Redistricting: What’s left?

Introduction

As of this writing, six states have yet to complete their decennial redistricting processes. Of those six, two (OH & FL) happen to be some of the most electorally-significant states in the country. All told, there are nearly 50 Congressional districts remaining to be drawn. At least 1/3rd of those seats stand to be among the most contested House districts in the nation this fall.

Delayed and complicated by the coronavirus, the 2020 redistricting cycle is finally nearing its long-awaited end. Had Republican gerrymanders in Ohio and North Carolina not been struck down by state courts last month, the process would have been two steps closer to completion. Since litigation is more or less final, though, Split Ticket can only attempt to handicap the future without issuing judgement on the past.

Let’s take a look at the most recent redistricting developments, with a special focus on the states that still need to enact Congressional maps.

Recent Completions

WA & KS

Washington and Kansas recently enacted their new lines, concluding this decade’s redistricting process west of the continental divide. The Evergreen State’s plan is more or less least change, setting up a Tossup race between Democratic Congresswoman Kim Schrier and King County Commissioner Reagan Dunn in the Biden-won 8th district.

Out on the beautiful western plains of the Sunflower State, the Republican-controlled legislature managed to gather enough votes in both houses to overturn Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s prior veto of its Congressional proposal.

The enacted lines most affect 3rd district Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids, moving her seat’s partisanship from Biden +10 to a mere Biden +5. Davids is a strong fundraiser and durable campaigner, but the national environment and district design changes merit a Tossup rating.

2020 Republican nominee Amanda Adkins is running for a rematch this fall, and should get more attention from national Republicans this cycle. But given the rapid leftward trends Johnson County (Kansas City suburbs) has experienced since the 2012 Presidential race, Adkins would be at great electoral risk in a neutral environment.

RI & CT

Rhode Island and Connecticut recently finished drawing new maps as well, bringing redistricting one step closer to completion in New England. In Little Rhody, the Biden +14 2nd district was left open by the retirement of long-time Congressman Jim Langevin.

The most prominent Republican contesting the open seat is former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a two-time gubernatorial nominee with a history of electoral strength in his state’s western half. State Treasurer Seth Magaziner currently seems like the top Democrat running for the Likely Democratic district. Both contested primaries do not occur until September.

For the second cycle in a row, the Nutmeg State pursued a least change map. GOP candidates Mike France (CT-02) and George Logan (CT-05) are the most credible Republican challengers either district has seen since the 2014 wave, but both seats still start at Likely Democratic.

The 2nd and 5th may be more malleable in this environment, but both still backed President Biden by double digits in 2020. Of the two vulnerable Democratic incumbents, veteran Congressman Joe Courtney (a god of crossover support) will certainly be the hardest to beat. Should he win reelection, Courtney would be the last remaining House Democrat to have unseated a Republican incumbent in 2006.

MN

Minnesota recently ended its redistricting process with the adoption of a least change proposal. The only truly competitive district on the map is Democratic Congresswoman Angie Craig’s Dakota & Scott County-based 2nd. Although it got slightly bluer at Biden +7, the district is still expected to be one of the marquee Tossup contests this fall. Republican Tyler Kistner is seeking a rematch this year after a better than expected performance against Craig last cycle.

While Craig’s slim plurality victory can mostly be blamed on the Legal Marijuana vote, Kistner still received a greater share of the vote than did Trump. Lakshya Jain’s 2020 WAR model also shows that Craig underperformed expectations even when controlling for third party share. Finally, there is a chance that Minnesota’s Legal Marijuana Party (the bane of state Democrats’ existence) will once again field a candidate in the 2nd district.

Minnesota’s 3rd and 8th districts are almost identical to their predecessors and will almost certainly not be contested in earnest. The Rochester-oriented 1st district shifted slightly to the left, but not enough to make a significant difference in overall partisan lean. Republican incumbent Jim Hagedorn recently passed away there, triggering an August special election. While special election dynamics can be unpredictable, the 1st should be a comfortable hold for the GOP assuming Jennifer Carnahan is not the nominee. (Read more here)

Mississippi also enacted its new lines, which are *unsurprisingly* similar to those currently in use. The 3-1 Republican delegation is expected to remain.

