How Courts Are Reshaping 2024 Congressional Races

How Courts Are Reshaping 2024 Congressional Races
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Public domain, Shutterstock)
January 28, 2024
January 30, 2024

Which party rules the House of Representatives beginning in 2025 could be as much a function of judges issuing rulings as voters making choices between rival candidates.

Since 2022’s midterms, court rulings in Louisiana, Alabama, New York, and potentially Wisconsin, have or will have redrawn congressional maps that could imperil reelection odds for as many as nine Republican incumbents in the coming election cycle.

Those court-imposed revamps are countered by a North Carolina decision upholding maps benefitting Republicans in up to four of the state’s 14 congressional districts. Courts have also decided Republican-drawn maps in Georgia, Florida, and Texas will stand for 2024 elections.

Rulings in federal court challenges in Louisiana and Alabama determined state lawmakers violated Section 2 of the Voters Rights Act in not creating a second majority-black congressional district in their states. Section 2 states, in part, “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act.”

The Louisiana Legislature during a Jan. 15 special session adjusted CD 6 to stretch diagonally southeast from Shreveport in the northwest to Baton Rouge in south-central Louisiana.

Newly-seated Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed it into law on Jan. 22.

As a result, the state’s six-member U.S. House delegation will likely go from 5–1 Republican to 4–2 Republican after the 2024 election. CD 6 joins New Orleans-based CD 2 as Louisiana two majority-black, Democratic-leaning seats: President Joe Biden would have carried the new CD 6 by 20 percentage points in

2020; CD 2 would have gone to Mr. Biden by 36 percent.

CD 6 is now held by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who supported one of Mr. Landry’s GOP opponents in Louisiana’s gubernatorial election and did not publicly back House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) speakership bid, retaining a strong alliance with the deposed speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) attends an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington on May 26, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Therefore, it’s not surprising he’s the House incumbent that Louisiana Republicans have essentially voted off the island. But Mr. Graves, a five-term incumbent, plans to seek reelection and win in the recast CD 6 in 2024.

The new redistricting map adopted by lawmakers in January is likely to be appealed, although it’s near certain it will be what Louisiana voters see on their November ballots.

Alabama Changes

In Alabama, a lower federal court in October selected a “remedial” congressional map the state will use for the 2024 election, which creates a second black-majority congressional district that President Biden would have won in 2020 by 12 percentage points.

As a result, the new map is likely to result in the election of a second Democrat from Alabama. The GOP dominates the state’s current House contingent, 6 to 1.

The court had rejected congressional maps Alabama used in 2022, which had one majority-black, heavily Democratic seat and six majority-white and solidly Republican seats, under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Alabama appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the state in June 2023. A lower court struck down the first redrawn lines presented by the state legislature and ordered a special master to draw remedial map options.

The redrawn maps could foster incumbent-versus-incumbent Republican primaries between Reps. Jerry Carl (of current CD 1) and Barry Moore (current CD 2) in CD 1.

(Left) Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) in Washington on June 21, 2022. (Right) Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.) during a hearing in Washington on March 29, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images, Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

A Bluer New York

On Dec. 12, 2023, the New York Court of Appeals in a 4–3 ruling tossed out the 2022 Congressional map that saw Republicans chip Democrats’ 19–8 House bulge down to a 15–11 advantage.

The court ordered the Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw New York’s 26-district congressional map and present it to state lawmakers no later than Feb. 28.

The revamped map is likely to change the dynamics benefitting Democrat challengers in one or more of the New York Congressional seats won in 2022 by five Republican freshmen in “crossover” districts that President Biden carried in 2020.

Those five House seats don’t include the Long Island district formerly held by resigned Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.). His now-vacant CD 6 seat is on the line in a Feb. 13 special election that Democrats believe they can win.

The revamped map could alter three key Hudson Valley congressional districts already rated as “tossups” in 2024: CD 18, held by Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.); CD 19 represented by Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), who flipped a blue seat red by 1.5 percent in 2022; and CD 17, won by Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), who upset House Democrats’ campaign committee chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) in 2022 by 1,820 votes, less than 1 percent.

