Partisan gerrymandering in AL, NC, OH, and WI (w/ AUDIO)
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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed new congressional and legislative maps into law last week as legal challenges mounted in the courts. The congressional map (image), drawing boundaries for U.S. House districts, maintains the GOP’s 6-1 hold on the state. The single Democratic seat, CD07, is held by Rep. Terri Sewell and is the subject of the latest lawsuit alleging racial gerrymandering. The Republican-drawn map packs the majority of the Black population into CD07, resulting in only one minority district.
The lawsuit, brought by Black voters in and around CD07, reads in part (pdf):
Between 2010 and 2020, Alabama’s Black population grew 6.5 percent. During the same period, the state’s white population fell by 1.7 percent, meaning majority-Black Alabamians drove all of Alabama’s population growth over the last decade. And yet the state’s newly enacted congressional redistricting plan further entrenches the state’s white majority by creating only a single majority-Black district in the state, despite Alabama’s Black population being sufficiently numerous and geographically compact to support two majority-Black congressional districts…
HB 1 “cracks” Black voters between the First, Second, and Third Congressional Districts, and “packs” Black voters into the Seventh Congressional District (“CD 7”) despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that the Black population in these districts is sufficiently numerous and geographically compact to form a majority of the voting age population in a second district. Additionally, there is widespread racially polarized voting in Alabama, and when considered against the totality of the circumstances, the enacted plan’s failure to create two majority-Black districts dilutes the Black vote in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
GOP candidates in Alabama are also crying foul over the legislative (state) maps prioritization of incumbent protection. Like other Republican-controlled states (e.g. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina), Alabama’s redistricting guidelines (pdf) mandate “contests between incumbents will be avoided whenever possible.”
Republican candidates who have already announced their intentions to run during the 2022 primary, are finding their homes shifted from the House or Senate district where they thought they were competing into a new district and against a new opponent…
Josh Pendergrass, a former communications director to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, was eyeing a contest against Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for the House District 88 GOP nomination before last week when the maps were first released. He is now drawn out of the district and placed into the adjacent House District 69, which is a Democratic seat occupied by Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville.
Pendergrass accuses the committee of drawing his house out of District 88, and for splitting the city of Prattville. He said the new map unfairly divides a “core community” in Prattville, which he said would be a violation of the committee’s own rules.
The North Carolina General Assembly approved new redistricting maps along party-line votes on Thursday, giving Republicans a significant advantage for the next decade if the courts do not step in. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has no veto power over redistricting.
The Congressional map, reflecting an additional House seat granted during reapportionment, consolidates the GOP’s power by securing 2 additional R seats and removing a safe D seat. The result is a 10 R, 3 D, and 1 toss-up seat (CD02). Rep. Kathy Manning’s (D) CD06 is completely removed from its current position, forcing her to compete in a new safe Republican district. Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s (D) current district, CD01, is redrawn to dilute Black voters, thereby reducing it from a Biden +9 district to a Biden +2.
Rep. Manning called the new maps “an extreme partisan gerrymander that splits communities of interest.”
“Under these maps, Guilford County is split into three congressional districts, diluting my constituents’ interests and lumping them in with far-flung counties in the western mountains, the suburbs of Charlotte, and as far east as Wake County,” she said. “These maps don’t acknowledge that the Triad is a region with shared interests, concerns and needs…These maps were created for one purpose only: to ensure Republicans win more House seats so that they can recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Manning said in a statement.
“It takes thousands of Democratic voters out of my district and places those into another district, which means my district becomes less Democratic and less African American,” Butterfield said in an interview with Spectrum News 1 after the maps were approved Thursday. He argued that the new map violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting Black votes.
North Carolina’s NAACP filed suit prior to the map’s approval, challenging the criteria used by the redistricting committees (pdf):
From the beginning of this process, the Defendant Chairs of the Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections and the House Committee on Redistricting…have, despite warnings from citizens and legislators of color, state their intention to consider neither racial data nor perform any kind of racially polarized voting analysis to understand how district lines would affect minority voting strength and representation. The Redistricting Committees have approved redistricting criteria prohibiting any use of racial data, and the Redistricting Chairs have stated that, despite their legal obligation to do so, they refuse to consider any maps drawn that lawfully and properly utilize racial data…
The intentional refusal by the Redistricting Chairs to act lawfully, by considering racial data or to conduct any racially polarized voting analysis, already has borne fruit. The county clusters designated by the Redistricting Chairs prescribe districts that will dilute the voting power of Black North Carolinians, including the Individual Plaintiffs, and the draft maps already proposed would diminish the ability of voters of color to elect their candidates of choice.
No lawsuits have been filed against the state’s legislative maps, which also give Republicans a strong advantage. The state Senate’s 50 seats would split into 24 safe R, 17 safe D, 5 lean R, and 4 lean D. The North Carolina House’s 120 seats break down into 55 safe R, 41 safe D, 13 lean R, and 11 lean D. If Republicans can win the competitive seats in the House and Senate, they could gain supermajorities to overcome any vetoes from the governor.
