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Redistricting Litigation Roundup

A look at legal cases around the country challenging newly adopted redistricting plans.

Last Updated: January 20, 2022
Published: December 20, 2021
Maps of Alabama's redistricting plans
Maps of Alabama's House and Senate redistricting plans (Source: Associated Press)

As of January 20, 2022, a total of 40 cases have been filed challenging congressional and legislative maps in 13 states as racially discriminatory and/or partisan gerrymanders, of which 30 remain pending (20 in federal court and 10 in state court).

 

Lower courts in Illinois and North Carolina have entered a dispositive decision in five of the cases, while the Ohio Supreme Court has entered dispositive decisions in five cases raising partisan gerrymandering challenges.

Alabama

Racial discrimination

Congressional: Three cases have been filed in federal court by Black voters and civil rights organizations, contending that the new congressional map enacted by the Republican-controlled Alabama legislature is racially discriminatory in violation of the U.S. Constitution and/or Voting Rights Act.

The suits allege that the map intentionally perpetuates a long history of discrimination against Black voters by packing a large segment of Black voters into a single heavily Black congressional district and cracking the remaining voters among multiple districts, thereby diluting Black political power. Under the map, Black voters have the opportunity to elect a candidate of choice in only one of seven districts (14 percent of districts) despite making up around 27 percent of the state’s voting age population. All three cases ask the court to require that Alabama create a second Black opportunity congressional district. 

The cases are Caster v. Merrill, No. 2:21-CV-1536 (N.D. Ala. Nov. 16, 2021), Milligan v. Merrill, No. 2:21-CV-1530 (N.D. Ala. Nov. 16, 2021), and Singleton v. Merrill, No. 2:21-CV-1291 (N.D. Ala. Sept. 27, 2021).

Legislative: A lawsuit by Black voters, Thomas v. Merrill, No. 2:21-CV-1531 (N.D. Ala. Nov. 16, 2021), contends that Alabama’s legislative maps, rather than relying upon race to comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, impermissibly “use race as a means to maintain power through the packing and cracking of Black voters.” The plaintiffs ask the court to compel the redrawing of 12 state senate districts and 21 state house districts.

Alaska

Racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering

Legislative: Five state-court lawsuits filed by Alaska voters, various boroughs, a municipality, and a regional corporation contend that Alaska’s new legislative maps racially discriminate and are a partisan gerrymander in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Voting Rights Act, and/or the Alaska Constitution. The suits allege that the maps intentionally dilute the voting power of those who live within Alaska’s lowest-income and most racially diverse parts of the state by pairing groups of voters in Anchorage, Valdez, Skagway, Calista, Matanuska-Susitna, and the surrounding areas that have little in common. According to the plaintiffs, to split communities of interest, the Alaska Redistricting Board, which consists entirely of Republicans, drew district lines that are irrational and arbitrary. As an example, a Valdez citizen must drive over 120 miles after leaving the boundary of his or her house district, which is about ten miles from Valdez’s municipal boundary, in order to re-enter the citizen’s own district.

The cases are Skagway Borough v. The Alaska Redistricting Board, No. 1JU-21-00944CI (Alaska Super. Ct. Dec. 13, 2021), City of Valdez v. Alaska Redistricting Board, No. 3VA-21-00080CI (Alaska Super. Ct. Dec. 10, 2021), Calista Corporation v. Alaska Redistricting Board, No. 4BE-21-00372CI (Alaska Super. Ct. Dec. 10, 2021), Wilson v. Alaska Redistricting Board, No. 3AN-21-08869CI (Alaska Super. Ct. Dec. 9, 2021), and Matanuska-Susitna Borough v. Alaska Redistricting Board, No. 3PA-21-02397CI (Alaska Super. Ct. Dec. 2, 2021).

