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GOP cements legislatures in battlefield states

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GOP cements legislatures in battlefield states

Republicans are locking in newly created maps for legislatures in four battleground states poised to secure control of the party in the Statehouse Chambers over the next decade, even against the widest possible Democratic wave elections. Strengthen the GOP.

In Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, Republican state lawmakers have either created a supreme majority capable of overriding the governor’s veto or have reduced competing districts so significantly that the Republican advantage is virtually impenetrable – narrow. Leaving voters powerless to change leadership in severely divided states. his legislature.

Although much of this year’s redistribution process is focused on non-divisionalized Congressional maps, the new maps being produced in state legislatures are equally distorted.

And statehouses have taken on immense importance: With the federal government deadlocked, these legislatures now serve as the nation’s policy laboratory, drafting bills on abortion, guns, voting restrictions, and other issues that shape national political debate. give.

“It’s not your Founding Father’s Garymander,” said Chris Lamarr, a senior legal advisor at the Campaign Legal Center that focuses on redistribution. “It’s something more intense and lasting and permanent.”

This redistribution cycle, the first in a decade, produced a political trend that intensified in 2011, when Republicans in swing states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, drew highly non-official state legislative maps.

Since those maps were enacted, Republicans have held both houses of state government at all three locations for an entire decade. He never lost control of a house, even as Democrats won some state races for president, governor, and Senate.

Those three northern states are likely to see some shift toward equality this year, with a new independent commission maps Michigan, and Democratic governors in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania probably forced by the courts to complete the process.

Gerrymandering is a tool that is used by both parties in swing states as well as by less competitive ones. Democrats in dark blue states like Illinois are moving to extend their gains in legislatures, and Republicans in dark red states like Utah and Idaho are doing the same.

But in politically contested states where Republicans have complete control, legislators are carefully building a GOP future. They are armed with fast technology, weak federal voting methods and the knowledge that the legal challenges to their maps may not be resolved in time for the next elections.

In Texas, North Carolina and Ohio, Republican governors have signed new maps of legislation with a significant advantage for the party. Georgia is moving fast to join them.

Republicans say the development of such heavily heterogeneous legislatures is a result of the party’s electoral victory and where voters choose to live.

State legislative districts are much smaller in population than congressional districts, meaning they are often more compact geographically.

As Democratic voters have crowded into cities and commuter suburbs, and voters in rural and outlying areas have become increasingly Republican, GOP mapmakers say they should split densely populated Democratic areas into several state legislative districts if they are , they run the risk of running away from other redistribution norms.

“What you see shows a more equal distribution of Republican and right-wing voters across broad geographic areas,” said Adam Kincaid, director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. Trying to attract more competitive legislative districts, he said, there would be “just too many squiggly lines”.

He pointed to maps in Wisconsin that had been proposed by a commission created by Tony Evers of a Democrat government. Under those designs, Republicans would still have a majority in both state legislative chambers (though with a significantly smaller margin).

“They are limited by geography,” said Mr Kincaid. “There’s only so much you can do to spread so many voters across a wide area.”

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Democrats note that Republicans are still alienating liberal communities—particularly in the suburbs near Akron and Cleveland in Ohio and predominantly Black counties in northern and central North Carolina—in a way that helped the GOP. and cuts against a geographical argument.

“They’re carving Democratic voters where they can’t pack them,” said Garrett Arva, director of campaigns for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He argued that the Democratic map proposal “presents an all-better and more unbiased map which I would say is a far cry from the Rorschach test.”

Democrats have little opportunity to unilaterally draw up state legislative maps, especially in battleground states. Of the 14 states where the 2020 presidential race margin was less than 10 percent, Democrats have been able to map the state legislative in only one: Nevada. Republicans control the redistribution process in six of those 14 states. (The rest of the governments are divided, or their maps are drawn up by commissions.)

