State of the States – Feb’22
Redistricting continues to make headlines in the legislative sphere. So far, twenty-seven states have finished redrawing their congressional maps, the most recent being Mississippi. Proposed maps in Kansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee have been passed by the legislature and are awaiting their respective governor’s signature.
However, criticisms of partisanship bias and lawsuits are impeding the redistricting process in other states. Take a look at what happened with redistricting in January and what’s in store for the upcoming month.
On Jan. 24, a federal district court blocked the new congressional map and gave the state legislature two weeks to draw a new map. The three-judge panel sided with the plaintiffs, who argued that the map gave Black voters few opportunities to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.
Redistricting is back in the hands of a court-appointed special master after state Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a last-minute compromise. The state Supreme Court has oral argument hearings scheduled for Jan. 27.
The Florida House Redistricting Committee has voted to send a draft of the house districts map to the floor. State Democrats are calling for a vote to delay approval, claiming the review process was rushed and the map doesn’t properly account for minority populations. A bipartisan congressional map has passed the state Senate, ignoring Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s proposal that would have given Republicans more seats.
On Jan. 26, the state House and state Senate voted mostly down party lines and approved a new congressional map. The map would create three Republican-leaning seats and one highly competitive seat, the same as the current configuration. The map is headed to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for her signature or veto.
The Republican-controlled state legislature announced that it will hold a special session from Feb. 1 to Feb. 20 to draw a new congressional map. Two major issues facing lawmakers are what to do about the state’s population shifts and the racial makeup of the congressional delegation.
The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments that challenge the new congressional districts put forth by the state’s independent redistricting commission. Plaintiffs claim that the new districts dilute the voting power of racial minorities, violating the Voting Rights Act.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed the new congressional map (HB 384) into law on Jan. 24. The map and partisan breakdown remain largely unchanged, except for some areas moving from the 3rd District into the 2nd District to account for population changes.
State lawmakers will take control of the redistricting process after the independent redistricting commission failed to reach an agreement by the statutory deadline. With Democrats holding supermajority control of both the state Senate and Assembly, they’ll have an advantage in the redistricting process.
On Jan. 11, a three-judge panel upheld the new congressional map that Republicans passed along party lines on Nov. 4. The plaintiffs, who will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, argued that the map is a partisan gerrymander and violates North Carolina’s constitution. There’s also a separate lawsuit in federal court that alleges that the map is a racial gerrymander.
On Jan. 14, the state Supreme Court invalidated the congressional map enacted by the Republican legislature and governor in November. The court ruled that the map violated the partisan-fairness requirement in the state constitution. The legislature has 30 days to draw a new map. If it fails, then it will go to the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission, which will also have 30 days.
As the congressional deadline looms, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a new districts map since he’s previously criticized the Republican proposal. With time running out, court intervention is looking increasingly likely.
A new congressional map for South Carolina’s U.S. House seats is headed to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk, which will cement Republicans’ 6-1 majority. The districts are mostly unchanged from the current map, except now the 1st District will go from Republican-leaning to solidly Republican.
State House Republicans approved the proposed congressional map on Jan. 24, which has already been passed by the state Senate. Democrats have criticized the proposal for dividing Nashville into three districts that lump communities of color with majority-white and conservative counties. A lawsuit from state Democrats is expected to challenge the map.
State of the States Summary
The redistricting process continues to be bumpy, particularly among states that have missed their deadlines due to partisanship conflict or lawsuits charging that the district boundaries are gerrymandered. The race to approve congressional maps will continue to heat up as midterm elections loom later this year.