Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

This year could be one of the most consequential years on voting districts as the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts are set to rule on cases involving partisan and racial gerrymandering.

Why it matters: These cases could decide some state voting maps are unconstitutional, which would alter how maps are created and implement a concrete legal standard for determining when redistricting is infected with political bias.

Congressional and legislative districts are drawn every 10 years after the U.S. census, which governs redistricting in each state. Both Democrats and Republicans have used the practice to gain an advantage.

Here are the cases to watch:

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • The case: Gill vs. Whitford is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Democrats alleged that Republicans in Wisconsin gerrymandered the electoral map to ultimately give them control of the State Assembly. 
  • ​Why it matters: If Democrats succeed, this would be the first time the Supreme Court strikes down a voting map on the grounds of partisan gerrymandering. 
  • Timeline: A ruling is expected to be made before the end of June.​ The state appealed a three-judge panel's 2-1 ruling that the legislative redistricting drawn in 2011 was heavily skewed in their favor. In its Nov. 2016 decision, the lower court said Democrats got more votes than Republicans in Assembly races in 2012, yet Republicans were able to claim 60 of the 99 seats. It ordered the state to draw new maps by Nov. 1, a move the U.S. Supreme Court later blocked last June when it agreed to hear the case.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • The case: ​The case centers on the 6th Congressional District in Western Maryland, which was redrawn in 2011 to include parts of heavily Democratic Montgomery County, The Baltimore Sun reports. ​ Republican voters are arguing that the legislative and executive branches, controlled by Democrats, unfairly drew one of the state's eight congressional districts in their favor. 
  • ​Why it matters: ​Republicans said it diluted their votes and cost an incumbent his seat.​
  • Timeline: ​The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case last December, and a decision is expected to be made before the end of June, per The Baltimore Sun.​  Last August, a three-judge federal court in Maryland ruled against the plaintiffs' request to discontinue the use of the current congressional districts ahead of the 2018 midterm election.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • ​The case: A Commonwealth Court judge in the state ruled in late December that while the Congressional districts were drawn to give Republicans an advantage, they did not violate the state Constitution as the suit alleged, according to multiple reports. The judge recommended the high court reject the plaintiffs' claims.​
  • Timeline: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on Jan 17​. 

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • ​The case: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court's 2016 ruling that 28 of the state's 170 electoral districts drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 were unconstitutional because they diluted the political power of black voters.​
  • ​Why it matters: ​This is not the only effort to diminish the political influence of black voters who overwhelming vote Democratic. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court sustained the lower-court's ruling that the state's 2013 voter ID law and reduction in early voting were unconstitutional and discriminated against blacks "with almost surgical precision."​
  • ​Timeline: A three-judge federal court in the state met in December to review a series of proposed legislative district lines drawn by a "special master" the judges appointed last November.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • ​The case: The Supreme Court of Virginia is reviewing a racially-charged case, known as Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, regarding the 2011 redrawing of the states' House of Delegates district lines. 
  • ​Why it matters: The case centers on concerns that the map Virginia's Republican-led legislature drew had deliberately packed black voters together to limit their influence so surrounding districts could be more winnable for GOP lawmakers.
  • Timeline: A state federal court in 2015 ruled that race had not been the primary factor. But the U.S. Supreme Court told the lower court last March that the redistricting must be reexamined for racial bias.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: header-three]

  • ​The case: ​The state's League of Women Voters and 11 Democrats filed a federal suit last December, challenging the congressional and legislative district lines crafted by Michigan's Republican after the 2010 census, per The Associated Press. The plaintiffs asked the court to strike down the maps and ordered new electoral lines if the legislature does not pass a constitutional redistricting plan.​
  • ​Why it matters: ​If the Democrats are successful in this case, it could create an independent commission to draw Michigan's districts.​
  • ​Timeline: The suit came days after a Michigan citizen-led group submitted more than 425,000 signatures for a 2018 redistricting ballot reform measure. 

Go Deeper: Democrats' latest hope for fighting gerrymandering: the Supreme Court

Go deeper

Updated 28 mins ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.