The New York Times: The Morning Newsletter

Gerrymandering, the full story.

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Good morning. A Times analysis finds that the House of Representative has its fairest map in 40 years, despite recent gerrymandering.

Congressional gerrymandering is a smaller problem than it has been for much of the recent past.Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Democrats have a shot

If you asked Americans to describe the ways that political power has become disconnected from public opinion, many would put the gerrymandering of congressional districts near the top of the list. State lawmakers from both parties have drawn the lines of House districts in ways meant to maximize the number that their own party will win, and Republicans in some states have been especially aggressive, going so far as to ignore court orders.

Yet House gerrymandering turns out to give Republicans a smaller advantage today than is commonly assumed. The current map is only slightly tilted toward Republicans, and both parties have a legitimate chance to win House control in the coming midterm elections.

My colleague Nate Cohn, The Times’s chief political analyst, explains this situation in the latest version of his newsletter. “In reality, Republicans do have a structural edge in the House, but it isn’t anything near insurmountable for the Democrats,” Nate writes. “By some measures, this is the fairest House map of the last 40 years.”

Sources: POLIDATA; Daily Kos Elections; Voting and Election Science Team; PlanScore

Of the House’s 435 districts, 220 now appear to have a natural Republican lean, compared with 215 with a Democratic lean. To be clear, that three-seat margin (because Democrats must flip three Republican-leaning seats to win control) is still meaningful, especially in an election shaping up to be as close as this one.

There are two apparent causes. First, Republicans really have been more aggressive than Democrats nationwide. As the political analyst David Wasserman recently wrote for NBC News:

Thanks to reforms passed by voters, many heavily blue states employed bipartisan redistricting commissions that produced neutral or only marginally Democratic-leaning political maps — including in California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington. And state courts in Maryland and New York struck down Democratic legislatures’ attempted gerrymanders.

By contrast, Republicans were able to manipulate congressional maps in their favor in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, among others, and the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court blocked lower court orders to draw new Black majority districts in Alabama and Louisiana. In Florida alone, Gov. Ron DeSantis overpowered his own Legislature to pass a map that adds an additional four G.O.P. seats.

The second cause is one that Jonathan Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford University, has explained in his book, “Why Cities Lose.” Many Democratic voters live packed tightly together in cities. As a result, even Democratic state officials often struggle to avoid drawing districts where Democratic House candidates win landslide victories, effectively wasting votes.

In 2020, only 21 Republican House candidates won their elections by at least 50 percentage points. Forty-seven Democrats did.

226 to 209

If anything, these two factors would seem to give the Republican Party a larger advantage in the House than it actually has. Why don’t they? Courts have managed to halt some Republican attempts at gerrymandering, including in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. And Democrats have enacted their own gerrymanders in Illinois, New Mexico and Oregon.

Recent shifts in the vote — connected to Donald Trump — have also shrunk what once was the Republicans’ advantage in the House map. Rural areas that were already conservative became even more so, leading to bigger Republican margins in some House races without adding any new seats for the party. At the same time, college-educated voters in the suburbs swung toward the Democrats, helping the party flip some districts.

To demonstrate his conclusion, Nate mapped the 2020 presidential vote onto the 2022 House map, created after the recent census. When he did, he found that 226 of the current districts voted for Joe Biden in 2020, and only 209 voted for Trump.

That finding doesn’t mean Democrats are favored to hold the House, because Biden won the popular vote by 4.5 percentage points — a better showing than seems likely for Democrats this year. Recent polls have suggested roughly a dead heat between the two parties in the national popular vote. But Democrats do seem to have a legitimate chance to retain the House. (Nate will be laying out that case in his newsletter next week; Times subscribers can sign up to receive it.)

Gerrymandering is a real problem for American democracy, especially in the drawing of state legislature districts, as The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently documented. Some states, like North Carolina, are also likely to redraw their congressional maps even before 2030, especially if a coming Supreme Court case restricts the authority of state courts. Still, if you were going to rank the biggest current threats to American democracy, gerrymandering would not be at the top of the list.

The movement inside the Republican Party to refuse to accept defeat in an election would be No. 1. After that, in some order, would be the outsize and growing influence that the Senate gives to residents of small states; the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College; the lack of congressional representation for residents of Washington, D.C., and of Puerto Rico, many of whom are Black or Latino; and the existence of an ambitious Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court even though Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections.

By contrast, congressional gerrymandering today is a smaller problem than it has been for much of the recent past.

Related: Early voting has begun in eight states, including Michigan and New Jersey.


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Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run of the season 95 years ago today, setting a record that would stand until 1961.

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Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at


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