Republicans might be able to take control of Congress in next year’s midterm races without needing to win over a single additional voter.
As Democratic senators scramble to piece together a compromised version of the For the People Act, an electoral reform and voting rights bill, a new study finds that the GOP could gerrymander its way to victory in the 2022 midterms.
An analysis of Census data from a Democratic-aligned data firm called TargetSmart, first reported by Mother Jones, found that Republicans could pick up between six to 13 seats in the House of Representatives through redistricting electoral maps in just four southern states alone — Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. If Republicans take five seats in the 2022 midterms, it would result in the GOP winning a majority of seats in the House, as Democrats currently have a five-seat lead in that legislative chamber.
Put another way, the GOP could win the midterm elections if voters behave the same way that they did in congressional elections in 2020, simply if Republican-run state legislatures are able to redraw maps in their own favor.
Republicans have a significant redistricting advantage over Democrats in deciding how congressional maps will look in the next decade. According to one analysis, the GOP will have sole control over the design of 187 congressional districts, compared to just 75 for Democrats. The remaining districts will be drawn by bipartisan governments or independent commissions, or are “at-large” seats where there’s only one congressional representative in that state.
Supporters of the For the People Act argue that this disadvantage is precisely why electoral reform is needed — to ensure that the redistricting process is free from partisan gerrymandering on both sides of the political aisle. The legislation had called for requiring every state to create independent commissions to redraw maps, rather than giving political parties the chance to create boundaries that work to their advantage.
On Wednesday several senators were seen working inside the offices of Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-New York), crafting what they said would be a compromise of the For the People Act, which failed to garner the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster earlier this year. Among those working on the new legislation were Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), the latter who said he opposed many aspects of the original For the People Act for being too partisan, in his mind.
Several aspects of the compromise bill are left uncertain, however, about what this legislation would do or if it can earn enough support to bypass the filibuster. Manchin has said he would not support any efforts at ending or reforming the filibuster in order to pass a voting rights bill. And beyond the question of the filibuster, it’s still unclear whether the compromise bill will include reforms for redistricting at all.
Polling shows that most Americans back such reforms, including those with conservative viewpoints, in spite of stiff opposition to the idea from Republicans. A survey conducted in February by the R Street Institute, a right-leaning organization, found that 57 percent of likely Republican voters support creating independent redistricting commissions in states across the country, while only 25 percent oppose the idea.
A Vox/Data for Progress poll from March also showcased significant support for the For the People Act, prior to it being blocked in the Senate. The poll had specifically mentioned the reforms in the bill, including redistricting reform and non-partisan commissions redrawing maps, and asked respondents whether they supported ending the filibuster in order to get those reforms passed. A majority of voters, 52 percent, said they backed it, while just 37 percent said they were opposed.