PA

Just yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 4-3 to adopt the Carter plan for the state’s Congressional lines. Although the Keystone State lost its 18th seat in reapportionment, the new map is widely-recognized as fair. In general, most of the seats that have been competitive since mid-decade redistricting in 2018 will still be hotly contested on the new map. (Split Ticket will be starting 5 of these 17 seats on the board.)

The Bucks County-based 1st district gets about a point redder in redistricting, something that moderate Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick will certainly be happy with. He had no difficulty winning by double-digits in a Biden +6 seat, so he should be heavy favorite in a Republican year. It is quite possible Fitzpatrick will not face serious Democratic competition at all. Safe Republican

Scott Perry’s Dauphin/York-based 10th district is a bit more Republican than its predecessor. Despite his status as an outspoken conservative in a swing seat, Perry showed his strength in defeating spirited Democratic challenges in 2018 and 2020. The Chair of the House Freedom Caucus could be in for some laborious races later in the decade, but he should not have much difficulty holding down his Republican-leaning seat this fall. Likely Republican

Democrat Chrissy Houlahan’s Chester/Berks-based 6th district is almost entirely unchanged under the new lines. At Biden +15, this is the type of seat that will sit at the edge of the Republican opportunity board in a good environment. The GOP would be hard-pressed to flip a district like this one, but the eventual nominee could keep it closer than usual. Likely Democratic

Three of the remaining districts (7, 8, and 17) are starting off as Tossups. 7th district Democrat Susan Wild will have to contest a seat that is now only Biden +0.6, a downgrade resulting from the addition of Republican Carbon County into this Lehigh/Northampton-based seat.

8th district Democrat Matt Cartwright, a durable incumbent who has managed to hold a marginal Trump seat despite his liberal record, will not be facing 9th district Republican Dan Meuser as many pundits expected. Meuser will instead be challenging fellow Republican Fred Keller in the 9th district double-bunking primary, where he is favored. As of this writing, there are still no redistricting general elections. (Those between two incumbents of opposite parties)

17th district Democrat Conor Lamb is retiring to run for Senate. The primary fields on both sides have yet to fully materialize, but one would expect an open Biden +6 seat to fall directly into the Tossup category in this environment. The 17th was also made bluer than its predecessor, making it the easiest of the three most competitive Pennsylvania seats *on paper* for Democrats to hold.

Overall, the new map is 9-8 Biden. This November, Republicans could very well sweep the Tossup contests to take an 11-6 majority.

NC

Split Ticket will be releasing North Carolina ratings next week. If the Republican appeal is unsuccessful, the map will still only be in effect for the 2022 cycle. A more detailed district analysis will certainly come in the future, but the new proposal *if it stands* could elect up to 8 Democrats under the right conditions. Critics of the new lines have condemned the new Charlotte split, but it nonetheless seems reasonable to say that this map is significantly better for Democrats than the old one.

What’s Left

NH, WI, MO, & LA

Despite its federal leanings, New Hampshire’s state government is controlled by Republicans. Upending centuries of precedent earlier this year, the State House passed a gerrymandered map designed to break the traditional east/west divide that had been in place since the Granite State lost its third district in 1882. The resulting lines replaced two marginal Biden seats with one Trump district and a second Democratic vote sink.

Moderate Republican Governor Chris Sununu has publicly expressed reservations with the seat arrangement, believing it foolish to concede the 2nd district in a national environment where the GOP could feasibly win both seats under the traditional lines. Other Republicans find it prescient to shore up the 1st district, since any Republican pickups on a proposal resembling the current map would probably be reversed in a favorable Democratic year.

