Gerrymandering played a major role in helping Republicans win the House in the midterm elections this year, according to political experts and analysts.
The redistricting of congressional boundaries takes place in the U.S. every 10 years. When legislative leaders manipulate the process in order to win in future election cycles, it’s called gerrymandering — named after Elbridge Gerry, a former vice president and governor of Massachusetts who used the redistricting process to his advantage.
Historically, gerrymandering has been used to ensure that people of color could not elect their own leaders to office, a method of voter suppression that continues to this day. Gerrymandering is also used to strengthen one political party’s power over another through the drawing of legislative districts.
Despite a lackluster showing and independent voters favoring Democrats in this year’s races, exit polling data shows that Republicans will likely win the House — a victory that many elections experts believe will be the result of Republicans realigning political borders to their advantage.
“Republicans wouldn’t be slight favorites to win House control right now if they hadn’t been able to gerrymander far more states than Dems,” said Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the Cook Political Report. Wasserman also noted that Democrats only have the House majority currently because state judges blocked gerrymandered district maps in the past few years.
The sentiment was echoed by numerous journalists on social media.
“One potential takeaway from [the midterms] is that the US is a center left country with a gerrymandering problem,” freelance journalist Katelyn Burns tweeted in response to the election results.
“If Republicans win control of the House of Representatives by current projections, their victory can be attributed to the Supreme Court’s 5–4 order in February suspending the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial gerrymandering,” said Mark Joseph Stern, senior writer at Slate.
Stephen Wolf, staff writer for Daily Kos, expressed a similar opinion.
“It appears very likely that gerrymandering cost Dems the majority, with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing elections to proceed in several states where lower courts ruled GOP maps illegally diluted Black voting power,” Wolf said.
Gerrymandering is especially blatant in states like Wisconsin, where the governor’s race and state legislative contests had vastly different outcomes. Although Gov. Tony Evers (D) won reelection this week with more than half of the vote, Republican lawmakers will control close to two-thirds of the state legislature. Only two of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts will go to Democrats, while the remaining six were won by Republicans, in spite of the fact that a statewide U.S. Senate election produced a nearly 50-50 split in the electorate.
“GOP gerrymandering has made it nearly impossible for Dems to win the majority in the Wisconsin legislature,” noted Jessica Post, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.