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South is becoming a flashpoint in the brewing redistricting war.

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The South is becoming a flashpoint in the brewing redistricting war.

The South is becoming a flashpoint in the brewing redistricting war.

 

The partisan war over redistricting has only just started, but both sides have already settled on one point: it all comes down to the South.

From North Carolina to Texas, the once-in-a-decade war over redrawing political borders is expected to be a major battlefield. This is due to an increasing population, a predominantly one-party government, and a modern legal environment that eliminates federal regulation and delays civil rights challenges.

It’s a confluence of factors that’s likely to tip the scales dramatically in the GOP’s favor: experts say the new maps in the South alone could force Democrats out of power in the House next year — and possibly well beyond.

“The South would really stand out,” said Ryan Weichelt, a redistricting expert at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Six of the ten new congressional seats expected this year will almost certainly be in Southern states, with one in North Carolina, two in Florida, and three in Texas.

Republicans control the legislatures in those states, giving them near-total control over how the new districts are drawn — a stark contrast to other parts of the country, where state governments are either divided or nonpartisan commissions are tasked with redistricting congressional and state legislative lines.

Finally, the Justice Department would not immediately review new legislative maps in nine predominantly Southern states to ensure they do not discriminate for the first time in more than 50 years.

Deuel Ross, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said, “It’s a very different landscape than it’s been for the past 50 years.”

As the region’s population has expanded, primarily due to an influx of Democratic-leaning immigrants, Republicans are under increased pressure to improve their political status. This has eroded the GOP’s hold on power, most notably in Georgia, where Democrats recently won a presidential election and two Senate races.

The group has already set its sights on a number of goals. They have the option of attacking Political Leaders in Georgia. By adding more conservative voters from far north of Atlanta to the districts of Lucy McBath or Carolyn Boudreaux, or both, more conservative voters would be added to the two lawmakers’ districts.

In Florida, they may try to saturate Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s district with new Republican voters by carving out a new seat in the Orlando area, one of two that the state is expected to add.

And in Texas, where the GOP is projected to capture three congressional seats, the most of any state, the GOP can try to carve out more seats in the heart of the state’s boom — Democratic-leaning Houston — where Republicans can still win.

Currently, a gain of five seats will give the GOP control of the Chamber. Depending on the results of special elections for many vacant seats, the number could rise or fall before November 2020.

To be sure, there will be limits to how much leverage Republicans will gain with a new map, both legally and practically. Though they have influence over the mechanism, Southern demographic patterns are working against them. Many of the immigrants are college-educated, culturally diverse, and young, both of whom Republicans have had trouble converting.

As a result, the party can only draw a certain number of “clean” districts. Furthermore, since these states are experiencing rapid growth, attempts to divide major cities like Houston and Atlanta perfectly may collapse over time as tens of thousands of new residents move in.

“You have all these countervailing factors,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist based in Florida. “Democrats are doing well in suburban areas, states are becoming more diverse, and Republicans dominate all levers of government.”

Control in the South has a tradition of rigging the electoral process to disempower Black voters, from voting laws to district maps. In Georgia, the state’s GOP-controlled legislature is reacting to Democrats’ recent gains and former President Donald Trump’s false allegation of voter fraud with a slew of anti-voting bills, including one that would end Sunday early voting, which is common among Black churchgoers.

Such limits would not have been necessary eight years ago, when any reforms in states with a history of voting rights abuses had to be approved by the Justice Department ahead of time. However, in 2013, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down federal rules requiring Georgia and eight other states to “preclear” voting and redistricting reforms. It ruled that the federal formula based on past violations by the states was obsolete.

New voter identification laws were quickly enforced in many states, including Texas, North and South Carolina. Some civil rights groups are worried that the party will abuse the lack of transparency in redistricting as well.

“If they use what appears to be a lie about voter fraud in 2020 to pass new voting restrictions in Georgia and Texas, I assume the same would happen when the Census data is released” to kick off the redistricting process, according to Ross.

The Voting Rights Act makes it unconstitutional to redistrict on the basis of race. However, proving a breach in court may take years, causing several elections to take place with maps that could later be found to be unconstitutional. For example, in North Carolina, where the Republican legislature has sole redistricting authority without input from the state’s Democratic governor, the legislature drew racially gerrymandered maps in 2010. Those charts, however, remained in place for two House elections before being redrawn, costing the Republicans two seats.

“It means a state can participate in midnight gerrymandering and effectively avoid court scrutiny, run elections with gerrymandered maps, and get away with it before the next election,” Kathay Feng, Common Cause’s redistricting director, explained.

Even if Republican legislatures went down the path of racial gerrymandering, which, he noted, could still result in damaging lawsuits and injunctions against maps from federal judges, said Jason Torchinsky, general counsel of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, there are significant limits on what they could accomplish.

“This notion that the lack of preclearance will leave minorities vulnerable is false,” Torchinsky stated.

Some Republicans warn that the party’s power over the rules and boundaries should not be used to replace persuasion. It must continue to use ideas to win over newcomers in the South.

“We need to remind these new residents that they’re moving to these states, ideally, because of Republican policies,” said Hooff Cooksey, a Republican strategist in Virginia.