If the current plan is adopted, Ann Kuster would be a strong favorite for reelection in the Biden +17 2nd district. Conversely, two-term Democrat Chris Pappas would be an obvious underdog in the marginally Trump-won 1st. Primary season does not arrive in New Hampshire until September 13th, the latest date on the calendar.

Advocates of fair maps have often lament Wisconsin’s political geography, arguing that it hinders Democratic hopes of drawing a balanced map in one of the nation’s top swing states. As one might expect, Split Ticket’s recent JTC research showed that these complaints are actually well-founded. With a JTC value of -1.26, the algorithm predicted an optimal seat assignment of 5-3 Republican despite the fact that President Biden won the Badger State with 50.3% of the vote.

That reality consigns Democrats to two safe districts in the Milwaukee and Madison metros. Ron Kind’s Driftless Area 3rd district would remain marginally-Trump won on any least change map, but the long-time incumbent’s retirement amid a hostile national environment emboldened by *mostly* hostile regional trends likely precludes Democratic chances of keeping their third seat.

Governor Tony Evers vetoed the Republican legislature’s initial Congressional proposal last November, bringing the process to a stalemate. According to 538, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is now tasked with drawing the lines and is expected to stick with least change.

Republicans have complete control over the redistricting process in the Show Me State, but intraparty tension has still managed to stall the necessary proceedings. Missouri’s State House approved a plan earlier this year that more or less keeps the current map intact, notably holding Ann Wagner’s 2nd district within the realm of competitiveness. (Wagner made clear that she did not want any unfamiliar rural territory added to her district to shore it up)

The State Senate has since filibustered the proposal, instead offering an alternative map that ensures the 2nd district will remain in Republican hands for the foreseeable future. Partisans elsewhere have attempted to generate support for drawing out Democrat Emanuel Cleaver’s Kansas City-based 5th district, but it seems like Missouri is more inclined to follow the strategy of Kentucky than Tennessee.

Finally, Louisiana’s Republican legislature passed its new Congressional map last week. The 5-1 plan represents a continuation of the current district layout. Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has the final say on the proposal, and has previously expressed interest in a second black-majority seat for the Gret Stet. But judging by the Supreme Court’s recent intervention to reinstate Alabama’s Republican gerrymander, it seems unlikely any efforts at expanding minority representation in Louisiana will occur this cycle.

OH & FL

Ohio’s Republican gerrymander was struck down by the State Supreme Court earlier this year. The Commission was allotted a 30-day time period in which to draw new Congressional maps, but the process might not yield anything solid until March. According to Split Ticket research, the JTC expects Ohio to have 5 Democratic seats. The final map will probably allow Democrats to compete for roughly that number of seats, an improvement from the initially-adopted lines.

Much like Missouri, Florida’s path to concluding redistricting has been defined by intraparty fighting among state Republicans. Governor Ron DeSantis has repeatedly pushed for the dismantling of Democrat Al Lawson’s 5th (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) district, stating last week that he would not sign any alternate proposals.

But the push for a 20-8 map stands at odds with the GOP legislature, which seems inclined to keep the 5th intact. Under the State House plan, Republicans would stand to win between 15-20 seats. Conservatives around the country have called for Florida to be the GOP response to New York’s recent Democratic gerrymander, but it remains unclear how far the Sunshine State is willing to go.

Conclusion

Almost every pundit has attempted to summarize the implications of this redistricting cycle. Given the strong national environment Republicans are currently benefiting from, it makes perfect sense to try to determine the impact redistricting has had on potentially bolstering or neutering GOP momentum going into the fall.

The result: mostly mixed, though Split Ticket research still expects the House to have a slight Democratic bias resulting from late-breaking redistricting redistricting developments that worked against Republicans. This reality will not be that significant this year barring massive alterations in the national political picture, but it will matter in more neutral environmental settings later in the decade.

My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, and fitness.

Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or harrisonwlavelle1@gmail.com

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