Feuds Erupt as States Redraw Voting Maps
As state populations change, it is time to reapportion seats in Congress.
By: Sarah Cowgill | February 15, 2022 | 678 Words
Maps are being redrawn across America as states create new voting districts after the 2020 Census.
Every ten years in America, we take a national census. That’s a survey every household has to answer, which allows the government to collect information about the population and who lives where. There are a lot of reasons why a count of households and population is held, but the Constitution demands it to ensure every American citizen is represented in Congress.
Now that the 2020 Census is complete, voting maps are being redrawn in every state, based on the data gathered. This can impact local and federal elections. The new districts can be seen negatively or positively depending on which political party one supports: Democratic or Republican. People in different areas tend to vote for one party or the other – for example, people in cities often vote for the Democrats, while the Republicans are more popular in rural areas. Many districts lean toward supporting one party, while others have a mix. Redrawing the districts can change the balance.
There is also a derogatory word for the process, used since the early 1800s: “Gerrymandering.” Today, both major political parties feel they are being edged out unfairly and are blaming each other for gaining or losing districts.
Wins And Losses
States can gain or lose congressional districts, depending on their population. There are a finite number of seats in Congress: 535 voting members, including the House at 435 and the Senate at 100. So, when one state loses a seat due to population changes, another state gets the advantage.
States that have added congressional seats after the 2020 census are: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, and Montana.
States losing districts are New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia. Shockingly, California lost a congressional seat for the first time in its history.
So how does this impact Democrats and Republicans? Well, the population has grown in states where Republicans are in charge. So, Republicans now will control the redrawing of 187 districts – more than twice what Democrats will reapportion at just 75 seats. Independent or non-partisan commissions will draw 167 new lines.
The clear advantage or disadvantage will be seen after the 2022 midterm elections.
Debate Over New Districts
Several debates sparked after it was announced which states won or lost districts. In Texas, lawsuits were filed before the redrawing of maps had even started. Director of the elections and redistricting program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wendy Underhill, explained:
“It is likely that most states will have at least some lawsuits because redistricting tends to make people think that there are winners and losers. And if you’re the loser, you’re going to give it at least a shot at going to the court.”
Both Democrats and Republicans are tossing around the term “Gerrymandering” as they try to fight any redistricting that gives more power to the other party. It grabs the media’s attention, and many battles are in the court of public perception. For example, the following states are currently being challenged for the new maps: Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.
In brief, any district that is wildly shaped – say it looks like a question mark or a heart – may signal an attempt to gain political power.
A recent Supreme Court order gave Alabama the right to use its new congressional map for the 2022 election. This may discourage groups from challenging other states’ maps in the courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts has ruled before that the courts should not get involved in determining whether a district has been fairly drawn:
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.”
But that will probably not stop the two parties from fighting for each and every district.