Peeking Behind the Curtain: The Legislative Battles That Could Decide Control of Congress

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The once-a-decade process is notoriously high stakes.

This year's campaign to navigate electoral fault lines and redraw district boundaries appears destined to be even more so.

In the first place, Democrats have the narrowest majority in the U.S. House since Samuel Randall was speaker.

Randall died in 1890.

With such a perilous grip on the reins of power, the simple act of redrawing congressional districts could be enough to wrest control of Congress from Democrats next year.

Why You Should Care

Redistricting rarely gets the coverage it deserves. For many voters, it seems far removed from the kitchen table issues that push them toward one party or the other. Yet it magnifies—or minimizes—your voice in the democratic process. Moreover, it helps decide if you're represented by someone whose views align with yours.

Fortunately, for Republicans, state legislatures play a dominant role in this process in 33 states. In an attempt to limit partisan excesses, redistricting commissions draw lines in a minority of states. A handful use a hybrid system. Six states (Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) have only one congressional district, making redistricting at the federal level unnecessary.

Regardless of their preferences or supposed objectivity, every mapmaker works to ensure that each new congressional district has roughly the same number of constituents. Besides changing their shapes, the undertaking can involve adding or subtracting districts. The purpose is to achieve population parity, which can only be ascertained after the census is completed.

Here's Where Things Stand

Despite Democrats control of the Legislative Branch, the GOP's dominance at the state-level makes 2020's U.S. House of Representatives results bittersweet for Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Wescott, executive vice president at L2 (a premier voter data firm) explains:

While the Democrats took the House, Senate and White House in the 2020 cycle, it was a muted victory because many statehouses and state legislatures stayed or swung Republican. Aside from overall control in numerous states, it gave Republicans a distinct advantage in redistricting which we're already seeing.

What's Left to Be Decided?

So far ten states have passed updated congressional and state legislative boundaries: Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia.

Democrats have gained five congressional district seats in the process, much of this due to Texas Republicans giving Democrat incumbents safe districts to hold onto their own. However, this will likely be a short-lived gain, as there are far more Republicans in control of redrawing districts and it's likely the Democrat net gain will disappear quickly as the process continues. The maps released in North Carolina and proposed in Ohio heavily favor Republicans in those states and those are likely to stick given the Republican control of the legislatures.

Worse for Democrats is the reality that four of the six states that gained congressional seats have a red hue. Besides North Carolina's Republican-dominated state legislature, Florida, Texas and Montana have GOP state government trifectas. In other words, Republican control of the governor's mansion as well as the upper and lower legislative chambers.

But Democrats Aren't Complacent

The population boom across the south and west seems likely to benefit the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean Democrats have scrapped plans for a counterattack.

“Where Republicans need to be afraid are states like Illinois,” cautions Paul. “Illinois passed a proposed congressional map that has a heavy Democratic bias, creating 13 blue seats, three red seats and just one competitive seat; all that's left is for the governor to sign the bill.”

Of course that's not the only state where Democrats are seizing the initiative, as Paul explains:

The battlegrounds for legal action are likely going to be states where one party gains substantial ground over the other. Those states so far include North Carolina, which gave Republicans a serious advantage.

Notwithstanding it's status as a swing state, the North Carolina General Assembly's map creates two new GOP-leaning seats. It also transformed incumbent Democrat G.K. Butterfield's safe seat into a highly competitive one. The National Republican Congressional Committee won't forget that if the map survives.

Joe Biden only lost the Tar Heel State by 1.34 points in 2020. However, the new map has shifted the state's median congressional district from R+6.4 points to R+11.4.

And They're Not Wasting Time

Not content to wait any longer, a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has filed a lawsuit challenging the North Carolina map's constitutionality.

Whether or not it succeeds like the 2019 gerrymander lawsuit against the North Carolina General Assembly remains unclear.

However, what's plain to see is Holder's shameless hypocrisy. Look no further than his silence at what Democrats are doing in states like Illinois and Maryland.

The state legislature in the former has done a magnificent job expanding the Democrats supermajority at the state and federal level for another decade. It seems that the “Land of Lincoln” has permanently become the “Fiefdom of Cook County.” Outside of Chicago, won Illinois by six points. Yet new districts slither out of the city like snakes into countryside—threatening to silence the voices of rural voters forever.

But Republicans Are Mobilizing

Thankfully, Republicans are mobilizing. Though they don't have anyone leading the charge with Holder's clout. The National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) is “probably the best connected,” according to Michael Turk, who managed internet operations for three presidential campaigns. He adds that ex-Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appear “tangentially connected” to the NRRT's efforts.

When asked about Republican-led court challenges, Michael explained how the GOP isn't taking anything for granted:

There are a number already in process. Wisconsin's Supreme Court recently indicated it would hear a challenge there. Virginia is currently battling over the people the parties have nominated as special masters for the state.

One point is indisputable: Holder and his brethren have zero interest in truly challenging the status quo. They simply want to give Democrats an insurmountable advantage. Until that changes, we can expect more pitiless battles in this process that's so critical to both parties' ability to compete.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.

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