top of page

Republicans Have Some Ambitious Gerrymandering Goals For 2023. Will Dems Play Hardball For A Change?

Ohio already has one of the most grotesquely gerrymandered maps in the country; the Republicans plan to make it worse

Republicans don’t want to wait for 2030 to gerrymander themselves some more House seats. GOP scumbags in the North Carolina and Ohio legislatures are planning to do just that— enough skullduggery to net as many as 6 Republican seats in just those two states before a single vote is cast in 2024. And this despite 71% of Ohio voters passing a constitutional amendment to prevent this kind of thing. If the Democratic Party had any balls— it doesn’t— it could stop this right in its tracks now.

How? The California legislature consists of veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers. The Senate has 32 Democrats and 8 Republicans and the Assembly has 62 Dems and 18 Republicans. Toni Atkins and Anthony Rendon could go visit Kevin McCarthy and tell him if Ohio and North Carolina redraw 6 Democrats out of their seats this year, California will redraw 6 Republicans— including McCarthy— out of their seats.

Could California do it? Yes, it would be easy to redraw CA-03 (Kevin Kiley), CA-13 (John Duarte), CA-27 (Mike Garcia), CA-40 (Young Kim), CA-41 (Ken Calvert) and CA-45 (Michelle Steel) so that Republicans can't win them. That’s six. It would be a little more difficult— but not a lot more— to redrawn CA-23, Jay Obernolte’s seat, and CA-20, McCarthy’s own seat, in such a way to make them easier for a Democrat to win. I didn’t even include CA-22, which is very blue already— Biden beat Trump by 13 points there— and all the Democrats would have to do is run a plausible candidate instead of another corrupt conservative corporate whore like Rudy Salas, which is how a Republican represents the district now. Atkins and Rendon should do it.

New York could do something like that as well— certainly enough to end the careers of Nick LaLota (NY-01), Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Marc Molinaro (NY-19) and Brandon Williams (NY-22) without much fuss. A little more fuss and they could also rid the state of either Elise Stefanik (NY-21) or Claudia Tenney (NY-24), though probably not both. Just running decent candidates will end the short tenures of Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04) and George Santos, or whatever his name is (NY-03), without any gerrymandering needed. The New York Assembly has 106 Democrats and 48 Republicans.The Senate has 42 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

Yesterday, Ron Brownstein delineated the threat the Democrats are facing now. Between 15 and 19 seats are in play. He wrote that “The biggest shift could come in North Carolina, where a Democratic-majority state Supreme Court over recent years has repeatedly rejected congressional maps drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature as partisan gerrymanders that violate the state constitution. Under the court’s maps, Democrats split the state’s 14 congressional seats 7-7 in last November’s election. But in that election, Republicans won a majority on the state Supreme Court. As a result, local observers expect the GOP legislature (which has already petitioned the new court to overturn its earlier rulings) to impose a map that puts the GOP in position to win at least 10, and maybe 11, seats. ‘The Republicans will go as extreme as they can,’ said Michael Bitzer, chair of the politics department at Catawba College who writes a blog on North Carolina politics. ‘That would result in a swing of 4 seats to the Republicans in just this state.’ Likewise, a shift in the ideological balance of the state Supreme Court in Ohio could enable the Republican-controlled legislature there to draw new maps that allow the GOP to expand its current 10-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation. From these two states alone, Republicans could gain as many as six more Congressional seats, calculates Kyle Kondik, managing editor for the Sabato’s Crystal Ball election newsletter of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.”

The Democrats have a different— and much punier— strategy: court cases, all of which will eventually wind up in the very partisan right-wing U.S. Supreme Court, which no one has ever accused of being fair. But Brownstein wrote that “the largest group of Democratic opportunities revolves around lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act challenging Republican gerrymanders. If Democrats and civil rights groups win those cases, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama would be required to create one more district each favoring a Black candidate, and Texas could be required to create three districts or more favoring minority candidates. Lower courts have already ruled for the Democrats in the first three states. But the Georgia court did not order a new map, and in Alabama and Louisiana the US Supreme Court blocked the lower court rulings and allowed the states to vote in 2022 under the disputed lines on the grounds that it was too close to the election to change them. Those rulings likely netted Republicans three seats in the 2022 election… Beyond the VRA lawsuits, Democrats are also pursuing other claims of racial bias in federal lawsuits against the district lines approved in South Carolina and Florida. But since the ultimate terminus for any federal litigation remains the GOP Supreme Court majority, those cases face uncertain prospects as well.”

Another wildcard is New York, where the Democratic-controlled top court (called the New York State Court of Appeals there) in a 4-3 decision last year rejected the legislature’s congressional gerrymander and drew new maps that contributed to the GOP’s unexpected gains across the state last fall. Now, though, the ideological future of that court appears up for grabs: Democrats in the state Senate appear likely to block Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination of a conservative to fill a vacancy. If she ultimately appoints a more liberal judge, it’s conceivable state Democrats might try to draw new lines again, some local observers believe; redrawing the lines in New York, in fact, might prove Democrats’ best chance to offset the new seats Republicans will likely gain from re-redistricting in North Carolina and Ohio.

Unless California’s Atkins and Rendon take my advice and have a little private talk with McCarthy.

bottom of page