But while Democrats have opened one, they have also created significant gerrymanders at the state legislative level. In Nevada, Democrats are close to finalizing a map that would give them supremacy in both houses of the Legislature, despite President Biden winning just 51 percent of the state’s vote last year.

The same is true in the dark blue states. In Illinois, newly drawn state Senate maps would give Republicans about 23 percent of seats in the chamber, even though former President Donald J. Trump won over 40 percent of voters in the state in 2020.

Republicans have taken two approaches to ensuring a permanent majority in state legislatures. The strategy is more subtle in Texas and Georgia, while Republicans in Ohio and North Carolina have taken more drastic measures.

In Texas and Georgia, the party has largely eliminated competing districts and secured both Republican and Democratic seats, a move that drew criticism from at least some office bearers in the minority party.

“Of the 150 seats in the Texas House, only six are at or close to the seven mark,” said Sam Wang, director of the Princeton Redistribution Project. Republicans now hold a 20-seat advantage in the chamber, 85 to 65, and the new maps will give the party about two more seats. So while GOP lawmakers don’t try to get an aggressive majority, “they’ve done a really good job there, getting rid of competition and getting a reasonably secure majority for themselves,” Mr. Wang said.

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Democrats in the Texas Legislature argue that the new maps are yet another reason why party leaders in Washington should redouble their efforts to pass federal voting rights protections.

Trey Martinez Fischer, the Democratic state representative of San Antonio, said, “Unless Democrats sit in this moment and do something on federal voting rights legislation, there’s nothing to stop Republicans from getting what they want.” “

Republicans in the Texas Legislature, however, maintain that state maps represent voters fairly, and if a district is unfair, it is largely the result of both sides defending themselves.

State Representative Brisco Cain, a Republican from the Houston area, said, “Incumbents usually get to draw their own maps, so it’s done—that each member is able to draw it up for their re-election. ” “It’s a big state, we have many regions and cultures. I believe the Texas House reflects those distinctions.”

In Georgia, where redistribution continues, early maps follow a trend line similar to Texas, as Republicans try to eliminate competing districts.

According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, with the current gerrymandered maps, Democrats in the state legislature would need to win more than 55.7 percent of the vote to flip the Georgia House in 2020.

Proposed new maps in Georgia retain 55 percent of the border, according to Princeton.

In Ohio and North Carolina, however, Republicans are taking a bolder step. By making some districts moderately competitive, they are taking on greater risk in attempting to create a significant majority or an extreme majority – and in doing so, they are often violating laws or court decisions.

In Ohio, when Republicans made themselves supermajorities in both the State House and Senate in 2011, voters approved a ballot initiative to create a bipartisan commission to draw maps and decide whether “any political party’s” No district plan should be prepared for pros or cons.”

But this year, Ohio Republicans ignored the commission, creating a House map that supports about 67 percent of GOP seats and a Senate map that gives Republicans an advantage in about 69 percent of districts, preserving supermajority.

“One of the suggestions we hear from Republicans in Ohio is that Republicans hold office statewide, that means, ‘Oh, we prefer Republicans,'” said Emilia Strong Sykes, the Democratic minority leader in the State House. “And sure, maybe so. But it is not in the three-to-one fashion that they have fabricated in their minds and in their maps.”

In North Carolina, Republicans in the legislature were forced by the courts to redraw their maps twice in the past decade for apparent partisan gerrymandering. But with the opportunity to create new maps, Republicans returned to their old strategies, proposing maps that would give the party a 64-to-56 lead in the State House and a 32-to-18 advantage in the state Senate if statewide votes. According to PlanScore.org, a non-partisan site, there were a 50-50 split.

Both the Ohio and North Carolina legislative maps were met with immediate lawsuits, and North Carolina legislators were sued even before the maps were finalized. But the legal process for redistribution can take years, meaning extremely non-invasive maps may remain for many election cycles, while challenges remain in the courts.

Republicans are “willing to be a little more aggressive in a state like Ohio and North Carolina,” said Michael Lee, a redistribution expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. “They are daring the courts to bring them down.”

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