Supreme Court ruling completes redistricting for 2022 elections

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 6, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Looking back on the past 18 months of redistricting
  2. Ranked-choice voting campaign submits signatures for Nevada ballot 
  3. 54% of state legislators are Republican, 44% Democratic

Looking back on the past 18 months of redistricting

Since spring 2021, we’ve brought you regular updates on the status of congressional and state legislative redistricting. With a recent Supreme Court decision, that process is now complete for 2022.  

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) overturned a U.S. district court ruling that struck down Louisiana’s congressional district boundaries. Louisiana was the last state to complete congressional redistricting this year. SCOTUS will review the case in an upcoming term (along with a similar case out of Alabama). The decision means the map the legislature approved in March will be used for this year’s elections. Now that this year’s maps are set, let’s take a look back on how we got here. 

  • Voters in five states will use congressional or legislative boundaries in the 2022 elections that will be in effect for this cycle only. In the following states, federal or state courts adopted remedial maps with the stipulation that they be redrawn before the 2024 elections. Those states are:
  • Alaska (state Senate)
  • South Carolina (state House of Representatives)
  • New York (state Assembly)
  • North Carolina (Congress)
  • Ohio legislative (state House of Representatives and state Senate)
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed legislation on June 24 establishing new state House district maps for use beginning in 2024. The maps were redrawn as part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit that a group of civil rights groups filed in December 2021 alleging racial gerrymandering in the original map. South Carolina enacted the state legislative district boundaries that will be used for this year’s elections on Dec. 10, 2021.
  • At the federal level, 44 states adopted congressional district maps after the 2020 census. Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting was required.
  • At the state level, 49 states redrew legislative district maps for both chambers. Montana, however, has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans and will use the boundaries enacted after the 2010 census for this year’s elections. The state’s legislature will draw state House and Senate boundaries next year, in 2023. It holds sessions in odd-numbered years and adjourned before the U.S. Census delivered detailed census information to states.
  • The Census Bureau released apportionment counts and state-level population data on April 26, 2021, and block-level data and county-level demographic information on Aug. 12, 2021. The agency was originally scheduled to deliver apportionment counts from the 2020 census to the President of the United States by Dec. 31, 2020, and redistricting data to the states by March 30, 2021. Mike Schneider of Yahoo News reported in December 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortage of survey workers and forced the Census Bureau to suspend field operations in the spring of 2020. The Bureau also announced in November 2020 that it needed additional time to address data processing anomalies due to the shortened timeline for tabulating the results.

Learn more about redistricting below. 

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Ranked-choice voting campaign submits signatures for Nevada ballot 

On June 29, the Nevada Voters First campaign submitted signatures to qualify a ranked choice voting measure for the November ballot. This came on the day after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the initiative may proceed to the ballot. 

On Dec. 6, 2021, Nathan Helton, a registered voter in Churchill County, filed a lawsuit against the sponsors of the initiative. The challenge to the ballot initiative argued that the measure violated the single-subject rule. The Supreme Court backed a lower court ruling from January. 

The campaign reported submitting 266,000 signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 135,561 valid signatures are required. The submitted signatures will have to be verified in order for the measure to qualify for the Nevada ballot.

The ballot initiative would establish open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections. Rank-choice voting allows a voter to rank candidates in preference from first to last. A candidate receiving 50% or more of the first choice votes wins. If no candidate is the first choice of more than 50%, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

If voters approve an initiated amendment in one election, it must win again at the next general election in an even-numbered year for it to become part of the constitution. In other words, if the initiative is approved in 2022, it must be approved again in 2024 to take effect.

Ranked-choice voting is also used for certain elections in Alaska and Maine. In 2020, voters in Alaska passed Ballot Measure 2 50.55%-49.45%. The measure established open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices and ranked-choice voting for general elections, including presidential elections. 

In May, signatures were submitted for a top-four ranked-choice voting initiative in Missouri. 

Click below to read more about the Nevada Top-Five Ranked Choice Voting Initiative.

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54% of state legislators are Republican, 44% Democratic

Here’s an update on the partisan breakdown in state legislatures.

At the end of June 2022, 54.27% of all state legislators in the United States are Republicans while 44.41% are Democrats. There are 7,383 state legislative seats in the country.

Republicans control 62 chambers, while Democrats hold 36. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Democrats hold 862 state Senate seats and 2,417 state House seats, gaining two Senate seats since last month. Republicans hold 1,095 state Senate seats and 2,912 state House seats, gaining two Senate seats and losing six House seats since last month.

Independent or third-party legislators hold 41 seats across 18 different states, including 33 state House seats and eight state Senate seats. There are 49 vacant state House seats and seven vacant state Senate seats across 18 different states.

Compared to June 2021, Democrats have lost five state Senate seats (867 v. 862) and 29 state House seats (2,446 v. 2,417). Republicans have gained three state Senate seats (1,092 v. 1,095) and lost seven state House seats (2,919 v. 2,912). 

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