Sunday December 15th, 2019 3:56PM

Upcoming redistricting is a backstory of 2018 midterms

By The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The task of drawing new boundaries for thousands of federal and state legislative districts is still about three years away, yet the political battle over redistricting already is playing out in this year's midterm elections.

North Carolina's congressional elections were thrown into a week of uncertainty when a federal judicial panel raised the possibility that it would order new districts before the fall elections to correct what it had ruled was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. It opted against doing that on Tuesday, conceding there was not enough time.

In Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah, campaigns are underway for November ballot initiatives that would change the redistricting process so it's less partisan and creates more competitive districts. National Democratic and Republican groups are pouring millions of dollars into state races seeking to ensure they have officeholders in position to influence the next round of redistricting.

The results from the 2020 census are to be delivered to states in spring 2021, triggering a mandatory once-a-decade redistricting for U.S. House and state legislative seats to account for population changes. How those districts get drawn can help determine which party controls those chambers for years to come.


Current political boundaries are being legally challenged in about a dozen states, on claims of political or racial gerrymandering. The lawsuits seek to force districts to be temporarily redrawn for the 2020 elections and, more importantly, establish legal precedents to be followed during the next census-based redistricting.

A lawsuit in North Carolina appears to hold the greatest potential for change. A federal judicial panel has ruled that 12 of the state's 13 congressional districts violate the U.S. Constitution because Republican state lawmakers drew them to their own party's benefit while infringing on the rights of Democratic voters. The case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which thus far has shied away from setting a standard for determining when partisan gerrymandering becomes unconstitutional.

Critics of partisan gerrymandering point to North Carolina to illustrate why they believe the process is unfair and disenfranchises voters of the other party. Democrats account for the greatest number of registered voters in the state and hold the governor's office, while registered Republicans and independents are equally divided. Yet the state's delegation to the U.S. House is 10 Republicans and three Democrats thanks partly to the congressional lines drawn by GOP lawmakers to maximize their advantage.

A similar partisan gerrymandering claim remains pending against the Wisconsin state Assembly districts after the nation's highest court in June directed the case back to a lower court for more proceedings.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts were redrawn earlier this year after the state Supreme Court ruled that the Republican-drawn boundaries amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Candidates are running under the new map in the November election, with Democrats hoping to cut into what had been a roughly 2-to-1 seat advantage for Republicans in a state where Democrats have a slight registration advantage over Republicans and have dominated statewide elections. A majority of the Supreme Court justices were elected as Democrats.


Voters in several states will be deciding whether to change the criteria or methods by which districts are drawn with the goal of making the process less partisan.

Initiatives in Michigan and Missouri have come under fire by Republicans because the efforts have been led by Democratic activists, although the measures also have drawn some bipartisan support.

The Michigan initiative would strip the Legislature and governor — both currently led by Republicans — of their redistricting duties and instead entrust that to a 13-member citizens' commission that would be prohibited from producing maps providing a disproportionate advantage to any political party.

The Missouri measure, which is facing a court challenge from Republican-aligned attorneys, would affect only state House and Senate seats, not those for Congress. It would diminish the power of the existing bipartisan redistricting commissioners by creating a new position of state demographer who would submit maps designed to achieve "partisan fairness" and "competitiveness."

Utah's initiative would create a commission to propose U.S. House and state legislative districts. A pair of Colorado constitutional amendments, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would direct nonpartisan legislative staff to submit proposed maps to a 12-person commission with a goal to "maximize the number of politically competitive districts."

In May, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure altering the state's congressional redistricting process by requiring support from both the majority and minority parties to enact maps that would be valid for a full decade. If the party that controls the Legislature approves a map by a traditional majority vote, it could remain in effect for just four years.


The recent focus on redistricting has been driven partly by the emergence of new statistical calculations to try to gauge the extent of partisan gerrymandering.

One of those new measurements, developed since the last round of redistricting, is called the "efficiency gap." It uses the average share of the vote by which candidates win and lose races to measure the advantage that one political party holds over another in translating its votes to victories.

When The Associated Press ran a version of the efficiency gap formula last year, it found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats in the 2016 elections over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. It also found far more states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law used three statistical tests to analyze the 2012-2016 congressional elections. Its 2017 report found a persistent Republican advantage related to "aggressive gerrymandering."

Experts note that at least part of the Republican advantage is due to geography. Because Democrats tend to be highly concentrated in urban areas in some states, they end up winning some districts by large margins but claim fewer overall districts than geographically dispersed Republicans.


