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)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Survives Recall
Experts say the outcome should act as a warning for Republicans who tie themselves to former President Donald Trump and attempt to undermine election results by promoting false voter fraud claims.
Recall Effort Fails
After seven months and an estimated $276 million in taxpayer money, the Republican-led effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) failed Tuesday.
Just under 70% of the votes have been reported as of Wednesday morning, showing that “no” on the recall received 63.9% of the vote. That’s nearly twice as many votes as “yes,” which had 36.1%.
According to The Washington Post, even if the margin narrows as more votes are counted, this still marks one of the biggest rejections of any recall effort in America over the last century.
Analysts say the historic rebuke was driven by high Democratic turnout and broader fears over resurging COVID cases.
While the Delta variant continues to push new infections to record highs in many parts of the country with lax mask rules and low vaccination rates, California, once a global epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest new caseloads in the nation.
Newsom has continually tried to convince voters that those figures are the results of his vaccine and masking policies, which have been some of the most aggressive in the U.S.
Given that polls showed the pandemic was the top concern for California voters, it is clear that the majority favored his policies over those of his competitors. Larry Elder, the Republican talk radio host of led the field of 46 challengers, ran on a platform of getting rid of essentially all COVID restrictions.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Newsom painted the recall’s failure not only as a win for Democratic coronavirus policies but also for Democracy at large.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression.”
“I think about just in the last few days and the former president put out saying this election was rigged,” he continued. “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around. That’s more like a, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump-ism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country.”
A Warning for Republicans
Newsom’s remarks took aim at the efforts by Elder and other Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — who over the last week have claimed falsely and without evidence that voter fraud helped secured the governor’s win before Election Day even took place.
While it is currently unknown whether that narrative may have prompted more Republican voters to stay home, Newsom’s effort to cast Edler as a Trump-like candidate and the recall as an undemocratic, Republican power grab appears to have been effective.
Now, political strategists say that the outcome of the recall should serve as a warning that Republicans who pin themselves to Trump and his Big Lie playbook may be hurt more in certain states.
“The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office,” The New York Times explained.
Even outside of a strongly blue state like California, analysts say this strategy will also be effective with similar candidates in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, which will be essential to deciding control of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Justice Department Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban
The department claims the Texas law violates past Supreme Court precedents on abortion and infringes on Constitutional protections.
Biden Administration Takes Aim at Texas Law
The Department of Justice sued Texas on Thursday in an attempt to block the state’s newly enacted law that effectively prohibits all abortions by banning the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The abortion law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person terminate their pregnancy after six weeks.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it violates past Supreme Court precedents through a technical loophole.
While numerous other states have passed similar laws banning abortion after about six weeks, federal judges have struck down those measures on the grounds that they are inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that states cannot prevent someone from seeking an abortion before a fetus can viably live outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
The Texas law, however, skirts the high court decisions by deputizing citizens to enforce the law rather than state government officials, taking the state out of the equation entirely and protecting it from legal responsibility.
Individuals who do so do not have to prove any personal injury or connection to those they take legal action against, which can range from abortion providers to rideshare drivers who take someone to a clinic.
If their lawsuit is successful, the citizen is entitled to a $10,000 award.
DOJ Lawsuit Targets Constitutionality
During a press conference detailing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the enforcement mechanism as “an unprecedented” effort with the “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” to prevent Texans from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, adding that the provision of the law allowing civilians “to serve as bounty hunters” may become “a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department argued that the Texas policy violates equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment as well as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the Constitution and federal law generally take precedence over state law.
The lawsuit also claimed that the law interferes with the constitutional obligation of federal employees to provide access to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, to people who are under the care of federal agencies or contractors such as those in prisons.
Both Sides See Path to Supreme Court
While proponents of abortion rights applauded the Justice Department’s legal challenge, officials in Texas defended the law and accused the Biden administration of filing the lawsuit for political reasons.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), said in a statement.
“We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
The DOJ’s suit will now be decided by a federal judge for the Western District of Texas, based in Austin.
Depending on how that court rules, either opponents or supporters of the abortion ban are expected to appeal the case, sending it to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and likely ultimately placing the matter before the Supreme Court again in a matter of months.
The Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect by declining to approve an emergency petition to block the measure last week, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of the policy.
As a result, the Justice Department’s legal challenge could force the high court to hear another facet of the law that it has not yet considered if it decides to see the case.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Texas Tribune)
Texas Governor Says Rape Victims Aren’t Forced To Give Birth Because They Have 6 Weeks To Get an Abortion
The governor also defended the six-week abortion ban’s lack of exceptions for rape and incest by saying the state will “eliminate all rapists.”
Abbott Defends Texas Abortion Law
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday defended the state’s new controversial law that bans abortion after six weeks, before many know they are pregnant, after facing criticism that the policy does not provide exceptions for rape and incest.
During a press conference, Abbott refuted a reporter’s assertion that the law forced victims of rape and incest to carry their pregnancies to term, claiming that it “provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”
“Let’s make something very clear: Rape is a crime,” the governor continued.
“And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
Backlash Over Remarks on Abortions at Six Week
Abbott’s claim that rape victims would still have plenty of time to get an abortion was widely criticized by many, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who called his remarks “disgusting” in a now-viral interview on CNN,
“I don’t know if he is familiar with a menstruating person’s body. In fact, I do know that he’s not familiar with a female or menstruating person’s body because if he did, he would know that you don’t have six weeks,” she said.
“But in case no one has informed him before in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Two weeks late for your period for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle, can happen if you’re stressed, if your diet changes, or for really no reason at all.”
Those comments were echoed by a lot of other people who pointed to data from Planned Parenthood that said 85-90% of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into their pregnancy.
Critics Note Flaws in Abbott’s Claims About Rapists
Many also took aim at Abbott’s claim that he was going to “eliminate all rapists” by mocking the governor.
“Wait. Governor Abbott had a solution to end all RAPE and he sat on it until now?” Texas State Representative Gene Wu (D) tweeted.
Others argued that historical evidence proves Abbott’s promise was ignorant.
According to data from the Justice Department analyzed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 1 out of every 3 rapes and sexual assaults are reported.
Out of every 1,000 assaults, only 50 lead to arrest, and only 25 lead to incarceration, meaning that more than 97% of people who commit assault walk free.
Some critics also said that Abbott’s goal of getting rid of “all rapists” relied on a faulty conception of who actually perpetrates sexual crimes.
“The majority of people who are raped and who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone who they know,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN. “And these aren’t just predators that are walking around the streets at night. They are people’s uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends.”
“And when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward,” she added. “And second of all, when a victim comes forward they don’t necessarily want to bring their case into the carceral system.”