Democrats worry that Republican gerrymandering will result in redistricting changes that could win the five seats needed for them to take the lower chamber.
New Census Data
The Census Bureau released long-awaited data on Thursday that will be used to redraw congressional districts that could not only determine control of the House in the 2022 elections but also shape electoral advantages and state-level policies for the next decade.
The data shows which counties, cities, and neighborhoods either gained or lost people in the 2020 census count, and it is supposed to be used to ensure that each district has around the same number of people.
However, many politicians in charge of drawing the maps often use the opportunity to gerrymander the lines to combine voters in ways that help their parties win future elections.
Republicans, specifically, have an upper hand with redistricting because the party will have more power in this decade’s process, as was the case after the 2010 census.
According to the Associated Press, the GOP has control over redrawing maps in 20 states that make up 187 U.S. House seats — including growing states like Texas, Florida, and North Carolina — which all gained new seats in the latest count.
Meanwhile, Democrats only have control over the process in just 75 seats in eight states such as New York and Illinois, which both lost representatives.
Notably, part of the reason Democrats have less power is because several Democratic-led states have created independent, non-partisan commissions to draw district lines. Regardless, Republicans have a strong advantage that could help them gain the mere five additional seats they need to win to take control of the House in 2022.
Further Complications and Concerns
To make matters even worse for Democrats, many experts have said the accuracy of the count has been hampered by the pandemic and unprecedented interference from the Trump administration.
In addition to heightened concerns over how historically undercounted groups were tallied given the lack of door knockers during the pandemic, the Trump administration also tried to cut the count short before it was fully completed and attempted to prevent major populations from being included.
Many lawsuits and messy legal battles are expected to play out all over the country, but the shortened timeline for redistricting means those challenges might not be resolved before the midterms.
Redistricting totals are normally delivered in April, but pandemic delays have pushed the timeframe and left states scrambling to set new boundaries. Some states have constitutional or statutory deadlines for maps, including certain states where the deadline has already passed.
States with early primaries are facing the possibility of changing their entire election calendars and postponing long-held primary dates, and others with local elections this fall like New Jersey and Virginia are reportedly using their old maps.
The fact that legal challenges might not play out before the midterms is also highly consequential because the redistricting comes at a time when the country is seeing one of the most serious attacks on voting access since the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was passed in 1965.
It is also the first redrawing to take place since two major Supreme Court decisions: one in 2013 that struck own a key VRA protection that ensured that oversight of states with a history of discrimination, and another in 2019 that determined gerrymandering lawsuits could not be ruled on by federal courts, leaving claims to be argued at the state level.
As a result, experts worry the rulings could cause even more gerrymandering and specifically, more racial gerrymandering.
The stakes are especially high given that the newly released data shows that population growth in the last decade was driven by minorities and that the white population has fallen for the first time since the count began in 1790.
See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (Politico)
Virginia Governor’s Tip Line to Report Teachers Spammed by Trolls
The tip line was created for parents to report educators who violate the governor’s new executive orders banning critical race theory and making masking optional.
Youngkin’s Controversial Policies
Celebrities, TikTok activists, and other social media users have been spamming an email tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) intended for parents to report teachers and “divisive practices in their schools.”
The tip line was implemented after the new governor enacted several highly controversial policies targeted at public schools in the weeks since taking office.
On his first day, Youngkin signed an executive order banning so-called critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in public schools. CRT, which is largely taught in higher education institutions, is not included in Virginia’s curriculum standards. As a result, many educators and scholars have expressed concerns that the policy will be used to broadly restrict the accurate teaching of history.
Shortly after imposing the CRT ban, Youngkin further angered educators by signing an executive order making masking optional in schools. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post, the majority of Virginia schools enrolling two-thirds of all students have actively disobeyed the order.
The email tip line, introduced Monday, is intended to report educators and schools that do not follow Youngkin’s policies.
Calls to Spam Tip Line
The tattle-on-a-teacher tip line prompted widespread criticism. Many people took to Twitter to urge other users to spam the email, including major names with massive followings, like musician John Legend.
“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too,” he tweeted.
Several TikTok activists also encouraged their followers to bomb the tip line as well, including 21-year-old Sofia Ongele, who even launched a website that automatically generates emails to send to the line that include the name of a public school in Virginia and lyrics to a pop song.
Ongele told Insider that, so far, the website has gotten a lot of traffic, attracting about 1,500 people every 30 minutes.
These efforts are not the first time social media users, and specifically young TikTokers, have encouraged others to troll a tip line set up by conservative figures. In September, TikTokers also sent fake reports, porn, and Shrek memes to a tip line intended to report people who violated Texas’ six-week abortion ban.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (WDBJ7)
Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering
The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.
Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map
A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.
In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”
As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.
Ongoing Legal Battles
Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.”
According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.
The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.
Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.
The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC
The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.
SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again
The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.
The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.
The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.
The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.
In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.
Past Precedent Up in the Air
Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.
But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.
The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October.