Montana becomes last state to enact legislative districting boundaries after the 2020 census

Montana enacted new legislative district boundaries on Feb. 22 when the Montana Districting & Apportionment Commission submitted its final plan to the secretary of state. The maps will take effect for Montana’s 2024 state legislative elections.

The commission had voted 3-2 to approve its final plan on Feb. 11. The commission’s nonpartisan chairperson, Maylinn Smith, and two Democratic-appointed commissioners voted to approve the map, and the two Republican-appointed commissioners voted against it. The Montana Supreme Court appointed Smith.

Shaylee Ragar of Montana Public Radio wrote that “According to data compiled by Democrats on the commission, the map could give Republicans a 20-seat advantage in the House and an 8-seat advantage in the Senate. It projects Democrats picking up a few seats currently held by Republicans.” Arren Kimbel-Sannit wrote in the Montana Free Press that, “In sum, the new maps could cost Republicans several seats while still leaving them a sizable majority that at least suggests the GOP’s dominance in recent elections.”

Montana was the last state to enact legislative districting boundaries after the 2020 census. The state constitution requires that the redistricting commission submit legislative maps to the legislature so they can provide non-binding recommendations before they are enacted. Montana’s legislature only meets in odd-numbered years and adjourned in April 2021, before U.S. Census data was delivered to the states on August 12, 2021. After the 2010 census, Montana enacted new legislative district boundaries on February 12, 2013.

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Federal three-judge panel rules South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District unconstitutional

On January 6, 2023, a federal three-judge panel ruled that South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was unconstitutional and enjoined the state from conducting future elections using its district boundaries. The panel’s opinion said, “The Court finds that race was the predominant factor motivating the General Assembly’s adoption of Congressional District No. 1… Plaintiffs’ right to be free from an unlawful racial gerrymander under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has been violated. Defendants have made no showing that they had a compelling state interest in the use of race in the design of Congressional District No. 1 and thus cannot survive a strict scrutiny review.”

The panels’ ruling ordered the General Assembly to submit a remedial map for its review by March 31, 2023. It said, “the Court hereby enjoins the conducting of an election under congressional District No. 1 until a constitutionally valid apportionment plan is approved by this Court.”

Caitlin Byrd of the Post and Courier reported that South Carolina House Speaker Murrell Smith (R) expected lawmakers to appeal the ruling. After the court’s order, Smith said, “I maintain that the House drew maps without racial bias and in the best interest of all the people of this state.”

The panel’s’ three judges were 4th Circuit Appeals Court Justice Toby Heytens—who President Joe Biden (D) appointed—and district court judges Mary Geiger Lewis and Richard Mark Gergel—who President Barack Obama (D) appointed.

The three-judge panel also determined that the state’s 2nd and 5th Congressional District boundaries were constitutional and dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims regarding those, saying, “Plaintiffs have failed to carry their burden to prove that race was the predominant factor in the design of Congressional District Nos. 2 and 5.”

On February 10, 2022, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and a South Carolina voter had filed an amended complaint in their lawsuit against State Senate President Thomas Alexander (R), four other state legislators, and the members of the South Carolina State Election Commission challenging the constitutionality of the state’s congressional district boundaries. The complaint argued that South Carolina’s enacted congressional map “discriminates on the basis of race by appearing to preserve the ability of Black voters to elect in Congressional District 6 (“CD”) while working adeptly to deny the ability of Black voters to elect or even influence elections in any of the other six congressional districts.

South Carolina enacted new congressional district maps on January 26, 2022, when Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a proposal approved by the South Carolina House and Senate into law. Both state legislative chambers approved the congressional map strictly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the proposal and Democrats opposing it.

Sixty-eight legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated after the 2020 census

As state legislatures nationwide convene for their first sessions after the 2022 elections, 68 legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated and no longer exist.

Forty-six of the 68 renamed or eliminated districts are in Vermont, one of three New England states—along with Massachusetts and New Hampshire—that include the town as part of the legislative district name. Those three states use district names that refer to both the town and a number, such as “New Hampshire House of Representatives Rockingham 17.” Population shifts in these states may result in one town or area needing more or fewer districts than after the last census, resulting in renamed or eliminated districts.

