The GOP’s Redistricting Loophole  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
Brennan Center
Featured Pieces
The GOP’s Redistricting Loophole
The Supreme Court’s 2019 decision declaring that federal courts would not police partisan gerrymandering has created a loophole that Republicans in the South are now using to defend racially discriminatory maps. Michael Li writes, “A decade ago, Republican map drawers aggressively redrew district boundaries to pack Black and other nonwhite voters into heavily minority districts, asserting that the Voting Rights Act made them do so.... This time, Republicans are trying something different, claiming that they are drawing maps on a ‘race-blind’ basis and leaning in hard on the argument that partisan politics motivated this decade’s maps, not race.” The Freedom to Vote Act would close this discrimination-enabling loophole, but Congress desperately needs to find a way to pass the bill before the redistricting process finishes early next year.
Early Lessons from the Current Redistricting Round
As we approach the midpoint of this decade’s redistricting cycle, some lessons are already clear. From aggressive defensive gerrymanders in the South, to a dramatic decrease in competitive districts, to Republicans’ fear of rapidly diversifying suburbs, read about five takeaways from the 2021 redistricting cycle.
Featured Maps: Backlash to a Diversifying Georgia
The current district of Georgia state senator Michelle Au (D-John’s Creek) in the Atlanta suburbs is remarkably multiracial, with a diverse mix of non-white residents making up almost 62 percent of its population. A Chinese-American doctor, Au won a victory in 2020 that was heralded as part of the emergence of a more diverse, politically potent, and multiracial Georgia.
But in the redistricting plan passed by the legislature, Georgia Republicans radically reconfigured the district, shifting it northward into whiter suburbs and making it 52 percent white — and much more Republican. In her statement opposing the plan, Au said “This map before us does not represent the Georgia of today. This map does not see Georgia for who we have become. And this map is not what our voters asked for.” While advocacy groups have attacked the dismantling of Au’s district, Republicans say they are entitled to do so, asserting that minority coalition districts are not protected under the Voting Rights Act.
The Redistricting State of Play
So far, 20 states have completed drawing congressional maps and 22 states have completed legislative maps. The Brennan Center has released a tracker you can use to view new redistricting maps that have been approved across the states.
Redistricting in the News
In a powerful new piece from Truthout, voting rights advocates Cliff Albright, Virginia Kase Solomón, and Allison Riggs say that the focus in Washington on passing infrastructure legislation rather than restoring the Voting Rights Act will result in a dangerous erosion of Black political power at the local level. They write, “In 1965, Congress made a promise to hundreds of communities… In 2021, it’s time they ensured that decades of struggle and sacrifice were not in vain. Congress must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to strengthen the VRA and restore its core protections, and also pass the Freedom to Vote Act as soon as possible.”
Black voters, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and other Black advocacy groups have filed lawsuits in federal court over recently passed legislative and congressional maps that they say are racially discriminatory. The lawsuits allege that the maps pack Alabama’s Black voters into a small number of legislative and congressional districts to minimize their political power. On the congressional map, Black voters are currently a majority in only one of the state’s seven congressional districts. The lawsuit argues that a second Black-majority congressional district could easily be created on the western side of the state, which would bring Black representation more in line with the percentage of the state’s population that is Black. Read the congressional complaint and the legislative complaint.
In California, Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ organizations are each voicing concerns about preliminary map proposals released by the state’s independent commission. Latino advocates claim that a proposal to split up a Los Angeles-area district — the most Latino congressional district in the nation — would violate the Voting Rights Act; Asian groups are pushing to keep districts in the heavily Asian San Gabriel Valley whole; and LGBTQ activists are organizing to urge the commission to create districts that would enhance the voice of LGBTQ communities in Congress. The California commission has until the end of the year to finalize legislative and congressional maps.
In a defeat for fair maps, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that there was no need to create maps that differ significantly from the existing ones. Wisconsin’s current congressional map gives Republicans a 6–2 advantage even though Democrats have consistently won in statewide elections. However, the court said it would adopt a “least-change approach” to redistricting, simply accounting for population changes. Democrats argue that this would once again unfairly advantage Republicans, but the court’s majority rebuffed that argument in its opinion, saying those were “political questions, not legal ones.”
Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that he would veto any maps drawn by the Republican legislature that aren’t fair, but has not revealed precisely what an unfair map would look like. Black leaders, meanwhile, are calling for a map that has two majority-Black congressional districts to more accurately represent a state that is now one-third Black. Because Republicans lack the majority needed to override a veto, a veto by Gov. Edwards would likely send responsibility for map drawing to the courts.
The Texas Tribune takes an in-depth look at how Texas’s newly passed congressional and legislative maps would diminish the political power of fast-growing Asian communities in northwest Houston by ruthlessly dividing up heavily Asian neighborhoods.
The New York Times looks at legislative redistricting and how Republicans across the country are using redistricting to enshrine GOP supermajorities in state legislatures.
Mother Jones’s Ari Berman writes about how one Texas county brazenly dismantled the only majority-minority district on its county commission, an exemplar of similar changes taking place across the South at all levels of government. “The Republican Party is taking a fast-changing region back in time to preserve white GOP power, resurfacing painful memories of segregation and disenfranchisement for Black voters who’ve spent decades trying to get beyond it, ” Berman writes.
Teenagers in Georgia are flexing their collective political muscle, even though most of them are too young to vote. Angered by the passage of restrictive voting bills and motivated by issues such as climate change and gun violence, student groups like the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition have trained dozens of young people how to testify at redistricting hearings.
You can find previous editions of our Redistricting Round-Up here.