Democrats are doing strangely well in the redistribution
Now, Democrats will have a chance to lose the 2022 midterms, fairly and squarely.
Photo: Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images
The majority of the Democratic House was supposed to die in the redistribution. For months now, pundits and political forecasters have predicted Republicans could win back the House next year without toppling a single voter. After all, the GOP controls a lot more state governments than the Democrats, and it’s a post-census year when states are redrawing their maps of Congress. Republicans have exclusive authority over the 193 congressional district boundaries, while Democrats command only 94. Given Nancy Pelosi’s slim majority, several analyzes predicted that GOP mappers would generate enough new “red” seats sure to take over the House by gerrymandering alone.
This has been a fundamental premise of much of my own commentary. And it is an assumption which animated the push of the progressive movement in favor of a set of democratic reforms which would prohibit, among other things, partisan redistribution.
But it’s starting to look bad.
The new Maison map is more than half finished. And in many states where the maps haven’t been finalized, the outlines are already visible. Overall, the picture that looms is much more favorable to Democrats than expected. As of this writing, it looks like the new house map will be much less biased in favor of the GOP than the old one. And according to at least one analyst, there is actually an outward chance that the final card will be tilted, even slightly, in the Democrats’ to favor.
For supporters of equal representation, the key criterion for congressional cards is partisan fairness: is each party’s share in a state’s congressional delegation roughly proportional to its share of the vote in the party? statewide? Right now, in many tightly divided states, this is not the case. And generally, Republicans undermine the disproportionate representation of inequality. For example, in 2020 Joe Biden won more than 50% of the bipartisan vote in Wisconsin, but Democrats claimed only 37.5% of the seats in the State House. This discrepancy did not reflect the widespread ticket splitting, but rather the concentration of Democratic voters in three heavily urban congressional districts.
Nationally, a fair map of Congress would be one in which the seat of Congress “tipping point” – one that puts either party above to gather a majority – has a partisan lean roughly. similar to that of the nation. In 2020, Joe Biden won the popular vote of around 4.5 points. So, on a fair map, about half of all districts in the House would have voted for Biden by Following 4.5 points, while the other half would have either given him a smaller margin than that, or gone for Trump.
In a recent analysis for progressive think tank Data for Progress, Joel Wertheimer applied this test to the 25 states that had finalized their house plans. In the graph below, a House district “leans Democratic” if its voters backed Biden by more than 4.5% in 2020 and “leans Republican” if Biden’s margin was less than that (or nonexistent). On all revised maps, the number of seats left of the nation as a whole increases by 16.
Chart: Data for progress
In the days following Wertheimer’s publication, two more states finalized maps. In New Jersey, Democrats won the deciding vote on the state’s redistribution committee. As a result, the partisan distribution on the Garden State’s House map has remained constant, at least by Wertheimer’s criterion: on new and old maps, nine of the state’s districts are more Democratic than America at large. , while three are less. (That said, New Jersey currently has ten Democratic members and two Republicans, and under the new map, a Democratic-owned district turns redder, so the party will likely lose a seat because of the changes.) In Arizona, Meanwhile, a supposedly non-partisan commission process ultimately produced a 6-3 Republican gerrymander. Add them to the pile, and the 2022 map still has 14 more “left of the country” seats than the 2020 map.
Now, just because the emerging map is an improvement over the old one doesn’t mean Republicans still won’t have a structural advantage. After all, the map of the existing house was drawn in the aftermath of the 2010 Tea Party wave. In 2011, Republicans had exclusive discretion over the borders of 219 House districts, while Democrats were dictating those of just 44. An unforeseen drift to the left among suburban voters lessened the severity of the 2011 map bias at the end of the decade. But that’s still a very pro-Republican baseline. In all likelihood, the new house card will always favor the GOP.
However, the new card will favor Republicans less than the old one, which was not obvious. From the start, it was clear that the Democrats would have more influence over the redistribution in 2021 than they had in 2011. But the GOP was still poised to dominate the process and had the opportunity to adjust their old gerrymanders to better fit their new, post-Trump coalition.
There are several reasons why things have not worked out as the progressive pessimists feared. The first is that – contrary to partisan stereotypes – the Democrat trifecta arguably mustered more ruthless party discipline in the redistribution than the Republicans. Illinois, Oregon and New York have all sued aggressive partisan gerrymanders who have made the job security of some incumbents contingent on maximizing the total number of Democratic-leaning seats. In contrast, Texas Republicans have taken the opposite approach, choosing to strengthen the hold of their incumbents at the cost of leaving 13 Democratic-leaning seats on the map. Meanwhile, many Red States do not have the ability to upgrade existing gerrymanders.
Granted, the Blue States likely left more gerrymanderable seats on the table than the Reds, simply because some of the country’s more democratic states have outsourced the redistribution authority to independent commissions. Luckily for Team Blue, the California Non-Partisan Commission is on the verge of finalizing a pretty pro-Democrat map. As of this writing, the House of California map will likely have 44 seats to the left of the country and eight to its right. If the Democrats boasted of having complete control over the California redistribution, they probably could have produced a 50-2 Democratic gerrymander. But still, it’s not a bad move.
There are two big jokers left in the redistribution fight: Ohio and North Carolina. In these two states, the Republican trifectas have prepared extreme partisan gerrymanders who are currently the subject of a court challenge. The North Carolina Supreme Court has a 4-3 Democratic majority. Ohio has a 4-3 Republican majority, but one of the GOP judges is relatively moderate. And in oral argument, Ohio judges appeared unhappy that the Republican map blatantly ignored the state’s constitutional amendment against gerrymandering.
According to Wertheimer’s calculations, if these two gerrymanders are canceled, it is in fact possible that the seat of the “tipping point” on the final national map will be slightly Following Democratic than the nation as a whole in 2020. That is: the House map might end up having a little pro-Democrat bias.
This is by no means the likely outcome. But its plausibility underscores a fundamental fact: The greatest threat to the Democratic House majority in 2022 is no longer Republican gerrymandering, but rather the combination of the inherent advantage of the opposition party’s participation in mid- course and dismal numbers from Joe Biden’s polls.