How states gaining seats will draw their new House maps

GOP controls several states gaining seats, but some could be battlegrounds

From left, Texas freshmen Troy Nehls, Tony Gonzales, Ronny Jackson, Beth Van Duyne, Pat Fallon and August Pfluger pose on the House steps in January. The Texas delegation will gain two new members in 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
From left, Texas freshmen Troy Nehls, Tony Gonzales, Ronny Jackson, Beth Van Duyne, Pat Fallon and August Pfluger pose on the House steps in January. The Texas delegation will gain two new members in 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 29, 2021 at 2:09pm

Six states in the South and Mountain West will pick up additional House seats, and influence in the chamber, thanks to the 2020 census. 

But with new congressional lines not expected until later this year and potential legal challenges ahead, it’s difficult to predict how big a role these shifting seats will play in the fight for control of the House after the 2022 midterm elections. 

Texas will pick up two additional House members, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will send one additional member each to the 118th Congress in 2023. 

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Republicans will control the redistricting process in both the Lone Star and Sunshine states, which have gone for the GOP in recent presidential elections. The pockets of population growth are expected to be concentrated around urban corridors, so even there, some uncertainty remains — though any serious realignment may be years down the road. 

“In terms of power and representation, the gains of two seats in Texas and another in Florida does not mean that in Republican-leaning states, the GOP will increase their share of congressional seats at the expense of Democrats,” said Jaime Dominguez, an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University. “The reason for this is that an increasing number of younger, more educated and more mobile people are moving to those places, and they tend to be more progressive in their politics.”

On the flip side, states that lean much more Democratic, such as Colorado and Oregon, have bipartisan methods in place to redraw their district lines, so those additional seats are not sure bets for the party.  

[How states losing House seats decide which districts are cut]

Some of the six states, such as North Carolina and Colorado, will host high-profile and expensive Senate contests in 2022, which could also affect who shows up to vote — and how they vote — in the new districts. 

Here’s our initial look at the dynamics shaping up in each of the states, from how they’ll draw their district lines to their population shifts. 

Colorado

Much of Colorado’s shift from purple state to blue state comes from the growth along the Interstate 25 corridor from Fort Collins in the north, and then south to Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Joe Biden won the state handily in 2020, defeating President Donald Trump 55 percent to 42 percent.

Democrats control the state legislature, but a bipartisan commission (stocked with not just Republicans and Democrats but also unaffiliated voters) is tasked with mapping out Colorado’s eight districts for 2022. It’s a new system that political operatives say may produce competitive races, perhaps giving places such as Douglas County, a GOP-leaning suburban enclave south of Denver, additional sway.

“We’re probably going to end up with something that’s really swingy,” said Val Nosler Beck, a Colorado Democrat who previously worked for Sen. John Hickenlooper, and now runs her own firm Upstream Consulting. “If that’s what we end up with, then the independent commission worked.”

Florida 

Republicans will control the redistricting process in the Sunshine State, which liberal and voting rights groups have said could lead to gerrymandered districts favoring the GOP. Michael C. Li, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said in a new report that states such as Florida (and Texas) “almost certainly will see another round of aggressive map drawing at the expense of communities of color,” which frequently vote heavily in favor of Democrats. 

Trump, who now resides in Florida, won the state in 2020, capturing 51 percent of the vote to Biden’s 48 percent and tripling his 1-point win there four years earlier.

Montana  

The Treasure State was an electoral flop for Democratic congressional candidates in 2020, and voters there backed Trump over Biden, 57 percent to 41 percent. When Montana gets its second seat — which it lost after 1992 — at least one is almost certain to be in the solid GOP category. But Democrats have reasons not to entirely write off the second seat: An independent commission, appointed mostly by state lawmakers, will draw up the boundaries. If it carves out an east-west configuration with Missoula and Bozeman together, that could be good news for Democrats, though it may still be a long shot.

North Carolina  

The Tar Heel State’s fastest-growing areas include the more Democratic-leaning Research Triangle in the Raleigh–Durham area, but Republicans, who control the state legislature, will draw the district lines. And, in the past, they have worked to balance out urban areas with more GOP-friendly turf — to the extent that courts have mandated redrawn lines. 

“North Carolina has been ground zero for gerrymandering for the past few years,” Democratic state Rep. Wesley Harris said, adding that he expects legal challenges to whatever his GOP colleagues come up with for the 14 congressional districts. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s an open, fair, transparent process,” he said.

Oregon 

Democrats control the state legislature in a state that went for Biden over Trump, 57 percent to 41 percent. But Democrats and Republicans will jointly carve up the state into six districts. Currently, Democrats hold four of the state’s five seats. The new district may well turn out to be a competitive seat.

Texas 

The Lone Star State stayed true to its reputation that everything’s bigger there by nabbing the most new seats of any state, with two. Republicans are in charge of creating what will be 38 districts in a state where Democrats had high hopes for 2020 but lost all their targeted House races and never came as close as polls hinted they might in the Senate and presidential contests. Trump won the state by 52 percent to Biden’s 47 percent. Currently, there are 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, and some are already heading for the exits next year, including Democrat Filemon Vela and Republican Kevin Brady

Alvin Tillery, a professor at Northwestern University, said the population shift in Texas creates a “dilemma for Democrats,” at least in the short term, because their voters are heavily concentrated in gerrymandered seats that “dilute power for Democrats.” 

“What I will say is that over time, the purpling of Texas is not going to be good for the Republican Party there, and I think elections statewide will get closer,” Tillery added. 

Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.