The changing congressional map is shifting the fight for control of the House

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The partisan tilt of a handful of districts could still change dramatically before voters even go to the polls this year — shifting who has the upper hand in the battle for control the House.

Republicans hold just a three-seat majority and various congressional maps across the country have already been redrawn since the midterms thanks to drawn-out court battles, some of which have yet to be resolved.

So far, post-2022 redistricting has likely netted Republicans two or three seats. But depending on how the final maps are configured, that number could change yet again — and even perhaps tilt the field, ever so slightly, toward favoring Democrats.

With primaries in some states just weeks away, there are still big unresolved questions of what some districts will look like. Here are the big redistricting storylines to watch.

Three states have already drawn new maps — some with big consequences

North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia have already drawn new lines after the midterms in response to successful litigation from challengers.

The Republican-dominated legislature drew a strong GOP gerrymander last year that could net the party as many as four seats in the Tar Heel State. The state currently has an even split of seven Democrats and seven Republicans, but the GOP-controlled state Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to go to potentially a 10-4 Republican split.

Already, three Democratic incumbents — Kathy Manning, Wiley Nickel and Jeff Jackson — opted out of running for reelection after the new map transformed their districts into safe GOP territory. And Democrat Don Davis’ battleground district became a bit redder, although that seat is still expected to be competitive. At worst for Republicans, they will net three seats, but they could get as many as four.

However, Democrats are likely going to pick up one seat in Alabama. A federal court found that the lines used there in 2022 likely violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters, a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court. The newly drawn majority-Black district in Alabama gives them the opportunity to elect a member of their choosing in a second district in the state. The change could see the delegation go from six Republicans and one Democrat to a likely split of five Republicans and two Democrats.

Georgia, meanwhile, has a new map that won’t change the partisan composition of the delegation: nine Republicans and five Democrats. But they did imperil the political future of Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath by obliterating her district.

After a judge tossed out the lines used in 2022 for violating the Voting Rights Act, Republican legislators redrew the map to increase the number of majority- or near-majority-Black districts, while maintaining the same partisan balance. McBath’s now-former district — where no single racial minority made up a majority, but combined constituted a majority-minority district, which is sometimes known as a “coalition district” — was carved up to make room for a new majority-Black seat.

Litigation will carry on for the three new maps — Republicans in Alabama have appealed the new court-drawn lines, Democrats in North Carolina sued alleging racial gerrymandering and Georgia Democrats will almost assuredly challenge the new lines again — but the trio of maps are likely to be in place at least for 2024.

Two states still need to draw new maps

Courts have ordered new lines in two states — but mapmakers have yet to draw them.

A federal court found that Louisiana’s map likely violated the Voting Rights Act and, like Alabama and Georgia, the state will need to create another Black opportunity district. That would also likely lead to another Democratic representative being elected.

Louisiana’s GOP-dominated legislature has until the end of January to draw new lines, and a special session could take place in the middle of the month.

And New York is also getting a new map. Democrats there challenged a hypercompetitive, court-drawn map that was used in the midterms. But Democrats successfully challenged that map in court, leaving the ultimate partisan split in the state uncertain while the new lines are being drawn.

When the Democratic-controlled legislature drew the lines in 2022, the party instituted a significant gerrymander that could have had them win in as many as 22 of the state’s 26 seats. Instead, the court-drawn map led to 11 Republicans in the delegation after the midterms. In this year’s redraw, Democrats may try to push that advantage again — or perhaps try for a less aggressive gerrymander this time that still gives the party a clear advantage, wary of a threatened lawsuit from Republicans.

The process first has to run through an independent redistricting commission, but the Democratic-controlled legislature gets the final say. There’s still a long way to go, but the outcomes in New York — from a map that may not deviate too dramatically from the midterms, to one where Democrats try to push as big of an advantage as possible — leaves some half-dozen seats in flux right now.

Louisiana is similar to Georgia and Alabama in that a court will review any new map to see whether it appropriately addresses the Voting Rights Act violation — and if not, the court could step in to draw the lines. And New York’s court-drawn maps were tossed on procedural grounds — so if Democrats do gerrymander, Republicans could bring a case alleging partisan gerrymandering and seek a ruling on the merits there.

Both maps’ futures are uncertain and could undergo at least one more round of review in the courts before they’re locked in for 2024.

Some states’ maps are still being litigated

A handful of maps hang in the balance in courts across the country. The biggest is in South Carolina.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in October over allegations that the state’s 1st Congressional District — currently represented by GOP Rep. Nancy Mace — was an illegal racial gerrymander. The court has not indicated when it could release its decision, but during arguments it seemed like the conservative justices were unlikely to side with those arguing the map should be thrown out — likely leaving the GOP-leaning district in place.

The Utah Supreme Court has also yet to issue a decision in a partisan gerrymandering case that was argued in July. Republicans there had dismantled a battleground district around Salt Lake City, creating four safely red districts. If challengers are successful, that swing district could return and be a competitive seat for both parties.

And a pair of cases are challenging the map in Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis muscled through a map that flipped several seats for Republicans in 2022. A state court case faces long odds after an appellate court in December overturned a lower court ruling that said the map was unconstitutional, and a federal judge has not issued a ruling after a racial gerrymandering claim was litigated in a September hearing. Timing remains unclear, but in the event a ruling ultimately goes Democrats’ way they could pick up at least one seat.

The uncertainty — both in states like New York where lines still need to be drawn, and in courts across the country — will ultimately only affect a handful of seats. But with Republicans clinging to a slim majority, every single district could count come November.

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