Census data could blunt expected Republican election gains in 2022
The release of detailed local data from the US Census this week demonstrated that the country is diversifying and urbanizing faster than many thought, and these findings have real implications for what Congress will look like over the next decade. .
In general, the news was good for the Democratic Party. He suggests that some of the losses anticipated in the 2022 election could be slightly mitigated by population growth in major metropolitan areas, which tend to vote for Democrats, and a decline in rural populations, which tend to favor the Republican Party. .
In his analysis for The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman wrote that “although Republicans have more sway over the redistricting, Democrats should be pretty happy with today’s results.”
Draw new Congress maps
The decennial tally of the American people is used for many purposes, but one of the most visible is the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives. While the distribution of senators from each state is fixed at two, the size of their respective delegations to the House varies according to population.
Since the 435 house districts are expected to be numerically similar in terms of population, each new census requires the boundaries to be redrawn to ensure roughly equal representation in all districts. After the 2010 census, districts averaged about 711,000 people. After a redistricting based on the 2020 census, that average will drop to about 761,000 people.
Drawing these maps is a politically heavy process. Activists have raged for years against the practice of gerrymandering – partisan redistricting in which the ruling party draws maps that concentrate the other party’s voters in a small number of precincts to minimize its representation in Congress. Gerrymandering remains a common practice in more than half of the country.
Republicans preferred to take the House
Electoral maps are drawn up at the state level. The process largely favors Republicans at this time as the party completely controls redistricting in 20 states with a total of 187 congressional districts. Democrats, on the other hand, fully control only eight states, with 75 districts. (Ten states use independent commissions to draw district boundaries; in six others, Democrats and Republicans each control a chamber of the state legislature, meaning neither side has a clear advantage. in the development of new districts.)
Earlier this year, when the census showed how many House seats each state would have over the next decade, Republicans were delighted to see that those who won seats – Texas (2), Florida, Carolina Nord, Colorado, Montana and Oregon – were almost all GOP compatible. Those who lost seats included Democratic strongholds such as California, New York and Illinois, as well as swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. (West Virginia, a reliable Republican state, also lost a seat.)
Experts analyzing these numbers immediately predict a significant gain for Republicans. Using voting data from the past few years, they determined that simply by gerrymandering a handful of states, the GOP could do anything but guarantee a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2022.
Congressional Democrats have struggled to pass legislation that would ban partisan gerrymandering and implement various measures to make voting easier, but it’s unclear whether this legislation will pass at all, let alone in time to affect voters. 2022 elections.
Advantage of the blunt GOP
While the numbers released by the Census this week don’t really change the likelihood of a Republican House of Representatives after the 2022 election, they do make it clear that the job won’t be as easy for the GOP as many thought. Moreover, charting a path for the party to long-term majority status will be even more difficult.
The lawmakers who draw the new maps understand that the districts they draw will have to last for a decade and that demographic change does not stop when the new lines are drawn. Due to the explosive growth of metropolitan areas in states such as Texas and Georgia, suburban congressional districts that Republicans can win in the short term may not remain winnable for long.
“One of the things that mapmakers in places like Texas or Georgia need to be wary of is spreading themselves too thin in an effort to get the maximum number of seats in 2022,” said Kyle Kondik, editor at head of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Maybe you win extra seats in 2022, but you can’t keep them in the future, and the cards crumble.”
In his analysis of the new data, Cook Political Report’s Wasserman said that in Texas, for example, the new data could push GOP lawmakers to aim for a more conservative map that gives Republicans a likely 25-13 advantage in the state House delegation rather than a 27-11 card which would be harder to preserve in the long run.
Wasserman also pointed out that the data can also make it harder for Republicans to defend a particularly aggressive redistricting in court.
While both parties indulge in gerrymandering to the extent they can, the way the country’s various ethnic groups vote — with minorities tending to lean toward Democrats — makes the process particularly tricky for Republicans.
When they draw maps to concentrate Democratic voters and limit their representation, the practical effect can come dangerously close to racial discrimination. In recent years, courts have forced states to redraw borders that should be drawn on the basis of race.
“Ultimately, Democrats are hoping that today’s data, which showed a marked decline in the non-Hispanic white share of the population in the vast majority of states, will strengthen their hand in the inevitable card lawsuits. drawn by the GOP in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia and elsewhere,” Wasserman wrote. “The battle for the House may hinge on whether justices are receptive to arguments that additional minority seats should be drawn.”