The people we elect to state House and Senate have the power to make or break our democracy. State legislatures decide who can vote as well as how and when voters cast their ballots—and in many states, legislators oversee the once-a-decade process of drawing electoral district lines. The next round of redistricting begins in 2021 after the completion of the Census. Together with Swing Left, we’re targeting 10 states where fair maps and fair elections are at stake.
After Democrats made gains up and down the ballot in November, Arizona’s GOP-led legislature quickly passed new voting restrictions during its 2019 legislative session. Lawmakers—taking note that early voter turnout in the 2018 midterms exceeded total voter turnout in the 2014 midterms—have now made it harder for voters to cast an early ballot.
Florida’s GOP-led legislature is no stranger to partisan gerrymandering. In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw both the congressional and state Senate district maps. Additionally, GOP lawmakers have undermined democracy by passing a bill that requires formerly incarcerated individuals to pay any outstanding court fees before registering to vote.
Not only does Georgia have a strict voter ID law and a governor with an ugly voter suppression record, the state has also been subject to mid-cycle GOP-led gerrymandering. Between 2011 and 2017, lawmakers redrew the state’s legislative maps twice—and along racial lines both times—in order to preserve a GOP majority.
Iowa’s redistricting process is unique. While nonpartisan legislative staff have drawn the state’s voting maps since 1980, the Iowa General Assembly has final approval. Maps can only be rejected and redrawn twice before the Iowa Supreme Court takes over to draw the final map. Without protections against partisan gerrymandering in Iowa’s state constitution, this process will make or break fair maps in 2021.
Michiganders approved independent redistricting with 61% of the statewide vote in 2018. Less than a year later, the GOP filed a lawsuit against the commission, faulting its nonpartisan status as a violation of the GOP’s freedom of association rights. These commissions are one of voters’ last defenses against unfair maps since the Supreme Court declined to establish a standard for partisan gerrymandering in 2019.
A federal court ruled in 2018 that all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. For proof, look no further than the 2018 midterms: the GOP picked up 9 of 13 U.S. House seats with only 50% of the statewide vote. North Carolina is also notorious for voter suppression; unfortunately, voters backed a GOP-backed voter ID ballot measure in the midterms.
Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed a redistricting reform ballot measure in 2018. Unfortunately, gerrymandered maps can still exist under the new plan: they’ll only be in place for four years rather than 10. In the meantime, a federal court recently found Ohio’s congressional districts to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the GOP and ordered new maps to be drawn.
Until 2018, Pennsylvania’s congressional district map was one of the worst instances of partisan gerrymandering in the nation. Last year, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court struck down the map and drew a new one ahead of the midterms; however, that map is temporary and will be redrawn in 2021.
For years, Texas’s GOP-controlled legislature has been among the most aggressive in violating the Voting Rights Act. As a result, Texas is the fifth hardest state to vote in. The Texas GOP has also racially gerrymandered the state’s district map to dilute the influence of black and Hispanic voters.
Since 2010, the Wisconsin GOP has used anti-democratic tactics, such as gerrymandering and a strict voter ID law, to gain unchecked power in the General Assembly. After the 2018 midterms, GOP lawmakers led a lame-duck power grab to limit the power of then-incoming Democratic Governor, Tony Evers. In 2019, Wisconsin's conservative-leaning Supreme Court allowed the lame-duck laws to stand.