Disputes about the outlines of congressional districts are as old as the nation itself. The term “gerrymandering” comes from an editorial cartoon deriding Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry’s effort to deny Federalists seats in the state Senate in 1812 — critics said one district his Democratic-Republican Party allies drew looked like Gerry’s salamander, a gerrymander.
The first true instance of using district lines to gain power at the hands of a rival had happened 23 years earlier, in Virginia. That year, Patrick Henry, who effectively ran the House of Delegates, drew a district he hoped would lead to James Madison’s defeat at the hands of a young upstart Revolutionary War hero named James Monroe. (It didn’t work; Madison beat Monroe in the only U.S. House race ever to feature two future American presidents)
For most of American history, though, the redistricting process has been less prone to controversy. Gerrymanders still existed, to be sure — John Burton, the legendary late congressman who wielded so much power over California’s politics in the 1980s and 1990s, once described his own creative mapmaking as his “contribution to modern art” — but it wasn’t front and center in political coverage.
Today, after a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, redistricting is earning much more attention. The high court earlier this year ruled that Alabama had to redraw district lines to add a new Black-majority district. Lawsuits in Louisiana, Florida and Georgia are challenging district lines on the same premise; a federal judge this week ordered Georgia to redraw its lines in the Metro Atlanta area. North Carolina legislators just redrew their maps to give Republicans an edge. And we could still see new court orders and new maps in states like Texas and New York.
The legal landscape is unclear for the time being. What is clear is that the decennial redistricting process isn’t limited to once a decade any more.
Here are seven things you might have missed in the states this week:
SOCIAL MEDIA: A bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general sued Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, in the Northern District of California for alleged harms to minors after a two-year investigation. Attorneys general from eight other states and the District of Columbia will file separate but related lawsuits against the company. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) compared the litigation to prior lawsuits against the opioid industry and Big Tobacco. (Pluribus News)
ABORTION: Sixty-seven cities and five counties have approved new ordinances banning abortion in the year-and-a-half since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A Texas-based advocacy group, Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, has worked with local lawmakers to restrict abortion access. (Pluribus News)
IMMIGRATION: The Texas House has approved legislation making it a Class B misdemeanor for anyone to enter the state over the border with Mexico illegally. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to jail those who enter the state illegally for up to six months. (KXAN)
Massachusetts leaders are begging the Biden administration to send federal aid to help them deal with overwhelmed migrant shelters. About a quarter of Massachusetts cities and towns are hosting more than 7,000 families in emergency shelter systems, and another 3,300 families are in hotels and motels. (MassLive) New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) extended an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the migrant crisis. The extension, which allows the state to deliver resources to local governments, now runs through Nov. 21. (State of Politics)
EDUCATION: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and the Texas House are at an impasse over school vouchers. A coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans continue to oppose allowing families to use taxpayer money to send children to private schools. Abbott called a House compromise “insufficient.” (Texas Tribune)
LABOR: The United Auto Workers has reached a tentative agreement with Ford to end a 41-day strike. The deal includes an 11% wage hike in the first year and a 25% pay raise over the four-year deal, plus a $5,000 bonus and cost of living adjustments, along with pension and retirement benefits. (Detroit Free Press) Stellantis and General Motors were working toward similar deals with UAW as of Friday afternoon. (Detroit News)
ENERGY: The Michigan Senate has approved legislation requiring utilities to move to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040. The bills, which passed along party lines, now head to the state House. (Detroit Free Press)
Read our story from earlier this week on Michigan’s move to renewable energy.
POLITICS: North Carolina’s General Assembly gave final approval to new U.S. House district maps that will give Republicans an advantage in 10 of 14 districts next year, and a good shot at winning an 11th district. Republicans and Democrats each hold seven of North Carolina’s U.S. House seats today. (Associated Press) Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R) ended his bid for governor and said he would run for one of the newly drawn seats. (Raleigh News & Observer, Associated Press) U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson (D) will run for attorney general, after the legislature redrew his district to favor a Republican candidate. (Raleigh News & Observer)
Supporters of Ohio’s proposed constitutional right to an abortion raised almost $29 million in the month since Sept. 8, according to new campaign finance disclosures, almost three times the $10 million opponents raised in the same period. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Associated Press)
Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher (R) has repaid more than $3,300 in taxpayer money he inappropriately received as reimbursements for travel. Plocher received reimbursements from the state even though he paid for some trips and expenses out of his campaign fund, rather than his own pocket. (Kansas City Star)