Group Warns 35 States at High Risk of 'Rigged' District Maps An envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident. On Wednesday, March 24, 2021, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Ohio that tried to get the U.S. Census Bureau to provide data used for drawing congressional and legislative districts ahead of its planned release. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 05 April 2021 01:32 PM
More than half the U.S. states have a high threat of their election district maps being "rigged" for one party through the next 10 years, according to analysis released Monday from the nonpartisan election reform group RepresentUs.
The report rates each state based on risk of rigged maps, and found that "35 states have an extreme or high threat of gerrymandering."
"That's 70% of the nation, containing more than 188 million Americans, bridging the political spectrum," the report said. "Across the country, map-drawing laws create a serious risk of rigged maps. By failing to constrain partisan politicians, dozens of states have kneecapped fair representation.
"The states with the worst systems cross every spectrum imaginable. This analysis finds serious risk in blue states, red states, and swing states; in states in the South, Northeast, Midwest, and West.”
Only seven states were rated as having "minimal" risk. They were Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, and Washington.
The group noted "to create a comprehensive risk rating, the report gives the most weight to issues of process and authority… because the single greatest threat to fair maps is a system that allows a political faction to create the maps by itself, locking in its own advantage.
"With lesser weight, the analysis factors in the legal standards and transparency components," it continued. "Strong map requirements can limit the worst partisan abuses by making them illegal. And while popular input may not be enough to stop a rigged map, public pressure can make passing and defending it harder — and more politically risky.
"Finally, with the lowest weight, the risk rating adds in the question of legal recourse. The lack of a clear legal challenge procedure can make it hard to put bad maps in front of a judge.”
Jack Noland, the project's lead researcher, told Axios that "at the end of a 10-year [redistricting] cycle, the state can look very different than it did before. That is all the more reason that we need fairer lines from the beginning, to sort of withstand those changes."
He added, "I think we have a good sense of where there is a prior history of gerrymandering in this country. But what we hadn't seen is an analysis of the laws on the books in these places."
The report noted the For the People Act of 2021, which passed the House last month, grants Congress "the remarkable opportunity to effectively end gerrymandering at the federal level."
It added, "In one fell swoop, Congress could put voters first and pull the map-drawing process away from partisan gamesmanship and back-room deals — on both sides of the aisle. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, and a chance our United States can't miss. The threat of rigged maps is too great to ignore.”