How redistribution shaped the midterms

Democrats did not create dummy manders

Blue-state Democrats went into election night with one lingering concern: Have they stretched? their voters too thin? Would a bad environment eviscerate their delegations in Oregon, Nevada, Illinois and New Mexico?

The answer was a resounding no.

Democrats didn’t inadvertently create “dummymander” — a term used to describe cards that end up hurting the party that drew them. In contrast, maps drawn by the Democrats performed remarkably well. Next year, Republicans will hold only six of the 43 districts drawn by Democrats.

In Nevada, for example, Democrats pulled friendly voters from Rep. Diana Titus‘ District in central Las Vegas to support other Democratic representatives. Susie Lee and Steven Horford in a move that prompted a nasty rebuke from Titus. Former President Joe Biden would have carried the districts by high single-digit margins. All three members survived.

In New Mexico, some activists feared that the Democrats might have endangered the Democratic Republic. Teresa Leger Fernandez as they reshuffled the state’s lines to target GOP Rep. Yvette Herrellthe south district. But Herrell narrowly lost to challenger Gabriel Vasquez as both Democratic incumbents won by double-digit margins, giving the Democrats all three seats in the state.

Illinois was perhaps the biggest redistribution coup for the Democrats. They reduced the GOP footprint to just three districts, supported the retirement of the Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos‘ District and netted a new seat anchored in Springfield. Anticipating a possible Republican wave, Democratic groups threw in last-minute money to protect Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwoodbut both won in the end by 8 points.

Democrats flirted most with the disaster in Oregon, where three battlefield races were held. Republicans flipped a Portland-area district that was open after moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader fell to a progressive main challenger. But the Democrats stood by Rep’s resignation. Peter DeFazio‘s district and conquered a new district created in the division. Rep.-elect Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), who will succeed Schrader, will lead in 2024 in a seat Biden won by nearly 9 points.

The courts hurt the Democrats but strengthened the GOP

New York was the Democrats’ biggest disaster on election day. They won just 15 congressional districts compared to 11 for the Republicans — an increase of three seats for the GOP, though the state lost one seat in the rebalancing. A series of statewide races were also closer than Democrats had anticipated.

But the party’s challenges in the congressional elections began much earlier, when the state’s highest court struck down new maps drawn in favor of Democrats in April. The new maps, produced the following month, swayed incumbents, particularly the DCCC chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, who opted for the new 17th district, where more than 70 percent of the voters were new to him. Maloney eventually lost by a narrow margin to Republican Michael Lawler in November.

The redistribution isn’t solely responsible for New York’s Democrat losses, but the episode is an example of how courts in blue states refused to allow Democratic Gerrymanders to run. In Maryland, courts similarly threw out a Democratic Gerrymander to force a more neutral card, though the ultimate electoral impact was less than Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) stuck to a competitive seat that his party had tried unsuccessfully to make more secure.

The Democrats’ inability to maneuver Maryland and New York stands in stark contrast to states like Florida, where courts refused to block Gov. Ron DeSantis’ aggressive redistribution plan that allowed Republicans to win despite an anti- Gerrymandering amendment to the state’s constitution to gain four seats A decade ago, voters passed that state districts should not be dragged in favor of any political party, along with complaints that the dismantling of Lawson’s North Florida seat took away a district that contained blacks Voters could vote for a candidate of their choice.

The 2024 card

Democrats have it relatively easy to set targets for 2024. Though court battles could shift the maps in some states, more than a dozen Republican incumbents will run in the counties Biden won, with the Democratic president himself likely to be on the ballot.

Some of these Republicans are incumbents who have survived this cycle despite being the top targets for Democrats — including Reps. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and don bacon (R-Neb.) — and battle-hardened incumbents like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who will be difficult to oust. But the group also includes newly elected members who have taken advantage of poor Democrat performance in states like New York, where six Republicans are representing Biden-won districts.

In contrast, only five Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden from Maine, Matt Cartwright from Pennsylvania, Maria Peltola from Alaska, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez from Washington and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio – represent districts won by then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

House Majority PAC, the Democrats’ top outside congressional group, released a tentative list of 19 districts of districts it planned to flip in 2024 full of Republicans in Biden-won districts. Among his targets: Garcia, Bacon, Fitzpatrick, Lawler, Chavez-DeRemer, along with Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Young Kim (R-Caliph.), Michelle Stahl (R-Calif.) and elected Reps. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), Tom Kean Jr. (RN.J.), George Santos (RN.Y.), Anthony D’Esposito (RN.Y.), Marc Molinaro (RN.Y.), and Jen Kiggans (R-Va.).

The next redistributing battlefields

Several states could see another round of redistribution before 2024 as their current cards face legal challenges that haven’t been resolved this year — though some states will depend on future court rulings.

In Ohio, the midterm elections were conducted under Republican-drawn maps that the state Supreme Court had ruled illegal gerrymander — although Democrats did manage to win a seat. The state’s Redistribution Commission is tasked with drawing new maps before 2024. If it ends up in the state Supreme Court again, it could be handled differently since the Republican judiciary, which sided with the Democrats against the original cards, retired this year.

Earlier this year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked a district court’s decision that Alabama should be forced to draw a new map with a majority-black district, believing such a move would get too close to the primary. When the court heard the entire case in October, judges seemed skeptical about Alabama’s racially neutral interpretation of the Voting Rights Act. But several conservative judges also appeared wary of civil rights groups’ claims, and the Supreme Court has generally not been friendly to VRA-based challenges in recent years.

Maps in Texas and Florida have also been challenged due to racial gerrymandering, although it’s unclear if either state will be forced to redraw its maps.

But a second case in the US Supreme Court could have far-reaching implications for redistribution. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next month Moore vs. Harperwhich argues that the maps of North Carolina – prepared by a court-appointed special master after the state Supreme Court ruled on the maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature were extreme gerrymander – are unconstitutional on the basis that only state legislatures, not state courts, can rule on county lines.

A ruling in favor of Republican lawmakers who challenged North Carolina’s special master display map could potentially open up opportunities for legal challenges to maps in a number of other states involving courts. But the Supreme Court could also rule against them and let the North Carolina cards stand.