Arkansas

Racial discrimination

Legislative: The Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. The Arkansas Board of Apportionment, No. 4:21-CV-1239 (E.D. Ark. Dec. 29, 2021), which was filed on behalf of Black voters in federal court, contends that the new state house map enacted by the Arkansas Board of Apportionment is racially discriminatory in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The suit alleges that the map intentionally perpetuates a long history of discrimination against Black voters by packing and cracking them, which in turn dilutes their political power. Although the Black community constitutes 16.5 percent of Arkansas’s population, only 11 percent of house districts contain a Black majority.

Georgia

Racial discrimination

Congressional: Three cases have been filed in federal court by Black voters and civil rights organizations, contending that the new congressional map enacted by the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature is racially discriminatory in violation of the U.S. Constitution and/or Voting Rights Act.

Black voters allege that the map intentionally perpetuates a long history of discrimination against them by packing some Black voters in the Atlanta metropolitan area and cracking other such voters among rural-reaching and predominantly white districts, thereby diluting Black political power. They contend that the Georgia legislature was required to create an additional Black opportunity district in the western Atlanta metropolitan area.

The Black- and Latino-led organizations allege that Republican legislators “operated with surgical precision to crack and pack districts with higher percentages of Black, Latinx, and [Asian American Pacific Islander] voters, while moving the lines to increase the number of [w]hite voters in many districts.” Although communities of color account for nearly all of Georgia’s population growth over the past decade, the new congressional map does not create additional minority opportunity districts.

Voting rights organizations and additional Black voters allege that Georgia lawmakers racially gerrymandered three districts—GA-6, GA-13, and GA-14—to reduce minority voting power. According to the plaintiffs, the Georgia legislature cracked GA-6 so that minority voters could no longer elect the district's first Black female congresswoman, Lucy McBath. It also packed minority voters from six counties into one sprawling district: GA-13. Finally, the legislature cracked GA-14 by lumping Black citizens living in Cobb County with voters from a predominately white, rural district whom they share little in common.

The cases are Common Cause v. Raffensperger, No. 1:22-CV-90 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 7, 2022) (voting rights organizations and Black voters), Pendergrass v. Raffensperger, No. 1:21-CV-5339 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 30, 2021) (Black voters) and Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Georgia, No. 1:21-CV-5338 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 30, 2021) (civil rights organizations).

Legislative: The Georgia NAACP lawsuit also contends that Georgia’s legislative maps are racially discriminatory.

Two additional cases have been filed in federal court by a Black fraternity, a religious organization, and Black voters, contending that Georgia’s legislative maps violate the Voting Rights Act by impermissibly packing and cracking Black voters. The plaintiffs allege that the legislative maps fail to include more than six additional Black opportunity districts.

The cases are Grant v. Raffensperger, No. 1:22-CV-122 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 11, 2022) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity v. Raffensperger, No. 1:21-CV-5337 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 30, 2021).

Illinois

Racial discrimination

Legislative: Black and Latino voters have sued in federal court, contending that the maps passed by Democratic legislators are racially discriminatory in violation of the U.S. Constitution and/or Voting Rights Act.

Black-led organizations allege that the state house map cracks the Black community of the East St. Louis area into two state house districts to dilute its voting strength and shore up white Democratic incumbents.

Suits by Latino voters allege that the maps drawn by Democrats intentionally perpetuate a long history of discrimination against Latino voters by “packing” and “cracking” them, which in turn dilutes their political power. Under the maps, only 4 of 118 state house districts (three percent of districts) would have a Latino citizen voting age population (“CVAP”) 50 percent or greater even though the Latino community now compromises more than 11 percent of the state’s CVAP. Not only did the Illinois legislature fail to create more Latino districts, but it also reduced the number of Latino districts from the 2011 redistricting plan (even though Illinois’s Latino population grew more than any other racial or ethnic group within the state last decade).

Illinois Republican legislative leaders also have filed suit in federal court contending that the way the new state legislative maps were drawn has a racially discriminatory effect.

