States are months away from getting the census data they need to draw new political maps, but courts are already filling up with lawsuits challenging the redistricting process.
One of the Democratic Party’s most prominent lawyers quickly filed three suits in states where neither Republicans nor Democrats have full control over the redistricting process, in preparation for court action to resolve potential impasses over new maps. Ohio and Alabama are suing the Census Bureau over its delayed timeline for giving the states what they need to draw maps. New York is even contemplating legal action after the census count showed it missed out on an extra House seat by just 89 people.
Every redistricting cycle brings a torrent of litigation over the country’s political boundaries, which can play an outsized role in determining which party controls the House of Representatives and statehouses around the country. But this year, a confluence of forces — including the census delays, pending federal legislation about redistricting and major Supreme Court rulings earlier in the decade — could transform that steady stream of lawsuits into a downpour. Combined with the compressed timeline for making new maps, the litigation promises to make redistricting a more chaotic and unpredictable affair in 2021 and 2022.
“We will see a lot of lawsuits,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director at the good government group Common Cause, chuckling at a question about how much litigation there will be this redistricting cycle. Redistricting, she said, “is always a breeding ground for people who are discontent with the results.”