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How redistricting in these states could determine which party controls the US House

USA
 

Supreme Court showdowns. Closed-door negotiations. And millions of dollars in litigation.

After months of legal and legislative skirmishes around the country, much of the redistricting drama of the 2024 election cycle is behind us. And it has ended pretty close to where it began: Just a handful of seats could determine which party controls the US House of Representatives, where Republicans now hold a threadbare majority.

 

In North Carolina, newly empowered GOP state legislators took an aggressive approach with their map-drawing, crafting lines that are expected to allow their party to flip at least three seats now held by Democrats. But, in recently concluded redistricting in New York, Democrats, who had final say over the map, adopted a more modest position – essentially turning just one Republican-held seat a deeper shade of blue.

“It’s amazing that with all of the states where we’ve had things going on and with all the different lawsuits, we are really only talking about a small number of districts that are guaranteed to change hands as a result of this entire shuffle,” said Nick Seabrook, a political scientist at the University of North Florida and the author of the 2022 book “One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.”

“We have actually emerged nationally with a pretty fair map,” he said. “I certainly think that there are ample opportunities for either party to win.”

 

Adam Kincaid, the president and executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, sees a “tick to the right” under the new landscape, with the likely net addition of two more House seats that former President Donald Trump would have carried in 2020. But he cautioned that it was still a “tight map” and a “tight electorate.”

“From top to bottom, the country is a 50-50 country right now,” Kincaid said.

(Although Republicans control the House by a narrow margin, under the map used in the 2022 midterm elections, 17 of those GOP lawmakers were elected in communities that backed President Joe Biden in 2020.)

Democrats, meanwhile, say they emerged in a stronger position after wielding the nearly 60-year-old Voting Rights Act to prevail in legal fights in deep-red Alabama and Louisiana. Federal judges ordered lawmakers in those states to give Black residents more opportunities to elect House candidates of their choice.

“Alabama and Louisiana are just two states once thought to be unreachable in the fight for fairness that have quickly become more representative” as a result of the legal actions, John Bisognano, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement. “I’m confident the House map will remain highly competitive going into 2024.”

Here’s a state-by-state look at the recent redistricting disputes and where they stand:

New York

Republicans flipped four US House seats in New York in the 2022 midterm elections, victories that helped secure their party’s majority in the chamber.

Then, a ruling by the state’s highest court appeared to jeopardize those gains by potentially making it easier for Democrats to pick up as many as six GOP-held seats.

In the end, however, the Democratic state lawmakers, who hold ultimate control of the redistricting process, settled on a map that made only modest adjustments to the status quo lines.

First, a bit of history: A state court judge oversaw the process of drawing the map used in the 2022 elections following a long legal battle and the inability of New York’s bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission to agree on new lines. But Democrats scored a court victory last summer when a state appellate court ruled that the redistricting commission should redraw the map.

Republicans appealed that decision, and oral arguments were held in November before New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

On December 12, the Court of Appeals ordered the state to once again restart the mapmaking process. As a result, New York’s redistricting commission created a new map, but the Democratic-controlled state legislature tinkered with the commission’s lines, as permitted under state law.

The legislature’s final product ended up putting a Central New York seat held by Republican freshman Brandon Williams at greater risk for his party. It also shored up for Democrats Tom Suozzi’s Long Island seat, which the party flipped in a February special election to succeed expelled former Rep. George Santos.

Leaders of both political parties say they can live with the map’s modest approach, which still puts the Empire State at the epicenter of the battle for the House. But some progressives have criticized New York Democrats, who hold supermajorities in the state Legislature, for not taking a more aggressive approach.

Former New York Rep. John Faso, a Republican who had been a key player in litigation over redistricting, said the map drawn by Democrats “has no material differences from the current map.”

“This turned out to be much ado about very little,” he added.

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