“The state legislative maps would put Republicans at or within reach of veto-proof majorities in both chambers,” said Asher Hildebrand, a former chief of staff for Rep. David Price who now teaches politics at Duke University.
The bipartisan, but Republican-controlled, Ohio Redistricting Commission gave up on creating congressional redistricting maps without considering a single proposal after the panel failed to come to an agreement on legislative (state) maps. Their decision grants the overwhelmingly-Republican legislature the power to draw congressional districts, while the state-level maps are only in effect for 4 years—if they survive court challenges.
The state House (image) and Senate (image) unveiled their versions of Ohio’s future congressional districts last week. Both were immediately panned as unconstitutionally gerrymandered to maximize GOP power. The current 12R-4D map would shift to a 13R-2D map (Ohio lost a seat in reapportionment) in a strong Republican election year under the proposals, with just CD03 (part of Cleveland) and CD11 (part of Columbus) being safe Dem seats. The House map is particularly skewed, with a 16.7% Republican advantage in a hypothetical 50%-50% popular vote split.
Even Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said there’s some work to do on maps that could give the GOP as much as a 13-2 advantage in a state that voted for then-President Donald Trump with 53% of the vote in 2020.
“It’s pretty clear neither one of these maps are going to fly,” said DeWine, calling them a starting point.
Both maps would draw Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), the longest-serving woman in Congress, into a Republican district:
Kaptur, in a statement, called the proposed maps “a clear violation” of fair congressional districts. “A legitimate redistricting of Ohio could have easily achieved a balanced result without elongated, far-reaching boundaries that break apart metropolitan areas, split Ohio’s communities of affinity, defy natural topography and shatter economic regions,” Kaptur said.
A map must receive support from 60% of lawmakers and 33% of Democrats to last 10 years. Otherwise, it will only be in effect for four years…unless Gov. DeWine vetos the final plan, which he did not do for the legislative maps.
So far, three lawsuits have been filed against the legislative maps (house image and senate image). One, brought by the League of Women Voters of Ohio, alleges the state district boundaries violate the Ohio Constitution (pdf):
Just after midnight on September 16, 2021, with a 5-2 vote along strictly partisan lines, Ohio’s Redistricting Commission enacted maps that are intended to, and will, entrench a Republican veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of Ohio’s General Assembly for the next four years. This extreme partisan gerrymandering flouts the clear commands of Article XI of the Ohio Constitution that “[n]o general assembly district plan shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party”…and that the number of seats held by a party in the Ohio General Assembly “shall correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio” over the previous decade…
Over the past decade, Republicans have received between 46.2% and 59.7% of the statewide vote… But the enacted map draws 67% of the House districts and 69% of the Senate districts to favor Republicans.
The Wisconsin “People’s Map Commission” released its own redistricting maps to compete with the Republican-controlled legislature’s proposals. The Commission, created last year by Gov. Tony Evers (D), is nonpartisan and independent; elected officials, public officials, and lobbyists are banned from membership. Evers promised to veto the Republican-drawn maps, setting up a court battle that will likely decide district boundaries for the next decade.
“For years, the people of this state have demanded better and fairer maps,” Evers said during a press conference in Madison on November 2. “And for years, the people of the state have been ignored. The gerrymandered maps the Republicans passed a decade ago, have enabled members of the Legislature to comfortably ignore the will of the people. There is no incentive to compromise.”
The Commission’s congressional plan takes the state’s current 5R-3D delegation and turns it into a likely 4R-4D outcome (image). In contrast, the Republican’s congressional proposal gives Democrats 2 safe seats and Republicans 5 safe seats, with one district leaning R (image).
The GOP proposal focused on a “least change” methodology to maintain the core of existing district boundaries, which have been regarded as some of the most gerrymandered maps in the nation and have afforded Republicans strong majorities in both chambers for the last decade.
Similarly, the Commission’s Senate and General Assembly plans split party control evenly, while Republican-drawn maps increase their party’s power. The Commission’s General Assembly map, for instance, would create 41 safe R seats, 15 toss-up districts (defined as 46.5-53.5% partisan split), and 43 safe D seats (image). The Republican’s map would result in 51 safe R seats, 13 toss-up districts, and 35 safe D seats (image).
Unlike other states, South Carolina is being taken to court for its failure to advance any maps at all. Groups like the ACLU and the NAACP filed suit (pdf) against the state legislature for adjourning until next year, with their return set a short time before key election dates. As result, South Carolinians would have little time to review the proposed maps and provide input. Furthermore, any candidates interested in running will have a few weeks—at most—to decide to run in whatever district they happen to be drawn into.
Without calling a special session, the Legislature’s first opportunity to consider redistricting maps will be during the 2022 regular legislative session, beginning on January 11, 2022—just eleven weeks before candidates must declare their intent to run for office and less than eight weeks before various election officials are required to publicize certain information, including the dates of the candidate filing period.
South Carolina also has a troubling record of enacting legally inadequate maps over the last five decades. Each cycle, it has taken significant time to resolve issues in the courts. Therefore, the Legislature’s decision to delay mapmaking practically guarantees that the Legislature will not produce timely maps that meet constitutional and other requirements or follow a process that offers an opportunity for meaningful public consideration.