- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 23, 2021

Redistricting has added to the number of Biden-leaning districts for upcoming elections, according to an analysis that contradicts Democrats’ narrative that Republicans were reaping a significant advantage from partisan gerrymandering.

Cook Political Report Senior Editor David Wasserman said this week that congressional lines across the country have yet to be finalized, but “Biden-won congressional districts” seem to be outnumbering Trump-won districts.

“National update: on the current trajectory, there will actually be a few *more* Biden-won congressional districts after redistricting than there are now (224/435),” he said in a post on Twitter.

Mr. Wasserman said in a subsequent tweet that “there are going to be dozens of narrowly Biden-won seats that are very tenuous for Dems in a rough cycle (esp. in AZ, OH, MI, VA, NV). The biggest threat to Dems’ House majority isn’t redistricting; it’s Biden‘s approval rating.”

Democrats and their activist allies predicted that Republican-led state legislatures would gerrymander congressional districts and “cheat” the party into power.

The Democrats said only the For the People Act could counteract the effects of Republican gerrymandering.

The reform legislation allows for voting by mail in each state. It also lowers the threshold in certain states so voters who do not meet ID requirements can sign affidavits during federal elections. Voters can register on the same day they cast ballots, whether during the early voting period or on Election Day. “Ballot harvesting” expands to states where it is currently illegal.

“The stakes could not be higher: This year alone, 19 Republican-controlled state legislatures have enacted 33 laws to disenfranchise voters while Republican-appointed judges continue to rip away hard-won voter protections in the courts,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said in late October after Senate Republicans blocked the bill.

“This all-out assault on the sanctity of the ballot is silencing the voices of voters — especially voters of color – and diminishing their say in the destiny of our democracy,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

She said “House Democrats have led the charge to reverse this anti-democratic tide and return power to the American people. Our For the People Act tears down many barriers to the ballot box, prohibits partisan gerrymandering and combats dark, special interest money in politics.”

On Oct. 2, 2019, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. tweeted a Slate article about how state lawmakers “get away with gerrymandering.”

Mr. Holder commented, “Important article. Behind closed doors, Republicans are preparing to gerrymander themselves into power again. They will cheat - that’s what it is: cheating - to win elections unless the people stop them. Join the movement for FAIR maps @allonthline.”

Early this month, former President Barack Obama said during a virtual fundraiser benefiting the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that Republican-majority legislatures were “passing laws designed to prevent American citizens from exercising their right to vote and drawing congressional maps that drown out the voice of ordinary people.”

He added, “Rather than argue, based on ideas, they are trying to tilt the playing field. And they aren’t even waiting for Election Day to do it. Their plan is to control state legislatures and congressional delegations before a single vote is cast. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.”

Robert Reich, a secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, tweeted in August, “make no mistake: If Dems don’t pass the For the People Act, the GOP is going to gerrymander their way to a House majority – and they may never give it up.”

The Democrats’ dire predictions about the redistricting process did not pan out.

After considering the final redistricting maps in California, Arizona and New Jersey, Mr. Wasserman concluded that the state-by-state decennial process of changing district lines after the census is “shaping up to be close to a wash” and that the biggest casualties are competitive seats.

In the 27 states that are at least nearly finished with their congressional maps, districts with a Trump Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of +5 or more increased from 106 to 117 seats and districts with a Biden PVI of +5 or more rose from 138 to 144, he said. Highly competitive seats in swing districts dropped 44%, from 34 to 19 seats.

“AZ commission (two Rs, two Ds, one tie-breaker) votes *unanimously* to approve new congressional map that would’ve split 5-4 for Biden in 2020. But #AZ01 (Biden +1.4) and #AZ06 (Biden +0.1) are highly tenuous, so GOP has a great opportunity to go 6R-3D in 2022,” Mr. Wasserman tweeted.

Longtime Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias wrote of the new Arizona map, “It is disappointing that the AZ Commission produced an illegally gerrymandered map. Arizonians deserve better. Arizona will be sued.”

Mr. Wasserman responded to Mr. Elias’ lawsuit threat. “Hearing increasing concerns from Dem members of Congress that the party’s legal apparatus filing a ton of dead-end lawsuits (for example, AZ map passed w/ unanimous bipartisan support) could diminish their side’s credibility in the suits that actually matter,” he said.

In New Jersey, Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill and Andy Kim are no longer in swing districts. The state’s bipartisan commission sliced out their districts’ conservative regions.

Fellow Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski’s district received more Republican-leaning areas, making him more vulnerable next year. In 2020, he eked out a win against Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., who plans to run again this cycle.

Meanwhile, districts became redder for two New Jersey Republicans: Reps. Jefferson Van Drew, a newcomer to the party, and Chris Smith, the state’s longest-serving member of Congress.

As a result of the redistricting, however, Mr. Smith’s district will no longer have his home county of Hamilton.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the month when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement about the For The People Act. She issued the statement in October. 

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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