Here is a list of states and the number of renamed or eliminated legislative districts in each:

  1. Maryland (11)
  2. Massachusetts (1)
  3. North Dakota (2)
  4. New Hampshire (8)
  5. Vermont (46)

Maryland, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Vermont are among nine states that use multi-member districts in their legislatures. This may also result in renaming during redistricting if legislators change a district from single member to multi-member, or vice versa. For example, when North Dakota redistricted after the 2020 census, it converted North Dakota House of Representatives District 4 from a multi-member district that elected two members into a District 4A and 4B that elected one member each. The same thing happened with House of Representatives District 9. The state’s other 45 multi-member House districts remained the same.

The total number of state legislators nationwide changed slightly, from 7,383 before the 2022 elections to 7,386, and the overall number of legislators remained the same in 49 states. Wyoming was the only state to change the size of its legislature after the 2020 census, creating one new Senate seat and two new House seats during redistricting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wyoming changed its number of legislators five times between 1964 and 1992.

It is relatively uncommon for states to change their numbers of legislators during redistricting. New York increased its number of state Senators by one after both the 2010 and 2000 censuses. Also, after 2000, two states—North Dakota and Rhode Island—reduced their number of legislators in both chambers.

After the 2020 census, West Virginia adopted a redistricting plan that changed the state House from having 47 single-member and 20 multi-member districts to having, instead, 100 single-member districts. While the number of districts changed, the number of seats remained the same at 100.

Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission submits final legislative district boundary proposal to legislature

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission (MDAC) voted 3-2 to submit its final legislative district boundary proposal to the legislature. The commission’s nonpartisan chairperson, Maylinn Smith, and two Democratic-appointed commissioners voted to approve the map, and the two Republican-appointed commissioners voted against it.

According to Nicole Girten of the Daily Montanan, “The legislature will have 30 days after submission on Jan. 6 to comment on the map before it gets kicked back to the commission, which will…meet again in February to receive recommendations from the legislature and will then have 30 days to submit the final map to the Secretary of State’s Office.”

MDAC Commissioner Jeff Essmann, who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R), stated his opposition to the final proposal: “This map does have compromises, but I would not call it a compromise map. There are still significant differences that we have in viewing this map, as was evidenced even today.” Commissioner Kendra Miller, who was appointed to the MDAC by House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner (D), said that both the Republican and Democratic commissioners knew Smith, who was appointed to the MDAC by the Montana Supreme Court, would cast the tie-breaking vote: “They needed to put up what they thought was the very best map they had, that met the criteria and could get her vote…We had to put up a map that we knew was going to be superior on criteria, and that’s what we did.”

After the MDAC voted 3-2 to advance the proposal on Dec. 1 for consideration at a public hearing. Arren Kimbel-Sannit of the Montana Free Press wrote that the proposed map “yields 60 House seats that, to varying degrees, favor Republicans, and 40 that favor Democrats. Ten of the seats are considered competitive based on metrics the commission adopted earlier in the process, with five that lean Republican and five that lean Democratic.”

The MDAC voted 3-2 to enact the state’s new congressional district boundaries on Nov. 12, 2021. Both Republican commissioners and Smith voted in favor of that map, and the two Democratic commissioners voted against it.

More information about the final legislative map proposal—named “Tentative Commission Plan-3″—along with population and statistical reports and GIS shapefiles, can be viewed by visiting the MDAC’s website.

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Mississippi lawsuit challenges state’s legislative districts

The Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and five Mississippi voters filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Dec. 20 challenging the state’s newly enacted legislative district map. The suit alleges that the boundaries the legislature enacted in March 2022 violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and “illegally dilute the voting strength of Black Mississippians and improperly use voters’ race to achieve partisan goals and protect incumbent politicians.”

The suit also argues that “Mississippi’s Black population could support at least four additional Black-majority Senate districts and at least three additional Black-majority House districts in several areas across the State, where Black voters, despite their numbers, and despite voting cohesively, have previously been unable to elect candidates of their choice, in large part due to the prevalence of racially polarized voting.”

Mississippi enacted new state legislative district boundaries on March 31, 2022, when both legislative chambers approved district maps for the other chamber. Legislative redistricting in Mississippi is done via a joint resolution and did not require Gov. Tate Reeves’ (R) approval.

When the legislature adopted the new maps, Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press wrote that “Republican legislative leaders said the redistricting plans are likely to maintain their party’s majority in each chamber.” Pettus also wrote that “Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby of Pearl said the Senate redistricting plan keeps the same number of Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning districts as now.”

