Battles Over Legislative Maps May Delay Elections
The two political parties are battling over congressional districts in several states.

Battles Over Legislative Maps May Delay Elections

Every ten years after the U.S. Census is completed, states may need to change their political district maps to reflect population shifts. Each state legislature is responsible for creating its own map of the new districts. The majority political party controls the initial creation of its state’s map. The party may create the maps in such a way that gives an unfair advantage to its members. This process of building in a voting advantage is called gerrymandering. The term was first used in 1812 when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry approved an oddly shaped congressional district in the Boston area.

Political battles over the new maps are under way in several states. The majority political parties in these states are presenting maps that are being rejected by state courts. The uncertainty and legal challenges are threatening to delay primary elections that are approaching. Here, Election Central takes a closer look at this complicated situation in a handful of important battleground states.

Ohio

In Ohio, the state Supreme Court has three times rejected the Republican-drawn map that it says is unconstitutional because it unfairly benefits Republican voters. Democrats are calling to delay the upcoming May 3rd primary election until June 28th to give time for a new map to be created and approved. Republicans argue that no new plan can be created in time for a May 3rd primary. The Republican-controlled state legislature has also threatened to impeach the Republican Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court who has sided with her Democratic colleagues on the redistricting issue. The state’s Supreme Court announced that it would review the original March 16, 2022, map within 62 days. But this will likely occur before the May 3rd primary.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally approved the new legislative maps in late February. This is in time for primary elections to be held on May 17 as planned, However, candidates were left with only a week and a half to gather enough petition signatures to get their names on the ballot.

Michigan

In February 2022, Democratic lawmakers and activists filed a challenge to the state’s new legislative maps. They said that the maps disenfranchise (intentionally take away votes) African American voters by eliminating predominantly African American districts in Detroit. The Michigan Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit, saying that it didn’t present sufficient evidence. However, the state has delayed its primary for the governor’s race because of additional legal challenges against the new maps.

Maryland

The Maryland Court of Appeals–the state’s highest court–has issued an order to move the primary for the governor’s race from June 28 to July 19, 2022. So far, four legal challenges led by Republicans have been presented against the state’s new legislative maps. These maps were passed on a party-line vote by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature There is concern that the date change for the election will confuse voters. Some candidates may also face financial challenges now that they have to find a way to finance their campaign for several more weeks. But other experts think it’s appropriate to move the elections to allow officials enough time to navigate the legal challenges and ensure fair elections.

Dig Deeper What does redistricting look like in your state? Visit this 538 redistricting website. How has the new map changed from the old one? According to the data, how fair are your state’s new maps? Has one party gained an advantage over the other? Are there any legal challenges? Explain.
Valerie Cumming

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