By John Haughey
When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law new congressional maps drawn by the Democrat-controlled state General Assembly on April 4, Maryland became the 47th state to formally adopt new legislative and congressional districts following the 2020 United States Census.
With Louisiana’s GOP-led legislature on March 30 overriding Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rejection of its adopted district maps, the only states by April 5 without new legislative and congressional districts in place for 2022 elections were Florida, New Hampshire, and Missouri.
In fact, 397 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts—or 91.26 percent—have been redrafted, approved, and are in effect across 47 states in time for 2022 primaries, already underway in several states.
In addition to congressional district reapportionment, the decennial post-Census redistricting effort also encompasses the 7,383 seats in all 50 state legislatures. Redistricting there remains incomplete, or legally challenged, in at least four states, Alaska, Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Pending legal action could still marginally amend adopted legislative district maps in several states, most notably in New York, Maryland, and Ohio.
But beyond the 38 congressional seats representing Florida, New Hampshire, and Missouri, more than 91 percent of the nation’s congressional districts are mapped and in place for the next decade.
Unresolved Map Disputes
Hogan signed Maryland’s new legislative maps into law after lawmakers dropped their appeal of Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Lynne Battaglia’s March 25 rejection of those drawn by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
Legal challenges to the maps had already prompted the state to push its primary back from June 28 to July 19.
Battaglia ordered the General Assembly to redraw the map by March 30. In response, the assembly submitted what are essentially 2010 maps for the 2022 election cycle, which Hogan signed, while also saying they would appeal the March 25 ruling.
The maps’ status was essentially cemented into 2020 stasis a few hours after Hogan signed them when a special magistrate adviser to the state’s Court of Appeals system recommended the Maryland Supreme Court reject four petitions contending that the General Assembly’s maps violate a state untilonstitutional requirement that legislative districts “be compact and respect natural and political boundaries.”
Special Magistrate Alan Wilner determined in his advisory that the legislative map should stand, but the Maryland Supreme Court will hear his report on April 13.
Congressional maps adopted in North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by Republicans, and in Minnesota by Democrats, have been struck down by court rulings and supplanted with “less biased” maps that have been subsequently adopted for 2022 campaigns but are likely to be re-legislated and/or re-litigated before 2024 elections.
Lawsuits alleging new districts drawn in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Texas unlawfully dilute minority voter influence are also unlikely to be resolved until after the 2022 election cycle.
Florida, with 28 congressional districts, is the most politically significant state without adopted legislative district maps.
New Hampshire has two congressional districts and Missouri eight; Show Me State lawmakers are the nation’s only state legislators who have failed to approve redistricted legislative maps in the wake of the 2020 United States Census.
Florida: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 29 vetoed congressional maps drawn by the GOP-controlled state legislature and has called lawmakers to Tallahassee for an April 19-22 special session to deliberate on the competing maps.
The state’s population growth means it has added a 28th congressional seat. In divvying up the 27 existing districts into 28, DeSantis’ proposed map seeks to give the GOP a greater advantage than the legislature’s maps do.
Much of the contention between Florida GOP leaders relates to House District 5 in the Tallahassee area—the only Democrat-controlled state house district north of Tallahassee—that DeSantis wants diminished to a greater degree than the legislature’s plan does.
Common Cause Florida, FairDistricts Now, and five individuals on March 11 sued the legislature in United States District Court in Tallahassee claiming the intra-party impasse between DeSantis and lawmakers was impeding fair access to the polls for state voters and that the maps were gerrymandered. The lawsuit petitions the court to step in and draw the boundaries.
On April 1, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked to stay the federal lawsuit until after lawmakers conclude their April 19 special session. The court is expected to issue a ruling regarding a stay by April 11.
New Hampshire: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said he will veto a congressional map adopted by New Hampshire’s GOP-led legislature and on March 22 submitted his own plan to lawmakers that would make the state’s two congressional districts more competitive.
Meanwhile, on March 31 five New Hampshire voters filed a lawsuit challenging the legislature’s and Sununu’s congressional district maps and asked a County Superior Court to draw the voting districts before the state’s Sept. 3 primaries.
Missouri: The only state where new congressional maps have not been passed by the legislature. Missouri House and Senate Republicans cannot agree on how to divvy up the eight congressional districts.
