Redistricting Update, March 2022

As of March 10th, 40 of 44 states have now finished the once-in-a-decade redistricting process to redraw their congressional maps. Six states have only one congressional representative and therefore do not need to redistrict. Only four states – Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and New Hampshire – have not finalized their new maps. Despite controlling fewer state legislatures, it appears that Democrats stand to benefit from the new maps. This year’s redistricting process has created six more Democratic-leaning seats and six fewer highly competitive seats than the previous set of maps. This is largely the result of gerrymandered Democratic maps in states like New York and Illinois, and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows North Carolina and Pennsylvania to move forward with maps that favor Democrats over versions drawn by the Republican-controlled legislatures. Even so, red states like Texas and Florida, with dozens of districts, will gain – or at least solidify – a large number of Republican-held seats due to GOP gerrymandering.

Both lower courts and state Supreme Courts have passed judgments impacting redistricting maps this cycle, most notably in North Carolina and Ohio. These rulings will likely lead to the continued politicization of state judicial races in the midterms and future elections.

Litigation over congressional districts is ongoing in nine states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, although courts have allowed some of the maps to stand for this election cycle while awaiting further review. 90% of the 435 congressional districts are set, assuming none of the maps in litigation are invalidated.

Here is a breakdown of the process in seven key states, including an update on the four states that haven’t approved a map yet:

1. North Carolina – MAP COMPLETE

The Republican-controlled state legislature drew a map that gave Republicans an advantage in 10 of the state’s 14 U.S. House seats, despite the state’s roughly equal number of Republicans and Democrats. A Democratic majority on the state court rejected the legislature’s map and tasked a nonpartisan panel of redistricting experts with creating a new one. The new map splits North Carolina’s congressional districts roughly equally between Republicans and Democrats, giving each party six relatively safe House seats, with two competitive seats. After the state Supreme Court refused to block that ruling, Republican state officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. On March 7, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the request, allowing North Carolina’s current map to stand, at least for the 2022 election. North Carolina has undergone a similar situation for the last several cycles and is expected to continue to face redistricting challenges in the next cycle and beyond. 

2. Ohio – MAP COMPLETE

Of the remaining states in the redistricting battle, Ohio may have the biggest potential impact on the national picture. On January 14, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the congressional map enacted by Ohio’s Republican legislature and governor in November, claiming the map – which gave 10 of the state’s 15 seats to Republicans – violated the partisan-fairness requirement in the state constitution. On March 2, 2022, Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved a replacement map that is virtually the same as the original. With less than two months until the state’s May 3rd primary, the fate of Ohio’s latest congressional map now rests in the hands of the state Supreme Court, after two groups filed lawsuits. Ohio, in addition to several other states, adopted a new redistricting process designed to produce fairer maps. Like some other state commissions, it doesn’t appear to have worked as proponents hoped.

3. Florida – MAP INCOMPLETE

In early March, Florida’s Republican-controlled state legislature approved an unusual two-map congressional plan, with a primary and secondary option (if the primary fails). The two maps are very similar as both give Republicans an advantage and would add an additional Republican-held seat after Florida gained a seat from reapportionment. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has objected to the plan – specifically the secondary map. He has threatened a veto over what he considers racial gerrymandering. Both maps contain a congressional district intended to nominate a Black candidate in a majority-Black county. The primary map is more favorable to Gov. DeSantis’ position, while the secondary map maintains the current orientation, which DeSantis insists is illegal. If Gov. DeSantis and the legislature don’t agree on a map – which seems increasingly likely – the decision would be sent to a state court. Because of Florida’s large delegation (28 congressional seats), the partisan lean of several districts – and therefore possibly control of the U.S. House – hangs in the balance. 

4. New York – MAP COMPLETE

After losing a seat to reapportionment, the new congressional map approved by the Democratic-controlled state legislature gives Democrats an advantage in 22 of the state’s 26 congressional districts. It eliminates three Republican-leaning seats in favor of three Democratic-leaning seats. Such an imbalance represents a failure for the state’s new bipartisan redistricting commission, which was unable to agree on a single map. This left the task to the Democratic-controlled legislature. Democratic leaders have not disputed that the maps may produce gains for their party but say that those gains are a result of population shifts that have made an already blue state much bluer since the last redistricting cycle in 2012. A New York State judge indicated in early March that he would allow this year’s midterm elections to proceed using the state’s newly drawn district lines, rebuffing Republican requests to delay the election process while he considers whether the maps are unconstitutional.

5. Louisiana – MAP INCOMPLETE

On Feb. 18, Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a map that seeks to preserve the current split of five strongly Republican-held seats and one strong Democratic seat that connects New Orleans to Baton Rouge. As anticipated, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed the Republican-controlled state legislature’s map, arguing that the proposed map “does not include a second majority African American district, despite Black voters making up almost a third of Louisianans” over the past decade. Lawmakers open a regular session Monday, March 14, and are expected to attempt a veto override. Although the GOP does not have the supermajority needed to override a veto in the state House, the legislature could pass the vetoed map again with a majority vote and send it back to Governor Edwards. 

6. Missouri – MAP INCOMPLETE

After a 31-hour filibuster, the Missouri Senate tabled the House-passed version of the state’s congressional map. The House version largely maintains the current map of a 6-2 Republican edge, with two Democrats seats in the urban districts of St. Louis and Kansas City. Many conservatives in the Senate have pushed for a more aggressive Republican-leaning map that would split Kansas City and eliminate a Democratic-held seat to give Republicans a 7-1 advantage. Negotiations are ongoing in the state Senate. Discussion is now focusing on a compromise that would keep Kansas City’s blue district intact but make a suburban St. Louis district more solidly red. 

7. New Hampshire – MAP INCOMPLETE

On March 7, a New Hampshire Senate Committee approved the map passed by the state House earlier this year. The new plan proposes major changes to New Hampshire’s two-seat map, creating one overwhelmingly Democratic seat and one strong Republican seat, instead of two seats that are much more competitive. While Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said he would prefer a more competitively balanced map, he has not threatened to veto the bill.