The news media has been talking about redistricting lately and its implications in the 2022 elections. Let’s take a moment to discuss redistricting. Why does it happen? Why is this process necessary? How will this process affect the make-up of the House of Representatives? Is redistricting always fair?
First, what is redistricting? This whole article is about the United States, so redistricting may be different in other countries. Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral boundaries based on the results of a census. A census is a count of the people in the country. The Constitution mandates the census, article 1, section 2, to take place every ten years. Once census workers tally those numbers nationwide, Congressional representation is reapportioned based on population. In layman’s terms, because the number of people in the state has changed, or people did not take the census, these states are losing one Congressperson: California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. These states are gain one Congressperson: Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Noth Carolina, and Florida. Texas is gaining two Congresspeople.
In states with a change in Congressional representation, lawmakers need to redraw the borders of the congressional districts. According to previous court decisions, congressional districts are meant to have ” compactness, contiguity, equal population, and preserving county and city boundaries.” This definition is not always followed, and in some states, we see some oddly drawn congressional districts. When states create strangely shaped congressional districts for either racial or political reasons it is called gerrymandering. Gerrymandering for racial reasons is illegal, but the courts have ruled in Cooper v Harris that partisanship is not a reason to claim racial gerrymandering.
The process of redrawing these boundaries will be held up in the state courts. The Census results were delayed by six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ultimate results of redistricting will, most likely, not be resolved until after the filing dates in most states for the 2022 elections. Those who want to run for office in the states whose districts will be redrawn are running with vague ideas of what their district may or may not look like.
Political analysts see redistricting as being good for Republicans and bad for Democrats. Redistricting is controlled by state legislatures and approved by the governor in 25 states, including most of the states that are gaining or losing seats. The majority of the states that will be redistricted are run by Republican legislatures and have Republican governors.
It is important to pay attention to the redistricting process in your state. Many states are having open commissions and hearing about redistricting. These borders will control your representation in Congress for the next ten years. It is important to vote. Do not assume that because you are living in a “Democratic” or “Republican” district that your vote does not matter. Thirty-Four Senators are up for reelection in 2022. Every state has the same number of Senators, and those lawmakers are elected for six years.
Even though some parts of the process, such as redistricting, seem unfair, it is your job as a voter to keep your elected representatives accountable and work to vote out anyone who does not work for the best interest of you and your neighbors.