The State of Play
Every state now has a finalized congressional map for the 2022 midterms other than Louisiana, whose congressional map was recently struck down and ordered redrawn by a federal judge. Meanwhile, Montana and Ohio are the only states that have yet to finalize new legislative maps.
The Brennan Center has two trackers you can use to keep up with the redistricting cycle: Our Redistricting Map Tracker contains links to all of the newly passed maps, while our Redistricting Litigation Roundup outlines the legal cases pending over new plans.
All told, 72 cases around the country have challenged newly passed congressional or legislative maps as racially discriminatory or partisan gerrymanders — or both — as of June 8.
Featured Story: Ohio Republicans Continue to Ignore Court Rulings
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled once again that a pair of legislative maps submitted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission violated the state constitution’s partisan fairness provisions, but the members of the Republican majority on the commission have said they will ignore the Ohio court’s order to submit constitutional maps after a federal court allowed the state to use a previously struck-down set of plans for the 2022 midterm elections.
As the Brennan Center’s Yurij Rudensky told NBC News, the chaos around Ohio’s legislative maps stems from the fact that while the state supreme court can strike plans down, it’s barred from drawing its own constitutional maps. “The best way to disincentivize abuses is to create a sense among map drawers that unless they approach the task in good faith, unless they do right by the standards that they’re bound by, that someone else will take over the process . . . That’s an incredibly powerful thing," Rudensky said.
Featured Story: What Went Wrong with New York’s Redistricting
New York’s winding and twisting redistricting saga this cycle diverged sharply from the one many envisioned in 2014 when the state passed a constitutional amendment that was supposed to prevent partisan gerrymandering. In a new piece, the Brennan Center’s Michael Li looks at lessons from New York’s messy redistricting.
The main problem, Li writes, was the amendment’s failure to truly take politics out of redistricting. “Despite being described in New York law as ‘independent,’ the changes in reality resulted in a process that remains far more open to political manipulation and is far less independent than those of states that adopted more comprehensive reforms . . . More importantly, the New York commission, unlike truly independent ones, doesn’t have the final say on maps.” In addition, the 2014 reforms also created ambiguous map-drawing rules that gave the court-appointed special master significant discretion in how to redraw the maps. “In the end, the special master chose to make significant changes to maps, seemingly in the interest of having compact districts and avoiding favoring incumbents . . . [M]ore precise rules might have helped produce less contentious results.”
Li concludes, “While there are lessons to be learned from the state’s experience, the answer is to strengthen reforms, not use shortcomings in the 2014 constitutional amendment as an excuse for abandoning reforms altogether.”
Featured Map: Back to the Drawing Board in the Bayou, Judge Rules
A federal district court judge struck down Louisiana’s congressional map after finding that the map violated the Voting Rights Act for failing to include a second majority-Black district. The court gave lawmakers until June 22 to redraw the map, dismissing arguments that there was not enough time to enact a new map before the midterm elections. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has called a special session of the legislature that will start June 15 to take up passage of a new map. In the meantime, Republican state officials have appealed the trial court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit and asked for the ruling to be put on hold while the appeal is decided.
If the map is redrawn, there are a multitude of proposed maps that would easily include a second majority-Black district. Most would create a second district by ending the current practice of placing New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the same district. For example, alternative maps submitted by a coalition of civil rights groups, such as the map above, create one district that keeps the river parishes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, an area of the state sometimes known as “Cancer Alley,” entact in a district with New Orleans and then join Black portions of Baton Rouge with heavily Black parishes along the border with Mississippi to create a second, new Black opportunity district. At trial, one witness cited by the court said ending the practice of dividing the river parishes “makes sense to me,” describing the region’s shared environmental and racial justice concerns.
Redistricting in the News
In a setback for Black voters, the Florida Supreme Court rejected requests that it hear challenges to Florida’s new congressional map in time to make changes for the 2022 elections, meaning that the controversial map, drawn by the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), will remain in place for at least one election cycle while proceedings continue in lower courts.
New York politicians and voters alike are still adjusting to the state’s new congressional plan, which dramatically shifted district boundaries downstate. For example, in the newly configured upper Manhattan district, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, both influential committee chairs, will face off in the August 23 primary. Meanwhile, the primary in the newly formed NY-10 is drawing a large crowd of candidates including former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and current Westchester County-based Representative Mondaire Jones.
Because of deadlock in the political process, the New Hampshire Supreme Court adopted a congressional map drawn by a special master for use in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. The special master drew the map using a “least change” method, resulting in only five towns moving into the state’s Second Congressional District.
You can find earlier editions of our Redistricting Roundup here.