Newly redrawn congressional maps appear likely to disenfranchise voters — and tilt the scales for the GOP.
Increasingly, elections in the United States are won before a vote is ever cast. You can thank gerrymandering for that. A new report from The New York Times suggests, in fact, that the problem is only going to get worse as we head toward the 2022 midterm elections. Following the redistricting process spurred on by the 2020 Census, it appears that Republicans have drawn themselves favorable maps in the states of Iowa, North Carolina, Texas, and Montana, which is likely to give them five additional seats in Congress — cutting into the Democrats’ slim 11-seat advantage in the House of Representatives and leaving many people without actual congressional representation.
As a quick reminder, gerrymandering is the process of redrawing the lines of a state’s congressional district. In most states, the party with legislative control within the state is put in charge of drawing the lines — you can see how this might create an unfair system. Both major political parties are guilty of using this power to create favorable boundaries for themselves, often drawing bizarrely shaped districts designed to maximize the number of representatives their party gets to send to Congress. But Republicans do it better and way more frequently: The Associated Press found that, among the states with the most congressional seats, there are three times as many districts drawn to favor Republicans. That diminishes the voice of other voters and leaves them with representatives who do not accurately represent them.
Gerrymandering has been making congressional races less competitive for years now. According to the Times, just 61 of the 435 House elections in 2020 were considered competitive. Republicans are ensuring that number shrinks even more in 2022. Take Texas, a state that should be becoming more competitive as the demographics of the state shift. In 2020, when Donald Trump won the state by a six-point margin, there were 14 congressional districts that were considered battlegrounds. Under the new maps drawn by Texas Republicans, who hold control of every branch of the state’s government, there are projected to be just three competitive districts.
The result is a lack of representation for those who need it the most. The 2020 Census showed America is getting more diverse, with people of color making up a larger and larger share of the country’s population. However, these are the same communities that often see their voices silenced by gerrymandering. Districts are often drawn in a way that groups minority populations into a single district, concentrating the population and restricting their overall representation, rather than distributing their voting power across multiple districts. This makes some voters less likely to turn up to the polls in the first place, as their heavily gerrymandered district renders their vote less meaningful.
Gerrymandering serves no one but those in power. The trick that the Republicans have gotten particularly adept at is maintaining that power even when they are the minority. In multiple states, Republicans have managed to win majority representation in the statehouse while losing the popular vote. This appears to be the plan again in 2022, as increasingly rigged maps will favor a party clinging to power any way it can. The result will once again be a lack of true representation in Congress.