Did The Supreme Court Just Hand Democrats The Keys To Winning The House?

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  • A recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the Voting Rights Act and redistricting in Alabama may lead to House Democrats gaining GOP seats across multiple states in 2024, political experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 
  • The case, regarding the racial composition of districts, mirrors others in Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina, which could see maps redrawn, according to experts.
  • “[R]edistricting can be a sticky wicket; change one district in a state, and all the districts must be redrawn,” said William F.B. O’Reilly, a political strategist.

A recent Supreme Court decision that struck down Alabama’s congressional map could lead to House maps in multiple states being changed, giving Democrats a strong advantage to win back the chamber in 2024’s elections, political experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Court ruled on Thursday, in Allen v. Milligan, that Alabama’s map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) – which prohibits gerrymandering along racial lines – given the presence of only one black-majority district in the state, out of seven. The decision sets a precedent that could be applied to other southern states – Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina – where litigation is pending against their maps, leading Republican incumbents to lose their seats, the experts told the DCNF. (RELATED: Pollsters Shift Five House Seats Toward Dems After Pivotal SCOTUS Ruling)

“[T]he fact pattern is pretty similar…[t]here could be a second black-majority seat,” said Shawn Donahue, a professor at the University of Buffalo and expert on redistricting, regarding a VRA case in Louisiana. The increase of such seats raises Democratic chances of taking back the House, with “[n]ew black majority seats being basically new Democratic seats,” he told the DCNF.

The decision has already upset political observers’ calculations about electoral prospects for House Republicans, who have an overall majority of just four seats.

The Cook Political Report changed its 2024 election ratings for five districts from “Solid R” to “Toss Up,” a significant swing and sign that the party will lose support in new districts that may be re-drawn. Among them were Louisiana’s GOP-held 5th and 6th districts, which are likely to be affected by a court decision in Louisiana along the lines of Milligan.

The concern is prompting a response from top GOP leaders in the state, who are preparing for an unfavorable decision.

“We are looking at the [o]pinion from the Supreme Court last week,” said Louisiana Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt, who is running for governor, to the DCNF. The state Senate President, Patrick Page Cortez, remarked at a press conference that Republicans were still seeking “an opportunity [to win] in the 5th Circuit,” should the Supreme Court remand the case.

Milligan has a more immediate effect on Alabama, where Donahue predicts “a district that has a lot of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, with a little of the west of the Black Belt,” which is likely to vote Democratic. That would also prompt the consolidation of areas currently represented by GOP Reps. Jerry Carl and Barry Moore in Southern Alabama into a new district, setting up a potential primary battle between the incumbents.

“In these cases, the most pressing question to ask is: who represents most of the new district? I’d say Jerry Carl has more of an edge,” Donahue said.

Milligan’s reasoning may also affect lawsuits in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas, where legal challenges regarding the VRA are pending against seats held by Republican Reps. Nancy Mace, Rich McCormick and Tony Gonzales, respectively, with another case concerning Texas’ whole congressional map also pending.

“This precedent also lays a foundation for fair map decisions in our other Section 2 cases in states like Texas [and] Georgia,” said Marina Jenkins of the National Redistricting Fund, a Democrat-supporting group that has supported VRA lawsuits in those states.

The whole effect of the Milligan decision is still yet to be determined and could have reverberations in other districts within predominantly Republican states.

“[R]edistricting can be a sticky wicket; change one district in a state, and all the districts must be redrawn … The devil is in the details,” William F.B. O’Reilly, a New York-based GOP strategist, told the DCNF.

He noted, however, that while “a handful of seats could potentially swing the majority,” legislators in GOP-led states could also use the opportunity to “ironically create some stronger Republican districts.”

This may occur in North Carolina, where Republicans control the state Supreme Court and hold a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature, which Donahue claims would enable them to redraw the state’s congressional map to add three Republican-leaning seats.

“It’s easy for them to draw a 10-4 or 10-3-1 map,” he said, identifying areas in 6th, 13th and 14th districts as likely to be reallocated into new seats. Republicans currently hold seven of North Carolina’s 14 Congressional districts, with Democratic Reps. Jeff Jackson, Kathy Manning and Wiley Nickel likely to lose their seats, per Donahue.

His sentiments were echoed by M.V. “Trey” Hood III, a professor at the University of Georgia and director of the Survey Research Center, who said that the state’s GOP-controlled legislature would attempt to strengthen the state’s congressional map for Republicans, even after an unfavorable court decision. “Besides, when a majority black district is created, the surrounding districts become even less competitive for Democrats,” Hood added, signaling that redistricting may have unforeseen effects.

It is unclear when decisions in redistricting cases will be issued, and when new maps, if any, will be promulgated. Congressional election primary races, before which maps must be finalized, are usually held within eight months of a general election, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024.

In a statement, the National Republican Congressional Committee said that “Democrats’ transparent political strategy to rig the game is to ‘sue ’til it’s blue.’ Republicans will grow our majority in spite of Democrats’ legal-end runs around voters.”

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