We’ve been keeping a close eye on redistricting around the country throughout the fall. With more than half of all states either approving new congressional and legislative districts or actively considering proposals, we’re well underway in this once-a-decade process. Here’s a recap of what’s happened so far that you might have missed.
On Nov. 3, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed off on Alabama’s new congressional and legislative maps. The legislative maps are expected to maintain Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature and Republican control of six of Alabama’s seven U.S. House seats. The new congressional map was criticized by lawmakers and advocates for only containing one district with a majority Black population — Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D) district — despite a population that is over 25% Black. In response, several Alabama voters sued the state, arguing that the new congressional map intentionally dilutes the voting strength of Black voters and that a second Black majority district could be drawn. Another lawsuit raising similar complaints was filed prior to the maps passing.
Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission began work on new districts earlier this year. The process has not been without controversy, as the Commission chose to hire an executive director and mapping consultant with ties to Republican politics. After considering a wide array of different proposals, the Commission voted to adopt two official draft maps for congressional and legislative districts on Oct. 28. The drafts have now been submitted for 30 days of public review. Under the draft proposal, four of Arizona’s congressional districts would be competitive. Republicans would have three safe seats and Democrats would have two. The legislative draft would give Republicans more safe districts, but there are enough competitive districts for Democrats to win control of the Legislature in the right year.
On Oct 13., Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed the state’s new congressional districts to take effect without his signature. The new map splits the Little Rock area across three districts, which critics argue weakens minority voters’ influence. Hutchinson expressed concern over the decision to split Little Rock, but did not veto the map out of deference to the Legislature. Activists in Arkansas are beginning to collect signatures to prevent the new map from going into effect, utilizing a procedure known as a popular veto. Once the Legislature adjourns, they have 90 days to collect 54,000 signatures from at least 15 Arkansas counties.
California’s Independent Redistricting Commission reached a key milestone Wednesday night. The citizen panel voted unanimously to advance draft congressional and state legislative districts for public comment. The drafts, however, could drastically change before the Commission’s Dec. 27 deadline. The congressional proposal would endanger several incumbent representatives, with some drawn into the same districts and others forced to run in more politically unfavorable conditions. At the same time, the proposed districts appear to strengthen Latinx voters, as more than a dozen of the districts include significant Latinx voting populations.
We covered the ins and outs of Colorado’s new redistricting commissions earlier this year in our piece, “Redistricting Rundown: Colorado.” Since then, the state Supreme Court has given final approval to the state’s new congressional districts, rejecting arguments that the redistricting commission failed to adequately account for the state’s Latinx population or placed too much emphasis on competitiveness. Meanwhile, the state’s new legislative districts still await state Supreme Court approval.
Illinois was the first state to get down to business in redistricting this cycle, drawing new legislative maps before the U.S. Census Bureau had even released final population data. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law new state legislative districts on June 4, ahead of a state constitutional deadline. The state’s use of population estimates in drawing the new districts has already led to litigation, with both the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Illinois GOP filing lawsuits challenging the new redistricting plan. After the release of final census data, the state approved new versions of the legislative maps, although in October a federal court took control of legislative redistricting.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Legislature approved new congressional districts on Oct. 29. The new map will send more Democrats to Congress than the current districts, despite the state losing one seat to population loss. The map also adds a second predominantly Latinx district to the state. Gov. Pritzker has yet to sign the districts into law.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed Indiana’s new districts into law on Oct. 4. No Democrats voted in favor of the proposals, and public testimony unanimously criticized all three maps as Republican gerrymanders. The new legislative districts notably split many of the state’s urban areas, raising concerns they dilute the power of minority voters. Democratic proposals to keep urban areas intact were rejected. Meanwhile, the new congressional map does not differ substantially from the current one, with Republicans expected to win seven of nine U.S. House seats.
The Iowa Legislature on Oct. 28 approved the second set of congressional and legislative maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA). Under Iowa law, the LSA has the first chance to draw maps that the Legislature can either approve or reject, as the Legislature did with the first set of LSA maps on Oct. 5. The approved set of congressional districts aligns more closely with the state’s current congressional plan, with one Republican district and three competitive ones.
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed new congressional and legislative districts into law on Sept. 29, making Maine the second state to complete all redistricting this cycle. The state’s apportionment commission was able to reach bipartisan agreement on new maps that the Legislature approved in near-unanimous votes. Changes to the current congressional map were minimal, with a few towns in Kennebec County swapping districts to equalize the population. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s (D) 1st District will remain safely Democratic and Rep. Jared Golden’s (D) vast 2nd District will remain highly competitive.
