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The Numerous, Complicated, Now and again Contradictory Takeaways Of The 2021-22 Redistricting Cycle

Many analyses of congressional redistricting to this point have attempted to sum the placement up right into a unmarried sentence. Whilst we perceive the urge, it’s increasingly more the case that there’s no one takeaway from the 2021-22 redistricting cycle. If truth be told, the image is difficult: Democrats have won seats in accordance with partisanship on my own … however Republicans have won whilst you issue during which celebration these days holds the seat. The Area map’s long-term Republican bias has lessened fairly … but it surely’s nonetheless now not a good taking part in box. Swing seats are getting redrawn to be more secure for Democrats … however light-red seats also are being redrawn to be more secure for Republicans. 

Since we final took inventory of redistricting in early December, 8 extra states — together with one of the crucial largest and swingiest states within the nation — have finalized their congressional maps for the following 10 years. In all, 26 states have now finished the congressional redistricting procedure (now not together with the six states with just one congressional district). Of the 268 congressional districts drawn to this point, 128 have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of D+5 or bluer, whilst 119 have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of R+5 or redder. Handiest 21 are within the “extremely aggressive” class between D+5 and R+5. 

That’s a web acquire of 7 Democratic-leaning seats over the outdated maps in the ones 26 states, whilst the selection of Republican-leaning seats has greater through just one. For the reason that outdated Area map had 208 Republican-leaning seats and 181 Democratic-leaning seats general, that implies redistricting has chipped away at — regardless that by no means erased — Republicans’ structural benefit in Area elections. 

On the other hand, when you are taking incumbency under consideration, it’s in reality Republicans who must acquire floor within the brief time period. Via my calculations, redistricting has put Republicans in a excellent place to turn as many as 3 seats within the 2022 midterms. Then again, I calculate that redistricting has put Democrats in place to realize one seat, lose one seat or stand pat. 

This turns out counterintuitive, but it surely’s in point of fact now not. Democrats are coming off a lovely robust election cycle in 2020 — one who gave them a Area majority even though the median congressional district has a partisan lean of R+2.3. In different phrases, Democrats are overexposed at the congressional map because it stands nowadays, with 24 Democratic incumbents occupying Republican-leaning seats. (In contrast, simplest seven Republican incumbents dangle Democratic-leaning seats.) That implies despite the fact that the median congressional district strikes nearer to the middle to grow to be, say, R+1, there are nonetheless a number of Democratic incumbents on reddish turf. (And that’s sooner than accounting for the indicators that time towards a Republican-leaning nationwide surroundings in 2022.)

Whichever manner you measure them, regardless that, the partisan shifts because of redistricting to this point this cycle had been quite small. The largest takeaway has as a substitute been the ongoing disappearance of aggressive seats. The selection of swing Area districts has been dwindling for many years now, and that development is for sure proceeding this yr. Via our measure, there are already six fewer extremely aggressive seats in those 26 states than there have been final cycle.

However even that statistic understates the severity of the decline. The selection of fairly aggressive seats — which we outline as having partisan leans between D+15 and R+15 — has dropped through 10. That’s most commonly because of Republicans making their very own districts even more secure: The selection of light-red seats has diminished through 12, whilst the selection of dark-red seats has greater through 13.

Selection of aggressive seats within the Area drops

The selection of “cast” and “aggressive” seats beneath the outdated and new Area maps in states that finished congressional redistricting through Jan. 18, 2021, at 5 p.m. Jap

Class Previous Map New Map Alternate
Cast D 100 99 -1
Aggressive D 21 29 +8
Extremely Aggressive 27 21 -6
Aggressive R 32 20 -12
Cast R 86 99 +13

“Cast Democratic” seats have FiveThirtyEight partisan leans of D+15 or bluer; “aggressive Democratic” seats have partisan leans between D+5 and D+15; “extremely aggressive” seats have partisan leans between D+5 and R+5; “aggressive Republican” seats have partisan leans between R+5 and R+15; “cast Republican” seats have partisan leans of R+15 or redder.

Partisan lean is the common margin distinction between how a state or district votes and the way the rustic votes general. This model of partisan lean, intended for use for congressional and gubernatorial elections, is calculated as 50 p.c the state or district’s lean relative to the country in the newest presidential election, 25 p.c its relative lean within the second-most-recent presidential election and 25 p.c a customized state-legislative lean.


In contrast, the selection of light-blue seats has in reality greater through 8 because the selection of dark-blue seats has diminished through one. However that’s now not as a result of Democrats had been redistricting saints. Whilst Republicans, who went into redistricting with a greater beginning place, have followed a defensive redistricting technique (i.e., shoring up already-red seats), Democrats have followed an offensive technique of maximizing the selection of seats which can be any coloration of blue. In states equivalent to Nevada and New Mexico, this has intended getting rid of protected Democratic seats and spreading their electorate out to neighboring purple or red seats to offer the ones districts a Democratic lean, too.

Those are the takeaways of redistricting to this point — however we should emphasize the “to this point.” Eighteen states have not begun to finalize their new maps, and a few may just in fact scramble the maths above. As an example, how competitive will Democratic cartographers be in New York? Republicans in Florida?

After which there’s the truth that even the ones 26 states might not be executed with redistricting. Court cases over the brand new maps loom in a minimum of 8 of the ones states, and one different state’s map (Ohio’s) has already been overturned. Just below two-thirds of the districts whose strains are being challenged (73 out of 110) have been drawn through Republicans, too, so there might be considerable upside for Democrats right here — sufficient that some analysts imagine the Area’s Republican bias will disappear totally. It’s too early to understand evidently, regardless that, so if there’s one piece of recommendation we will come up with, it’s now not to attract any conclusions about redistricting till the ink is dry at the final state’s map.

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