The cases are McConchie v. Illinois State Board of Elections, No. 1:21-CV-3091 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 9, 2021) (Republican legislative leaders), United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations v. Illinois State Board of Elections, No. 1:21-CV-5512 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 15, 2021) (Black-led organizations), and Contreras v. Illinois State Board of Elections, No. 1:21-CV-3139 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 10, 2021) (Latino voters and organizations).

On December 30, 2021, a three-judge panel rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims that the most-recently drafted legislative maps are racially gerrymandered, finding that partisanship—rather than race—predominated in the configuration of the challenged districts and that plaintiffs did not otherwise establish a violation of the Voting Rights Act. No appeal has been filed as of January 20, 2022.

Maryland

Partisan gerrymandering

Congressional: Two cases filed in state court by registered Republicans contend that the new congressional map enacted by the Maryland legislature is an extreme partisan gerrymander in violation of the Maryland Constitution.

The suits allege that the map, which was enacted via an override of the governor’s veto, intentionally dilutes the voting power of Republican voters by cracking such voters throughout the state. The plaintiffs contend that, to split communities of interest, the legislature drew district lines that are distorted and noncompact. As an example, a roughly 20-mile drive north along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from Cheverly, Maryland to Jessup, Maryland would lead a traveler through five different congressional districts.

The cases are Szeliga v. Lamone, No. C-02-CV-21-001816 (Md. Cir. Ct. Dec. 23, 2021) and Parrott v. Lamone, No. C-02-CV-21-001773 (Md. Cir. Ct. Dec. 21, 2021).

Michigan

Racial discrimination

Congressional and legislative: Detroit Caucus v. Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, No. 163926 (Mich. Jan. 5, 2022), which was filed in the Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of members of the Michigan House of Representatives representing Detroit (the “Detroit Caucus”), two city councils, and Black voters, contends that the new congressional and legislative maps enacted by Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission are racially discriminatory in violation of the Michigan Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act.

Nevada

Partisan gerrymandering

Congressional and legislative: Koenig v. Nevada, No. 210C001661B (Nev. D. Ct. Nov. 17, 2021), which was filed on behalf of two Republican voters in state court, contends that Nevada’s new congressional and legislative maps are a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Nevada Constitution.

The suit alleges that the maps intentionally dilute the voting power of Nevada’s Republican and independent voters by packing and cracking such voters throughout the state. As an example, the complaint points to the Assembly map’s splitting of the rural town of Pahrump into two districts, causing some of the town’s rural voters to be lumped together with urban voters (even though the suit says the two groups share almost nothing in common).

New Jersey

Partisan gerrymandering

Congressional: Steinhardt v. New Jersey Redistricting Commission, No. 086587 (N.J. Dec. 30, 2021), which was filed by the Republican members of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission before the state supreme court, contends that the commission’s new congressional map is a partisan gerrymander in violation of the New Jersey Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

The New Jersey commission consists of 13 members: six appointees from each of New Jersey’s two largest political parties and one independent member. The suit alleges that the commission’s independent member cast the tiebreaking vote in favor of the Democratic members’ map because a Republican map had been adopted during the previous redistricting cycle. According to the plaintiffs, the new map is invalid because its ratification was contingent upon the independent member’s flawed reasoning in approving the map.

North Carolina

Racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering

Congressional and legislative: Two cases filed in state court by Black voters, Democratic voters, and an environmental organization contend that the new congressional and legislative maps enacted by the North Carolina legislature are racially discriminatory and partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

The suits allege that the congressional map intentionally dilutes the voting power of North Carolina’s Black citizens through packing and cracking of Black voters. Under the congressional map, Black voters have the opportunity to elect a candidate of choice in only 2 of 14 districts (14 percent of districts) despite making up around 30 percent of the state’s voting age population. The suits also assert that the congressional map entrenches the Republican Party’s power through the packing and cracking of Democratic voters. Models demonstrate that, under the map, if Republican candidates earned 50 percent of the statewide vote, they would win 71 percent of North Carolina’s congressional seats. Democratic candidates, however, could not win 50 percent of those seats unless they earned 57 percent of the statewide vote.

