Redistricting: Well, It Could Be A Lot Worse…

February 8, 2022

This is the second in our series about bright spots on an otherwise grey horizon. Our Director of Voter Targeting, Brannon Miller, has dug deep into Congressional redistricting thus far in 2022 and found that it has gone much better than we feared…

This year, Democrats have won a string of victories in the redistricting sphere. While there’s still a good deal of uncertainty in states like Pennsylvania and Florida, Cook Political’s Dave Wasserman says that Democrats “have taken the lead” on the organization’s 2022 redistricting scorecard and are now “on track to net 2-3 seats from new maps vs. old ones.”

How have they done it?

  • The GOP decided to play defense in states like Texas, rather than maximizing potential gains, after seeing the speed with which once-safe Republican seats in the suburbs flipped to the Democrats following the 2016 election.
  • In some states where the GOP did get aggressive in its redistricting, courts have stepped in. Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court took charge of the redistricting process this year. The North Carolina and Ohio Supreme Courts overturned their respective state’s original Congressional redistricting plans on the grounds that they violated state law.
  • Democrats did some gerrymandering of their own in blue states they control. Maryland drew a 7 D-1 R map. Illinois’ map could limit Republicans to as few as 3/17 seats. In New York, just 4/26 seats now lean Republican.
  • In states with nonpartisan redistricting commissions, Democrats got some good breaks. New Jersey’s independent redistricting commission selected the Democratic redistricting proposal over the Republican. And California’s redistricting commission built a map where Biden won 45 of the state’s 52 congressional districts in 2020.

Of course, none of this means Democrats should feel confident heading into November, as the President’s low approval rating, continuing issues with Covid and inflation, and voters’ usual dissatisfaction with the party in power will make it difficult for us to hold on to our razor-thin margins in Congress.

That said, our redistricting successes—combined with a Senate map where Democrats are defending no states that Trump won in 2020—have set up a playing field for Democrats that looks more promising than we would have expected, even just a few months ago, giving Democrats an opportunity to outperform expectations this November.

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