Every ten years the census reveals the demographic shifts that need to be accommodated by redrawing of electoral boundaries. Redistricting in Southern states is underway after the 2020 Census. Governments controlled by a single party have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to give themselves a massive leg up.
In a jostle for power and resources, map lines are being manipulated. The party that controls the process can craft districts to maximize its voters’ clout by “packing” and “cracking”: draw district boundaries so as to scatter opposing voters so widely they cannot win majorities (cracking) or/and concentrate a large number of the opposing party’s voters in a handful of districts (“packing”).
Drawing of districts gives local people a say and determines the resources communities receive. The way districts are drawn impacts the future of communities. Communities of color are pushing for fair representation.
“Eight in ten of the new voters this decade are people of color,” said Michael Li, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at the Ethnic Media briefing.”Redistricting will impact us and our children for years to come and if legislators draw unfair lines people of color will be adversely and also disproportionately impacted.”
In Texas about 90% of the population growth was non-white and it was the similar for Georgia and Florida. Partisan mapmakers aim to draw districts favorable to their party interests and influence while legislators are passing laws to restrict access to vote.
In the game of rigging maps Republicans have a stark advantage: Democrats control the drawing of just 75 districts compared to the 187 that Republicans control. Of the 35 states at risk of having unfair districts during this decade, 12 are in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Virginia has an independent commission.
Four of the nation’s political battleground states — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas — are in the South and have seen significant demographic change in the last decade.
Map from the April 2021 “Gerrymandering Threat Index” published by RepresentUs.
In North Carolina Republicans passed a congressional map that would eliminate 2 of 5 Democratic seats. This could give the GOP an 11 to 3 seat advantage in a strong GOP election. The new map of districts for House elections would likely give the GOP at least 10 House seats out of 14 (71 percent).They split the state’s biggest city, Charlotte — also its largest African American population center — into three or four U.S. House districts. Democrats in Charlotte are packed in a very small district where they outnumber Republicans by a roughly 3 to 1 margin. By contrast, Greensboro and the nearby area is cracked in such a way as to create several different districts with comfortable Republican majorities.This gives the GOP at least a 10-4 advantage. In a state that Donald Trump narrowly won last year (Trump won it in 2020 with 49.9 percent of the vote) this is a massive leg up.
Indraneel Purohit works with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project (PGP). PGP analyzed North Carolina’s congressional maps and gave all three maps a “F” grade as they said each gave Republicans a significant advantage in the next election.
Other GOP-controlled states have followed North Carolina’s example. New maps in Tennessee and Missouri could eliminate longtime Democratic seats in Nashville and Kansas City. In Illinois, Democrats passed a wildly contorted new congressional map that gives the party a 14 to 3 advantage. A pair of lawsuits are challenging Alabama’s new congressional and legislative districts as racially gerrymandered.
The process of contesting the maps has been hamstrung by the late delivery of census data this time. Instead of February it came out in August, compressing the process. For the 2020 midterm elections candidates are already filing their papers. Rushed process and with covid restricting people’s participation the 2020 midterm elections may be more litigious. The primary is only months away.