The cases are North Carolina League of Conservation Voters v. Hall, No. 21-CVS-15426 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 16, 2021) and Harper v. Hall, No. 19-CVS-12667 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 5, 2021). The former lawsuit additionally alleges that North Carolina’s legislative maps are racial and partisan gerrymanders that violate the North Carolina Constitution. According to that suit, the legislature could have drawn at least seven additional Black, legislative opportunity districts. The Wake County Superior Court has permitted Common Cause North Carolina to intervene in both lawsuits.

On January 11, 2022, a three-judge panel rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims that the new congressional and legislative maps are partisan gerrymanders, finding that, given there were no “satisfactory and manageable criteria” for the court to adjudicate those claims, the legislature serves as the appropriate forum for the plaintiffs’ grievances. The court also concluded that the plaintiffs did not establish that race predominated during the map-drawing process or that the legislature intended to discriminate against Black voters. An appeal is pending before the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Ohio

Racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering

Congressional: Two lawsuits by Ohio voters in state court contend that Ohio’s congressional map is a partisan gerrymander that violates the Ohio Constitution. According to the suits, the map passed by the Republican-controlled legislature gives Republicans a lopsided number of seats by splitting counties and Black communities to minimize the efficacy of Democratic votes. Under the plan, Republicans are projected to win 12 of 15 seats (80 percent) despite on average winning only 53 to 55 percent of the statewide vote.

The cases are Adams v. DeWine, No. 2021-1428 (Ohio Dec. 2, 2021) and League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, No. 2021-1449 (Ohio Nov. 30, 2021).

Another lawsuit, Simon v. DeWine, No. 4:21-CV-2267 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 1, 2021), alleges that Ohio’s new congressional map is racially discriminatory because legislative leadership, when drawing the map, intentionally disregarded whether the proposed districts diluted the power of Black voters.

On January 14, 2022, a 4-3 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the legislature’s new congressional map, finding that the map was a partisan gerrymander in violation of Article XIX, Sections 1(C)(3)(a) and (b) of the Ohio Constitution. Section 1(C)(3)(a) prevents a simple majority of the legislature from adopting a congressional map that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents,” while Section 1(C)(3)(b) prohibits the legislature from “unduly split[ting] governmental units.” The Court concluded that the map unduly favored Republicans and unduly split Hamilton, Cuyahoga, and Summit Counties. The Court ordered the legislature to pass a new map that complies with the Ohio Constitution and “is not dictated by partisan considerations.”

Legislative: Three cases filed in federal court by Ohio voters, civil rights organizations, and an environmental organization contend that the new state legislative maps enacted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission unfairly advantage Republican voters in violation of the Ohio Constitution.

The suits allege that the maps intentionally dilute the voting power of Ohio Democrats and minority voters through packing and cracking. Under the state house map, if Republican candidates earned 54 percent of the statewide vote, they would win a supermajority in Ohio’s House of Representatives. Yet with the same vote share, Democrats would not even win a majority of seats. The Commission gerrymandered the state legislative maps even though Ohioans overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment in 2015 ending Ohio’s history of partisan gerrymandering.

The cases are Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, No. 2021-1210 (Ohio Sept. 27, 2021) (Black and Muslim voters, civil rights organizations, and an environmental organization, Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, No. 2021-1199 (Ohio Sept. 24, 2021) (Democratic voters), and League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, No. 2021-1193 (Ohio Sept. 24, 2021) (good government and Black-led organizations and individual voters). The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law represents plaintiffs in the Ohio Organizing Collaborative case.

The Simon lawsuit’s allegations of racial gerrymandering also apply to the commission’s enactment of the Ohio senate map.

