House Democrats claim redistricting victory ahead of final maps
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says his party will emerge from the decennial redistricting process in a better position to compete for the House majority over the next decade, claiming victory even as maps are still being finalized in a few remaining states.
In an interview Monday, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) said Democrats had defied expectations to win district boundary lines that will be more favorable to his side, after observers had expected Republicans to draw themselves a more concrete advantage for the next five election cycles.
“We won for the same reason we’re going to win in November. We’ve got a plan and they’ve got a bunch of assumptions that are infused with overconfidence and wishful thinking,” Maloney told The Hill. “Remember, we won 4.7 million more votes than the Republicans in 2020 and lost a bunch of seats. That tells you the maps are very unfair currently. We can argue for fair maps and do better. The other side depends on unfair maps to win elections.”
Maloney pointed to a Republican strategy designed to shore up incumbents whose suburban and exurban districts appeared trending toward Democrats in recent cycles. In states like North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri, Republican-led legislatures opted to protect the gains they had already achieved, rather than reaching to win a maximum advantage.
“We’ve seen them try to defend some incumbents who were at risk of losing their seats in suburban areas that are moving away from them, and that’s cost them on the overall map,” Maloney said.
But Republicans argue that plan was a feature, not a bug, that will give their side a stronger foundation from which to build in the decade ahead.
“By taking these seats off the board, Republicans are freeing up resources to go on offense in a lot of other places across the country,” said Adam Kincaid, who heads the National Republican Redistricting Trust, the top GOP group dedicated to coordinating remapping strategies.
“We went on offense where we could go on offense and we shored up vulnerable incumbents where there wasn’t any more offense to go on. I mean, what are you supposed to do in Utah? Or Oklahoma?” Kincaid said.
In both those states, Republicans control the entire congressional delegation after ousting Democratic incumbents in recent years. The two districts that once elected those Democrats are now much more solidly red than they had been.
Nonpartisan analysts generally see a more complicated picture. Democrats made some unexpected gains, especially in states where they used their majorities to maximize their advantage, but late maps in some Republican states along with court decisions that broke against Democrats have led to a more even outcome. In a new analysis, David Wasserman, a redistricting expert at the Cook Political Report, called the redistricting cycle “a wash.”
Both parties each engaged in creative map-making over the last several months in states where they hold an overwhelming majority. The first state to complete its redistricting process, Oregon, did so by carving the city of Portland into three separate districts that all favor Democrats.
Ohio’s Republican-dominated legislature and redistricting commission both passed maps that favored Republicans, while in New York Democratic legislators carved out a map that most favors their side. Courts in both states have ruled against those maps, though the New York case is ongoing, and Maloney said he expected the legislature’s map to prevail.
Three other states have yet to finalize the redistricting process, including one of the most significant prizes in the nation: Florida, where legislators will meet this week to consider maps proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
Those maps, introduced after DeSantis vetoed the legislature’s versions, would create 18 Republican-heavy seats and two more that favor the GOP, compared with eight seats that favor Democrats. DeSantis’s maps would eliminate districts held by Reps. Al Lawson (D) and Val Demings (D), who are both Black.
Republicans currently hold 16 of Florida’s 27 seats. Florida will gain a new district after a decade of explosive population growth.
The DeSantis maps are virtually certain to be challenged before the Florida Supreme Court, which will consider a Fair Districts amendment passed by Florida voters in 2010.
“The map they’re proposing would violate the Voting Rights Act and clearly goes after African American voters. So it’s more of the same. They depend on suppressing African American votes to win seats, and it’s disgraceful,” Maloney said. “That map’s not going to hold up. We’re going to get that map tossed.”
Legislators in New Hampshire will consider a proposal from Gov. Chris Sununu (R) later this week. Sununu has proposed only minor changes to the state’s two U.S. House districts, after he vetoed a more dramatic overhaul passed by a legislature controlled by his own party that would have created one safe Democratic seat and one safe Republican seat.
And legislators in Missouri are working out differences between proposals adopted by the state House and Senate. Both versions maintain two Democratic bastions in Kansas City and St. Louis; the major difference between the two is the shape and partisan makeup of a suburban St. Louis district held by Rep. Ann Wagner (R).
But even when maps are finalized ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, they will still be open to edits and amendments — either by the courts or by legislators who convene for new sessions next January.
“The cycle is almost done for this year,” Kincaid said. “But the redistricting cycle never ends anymore.”