The Redistricting Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

In the trifecta of political parties controlling the House, Senate and Executive branches in a state, how many will really benefit from that power in the redistricting process?

Feb. 11, 2022 — There has been quite a bit of redistricting news surfacing during the past few weeks, with many analysts now reversing their earlier predictions about which party is the clear beneficiary from the re-draw process.

Most said early that the Republicans would benefit the most from redistricting and that map drawing alone would be enough to allow the party to reclaim the House majority. We, on the other hand, were showing that the cut would more than likely be about equal even though the GOP has a major advantage in trifecta states, that is, those where one party controls all three legs of the legislative stool, meaning the state Senate, state House, and the governor’s office.

Though the Republicans control 25 states outright from a redistricting perspective compared to the Democrats’ 15, the number of states where each can draw maps to expand their party’s congressional delegation really comes down to seven where Republicans control and a commensurate four for the Democrats.

What balances the process this year is that Republicans appear to have have only one state where they can gain multiple seats — North Carolina — while Democrats can run the table, and have, in two big states, New York and Illinois.

Where both parties suffer in their trifecta states is the number of places where they already control the maximum number of seats, or redistricting power has been transferred to a commission. Either one party already has all the seats in a state like the Democrats do in Massachusetts and the Republicans have in Arkansas, for example, or the state has only one at-large member.

In one place, West Virginia, even though the Republicans have a legislative trifecta, they will drop a seat post election. Currently, the West Virginia delegation consists of three Republicans, but the state loses a seat in national reapportionment. Therefore, the GOP majority had no choice but to collapse one of their own districts.

Articles are now appearing that suggest it is the Democrats who could end the redistricting process with a net seat advantage rather than the Republicans. This, as it has been from the beginning, is true.

In looking at the states once all 50 have adopted new congressional lines, it projects today that the Republicans would add approximately 13 seats, while the Democrats, with multiple seat additions in Illinois and New York, would gain 11 new members. Seven states remain undecided because their level of political competition is predicted to be intense.

These numbers would ring true assuming that the Republican map in North Carolina is restored. The Democratic controlled state Supreme Court has already disqualified the map, but Republicans are working an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. If the high court stays the state court ruling, as they did for Alabama, so it can fully consider the appeal and not push up against the state primary election, the GOP edge would be restored for the 2022 election. This, however, is a big if.

Without North Carolina, easily the Republicans’ strongest map in the country, the Democrats will likely gain a slight national edge through the line drawing process.

The final redistricting count will come down to the seven competitive states where toss-up districts have been created. Therefore, the political winds and ultimately voter behavior at the time of the election period in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, and Nevada will decide the outcome and not the respective redistricting map.

In Ohio, like North Carolina, a court has struck a favorable Republican map, so the judicial process will likely determine how the Buckeye State boundaries are finalized. In Pennsylvania, the map has yet to be completed.

Understanding that early analyses suggesting Republicans could gain up to a net seven seats were proven to be in error, we instead are seeing a very close redistricting process that could end in only a one or two seat edge for either party. This means, as it should, that only the voters will determine the ultimate outcome.

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