Updated Feb 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats snag redistricting wins

Hand drawing on a white board with blue marker
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats have drawn themselves aggressive maps in Illinois and New York as part of their efforts to overcome perceived Republican redistricting strengths this midterm year.

  • They've also been in position to veto some GOP maps and win court challenges to Republican districts.

Why it matters: The wins are adding up, with Democrats now set to potentially gain two to three seats through redistricting.

What we're watching: Proposed maps released for New York last Sunday would knock out half of the state's House Republicans, while giving Democrats as many as three more seats.

  • The newly enacted Illinois maps create two more blue seats, eliminating two Republican-leaning districts. Both states will lose one seat this decade because of their relatively slow population growth.
  • Democrats also managed to draw favorable lines in New Mexico and Oregon, giving themselves a chance to pick up two additional seats from those states.

Gubernatorial power: Democratic governors are also flexing their veto muscles in key states, with the potential to ward off Republican gerrymandering efforts in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas.

In the courts: Key court decisions have also bolstered the party.

  • Democrats had an important victory in Alabama last week, when a federal court blocked new congressional maps and told lawmakers to draw a second Black majority district "or something quite close to it."
  • The Ohio Supreme Court invalidated Republican-passed maps last month, which would have given Republicans up to 13 of the state's 15 House seats.
  • On Wednesday, the Democratic-majority Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided to take over the state's redistricting process. Otherwise, the initial decision on the new map would have been left to a lower pro-Trump judge.
  • The North Carolina Supreme Court also is more favorable to Democrats now and could ultimately throw out Republican maps recently upheld by a lower court.

What they're saying: "We've been, for years, running this comprehensive plan and really pushing to think about redistricting in this holistic way. And what you are seeing are the receipts of that strategy," Kelly Ward Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told Axios.

  • Burton acknowledged redistricting isn't over yet, and Republicans maintain advantages in key states like Texas, Florida and Georgia.

The other side: "I think it's ironic that Democrats complain about Republican gerrymandering and then you can't look at the map in New York State and say they're not gerrymandered to death," Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) told Axios.

  • New York's proposed map has Katko's Syracuse-based seat — which voted for Biden by nearly 10 points in 2020 — lurching even more toward Democrats.
  • "In the end, there's so much wind at the back of Republicans it may not be fatal. But it certainly looks like gerrymandering to me," said Katko, who announced his retirement last month.
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