Republicans solidify grip on state legislatures, which is likely to lead to redistricting and gerrymandering efforts in 2021

How gerrymandering works
How gerrymandering works
Key Points
  • Republicans gained two new state trifectas after winning majorities in the New Hampshire House and Senate and the Montana governorship.
  • Democrats are still hopeful they will flip the Arizona state House and Senate.

Republicans were able to fend off challenges from Democrats trying to flip control of state legislatures in key states. That means that in 2021, Republicans will control a majority of redistricting efforts across the country.

Democrats have been unable to flip even a single state legislative chamber as of Friday afternoon, but they remain hopeful that one or both of Arizona's legislative chambers will flip. Vote counts are still underway in the Grand Canyon state. 

Meanwhile, Republicans gained two new state trifectas in New Hampshire and Montana, after the GOP ran up majorities in the New Hampshire House and Senate and flipped the Montana governorship. A state trifecta is when a single party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governorship. 

"Democrats wasted more than a half of a billion dollars on a pathetic attempt to flip even a single state legislative chamber," said RSLC deputy executive director David Abrams to CNBC in an email. "We had better candidates, better messages, and better data – and saved the country from a decade of socialist majorities in Congress. We feel pretty good about that."

Democrats targeted 13 states and Republicans targeted 12 states, including Florida, Texas and North Carolina. A lot of money was involved in those races. State legislative candidates raised over $900 million dollars in 2020 alone. 

The Republican State Leadership Committee(RSLC) said it raised $23 million in the third quarter of 2020, while the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee(DLCC) announced it had raised over $50 million dollars for the cycle for their efforts.

Democrats did not concede defeat. "We forced the Republicans to play defense and spend record amounts defending their own maps — and they merely maintained their status quo," said national press secretary for the DLCC, Christina Polizzi, in an email.

"Our wins over the last five years have already changed redistricting outcomes. We flipped chambers in Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. We broke the supermajorities in Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. We flipped governorships in Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin and protected legislative veto powers in Louisiana and Wisconsin." 

The total population results of the decennial Census determines how many Congressional seats each state will have. States lose and gain seats after every Census and there will be litigation on the Census before we see redistricting court battles like we saw in 2019.

"Redistricting always has litigation, period," said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "There's always something to argue about. And some states have more of it than others. But there's always something... I think that some stuff around the census will have to be sort of settled before we'll see what kinds of cases are related to the redistricting that follows. But right now, all eyes are on the Census."

After the 2010 Census and reapportionment process, 32 states kept the same number of U.S. House seats, while 8 states gained seats, 10 states lost seats.

In 2010, Republicans made huge gains in state legislatures and consequently redrew the maps. One study showed that about 16-17 Republican congressional seats won in the 2016 election are attributed to the way the electoral maps were drawn.  

State legislatures control redistricting for congressional districts in 31 states and state legislative districts in 30, according to NYU's Brennan Center for Justice

Watch the video to see how redistricting and Gerrymandering works.