Democrats, having the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto from Gov. Larry Hogan (R), fully control redistricting in the state. As Maryland’s deadline is not until Feb. 22, the state has only just begun the redistricting process. The Legislature’s redistricting committee released four proposed congressional maps on Nov. 9. One proposal would endanger Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, by making his district much more Democratic-leaning. Members of the public now have the opportunity to comment on the proposals ahead of a Dec. 6 special session to approve a plan.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed new districts for the Massachusetts General Court into law on Nov. 5. The new maps increase the number of majority-minority House districts from 20 to 33 and will continue to elect overwhelming Democratic majorities. Meanwhile, the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting released proposed congressional districts on Nov. 1. The proposal avoids any dramatic shifts in the district lines, although the decision to keep the immigrant-heavy cities of Fall River and New Bedford in separate districts is a blow to activists who sought to unite the two communities. Advocates, including former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D), testified this week against the plan to keep the cities separate.
Michigan’s brand-new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, approved by voters in 2018, has been creating draft maps and holding public hearings throughout the fall. On Nov. 2, the Commission voted to advance three draft congressional maps for public comment. Each map represents something of a political tossup; under the 2020 election, each would favor Democrats 7-6. Using the 2016 election as a model, however, Republicans would have the edge of 7-6. The Commission also advanced drafts for the state House and Senate, most of which are more favorable to Democrats than the current Republican gerrymander. The commission is expected to adopt final proposals by Dec. 30.
Montana will have two congressional districts for the first time since 1993, and on Nov. 4 the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission identified its preferred way of dividing the state in two. The proposal, which divides the state on a north-south axis, excludes liberal Helena from the new western district. Democrats had hoped to keep Helena in the western district with college towns Missoula and Bozeman, thereby creating a more competitive district for Democratic candidates. The commission is expected to hold a final vote today ahead of a Nov. 14 deadline.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) signed new districts into law on Sept. 30. Republicans had initially attempted to split Omaha’s Democratic-leaning Douglas County across multiple districts, but failed to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats. Instead, Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature advanced a compromise that keeps Douglas County intact while adding in rural voters to increase Republican influence in the district. Nebraska is one of two states that splits its electoral college votes. In the 2020 election, the Douglas County district awarded President Biden one electoral vote.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that the state’s special session dedicated to redistricting will begin today, Fri. Nov. 12. According to the Nevada Independent, lawmakers hope to wrap up the process before Thanksgiving, giving the Legislature less than two weeks to approve new maps. On Tuesday, Nevada Democrats released draft proposals for congressional and state legislative districts. Democrats have full control over the redistricting process with Democratic majorities in both chambers in the Legislature and the governorship. Currently, there are three Democrats and one Republican in Nevada’s congressional delegation; the first proposed map maintains a similar split, but the three Democratic-leaning seats remain competitive.
New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats have both released proposed congressional maps. The Democratic proposal represents a minimal change from the current map, which features two highly competitive seats. The Republican one, however, would make the state’s 2nd District much more Democratic and the 1st much more Republican — potentially endangering Rep. Chris Pappas (D). Given Republican control of the Legislature, the Republican proposal is much more likely to advance. Gov. Chris Sununu (R), however, has pledged to veto any plan that does not “pass the smell test” while also vetoing several bills to create independent commissions. The Legislature is expected to vote on all redistricting bills early next year.
New Jersey utilizes a 13-member politician commission for congressional redistricting and a 10- or 11-member politician commission to draw legislative districts, with members appointed by political parties. While neither commission has released any proposals yet, both have had significant developments in their composition. On Aug. 6, the New Jersey Supreme Court picked the 13th tie-breaking member of the congressional commission after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a 13th member together. The Court selected the Democrats’ pick, former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John Wallace. Similarly, on Oct. 7 the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice selected Philip Carchman, a former state judge, to serve as a tiebreaker on the legislative commission.
New Mexico’s new districts are drawn by a bipartisan commission, although the Democratic Legislature can modify the commission’s proposals. The redistricting commission formally submitted its recommendations to the Legislature on Oct. 29, including three congressional maps and additional maps for legislative districts. The Legislature plans to consider the recommendations in a December special session this year.
In 2014, New York voters approved the creation of a 10-member advisory commission for redistricting. The Commission released two sets of proposed congressional and legislative maps in September. However, the Legislature does not have to enact one of the Commission’s proposals, and reports indicate statehouse Democrats intend to take control of the process to bolster the party’s advantage. While a 2021 ballot initiative that would have made it easier for Democrats to unilaterally enact new maps was defeated, Democrats still have the supermajority necessary to overrule the commission and enact its own plan. Either way, new maps need to be in place by April 4, 2022, the date candidates can begin filing for primary elections.
As we covered earlier this year in “Gerrymandering Deep Dive: North Carolina,” redistricting is particularly contentious in the Old North State. It was no different this year, with the North Carolina General Assembly passing highly-gerrymandered congressional and legislative maps last week that will bolster the Republican advantage in the state. In defiance of state court rulings against partisan gerrymandering, the new congressional map creates 10 Republican-leaning districts, three Democratic-leaning districts and one competitive district, despite the state’s near-even partisan split.
Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against the new maps. One was filed before the state finished approving the new maps, objecting to the “race-blind” process the General Assembly used to draw new legislative districts. Shortly after the congressional map was passed, the plaintiffs in Harper v. Lewis, a crucial redistricting case from 2019, again challenged the map for solidifying Republican power.
