A series of court decisions affecting congressional maps that were gerrymandered by Republican state legislatures following the latest decennial Census may tilt 2024 House elections toward Democrats, depending on how the cases are resolved.
Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is comprised of 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats, with one seat in a Democratic-leaning district vacant. Assuming that district goes toward Democrats in an upcoming special election, the party would only have to win a net total of five additional seats in order to become the majority in that chamber of Congress.
Several experts noted that Republicans capitalized in the 2022 midterms by redrawing congressional maps in their favor — one analysis predicted in 2021 that, even if voting trends stayed the same from 2020 to 2022, Republicans’ gerrymandered redistricting would win them the House all on its own.
Elections analysts say that’s exactly what happened.
“It appears very likely that gerrymandering cost Dems the majority,” Stephen Wolf, a staff writer for Daily Kos, said after the 2022 midterms.
Republicans wouldn’t have won the House “if they hadn’t been able to gerrymander far more states than Dems,” Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the Cook Political Report, said at the time.
A number of pending cases and court rulings in recent weeks, however, indicate that as many as a dozen House seats could switch back to Democratic-leaning if judges’ decisions finding the original GOP gerrymanders unlawful remain intact.
An Alabama-based federal appeals court, for example, which had previously ruled that maps drawn by that state’s Republican-controlled legislature were a racial gerrymander in violation of the Voting Rights Act, found earlier this month that lawmakers’ newly redrawn maps still failed to abide by the court’s mandate to create two districts in which Black voters in Alabama would be the majority. The court has tasked a special master with redrawing the maps instead, in consultation with a cartographer, to abide by the previous order.
Democrats are hoping the Alabama decision will be applied to a similar situation in Louisiana, resulting in an order for an additional district in Louisiana in which Black voters are the majority. A federal trial regarding Georgia’s congressional maps is also underway, which could result in an order to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
A state court judge in Florida also found that maps crafted by Florida’s Republican lawmakers violated a state constitutional provision protecting minority-access districts. The maps — which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) advocated for — dismantled a district in which Rep. Al Lawson (D-Florida), a Black lawmaker, had been elected in three concurrent election cycles.
Democrats in New York are also hoping that a state court will determine that they will be able to redraw maps, as New York Republicans unexpectedly picked up three additional seats in 2022.
Overall, around a dozen or more House seats across six states could be remade, according to an analysis from Politico.
These court battles will likely be appealed and reexamined many times over. However, should they be resolved in time for the 2024 midterms, there’s a high probability they will have a huge impact on who will control the House beyond that election cycle.
Polling indicates that the midterms will be just as close as the presidential election is expected to be. According to an Economist/YouGov survey from last week, 43 percent of Americans say they plan to vote for whoever the Democratic candidate in their district will be, while 42 percent say they’ll back the Republican candidate — well within the poll’s margin of error of three points, indicating that the race is currently a statistical tie.
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