The Missouri House has rejected congressional maps adopted on March 24 by the Missouri Senate. The upper chamber had previously tossed the proposed maps approved by the House in January.
Because the candidate filing deadline for the state’s August 2 primary was March 29, hopefuls for 2022 elections were allowed to proceed using 2010 boundaries. However, a lawsuit has been filed as congressional districts are required to have equal populations based on the most recent Census.
A March 11 lawsuit filed in Cole County Circuit Court by five voters from “over-populated districts” contends it’s unconstitutional to use the 2010 maps for the 2022 election because of population shifts.
Courts in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia have already intervened in resolving redistricting disputes. In Ohio’s case, there could be more rulings while in New York, a potential legal challenge to 2022 maps appears to have been thwarted.
Ohio: The state’s May 3 primaries for state House and Senate seats have been pushed back until August after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected state legislative districts maps approved by a GOP-led commission.
But the congressional districts approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s on March 28—the commission’s fourth attempt after three failed to pass legal muster—now stand, so congressional and statewide election primaries are proceeding as scheduled. In fact, early voting in May 3 primaries for those elections began on April 5 in Ohio.
Those congressional maps, which would give Republicans control of at least 10 of the state’s 15 congressional seats, are also being challenged in federal court by the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and a group of Ohio voters represented by the National Redistricting Action Fund and in a lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court.
In the state action, the groups are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reject the GOP-controlled commission’s fourth set of maps because they aren’t “compliant with what voters asked for when they approved an overhaul to redistricting regulations in the state, or with the Supreme Court’s order to draft an ‘entirely new’ map, as opposed to working from the one rejected by the court.”
The suit calls on the state supreme court to either adopt new maps itself for the 2022 election or nominate a “special master” to do so by April 20, which would give the Ohio secretary of state’s office time to implement the maps for August 2 legislative primaries.
In the federal lawsuit, which is also supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a three-judge U.S. District Court panel has ruled it won’t intervene but gave all parties an April 20 deadline to have proposed maps ready for legal scrutiny.
Republican legislative leaders argue their map is constitutional and that Ohio Supreme Court cannot legally move the primary and shouldn’t do so with ballots already being distributed for congressional and statewide elections.
New York: On March 30, New York Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ordered state lawmakers to redraw their adopted legislative maps by April 11 or the court would appoint an independent body to do so.
New York Democrats’ maps could gain their party as many as three to four seats within the state’s 27-member delegation, which McAllister cited as a “politically biased” gerrymander.
But on April 4 an appeals judge put a temporary hold on McAllister’s ruling in lieu of an April 7 hearing on whether to extend the stay or lift it for the 2022 election cycle.
Other Legal Actions
North Carolina: Legislative maps drawn by the experts appointed by the North Carolina Supreme Court will be implemented for 2022 elections. The state’s primary was pushed back from March to mid-May when the state Supreme Court threw out the GOP-drawn map.
Louisiana: Louisiana lawmakers completed their congressional redistricting on March 30 when both Republican-controlled chambers overrode Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rejection of the maps.
The new map largely maintained the 2010 maps. Democrats and Edwards want a new map that includes a second majority-minority district with Blacks comprising nearly one-third of the state’s population.
It is uncertain if Edwards will sign the maps or pursue further legal action. A coalition of civil rights groups has sued in federal court, alleging the Louisiana map dilutes the political power of Black voters, but the resolution is unlikely before the 2022 elections.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s redrawn congressional districts have been approved but its state legislative districts remain undetermined.
The United States Supreme Court on March 23 struck down Wisconsin’s new legislative maps enacted by Wisconsin Supreme Court after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled legislature failed to agree on them.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court must now select new legislative maps or provide further evidence to support its originally selected maps.
Alabama: Alabama’s Republican-led legislature likely violated the federal Voting Rights Act by not creating a second district in which Black voters comprise close to a majority, a state court ruled.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 23, put a hold on an order to draw new district maps until after the 2022 election cycle. The state’s May 24 primary will proceed under the Republican-passed maps.
Georgia: A federal lawsuit challenging congressional districts draw by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has also been stayed by a federal judge, keeping those disputed districts in place for the 2022 election cycle.