by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A key factor in who wins the House majority, how lines are drawn for the bulk of its 435 districts, may not be clear until later this year. And that’s adding an element of chaos to the 2022 election cycle.
It’s not even clear at this point how many House seats each state will have in the 435-member chamber. That’s because the U.S. Census Bureau in February announced that processing of data needed to allocate House seats, based on population, would be pushed back from March 31 until Sept. 30. COVID-19 is largely to blame for the delays, as census-takers couldn’t as easily as in previous years knock on doors and count the U.S. population, as mandated by the Constitution every 10 years.
That’s putting a lot of politics on hold amid an already pitched battle for control of the House, where Democrats have 221 seats, compared to Republicans’ 211. Three seats are vacant in the House, where 218 makes for a majority.
Yet when it comes to the power centers where congressional seats are drawn, state legislatures, Republicans hold the bulk of power, including full control of redistricting in states expected to pick up House seats ahead of the 2022 elections, such as Florida, North Carolina, and Texas.
Some states use independent commissions or have other methods to redraw House seats.
Still, partisan redistricting could be enough to topple the Democratic majority in the House, says Adam Podowitz-Thomas, senior legal strategist at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
“That does not necessarily mean we definitely think it’s going to happen,” Podowitz-Thomas told the Washington Examiner. “But they are in control of enough new seats where it is very feasible for them to flip the House just via that mechanism.”