As the redistricting process nears its end, this anxiety is starting to subside.
The worst scenario for Democrats of losing over a dozen seats to the U.S. House seems unlikely. Some Democrats have begun to draw maps in states that have Democratic legislatures. They predict that the average congressional district will move from being to the right of national vote to matching it. This would end a distortion that has given the GOP an advantage over the five previous House elections.
Kelly Ward Burton, head the National Democratic Redistricting Committee said that the GOP was "stymied in their intent to gerrymander to gain a House majority."
For several months, the nation's congressional maps will remain unfinished. Republicans in large states such as Florida have not yet finalized proposed changes. This gives the GOP an opportunity to gain an advantage.
But the picture could come into greater clarity this week as the Democratic-controlled New York state legislature gets a chance to seize map-drawing power from the state's bipartisan commission. This would likely negate the GOP advantage, which has existed since the 2010 redistricting process.
This jockeying in state capitols will have consequences not only for Democrats' struggle to keep a majority in Congress in the next year's midterm elections, but also for their overall effort to retain a majority in the U.S. House. It will have a significant impact on the balance of power in Washington, as well as the state legislatures, for the remainder of this decade.
Although Republicans claim they have achieved their goals, they are surprised by how many Democrats have attempted to increase the number of seats that their party can win. The GOP is taking a different approach, trying to protect its most vulnerable members and transform competitive seats into safer ones.
This is partly because Republicans have already expanded the map by aggressive redistricting following the 2010 census when they held more states. As the lines are adjusted to match 2020 census figures, Republicans are locking in their gains, while Democrats take risks to fight back.
Analysts say that Democrats could lose more seats in a wave election because they have spread their voters too thinly. If political alliances change in the upcoming years, Democrats could lose seats they thought were possible.
Michael Li, Brennan Center for Justice's redistricting coordinator, said that "Republicans have provided themselves fairly good tsunami protection." "But Democrats know that if it rains, their house will be flooded.
This Democratic push comes after the party failed to fight to ban partisan-gerrymandering across the country. Their elections bill banning the practice was killed in the Senate during a Republican filibuster. Li stated that Democrats are still gerrymandering states they control, sometimes as aggressively as in Illinois and other times more lightly as in New Mexico, Oregon, and New Mexico.
Experts say that Republicans control more states and have heavily gerrymandered in areas like Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio. The state Supreme Court tossed out the GOP's Ohio maps this month. Democrats hope North Carolina's high courts will follow suit with the districts, which is part of the reason why the party's optimism has grown.
New York is the next opportunity for Democrats. This will be a test of how much power Democrats are willing give up in order to stop gerrymandering. In 2014, Democrats in New York backed a ballot initiative to give redistricting to a bipartisan commission. The commission can be overruled by the state legislature. It was split between Republican and Democratic control in 2014. Now, Democrats hold a supermajority of both houses.
New York's Legislature had already rejected the first map attempt by the commission. Democrats on the commission declared a deadlock Monday. This gave the Legislature the chance to draw its own maps.
"The Democratic leadership, along with those on the far right that run Albany, are determined to take over this process to derail it and have the party bosses draw the maps," stated Nick Langworthy, Chairman of the New York GOP. "I believe they only looked at a few states to give them the chance to keep the majority."
To control the U.S. House, Republicans must win five seats in November's elections. They began the redistricting cycle by controlling line-drawing in states that represented 187 House seats, while Democrats only controlled 75.
This means that the final outcome will favor the GOP regardless of how hard Democrats fight back. Kimbrall Brace is a veteran consultant in redistricting. Brace stated that they are still trying to put a Republican flavor onto the overall plan.
The GOP has only gained a few seats in finalized maps, but it is difficult to estimate how many, as half of the states still have not adopted maps. For example, if Democrats are aggressive they could win four New York seats and nearly wipe out the GOP’s national gains. However, Republicans in Florida might counter this with a gerrymander.
Yet, Republicans have missed multiple opportunities to increase their margins.
Some Missouri GOP state legislators are expressing outrage at the fact that the legislature is trying to lock in the status quo, rather than try to change Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s Kansas City-area seat to GOP. Republicans in Indiana did not seperate the Gary-based district represented Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan.
Even though Republicans had flooded a Georgia seat held by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, with GOP voters, they refused to do the same for Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, her Democratic neighbor. They instead packed Democratic voters into Bourdeaux’s district, making it safer for other Republicans.
Adam Kincaid, the executive director of National Republican Redistricting Trust said that shoring up Republican incumbents was the party's number one priority. He points to Texas, where GOP-drawn maps make it even more Democratic. This allows Republicans to win more seats in the 23 GOP-held congressional district and makes them safer. During the 2020 cycle, Republicans and their supporters spent $20 million on races across the state. Kincaid stated that they now have the ability to redirect the money elsewhere.
Kincaid stated that the cycle unfolded exactly as expected, with the exception of Democrats placing a larger bet than I anticipated.
Democrats, contrary to the GOP have been keen to spread their votes around, even at the expense of their incumbents.
Nevada is the most striking example. Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford (Democrat) and Susie Lee (Democrat) moved liberal voters out of Rep. Dina Tuus' once-overwhelmingly Democratic Las Vegas District to help them shore up two nearby swing seats. This may keep all three seats safe Democratic in a good year but it puts them all at risk during a difficult election cycle for Democrats such as the current.
Burton argued that tactical decisions such as those made by Nevada Democrats or others are not gerrymandering. Rather, they are simply drawing lines to make seats more competitive.
Burton stated, "We aren't afraid of the voters." "We don't fear districts where voters decide the outcome," Burton said.
Joel Wertheimer is a Democratic civil rights lawyer, and an analyst for Data for Progress. He has known for months that redistricting would shift the typical congressional District from two percentage points to right of the national ballot to five points in the case of Biden's victory in 2020.
It is a result of a shift in the mindset of Democrats who are willing to take bigger losses to have a better chance at winning the 218 House seats.
Wertheimer stated, "I think that Democrats are making the calculation that we don't care if there are 180 or 190 seats." "I want the majority."