How Redistricting Shaped the Midterms

Photo credit: AP

Redistricting had a big effect on this year’s midterm elections. Experts are weighing in on redistricting, saying that it probably did give the Republicans control of the House of Representatives. 

After a shockingly disappointing election night, Republicans will have a razor-thin majority of no more than five seats, potentially only four. This means that the Republicans could not have reclaimed control without redistricting. 

Both the Democrat and Republican parties entered the latest redistricting cycle seeking to press their advantages where they could.

But the Democrats had their most ruthless gerrymanders thrown out in the courts and the GOP did not, giving Republicans an edge that just might have carried them to a narrow House majority.

Democrats’ excesses in New York and Maryland — where they drew maps to excise the few Republican seats remaining — were checked by the courts, even though similarly gerrymandered GOP maps were allowed to stand by conservative jurists.

Republicans drew several red districts in states where they controlled the redistricting process: one each in Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia, and three in Florida. 

Without them, there would be no GOP majority. 

In short, experts say that the courts hurt Democrats but boosted the GOP. High courts struck down new maps from the Democrats but did not strike down Republican maps that were equally or more aggressive. 

Democrats’ inability to gerrymander in blue states stood in stark contrast with states like Florida, where courts declined to block aggressive redistricting plans that allowed Republicans to pick up four more seats. And this happened despite an anti-gerrymandering amendment to the state’s constitution passed by voters a decade ago that states districts should not be drawn to advantage a political party.

Looking ahead to 2024, Democrats have a relatively easy task in drawing up targets for the next election. 

Several states could see another round of redistricting before 2024 as their current maps face legal challenges that were not resolved this year. Some of those states will depend on future court rulings.

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