(Left) Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) in Washington on Nov. 14, 2022. (Center) Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) in New Windsor, N.Y., on Nov. 2, 2022. (Right) Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) in Washington on Oct. 23, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Democrats want CD 17 back. While Mr. Lawler does not face a primary challenger, former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and Katonah-Lewisboro School Board member Liz Gereghty, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sister, are among Democrats seeking to take him on in November.

Democrats are also expected to go all-in for CD 11—where the only Republican representing New York City in Congress, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) faces a stiff reelection challenge, especially if the district is extended into more liberal Brooklyn.

A Redder North Carolina

In November, North Carolina lawmakers adopted a redrawn congressional map that creates 10 reliably Republican seats, three reliably Democratic seats, and one competitive seat. Right now, the state’s U.S. House delegation consists of seven Republicans and seven Democrats.

Democrat Reps. Kathy Manning, Wiley Nickel, and Jeff Jackson now hold seats in the now predominantly red districts. Ms. Manning and Mr. Nickel are retiring rather than seeking reelection.

(Left) Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) in Washington on Jan. 27, 2023. (Center) Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) in Washington on March 8, 2023. (Right) Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) in his official photo. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Ike Hayman, Public domain)

Rep. Don Davis (D-N.C.) also faces a competitive challenge in CD 1.

This map is near-certain to face further litigation but as the U.S. Supreme Court and North Carolina Supreme Court have ruled, it will only consider “racial” gerrymandering claims, not “partisan” gerrymandering claims.

Wisconsin on Tap

Pending litigation could result in rulings benefitting Democrats in Wisconsin before the November 2024 election.

In December, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the state’s legislative maps, which give Republicans a 6–2 Congressional seat advantage despite the state having more registered Democrats, are unconstitutional and ordered them redrawn.

On Jan. 16, a Democratic-aligned law firm filed a lawsuit against the congressional map, arguing it was drawn under a 2021 court-imposed “least-change” mandate that is no longer binding. The suit seeks to have new districts in place for the 2024 election.

Democrats say a “more proportional map” could allow them to up two more seats in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court listens to arguments during a redistricting hearing at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 21, 2023. (Ruthie Hauge/The Capital Times via AP, Pool, File)

Georgia Likely

In late December 2023, a judge approved a new congressional map passed by Georgia lawmakers that will go into effect for the 2024 election, although Democrats may still challenge it in court.

The new map creates a new majority-black district, the 6th, in west Atlanta suburbs but “dilutes” a majority-minority district, the 7th, east of the city, essentially retaining nine Republican-leaning seats and five Democratic-leaning seats.

Democrats insist the old 7th District, where the voting-age demographic was 33 percent white, 30 percent black, and 21 percent Hispanic, is protected under the Voting Rights Act.

The district is currently held by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), who Democrats say will almost certainly lose reelection in the newly drawn CD 7.

Florida Upheld

In early December, a Florida appeals court reversed a lower court’s ruling that the state’s congressional lines were unconstitutional, reinstating the redistricted lines pushed through by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers a campaign speech in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 7, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

That map eliminated a predominantly black district in north Florida despite the Florida Constitution’s prohibition on diminishing the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of their choice.

An appeal is expected to be heard before the Florida Supreme Court in 2024.

Texas Holds

Of the 87 lawsuits filed nationwide over post-2020 Census congressional and legislative redistricting plans, this case in Texas has dragged on the longest and remains in “discovery” limbo without a trial date set.

Texas’s 38-district congressional map, which Republicans dominate by a 25–13 count, faces legal challenges in state and federal courts.

The federal cases have been consolidated into a Section 2 violation of the Voting Rights Act in claiming the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature diluted Latino voter strength across the state and should have more seats in districts with a majority Latino citizen voting-age population.

Another lawsuit alleges Republican lawmakers intentionally weakened Latino voting strength in Texas CD 15, which the GOP flipped in the 2022 midterms.

The cases, even if they advance, are unlikely to result in any major changes before the 2024 elections.

The filing deadline for Texas congressional primaries was Dec. 11, 2023.