The 2018 midterm elections resulted in a surge in turnout for Democratic voters across the South, but the increase in Democratic participation didn’t translate directly to an increase in Democratic power because of gerrymandering — the drawing of electoral district lines to benefit one party or racial group over others.
But gerrymandering is facing an unprecedented challenge, with two landmark lawsuits over the practice now being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
This week, the high court heard arguments in cases challenging the congressional maps drawn by Republicans in North Carolina and by Democrats in Maryland. The Brennan Center for Justice, a voting rights advocacy group, calls those states’ maps “among this decade’s starkest examples of extreme partisan gerrymanders.”
Federal judges had previously struck down North Carolina’s Republican-drawn congressional maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that diluted the power of black voters by packing them into two congressional districts. But in redrawing the maps for the 2016 election, the Republican-controlled General Assembly engineered them to ensure that the GOP would control 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats.
State Rep. David Lewis, who led the latest redistricting effort in North Carolina, said he drew the maps that way only “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” The lawsuit filed over those maps is titled Rucho v. Common Cause.
Showing that the maps are functioning as intended, 48 percent of North Carolina voters chose a Democrat to represent them in the U.S. House in the 2018 election, but Republicans held on to their overwhelming advantage in the state’s congressional delegation. The GOP currently controls eight of the state’s 11 congressional seats, with elections set for later this year to fill vacancies in the state’s 3rd District, where Republican…