Follow David A. Lieb at

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Election News, General House Election News
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Searing Trump op-ed sets off wild guessing game on author
Trump demands newspaper turn over senior administration official who wrote column criticizing him
12:31AM ( 1 minute ago )
Kavanaugh faces final round of questioning without missteps
Senators will launch a final round of questioning of Kavanaugh, who appears to have avoided major missteps
12:30AM ( 2 minutes ago )
Trump taking Supreme Court fight to Montana, North Dakota
Trump taking contentious Washington debate over his Supreme Court nominee to the home of two red-state Senate Democrats, elevating Kavanaugh's confirmation as a political litmus test for voters
12:29AM ( 2 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Kim Jong Un demands "goodwill measures" as Koreas set summit
South Korean officials and the North's official media say Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and said he had faith to continue working with President Donald Trump
11:42PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Keys to face Osaka in US Open semis; Nishikori beats Cilic
Madison Keys to face Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open semifinals; Kei Nishikori beats Marin Cilic in rematch of 2014 final
10:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Kim Jong Un told South he had faith in Trump
A South Korean presidential official says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told him he still had faith in U.S. President Donald Trump despite ongoing difficulties in the nuclear negotiations
10:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
The Latest: Kavanaugh won't promise court arguments on TV
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is making no promises about putting Supreme Court arguments on TV
10:05PM ( 2 hours ago )
Socialist in New York state Senate race remakes herself
A socialist candidate running for the New York state Senate is aiming to become the next liberal insurgent to knock off an incumbent, but first she's facing big questions about her transformation from anti-abortion Republican to Democratic Socialist
9:19PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Booker says GOP hampering race questions
A Senate Democrat says his effort to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about race has been hampered by Republicans' decision to keep emails from the public
9:10PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Kavanaugh ducks question on Trump tweet
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona tried to engage Brett Kavanaugh in questions arising from one of President Donald Trump's tweets, but the Supreme Court nominee declined to respond
7:09PM ( 5 hours ago )
Trump says of possible shutdown: 'If it happens, it happens'
Trump holds out possibility of a federal government shutdown this fall if Congress doesn't act to secure the nation's borders
7:03PM ( 5 hours ago )
Roy Moore sues Sacha Baron Cohen over 'defamatory' TV prank
Failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is suing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation after being pranked on the actor's television show
6:57PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Brazil's federal police seek charges against President Temer
Brazil's federal police are asking that corruption charges be brought against President Michel Temer, which could lead to his suspension from office
9:00PM ( 3 hours ago )
Democrat logs 35K miles in long-shot bid in Trump territory
A Democrat running for a House seat in one of America's biggest and most conservative districts feels optimistic as she logs 35,000 miles on her Jeep to meet with voters
4:33PM ( 7 hours ago )
Pressley calls upset House win 'surreal,' gets in Trump dig
The black Boston city councilor whose upset primary win over a 10-term congressman stunned Massachusetts' political establishment calls her victory "surreal"
4:16PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: GOP's John Hugo to face Democratic US Rep. Clark
Republican John Hugo will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark in November after winning his party's nomination in Massachusetts
11:32PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Pelosi congratulates Pressley on beating Capuano
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is congratulating Ayanna Pressley on her upset victory over U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in Massachusetts' Democratic primary
10:57PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Palfrey defeats comic Tingle in lt. gov. primary
Quentin Palfrey has won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, ending comic Jimmy Tingle's bid to shift from political humor to political office
10:11PM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
In Mass. House race, Pressley wins fight for 'soul' of party
Democrat Ayanna Pressley, all but ensured of becoming first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, wins her 'fight for the soul of our party'
10:24PM ( 1 day ago )
Massachusetts primary will feature spirited House challenges
Several members of the all-Democratic U.S. House delegation in Massachusetts face spirited challenges in Tuesday's primary election
5:25PM ( 1 day ago )
Massachusetts' House delegation faces spirited challenges
Several members of the all-Democratic U.S. House delegation in Massachusetts face spirited challenges in Tuesday's primary election
10:28AM ( 1 day ago )
General House Election News
Quake in northern Japan kills 2, causes landslides, blackout
Japan earthquake paralyzes northern island of Hokkaido, killing two and leaving region without power
12:21AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Djokovic tops Federer's conqueror for 11th US Open SF in row
Novak Djokovic moved a step closer to a third championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall by eliminating John Millman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to get to the tournament's semifinals for an 11th appearance in a row
12:13AM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: Quake halts all trains on Japan island
The main railway company on the quake-hit northern Japanese island of Hokkaido says all trains have stopped due to power outage
12:06AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Cubs hold off Brewers 6-4, boost NL Central lead to 4 games
Daniel Murphy and Kyle Schwarber homered to back a solid start from Jose Quintana, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Milwaukee Brewers 6-4 to avert a three-game sweep
12:01AM ( 31 minutes ago )
After arm surgery recommended, Ohtani has big night at plate
Shohei Ohtani homered twice on a huge night at the plate after getting bad news about his pitching arm, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 9-3
11:45PM ( 48 minutes ago )