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In a Tight Battle for the House, the Congressional Map Is Largely Settled

With just over eight months until Election Day, the shifting sands of the redistricting battles have largely settled, with congressional districts now mostly set for what will be a very tightly contested battle for control of the House of Representatives.

In what both parties say is likely to be the final court case before November, Democrats were dealt a setback in South Carolina on Thursday, with the state now set to hold elections under maps that Democrats argue are unfair and will tilt the South Carolina delegation toward Republicans.

While states are required to redraw their legislative and congressional maps only once every 10 years, the battles over redistricting have become a constant churn in the political arena recently, with frequent lawsuits and appeals challenging maps eroding any sense of permanence. According to a memo released by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, more than 40 congressional districts “look notably different this year than last cycle.”

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And while some Republican-drawn maps have been thrown out, the redistricting battles fought over the past two years will most likely end in a draw or a slight Republican advantage, although both parties are claiming victory in the effort to realign congressional districts to their advantage.

Democrats won perhaps the biggest victory with a Supreme Court ruling that Alabama had violated the Voting Rights Act and diluted the power of Black voters in its congressional maps, forcing the state to add a second district with a majority of Black voters. That district is likely to favor Democrats.

After the Supreme Court decision, other states in the South, including Louisiana and Georgia, were forced to reconsider their congressional maps. Louisiana added a second majority-minority district that is also likely to be a Democratic pickup in the South, but new maps in Georgia will probably maintain the partisan split in the state’s delegation.

“The maps for 2024, from a partisan perspective, are ostensibly the same,” said John Bisognano, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the main Democratic organization focused on the issue. “And where the big deviation or change is from 2022 is that the maps are more representative of their communities, most notably in the South — in Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama.”

A partisan gerrymander that is likely to give Republicans an additional three favorable districts in North Carolina survived challenges in the state’s Supreme Court, locking in maps that will likely change the key battleground state’s delegation. And a federal court ruling Thursday found that South Carolina did not have enough time to draw a new congressional district before November’s election, leaving in place a map for 2024 that the court had previously deemed illegal.

Although there have been many new districts drawn or defended in the past two years, Republicans view the overall tilt of the congressional map as very similar to that of the 2022 midterms.

“There’s one more Trump seat in the map than there was in ’22; the median district moved just a little bit toward Republicans overall,” said Adam Kincaid, the executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “So I think it’s a slightly more favorable map to Republicans than the one we had in ’22. But it’s similar.”

Last-minute court decisions in Florida and Utah could still come before the 2024 election and in time for maps to be adjusted. But Democrats and Republicans are approaching the current map as largely settled, at least for now.

Litigation that is likely to be decided after the 2024 election continues in multiple states, including Texas and South Carolina.

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