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Wake Up To Politics - August 12, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: The data dump that could decide control of Congress
Wake Up To Politics - August 12, 2021

Good morning! It’s Thursday, August 12, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 453 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,181 days away.

Happening today: A data dump that could decide control of Congress

The U.S. Census Bureau will release the data used to redraw congressional districts today, marking an official start to the decennial redistricting process.

While the agency released topline results in April showing which states will gain and lose congressional seats next year, the more granular data being released today will show how population shifted among counties, cities, and neighborhoods in last year’s census. The data will also show whether the census undercounted people of color in certain places, providing racial data that will be used in the redistricting process.

States will use the new population data to redraw their 429 congressional districts (six states only have one at-large district) and 7,383 state legislative districts in order to ensure the districts still have roughly equal numbers of people in them.

This process should have gotten underway months ago, but Covid-induced delays pushed back the data release, giving some states only a matter of weeks to redraw their districts before fast-approaching deadlines.

The redistricting process that kicks off today will have far-reaching implications. Heading into the 2022 elections — which will be the first to use the new district maps — Democrats hold a razor-thin four-seat majority in the House. According to experts, that means Republicans could win back control of the chamber based on redistricting alone.

Republicans boast a sizable redistricting advantage because the party controls more state legislative chambers — the bodies that oversee redistricting in most states — than Democrats. According to the Cook Political Report, the GOP will have final authority to draw 187 congressional districts, while Democrats will have final authority in 75 districts. (121 districts will be drawn by bipartisan commissions, while 46 districts will be drawn in states that have split partisan control.)

The Republican advantage in redistricting could result in the party retaking control of the House. (Map by the Cook Political Report)

A recent Associated Press analysis of the 2010 redistricting process underlined how beneficial this advantage can be, finding that “Republican politicians used census data to draw voting districts that gave them a greater political advantage in more states than either party had in the past 50 years.”

In each election from 2012 to 2020, according to the analysis, there were seven states in which GOP-drawn maps led to Republicans winning an additional House seat than would have been expected based on their voting share.  

Republicans are already debating how aggressively to redraw districts in states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, where Democratic-majority cities like Louisville, Nashville, and Kansas City could be divvied up into multiple districts to give Republicans a better chance. Democrats, meanwhile, are engaged in a round of hand-wringing about their decision in some states to hand over control of redistricting to bipartisan commissions, which have dampened their ability to counter the GOP redistricting edge.

As important as the data being released today may be, however, don’t try to download it at home. The data will only be available today in “legacy format,” which makes it almost impossible to digest without the expensive software used by states and political parties.

A more user-friendly “tabulated” version of the data is scheduled to be released by September 30.

For more on how political parties use the redistricting process to their advantage: Listen to my podcast episode on gerrymandering from last year.

The Rundown

More news you should know.

AFGHANISTAN: “The Taliban captured a strategic provincial capital near Kabul on Thursday, the 10th the insurgents have taken in a weeklong sweep across Afghanistan just weeks before the end of the American military mission there.” Associated Press

  • “The Taliban has stunned even some seasoned military and national security officials in the U.S. government with the speed of its conquests over the past week,” according to Axios.
  • The Biden administration is now preparing for Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to be overrun by the Taliban within 90 days, much faster than the previous estimate of six to 12 months, according to the Washington Post.
Displaced Afghans ask for aid at a camp in Kabul after fleeing the Taliban. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

CORONAVIRUS: “The Food and Drug Administration is poised to amend the emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines Thursday to allow people with compromised immune systems to get a third dose, according to two sources familiar with the plans.” NBC News

  • “California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a new rule requiring teachers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly for the virus, becoming the first state in the country to do so.” Fox News

ECONOMY: “The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell for a third straight time last week, the latest sign that employers are laying off fewer people as they struggle to fill a record number of open jobs and meet a surge in consumer demand.” Politico

  • “Inflation remained elevated in July as the economic recovery continued, but prices showed evidence of cooling amid pandemic-related supply problems and signs that the recent rise in coronavirus infections is starting to crimp some business activity.” Wall Street Journal

Policy Roundup: Legal

On Thursdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Anna Salvatore offers a briefing on the week’s top legal news:

Immigrant children are living in “unsafe, unsanitary, and damaging” conditions in U.S. emergency shelters, according to a legal filing on Monday. The childrens’ lawyers claim that they are served raw chicken, denied clean clothing, and forced to live in dirty spaces in Fort Bliss and Peco, Texas shelters. They are asking the Biden Administration to obey Flores, a 1994 decision which requires the government to release children if their housing is substandard. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News reported on a whistleblower complaint about the emergency shelters, which alleged widespread COVID infections and delays in returning children to their families. The Department of Health and Human Services has denied these allegations.

The 4th Circuit ruled on Monday that public schools can’t have dress codes that discriminate against girls. The case arose in North Carolina, where a charter school had ordered girls to wear skirts and banned them from wearing pants or shorts. “The skirts requirement blatantly serves to perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes,” wrote Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, “as part of the public education provided to our country’s young citizens.” But according to Education Week, North Carolina’s Charter Day School will not have to change its dress code. The 4th Circuit made clear on Monday that only schools which receive federal funding, such as public schools, need to follow federal civil rights law.

Young unaccompanied migrants at a border facility in Texas. (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

President Biden has nominated Elizabeth Prelogar to serve as Solicitor General. A longtime appellate lawyer, Prelogar was an adviser to Special Counsel Robert Mueller III during his probe into Russian election interference. She has also argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, where she will soon serve — if confirmed — as the government’s primary advocate. According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration first approached California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger for the position.

In a surprising move, Oklahoma is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a landmark ruling on tribal law. McGirt v. Oklahoma — decided just last summer — said that the government can’t prosecute Native Americans for serious crimes on land that’s reserved for the Creek Nation. To many Natives, this was a positive and powerful affirmation of their sovereignty. To Oklahoma, the ruling has had an “immediate and destabilizing effect on life” in the state. Lawyers are now asking the Supreme Court to overturn the case, a bold and perhaps even radical request that, according to Bloomberg Law, “tests the court’s stance on precedent following Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.”

Elizabeth Prelogar arguing before the Supreme Court in 2019. (Sketch by Art Lien)

A few recommended legal reads from Anna:

The New York Times reported on President Biden’s “last-ditch, frantic effort” to pass a second eviction moratorium last week.

The Inquest argued that when facing re-election, Democratic governors tend to spend more on mass incarceration than Republican governors.

The National Security Agency is investigating Tucker Carlson’s claims that he was improperly surveilled, wrote the Wall Street Journal.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern) Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., he will deliver remarks on his proposal to lower prescription drug prices. At 12:20 p.m., he will depart Washington, D.C.., for his home in Wilmington, Delaware, touching down at 1:10 p.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris will host a meeting with business leaders at 2:15 p.m. to discuss “the importance of care policies for families, businesses, and the economy.”

U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 12:30 p.m. Participants will include CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The U.S. Census Bureau will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. to unveil the 2020 Census redistricting data.  
Legislative Branch
The Senate is on recess until September 13.

The House is on recess until August 23.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

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