Now that the U.S. Census Bureau has completed reapportioning the 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states, attention has shifted to the redistricting process, which will begin later this year, redrawing the maps of congressional districts in the states that lost or won seats in the lower chamber. And looking ahead, Republicans have a lot to smile about.
According to MarketWatch, some analysts predict that thanks to seats being gained by Republican-led states, as well as a 2019 Supreme Court decision green-lighting partisan “gerrymandering,” the GOP could be poised to take back control of the House in the 2022 midterms through redistricting alone.
Census brings good news for GOP
Population data from the 2020 Census meant seven states lost seats in the House, while seven gained. In the losing column were California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
In the winning column are Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Florida, which will each gain one seat, as well as Texas, which will add two new seats to its congressional delegation.
All of these states will now await more detailed information from the U.S. Census Bureau regarding population shifts. That information, expected to be released in the fall, will help guide the way in which congressional districts are redrawn, a process that varies from state to state.
Redistricting across the U.S.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report‘s David Wasserman explained in an article Monday that some states allow the majority party in its legislature to redraw the maps in a manner that favors them, while other states have established bipartisan independent commissions to handle that task — albeit in some cases with the legislature or governor having the final say.
As of now, Republicans will have full control over how 187 congressional districts are redrawn, while Democrats will have full control over 75 districts.
Independent commissions will redraw 121 districts, and 46 districts will be redrawn in a compromise effort by closely split legislatures.
Wasserman observed that the redistricting process alone in the four Republican-led states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas could result in the GOP picking up the five seats needed to flip control of the House from blue to red. Overall, he predicted that Republicans could net anywhere from zero to eight new seats in Congress once redistricting is completed, all prior to a single vote being cast in the 2022 midterm elections.
The question of gerrymandering
Gerrymandering, a partisan practice that has been decried both by Democrats and Republicans in states where they’re each in the minority, will undoubtedly be a key factor in how many districts are redrawn. Reuters reported in February that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 2019 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over state-level redistricting unless it violates federal discrimination laws, and that gerrymandering was a matter best left for state courts to decide on their own.
Given that Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats, and therefore wield greater control over redistricting, the SCOTUS decision means some Republican states could draw the new congressional district maps in a fashion advantageous to the GOP.
In the end, while Republicans were already favored to reclaim control of the House in 2022 for a number of historical reasons, the reapportionment of seats and redrawing of districts are likely to substantially increase the GOP’s advantage ahead of next year’s midterms. Let the games begin.