Redistricting of the state Senate was approved by the Senate on March 29 by a vote of 45-7, with 31 Republicans and 14 Democrats in favor and five Republicans and two Democrats voting against. The state House approved the Senate’s district boundaries on March 31 by a vote of 68-49. Sixty-two Republicans, three Democrats, and three independents voted in favor, and 35 Democrats and 14 Republicans voted against.

The Mississippi House of Representatives approved new House district boundaries on March 29 by an 81-38 vote. Seventy-three Republicans, five Democrats, and three independents voted to enact the new map, and 36 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it. The Mississippi Senate approved the House map—41 to 8—on March 31, with 34 Republicans and seven Democrats voting in favor and all eight votes against by Democrats.

Mississippi voters will decide elections for all 52 state Senate seats and all 122 state House of Representatives seats in 2023. The qualifying period for prospective state legislative candidates begins on Jan. 3, 2023, and ends on Feb. 1, 2023.

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New York judge dismisses petition to compel the state’s redistricting commission to submit new congressional, legislative maps for use in 2024

Albany County Supreme Court justice Peter Lynch dismissed on Sept. 12 a petition seeking to compel the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) to submit a second set of redistricting plans for the legislature to consider as part of redistricting after the 2020 census. Several New York state residents filed the petition.

The plaintiffs argued that “the IRC did not complete its constitutionally required redistricting duties because it failed to submit a second set of plans” and “the Court of Appeals also made clear that the Legislature was powerless to enact a new redistricting plan once the IRC refused to submit a second set of plans.” The petition sought to have the IRC meet and submit new map proposals that would be used for the 2024 elections and beyond.

Justice Lynch wrote in his order that “In this Court’s view, the Congressional maps approved by the Court on May 20, 2022, corrected by Decision and Order dated June 2, 2022, are in full force and effect, until redistricting takes place again following the 2030 federal census…In turn, there is no authority for the IRC to issue a second redistricting plan after February 28, 2022, in advance of the federal census in 2030, in the first instance, let alone to mandate such plan be prepared.”

Here is a summary of the timeline of New York’s redistricting after the 2020 census:

  • Jan. 3, 2022 – The IRC deadlocked 5-5 on two different proposed redistricting maps and submitted both proposals to the legislature.
  • Jan. 10 – The New York legislature rejected both proposals, and under the provisions of the state’s 2014 constitutional amendment adopting new redistricting procedures, the IRC had until Jan. 25 to submit a second proposal.
  • Jan. 24 – The IRC announced that it would not submit a new set of proposed maps by the deadlines.
  • Feb. 3 – The state legislature enacted its own congressional and legislative district boundaries.
  • March 31 – In response to a lawsuit, Steuben County Surrogate Court justice Patrick McAllister struck down the enacted congressional and legislative maps and ordered the state legislature to draw new maps.
  • April 27 – The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, upheld McAllister’s ruling overturning the congressional and state Senate maps.
  • May 20 – Justice McAllister ordered the adoption of a new congressional map drawn by a court-appointed special master.

Justice McAllister’s March 31 order said “Part of the problem is these maps were void ab initio for failure to follow the constitutional process of having bipartisan maps presented by the [Independent Redistricting Commission]. The second problem was the Congressional that was presented was determined to be gerrymandered.” McAllister ordered the legislature to pass new maps that “receive bipartisan support among both Democrats and Republicans in both the senate and assembly.” The New York Court of Appeals’ April 27 ruling stated that the maps were enacted in violation of the state’s constitutional redistricting process and found that the congressional plan was drawn with unconstitutional partisan intent.

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Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 23% compared to 2020

There are 23% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 53% more Republican primaries and 8% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 39 states that account for 5,011 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (81%).

A primary is contested when there are more candidates running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update on Aug. 1, we have added post-filing deadline data from Florida and Vermont. Overall, 11 states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 20 have Republican trifectas, and eight have divided governments.

Of the 39 states in this analysis, 36 are holding partisan primaries. Three states—California, Nebraska, and Washington—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in 11 states, decreased in 21, and remains the same in three. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 31 states, decreased in four, and is unchanged in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 3.0% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.

Newcomers will represent at least 32% of Vermont’s state legislative seats next year

Fifty-seven state legislative seats up for election in Vermont this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This represents 32% of the state’s legislature, a marked increase compared to recent election cycles.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers are guaranteed to win all open seats.