On January 12, 2022, a 4-3 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the Commission’s new legislative maps, finding that the maps were a partisan gerrymander in violation of Article XI, Sections 6(A) and (B) of the Ohio Constitution. Sections 6(A) and (B) require the Commission to “attempt” drawing maps that do not “primarily . . . favor or disfavor a political party” and in which the statewide proportion of districts “corresponds closely” to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters expressed over the previous decade, respectively. The Court concluded that the Commission failed to comply with Section 6(A) because it drew maps heavily favoring Republicans. It also determined that the Commission failed to adhere to Section 6(B) because it misunderstood the requirements of that provision. The Court ordered the Commission to adopt a new set of maps within 10 days of the court’s ruling. Petitioners will then have three days to file any objections to those plans.

South Carolina

Racial discrimination

Legislative: The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. McMaster, No. 3:21-CV-3302 (D.S.C. Oct. 12, 2021) contends that the new state house map enacted by the South Carolina legislature discriminates against Black voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit alleges that the map intentionally perpetuates a long history of discrimination against Black voters by packing and cracking them, which in turn dilutes their political power. As an example, the legislature “unnecessarily” split the City of Anderson “into four districts like a shattered mirror” to prevent Black voters from influencing the elections within any of those districts.

Texas

Racial discrimination

Congressional: Seven cases filed in federal court by Latino, Black, and Asian voters, civil rights organizations, the nation’s oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus, and the Justice Department contend that the new congressional map enacted by the Texas legislature is racially discriminatory in violation of the U.S. Constitution and/or Voting Rights Act.

The suits allege that the map intentionally perpetuates a long history of discrimination against minority voters by packing and cracking them, which in turn dilutes their political power. As a result of the 2020 Census, Texas received two additional congressional seats. Yet under the new map, those seats each have white voting majorities even though 95 percent of Texas’s population growth last decade occurred within communities of color. Overall, white Texans form a majority of eligible voters in more than 22 of 38 districts (60 percent of districts) despite making up less than 40 percent of Texas’s population. And although 49.5 percent of Texas’s population growth over the last decade occurred within the Latino population, the new congressional map does not create any new Latino opportunity districts.

The cases are Fischer v. Abbott, No. 3:21-CV-306 (W.D. Tex. Dec. 13, 2021) (Latino voter), United States v. Texas, No. 3:21-CV-299 (W.D. Tex. Dec. 6, 2021), Fair Maps Texas Action Committee v. Abbott, No. 1:21-CV-1038 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 16, 2021) (Latino, Black, and Asian voters and organizations), Texas State Conference of the NAACP v. Abbott, No. 1:21-CV-1006 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2021) (organization), MALC v. Texas, No. 1:21-CV-988 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 3, 2021) (organization), Voto Latino v. Scott, No. 1:21-CV-965 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 25, 2021) (Latino and Black voters and one Latino voter organization), and LULAC v. Abbott, No. 3:21-CV-259 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 18, 2021) (Latino voters and organizations).

Legislative: In addition, the Justice Department, Fair Maps coalition, Texas NAACP, MALC, and LULAC lawsuits also contend that Texas’s legislative maps are racially discriminatory.

Latino plaintiffs contend that the maps overpopulate Latino majority districts and under-populate majority-white districts in order to avoid drawing additional Latino districts. They also allege that the maps actually reduce the total number of Latino majority districts from the previous redistricting cycle, despite massive growth in the Latino population last decade. Other plaintiffs contend that the map badly fractures Black, Latino, and Asian communities, especially in the state’s rapidly diversifying suburbs.

Black and Latino voters along with a state senator have filed a separate lawsuit — Brooks v. Abbott, No. 1:21-CV-991 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 3, 2021) — alleging that the Texas senate map “reprise[s] the infamous ‘lightning bolt’” district configuration from a previous plan to crack apart Tarrant County’s Black, Latino, and Asian voters. Although Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, is majority minority, the new senate map does not include any minority opportunity districts.