Republicans gerrymander Nashville and Kansas City in hopes of retaking the House: Redistricting update
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The Ohio Supreme Court struck down both the legislative and congressional redistricting maps as unconstitutional, sending the matter back to the redistricting commission to make another attempt.
The majority, made up of the three Democratic justices and Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, found that the GOP drew a congressional map “infused with undue partisan bias.” In doing so, the General Assembly blatantly violated a voter-approved constitutional amendment (Article XIX) that was meant to limit partisan gerrymandering (pdf).
Despite the adoption of Article XIX, the evidence in these cases makes clear beyond all doubt that the General Assembly did not heed the clarion call sent by Ohio voters to stop political gerrymandering. Conducting business as usual with no apparent concern for the reforms contemplated by Article XIX, the General Assembly enacted 2021 Sub.S.B. No. 258, which passed by a simple majority and was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on November 20, 2021. The bill resulted in districts in which undue political bias is—whether viewed through the lens of expert statistical analysis or by application of simple common sense—at least as if not more likely to favor Republican candidates than the 2011 reapportionment that impelled Ohio’s constitutional reforms.
The court noted that despite receiving 53% of the vote in statewide elections, experts determined the new congressional map favored Republicans for 80% (12 out of 15) of the seats.
Like the congressional maps, the court also threw out the state legislative maps for partisan gerrymandering (pdf). Drawn by a Republican-controlled redistricting panel, the state maps would have given massive majorities to the GOP: over 60 of the 99 seats in the House and over 20 of the 33 seats in the Senate.
The court ordered the General Assembly and redistricting commission to reconvene and draw new maps that comply with the state’s ban on drawing districts based on partisan concerns.
Note: Ohio already contained some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, courtesy of the Republicans in charge of the previous redistricting process. Take a look at District 11, for example, or District 3.
A Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map is under fire for splitting heavily Democratic Nashville into three districts.
The 5th Congressional district, encompassing all of Nashville’s Davidson County, has been under Democratic control since 1875. Under the new map, Nashville is split up and drawn into the 5th, 6th, and 7th Congressional Districts, capturing conservative areas in order to dilute the Black vote.
House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, tried to push a motion Wednesday to table the map, calling for more time to review the proposed districts, which Democrats and the public were not able to review prior to the committee meeting.
“This is the first time we’ve seen the map. I understand you’re saying there’s been conversation about it but with whom, I don’t know,” Camper said. “No one in the Democratic leadership has seen or talked or had a conversation about this map until this very moment.”
There are currently only two Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation: Rep. Steve Cohen (9th district, Memphis) and Rep. Jim Cooper (5th district). If the new map is enacted into law, Cohen will likely be the only Democrat representing Tennessee at the federal level, giving Republicans 8 out of the state’s 9 House seats.
Cooper: “The damage this map does to the political influence of minority groups in Nashville is devastating. Our robust, diverse communities in Nashville are represented and affirmed in Washington, DC today when Nashville has its own voice in Congress. That voice is silenced when we are colonized by outlying rural communities… What Republicans could not win in local elections, they are stealing through gerrymandering.”
Like in Tennessee, Kansas Republicans are also targeting the state’s major metropolis, chipping away at Kansas City’s Democratic stronghold. The Senate Redistricting Committee approved the so-called “Ad Astra” map on Thursday. Upon the House Redistricting Committee’s vote, the map will need to be endorsed by both legislative houses.
Kansas City, with the highest minority population in the state, was kept together in the 3rd District by the courts during the 2010 redistricting cycle. Consequently, the 3rd District is the state’s only blue seat, though not by much — Rep. Charice Davids (D) defeated her Republican challenger by 10 percentage points in 2020.
The Ad Astra map would lop the northern half of Kansas City off from the 3rd District, drawing it into the conservative area north and east of the city. The new 3rd District is then redrawn to capture more rural, conservative voters south of the city, diluting the impact of Rep. Davids’ voters.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, said Republicans ignored the feedback given to lawmakers during town halls last year when residents asked them to keep the greater Kansas City metro area in the same district. She said the map won’t “pass muster” because of the way it divides minority groups.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) injected himself into the ongoing redistricting process last week, proposing his own hyper-gerrymandered congressional map for the legislature to consider.
His version would result in four more Republican House seats than currently held, changing the state’s delegation from 16R-11D to 20R-8D. One of the Democrats set to lose their seats, should DeSantis succeed, is current 5th district Rep. Al Lawson. His district, stretching from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, is drawn out of existence, replaced by safe Republican seats. Another black-majority district, the 10th, is also erased.
So far, Senate Republicans seem set on ignoring DeSantis’ map, moving forward with a version that would maintain their 16 seat hold. DeSantis has the power to veto congressional maps, something he may do in order to boost his national image among Republicans hoping to take back the House this fall.