Vermont restructured its House and Senate during the state’s redistricting process. Previously, the state had 117 state legislative districts containing 180 seats. After redistricting, there are 125 districts, still containing 180 seats.

While the number of open seats increased this year, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—decreased compared to the 2020 election cycle.

Across all districts, there are 24 contested primaries, representing 10% of all possible primaries.

A contested primary is one where there are more candidates running than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

There are 17 Democratic primaries, a 23% decrease from 2020. Republicans are holding seven contested primaries, the same number as in 2020.

Overall, 276 major party candidates filed to run for the state’s 150 House and 30 Senate seats this year: 174 Democrats and 102 Republicans.

Vermont has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship in 2016. Democrats hold a 91-46 majority in the House, with 12 other seats held by minor party or independent officeholders and one vacancy. The party holds a 21-7 majority in the Senate, with two seats held by minor party officeholders.

Vermont’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 12th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Vermont House of Representatives elections, 2022

Vermont State Senate elections, 2022

4.7% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 156 state legislative incumbents—39 Democrats and 117 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 33 states that have held primaries, 4.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

These totals include data from Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Washington, which held state legislative primaries on Aug. 2. No incumbents have lost, so far, in Arizona, Michigan, and Washington, though races featuring incumbents remain uncalled. For the remaining states:

  • Kansas: one Democrat and three Republicans lost;
  • Ohio: one Democrat and two Republicans lost; and,
  • Missouri: four Democrats and two Republicans lost.

This year, Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 1,901 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 117 (6.2%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 39 of the 1,432 who filed for re-election (2.7%) have lost.

Thirty-four of these 156 incumbent defeats (22%) were guaranteed due to redistricting. When states redraw legislative lines, incumbents can oftentimes end up in a new district with other incumbents leading to incumbent v. incumbent primaries or general elections. Since, in these races, there are more incumbents running than nominations or seats available, at least one incumbent must lose.

Of the 33 states that have held primaries so far, nine have Democratic trifectas, 18 have Republican trifectas, and six have divided governments. Across these 33 states, there are 4,306 seats up for election, 70% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 87 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: 24 Democratic, 33 Republican, and 30 top-two.

You can view more information about state-specific and historic information regarding incumbent defeats by clicking “Learn More” below.

Sean Maloney and Alessandra Biaggi running in New York’s 17th Congressional District Democratic primary

Sean Maloney and Alessandra Biaggi are running in the Democratic Party primary for New York’s 17th Congressional District on Aug. 23, 2022. Mondaire Jones (D) has represented the 17th Congressional District since 2021 but is running in New York’s 10th Congressional District this election cycle.

Maloney has represented New York’s 18th Congressional District since 2013 and has served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2020. Maloney was a candidate for New York’s attorney general in 2018, but lost to Letitia James in the Democratic primary. Maloney also served as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton (D) and first deputy secretary in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) administration. Maloney said he is “focused on getting results for my neighbors in the Hudson Valley – despite gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.”

Biaggi has represented District 34 in the New York State Senate since 2019. Biaggi also served as lead counsel to the NYS Council for Women and Girls, as the deputy national operations director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as the assistant general counsel for the Office of Storm Recovery, and as a legal fellow for New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Biaggi said she is running for Congress “to protect and defend our democracy, to halt the climate crisis, to grow our supply of affordable housing, and to transform our government and economy to serve us all.”

The 17th Congressional District’s boundaries shifted as a result of redistricting. According to data from The New York Times, President Joe Biden (D) received 60% of the vote in the old district, but would have received 55% of the vote in the new district. The New York Times‘ Nicholas Fandos said congressional redistricting in the state “erased outright gains that Democrats had counted on based on the Legislature’s map and made other Democratic swing seats more competitive.”

According to Axios‘ Andrew Solender, “Maloney stoked anger from the left by running in a redrawn district mostly represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a progressive freshman who is now running for an open seat in New York City miles away from his home turf. Biaggi, who had been running in an open district that was similarly upended by redistricting, then opted to run against Maloney.”

Biaggi said Maloney was “a selfish corporate Democrat” and that “having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority” was hurtful to the party. Maloney said, “From my point of view, I’m just running from where I landed. If someone else is looking at the district, as well, obviously we will try to work through that as colleagues and friends.”

As of July 2022, The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rated the district Lean Democratic, while Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rated it Likely Democratic. In the previous election, Jones defeated Maureen McArdle Schulman (R) 59% to 35%.