In other states, such as North Carolina and South Carolina, Republicans appear to have the upper hand for now as redistricting cases move through the legal system.
Republicans hold a slim 222-212 majority in the U.S. House, creating the possibility that upcoming redistricting rulings over the next few months will make a difference nationally.
“A single seat could turn out to be quite important come 2024,” said Doug Spencer, a University of Colorado election law professor who manages the All About Redistricting website. “Georgia has become the center of the political universe.”
Spencer estimated that nationwide, pending redistricting cases could swing partisan control by four to six seats in the House.
“There are a cluster of mostly Southern states that have essentially white, Republican-dominated legislatures that have drawn districts that help Republicans,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s so high-stakes because control of the U.S. House of Representatives could be at issue.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racial discrimination in an Alabama redistricting case this summer, a federal court required the state to add a second district with a Black majority in a state where 27% of the population is Black.
The Alabama Legislature initially defied the court’s order, but a three-judge panel imposed its own map for the 2024 elections. Republicans currently hold six of the state’s seven U.S. House seats.
Georgia’s redistricting ruling last month was the first Voting Rights Act case decided since the law was upheld in Alabama, where courts in both states concluded that politicians had illegally weakened Black voting strength.
“Our case was in many ways the ‘Classic Coke’ case of the Voting Rights Act,” said Rahul Garabadu, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which represented some of the plaintiffs. “We weren’t doing anything that was very different legally than Alabama.”
The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature passed a new congressional map last month with different district boundaries designed to shift at least three seats to their party.
North Carolina’s representation in the U.S. House is currently evenly split between seven Republicans and seven Democrats. Under revised congressional boundaries, Republicans are likely to win at least 10 of the state’s 14 seats.
The redistricting change was made possible by a ruling earlier this year by the North Carolina Supreme Court, which recently flipped to a Republican majority and decided that state legislators could draw districts as they see fit.
Opponents of North Carolina’s districts have promised to challenge them in court based on claims that they dilute Black representation.
A federal appeals court is considering whether Louisiana will be required to create a second majority-Black district before next year’s elections.
Louisiana is currently represented in the House by five Republicans and one Democrat in a state that’s 33% Black.
The Louisiana redistricting dispute is based on the same Voting Rights Act protections that forced court-ordered changes in Alabama and Georgia.
But Louisiana is different because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delayed court proceedings, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. That raises the possibility that the court case won’t be decided in time for the 2024 elections, and Louisiana’s current maps would remain in place.
Several justices on the U.S. Supreme Court were skeptical last month of a lower court’s ruling that South Carolina’s Republican-led Legislature “exiled” Black voters to create a safe GOP district.
Unlike legal challenges in other states such as Georgia, where plaintiffs relied on anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the question in South Carolina is whether voters were unconstitutionally sorted by race.
The Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled in the South Carolina case, where Republicans hold six out of seven seats.
In New York, the courts invalidated Democratic-drawn maps last year that allowed Republicans to pick up three House seats. Overall, Democrats have a 15-11 advantage among New York’s House delegation.
New York Democrats want to redraw congressional lines again, and the case will soon be argued before the state Court of Appeals.
Redistricting cases are also pending in states including Florida, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, but some of them won’t necessarily be decided in time to make changes before next year’s elections.