in number. Due to this, it is unlikely that these maps will have a major influence on the outcome of the 2022 midterms. With democrats having a very slim majority in the house, they will need every seat they can get. As a result there will most likely be a fierce battle to save the seats of their incumbents.