When the US Supreme Court made a correct but surprising ruling striking down racial gerrymandering, it meant that Black voters in southern states were going to get more fair representation in Congress. It also indirectly meant that the Democratic Party was going to gain some seats, thanks to new majority-Black districts that were highly likely to elect Democrats. Now we’re seeing that ruling play out in real world terms.
After the ruling, Alabama Republicans tried drawing a map that was slightly less gerrymandered but still highly gerrymandered. Once the courts stopped laughing, the courts drew their own map for Alabama. And because no one ever gets to magically defy the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama Republicans then gave up and swallowed the fair map for 2024 that had been drawn for them. Accordingly, the Democrats have picked up a 2024 House seat in Alabama.
Today the federal courts also struck down Georgia’s racially gerrymandered map, ordering that it be redrawn to include an additional majority-Black district. So now we’re going to see the same process play out in Georgia that played out in Alabama. Georgia Republicans can complain all they want, and submit all the non-compliant maps they want, but at the end of the day the courts will force a fair map on Georgia for 2024. And the Democrats will pick up another House seat accordingly. The same will likely happen in Louisiana, as that court battle plays out.
On the other side of that, North Carolina Republicans just proposed a 2024 map that’s cartoonishly over the top in terms of racial gerrymandering, and would remove three Democrats from the House. There has been a lot of doomsday hype about this, because most observers think this map is a done deal. But in reality, North Carolina Republicans are simply trying to start with something so over the top that perhaps they’ll still have a slightly favorable map by the time the federal courts end up cracking down on it.
We don’t know precisely what the outcome will be as far as the 2024 North Carolina map. But it’s important to understand that the US Supreme Court ruling already came down months ago and isn’t going to change. For whatever reason, the US Supreme Court has decided that gerrymandering in general is okay, but racial gerrymandering is not. So that’s what the 2024 maps will end up looking like.
No state legislature can just magically defy a US Supreme Court ruling. State legislatures in places like Ohio have managed to defy rulings from their own state supreme courts, but that’s an entirely different thing.
We’ve already seen Alabama Republicans being forced to fold and abide by a fair 2024 map. Now we’re seeing Georgia Republicans in the process of being forced to do the same. North Carolina will likely play out in similar fashion. There’s no such thing as “running out the clock” in this instance. If there were, we’d have seen Alabama Republicans run out the clock. But it’s simply not a thing.
It’s important to understand that even with the Democrats gaining seats in newly drawn districts in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, and even with the doomsday hysteria over North Carolina not being based in reality, the 2024 House majority is still going to be a close call. It’s going to come down to whether we all decide to put in the work to make sure the Democrats win the competitive toss-up races, which always come down to a point or two in either direction. So let’s take the win with these court rulings, and go out and score ourselves a real win in terms of the House majority.
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