As redistribution begins, Democrats’ outlook improves
October 2 (Reuters) – When Republican-controlled states such as Texas and Florida won seats in the United States House of Representatives thanks to 2020 census data showing their populations are booming, it is It appeared that the Democrats were in another grim cycle of redistribution.
But the census also found that most of the country’s growth is in urban areas and among minorities. Coupled with the shift from white suburban voters to Democrats during Republican Donald Trump’s presidency, the party’s prospects for the next decade are less bleak.
Proposals for new congressional cards in Republican-controlled states such as Texas, Indiana and Georgia do not aggressively target incumbent Democratic incumbents and instead seek to protect vulnerable Republicans whose suburban districts are become political battlefields.
Meanwhile, Democrats are set to pass their own cards in states like New York and Illinois, where urban growth and rural decline offer a chance to wipe out Republican districts. The gains there could help thwart Republican advantages elsewhere.
In most states, the power to redraw the maps of congressional districts after the United States Decennial Census rests with the legislature, and lawmakers often attempt to manipulate the maps for the benefit of their own party in a practice known as name of gerrymandering.
The stakes are high: Republicans only need five seats in the 2022 election to retake the House, which would give them effective veto power over Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Republicans currently control the 187-seat redistribution in Congress compared to just 75 for Democrats, according to an analysis by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. The remaining 173 seats are in states that have single districts, bipartite control, or independent redistribution commissions.
Many Republican states are already using gerrymandered cards from the last round of redistribution in 2010, after the party took control of nearly two dozen state legislative chambers.
“In many parts of the country, Republicans are already near their cap in terms of the number of seats they can take away from them,” said Paul Smith, who helps oversee litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center at Purpose. nonprofit, which advocates for fair elections.
The end result is uncertain. More than 40 states have yet to adopt maps, and disputes over district boundaries are inevitable.
Cities like Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, have grown rapidly over the past decade, largely among minority populations who tend to vote Democratic.
Demographic shifts have prompted Republicans to give up some Democratic gains to focus their attention elsewhere.
In Austin, for example, previous redistribution exercises aimed to dilute the city’s liberal power by mixing its constituents with those of its more conservative suburbs in a crazy quilt of neighborhoods. Austin voters make up about 75% of Travis County, who preferred Biden over Trump by a 45-point margin.
But suburban voters have turned away strongly from Republicans in recent years, as the 2020 census showed the city had grown by more than 20%. This prompted Republican state lawmakers this week to come up with a map that places much of Austin in a new, predominantly Democratic district to consolidate Republican seats in surrounding areas.
The proposed map, which includes two new districts thanks to the growing population of Texas, would eliminate virtually all competitive districts in the state, Republicans and Democrats, in order to preserve the Republicans’ current advantage.
Under the new lines, only three of the state’s 38 districts would have had a margin of less than 10 percentage points between Trump and Biden, not counting third-party votes.
“He’s a defensive gerrymander, as opposed to an offensive,” said Michael Li, a recutting expert at the Brennan Center. “That doesn’t mean it’s not bad.”
Democrats and advocacy groups criticized the new map for failing to create districts with a majority of minority voters, responsible for nearly all of the state’s population growth. Federal law requires some of these constituencies to ensure that the power of minority voters is not diluted.
“I think it was intentional and deliberate to curb the explosive growth of the minority population in Texas,” said Ron Reynolds, member of the Democratic State Assembly.
The office of Republican State Senator Joan Huffman, who drafted the map, did not respond to a request for comment.
In Georgia, a proposed state Senate Republicans card this week endangers Democrat Lucy McBath, who occupies a former Republican neighborhood in suburban Atlanta.
But Carolyn Bourdeaux, the only Democrat to overturn a House of Republicans seat last year, would see her neighboring district become much more Democratic, mirroring the increasingly diverse area that contributed to Biden’s surprising victory in the statewide.
DEMOCRATS AT THE OFFICE
Democrats seek to counter any loss by switching to offense in the states they rule.
New York, where Democrats control the redistribution for the first time in more than a century, could turn out to be the biggest prize in the cycle.
Analysts say the Democratic super-majorities in the legislature could eliminate up to five Republican seats. A bipartisan commission is tasked with producing an advisory map, but Democrats have the votes to reject it.
Republicans accused Democrats of plotting to force a gerrymander.
Democrats also appear poised to erase at least one, if not two Republican seats in Illinois. In Oregon, the Democratic majority passed a card this week that gives the party the edge in five of six districts.
New York State Senator Mike Gianaris, the Democrat who co-chairs the committee that will take charge of the redistribution in the event of state commission failure, said the goal was to draw the lines. ” fairly “to reflect demographic changes.
“Just because the outcome will be more Democrats doesn’t mean that it was designed for that purpose,” he said, while acknowledging that no one “is ignoring the national implications of what we are doing” .
Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey, and Jason Lange in Washington Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Sonya Hepinstall
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