Ohio completed drawing new legislative districts on Sept. 15 with a party-line vote by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The new maps have been challenged in the Supreme Court of Ohio for violating a ban on partisan gerrymandering in the state Constitution. For more about what happened in legislative redistricting and the pending lawsuits, see our piece “Redistricting Rundown: Ohio.”
Since then, Ohio’s Redistricting Commission missed its Oct. 31 deadline to approve a new congressional map. Map drawing now falls to the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly, which, per a new redistricting process approved by voters in 2018, will have the option of enacting a map without Democratic support that will be in place for only four years.
Oklahoma plans to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative districts during a special session starting Nov. 15. Ahead of the start of the special session, Republican legislators unveiled their proposed new congressional map. The proposal creates five safe Republican districts. Currently, only the Oklahoma City-based 5th District is considered competitive — Kendra Horn (D) flipped it in 2018 in a major upset. To preclude that from happening again, heavily-Democratic parts of Oklahoma City are instead drawn into the 3rd District.
Oregon became the first state to finish redistricting when Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed new districts into law on Sept. 27. The move capped a turbulent week in the Oregon Legislature when a COVID-19 case and a Republican walkout threatened to prevent Democrats from enacting new districts by the state’s deadline. With Oregon gaining a sixth seat thanks to strong population growth, the new congressional map creates three safe Democratic seats, one safe Republican seat, one seat that leans to Democrats and one highly competitive seat based in Bend.
In October, a lawsuit was filed against the new congressional map on behalf of a group of former Republican elected state officials. The petition argues the map is a partisan gerrymander that violates the Oregon Constitution and asks the Oregon state courts to block the map from going into effect next year and draw new districts. Later in the month, six Oregon voters intervened in the case in order to defend the new map and push back against partisan gerrymandering claims.
Texas finished redistricting on Oct. 25 when Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed new congressional and state legislative districts into law. The new boundaries were heavily criticized for protecting Republicans from competitive elections and failing to account for the growth of Texas’ minority communities. Read our “Redistricting Rundown: Texas” for more about the state’s redistricting this year. Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against the new districts. Keep an eye on our Cases page for the latest updates.
Utah approved a reform initiative in 2018 to create an independent commission appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. In 2020, however, lawmakers moved the commission to merely an advisory role in the redistricting process. The commission presented three options for new congressional districts to the Legislature, all of which created a Democratic-leaning district centered around Salt Lake City. The Legislature rejected this input, instead approving a congressional map drawn by the GOP-controlled redistricting committee. The approved plan creates four safe Republican districts by splitting Salt Lake County. The move generated intense criticism and protests among voters who advocated keeping Salt Lake together and objected to joining urban and rural areas together.
Nov. 8 was the final deadline for Virginia’s new redistricting commission to approve new congressional districts, a deadline it failed to meet. After earlier failing to meet deadlines for state legislative districts as well, the state Supreme Court now takes responsibility for drawing new maps. For more about what went wrong in Virginia’s redistricting process, check out our piece, “Redistricting Rundown: Virginia.”
Washington’s redistricting is handled by the Washington State Redistricting Commission, with two Republican and two Democratic members, plus one non-partisan member. Each of the partisan commissioners released proposed legislative maps on Sept. 21 and proposed congressional maps on Sept. 28. The Republican congressional plans increase the number of competitive districts from two to four, while the Democratic maps create an additional Democratic-leaning district. The Commission has until Nov. 15 to adopt final plans with the support of at least three of the partisan members. While optimistic they’ll meet the deadline, the commissioners acknowledge many sticking points remain, with the Republican and Democratic commissioners arguing the others’ proposals fail to meet legal requirements or are otherwise inadequate. If the Commission fails to adopt any plans, the Washington Supreme Court will have the authority to draw new maps.
West Virginia will have only two congressional districts this decade after losing one due to a declining population. Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed the new districts into law on Oct. 25. The congressional map combines the districts of U.S. Reps. David McKinley (R) and Alex Mooney (R) into one northern district. Rep. Carol Miller (R) remains in a district anchored in the state’s south. The state’s new House of Delegates map also represents a major change, as the approved plan consists of 100 single-delegate districts. Previously, the House of Delegates’ 100 members were elected from 67 districts.
Wisconsin’s redistricting is currently in a partisan stalemate that the courts will likely have to resolve. Gov. Tony Evers (D) has the ability to veto any plan passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Gov. Evers established an advisory commission that released final congressional and legislative proposals on Nov. 2. At the same time, the Wisconsin Senate approved a Republican proposal that would maintain the state’s current partisan gerrymanders. Evers has vowed to veto the Republican proposal.
Meanwhile, multiple lawsuits over redistricting are underway. One consolidated case, Hunter v. Bostelmann, asks a federal court to take over redistricting from the Legislature. It argues that the partisan stalemate will prevent new maps from being enacted in time for next year’s elections. The Wisconsin Legislature has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stop this suit from proceeding. Another lawsuit proceeding in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, brought by conservative groups, seeks to have the Wisconsin Supreme Court take over redistricting instead.