Michael Vidal ’22
The redistricting cycle is halfway done! Redistricting is a process that redraws congressional lines for the House of Representatives after the new census data is released. These maps may be drawn by independent commissions, split state legislatures, or through state legislatures with Democratic or Republican trifectas. The latter was true in the cases of Illinois, where a Democratic trifecta passed its new congressional map, and Texas, where a Republican trifecta passed its new congressional map.
Both of these states’ maps are gerrymandered, or meant to benefit the political parties of the state legislature. However, these gerrymanders are slightly different in their creations. For Illinois, the new map has thirteen Democratic-leaning seats, three Republican-leaning seats, and one highly competitive seat. In contrast, the previous map had eleven Democratic-leaning seats, five Republican-leaning seats, and two highly competitive seats. As Illinois has lost an electoral vote and congressional seat in this census, Democrats are trying to maximize their seats in what appears to be a “red wave” in the midterms later this year. They do so by drawing Republicans into the same district and making competitive seats more friendly to them. Assuming next year is a red wave year and Republicans win their three-leaning seats and the competitive seat, they will represent four of Illinois’s seventeen districts, about 24% of the population while they won about 41% of the vote in the 2020 election. This suggests that the districts are not representative of the state as a whole.
Texas’s new congressional map includes twenty-four Republican-leaning seats, thirteen Democratic-leaning seats, and one highly competitive seat. The previous map had twenty-two Republican-leaning seats, eight Democratic-leaning seats, and six highly competitive seats. At first glance, this map looks like a victory for Democrats. However, the seats that got bluer were seats they already held and competitive seats that Republicans hold, such as the twenty-fourth district, go from a PVI of R +4 to R +22. Republicans did this with many other competitive seats that have seen demographic shifts favoring the Democratic, including the sixth, tenth, twenty-second, and several others. This attempts to “shore up” their incumbent representatives in case the demographic changes continue and they lose these seats in the future. Once again, assuming it is a red wave in 2022 and Republicans win their twenty-four Republican-leaning seats and the competitive seat, they will represent twenty-five of Texas’s thirty-eight districts, about 66% of the population while they won about 52% of the vote in the 2020 election. In a state that is trending blue, this is clearly an effective gerrymander and indicator that these districts are not representative of the state as a whole.
These examples prove the extent to which politicians in both parties want to protect their power. This should make a case for independent commissions to draw maps, such as in Michigan. It increases the fairness of the maps and the people will be able to pick their politicians and not the other way around.