Democrats’ Dreams Turn to Dust as Adjudicated Redistricting Maps Set the Stage for Large Republican Gains in 2022

by Sebastian Hughes


The Democratic Party’s hopes of gaining seats from redistricting have been crushed as court decisions and an increasingly aggressive GOP produced more Republican-friendly maps.

Democrats were initially optimistic that they could mitigate projected midterm losses in the House when it appeared they were poised to score wins in the redistricting process. However, the party’s hopes have been dashed after key losses in major states erased their redistricting advantage.

The biggest hit to Democrats’ redistricting dreams occurred when the Democrat-drawn map in New York was struck down by a state court, with the ruling being upheld by the higher courts. The development, on top of the aggressive map Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through his state’s legislature, reversed what could have been a very positive outcome for the Democratic Party.

“New York state is the big one Democrats tried to gerrymander there. Didn’t work. We don’t know what the map will look like, but … it’s not gonna be one that leads to significant Democratic gains in all likelihood,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of election forecaster Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

DeSantis, meanwhile, fought for an aggressive GOP gerrymander in his state, putting him in conflict with the Republican-controlled state legislature. DeSantis came out on top, signing into law a map that could result in a 20-8 seat advantage for Republicans, according to Cook Political Report’s (CPR) senior editor David Wasserman.

“The last decade, the Florida Supreme Court did eventually force changes to a Republican-drawn map … but that didn’t happen until the 2016 election cycle,” Kondik told the DCNF. “But also, the general belief is that the Florida Supreme Court is more conservative now than it used to be and so might be more willing to go along with a Republican gerrymander.”

At the start of the redistricting cycle, Republicans were predicted to benefit the most because they controlled the process in more states than Democrats, according to Wasserman. The GOP, however, focused on shoring up support for incumbents within the party, as opposed to making aggressive moves.

Liberals, on the other hand, were initially more brazen, such as in Illinois, where the Democratic advantage went from 13-5 to 14-3 seats, Wasserman wrote.

“Democrats unabashedly gerrymandered Illinois, New Mexico and Oregon. They scored highly favorable maps from commissions in California and New Jersey, and to a lesser extent Michigan,” Wasserman wrote in January.

The more aggressive Republican maps were also initially struck down by the courts, like in Ohio, where the Supreme Court ordered a new map be drawn to limit partisan gerrymandering. While the Democrat-drawn map in New York also faced legal challenges and was struck down by a Trump-appointed judge, the ruling was expected to be overturned due to “less GOP-friendly higher courts.”

“We’re moving down the route of appeasement of the minority in our state,” Republican state Sen. Bill Eigel of Missouri said while his state was considering new maps in January, Politico reported.

“If you look at what goes on in Illinois, those guys cut the hearts out of two Republicans,” Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska told Politico. “It seems to me the Democrats appear to be more ruthless in this redistricting effort.”

Democrats were eventually projected to gain four to five seats in Congress, based on analysis by CPR. As the redistricting cycle continued, however, Republicans started to have court victories that shifted the process in their favor.

The timeline for Ohio’s legal process meant only slight changes were made to the Republican-drawn map, while a new map that was more favorable to Republicans was ordered to be drawn in Maryland. The ruling on the Democrat-drawn map in New York was upheld by the state high court, and a special master was appointed to create a new one.

CPR eventually updated its forecast again, with Wasserman predicting either “a partisan wash or a modest GOP gain, depending on the final ruling on Dems’ NY congressional map.”

“Predictions from a few months ago of a much less skewed House map now look premature,” he said.

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Sebastian Hughes is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.



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