Virginia serves as a cautionary tale for Republicans, as the state went from being solidly Republican to solidly Democratic as the growing, educated population in the Washington, D.C. suburbs turned against the GOP. In 2016, a federal court redrawn the state’s maps after finding that the legislature, which was split between both parties, and the Republican governor had used racial criteria improperly in redistricting.

Virginia’s legislative maps are now drawn by a nonpartisan commission after Democrats took control of the statehouse in 2019.

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WATCH: Broncos’ Pat Surtain II picks off Chargers’ Justin Herbert, again, returns it for a touchdown

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WATCH: Broncos’ Pat Surtain II picks off Chargers’ Justin Herbert, again, returns it for a touchdown

Have a day, Pat Surtain II.

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WATCH: Broncos’ Teddy Bridgewater evades Chargers’ Joey Bosa, connects with Eric Saubert for touchdown

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WATCH: Broncos’ Teddy Bridgewater evades Chargers’ Joey Bosa, connects with Eric Saubert for touchdown

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Run game carries Jets to 21-14 win over the Texans in Zach Wilson return

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Run games carries Jets to 21-14 win over the Texans in Zach Wilson return

HOUSTON — It was the definition of a team win for Gang Green. The offense was balanced, and the defense played lights out and the end result was a 21-14 win over the lousy Houston Texans.

Zach Wilson had a pedestrian day in his return to action as he went 14-for-24 for 145 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception. Wilson wasn’t happy with his performance but elated for the victory.

“Feels really good,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t happy with how I performed. Just the ups and downs of it all. I gotta just keep going, it’s all part of the process. it feels really good to go home having a win. That’s the goal, to win the game.”

It was Wilson’s first game in a month, but the former BYU quarterback refused to blame his lackluster play on rust.

“I don’t blame anything on that,” Wilson said. “There’s no excuses. You got to really come out and play well.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Wilson appeared to tweak his knee on a scramble that caused him to limp to the sideline. But he claimed there was no legitimate issue and didn’t leave the game.

What helped propel the Jets offense to a win was the dominant run game that gashed the Texans for 157 yards.

Robert Saleh credited Jets offensive line coach and run game coordinator John Benton for creating a game plan to destroy the Texans run defense.

“JB put together a really cool plan and credit to the O-Line there,” Saleh said. “One of the challenges that we had this week for the offense was urgency and physicality at the line of scrimmage. And I felt like we were able to do that.”

The Jets answered the call. Against a loaded box, they ran for 105 yards with two touchdowns according to Next Gen Stats. That’s imposing your will.

Gang Green’s leading rusher, Michael Carter was out, but Tevin Coleman stepped up and ran for 67 yards. Austin Walter, who added 38 yards on nine carries, scored a key touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half.

The maligned defense, who had allowed over 380 yards of offense in five out of their last six games, held the Texans (2-9) to 202 yards and 14 points. Bryce Hall sealed the victory with a pass breakup on 4th-and-2 with two minutes remaining.

The impressive part was the resolve. They allowed 14 points and 157 yards by the end of the first half. But in the second half, they held the Texans offense to a scant 45 yards and zero points.

“I thought they were fantastic. I thought [Jeff] Ulbrich and the staff did great,” Saleh said. I thought the players, again, they’re getting better. And I thought this was a good one.”

One of the stars that contributed to the stalwart defensive effort was John Franklin-Myers, who had two sacks and an interception.

“Our coaches just preach we have to play our brand of football,” Franklin-Myers said. “l sometimes think things happen fast, just the momentum switches and stuff like that. But I think we did a good job of just staying locked in.”

It was a needed effort by the defense as the rookie quarterback took most of the first half to shake off the rust from missing four games with a sprained knee.

It was a tale of two halves for Wilson.

In the first half Wilson struggled. He was 6-for-12 for 44 yards with an interception. He looked jittery in the pocket and was inaccurate on a few of his throws that resulted in the ball skipping at his receivers’ feet.

On his second drive, he inexplicably threw an interception when he appeared to be scrambling. But right before he crossed the line of scrimmage, he flicked a pass to Ty Johnson, who wasn’t looking. It bounced off Johnson’s back and Tavierre Thomas intercepted the pass.

At that point Wilson was 1-for-6 for 11 yards with the pick. And the lone completed pass was a push pass behind the line of scrimmage to Elijah Moore on a jet sweep.

Even though Wilson didn’t blame rust for his struggle, it was clear as day: the No. 2 overall pick was rusty.

Five plays later, Texans QB Tyrod Taylor threw a touchdown pass to tight end Brevin Jordan to give Houston a 7-3 lead.

But right before the end of the half, trailing 14-3, Wilson finally settled down.

He went 5-for-6 for 33 yards to lead a touchdown drive to get Gang Green back in the game. Not an eye-popping stat line. But he converted a 3rd-and-9 to Ryan Griffin that kept the drive alive, and Walter scored a two-yard touchdown. The Jets successfully went for two to pull within 14-11.

In the second half, Wilson was much better. In the third quarter, his first pass was a rifle to Moore for a 22-yard gain on a curl route and that helped get Wilson comfortable.

That drive ended with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Wilson to give the Jets the lead, 18-14. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but he doubled the first half yardage and got into a rhythm.

Overall, Wilson threw for 101 yards and went 8-for-12 in the second half.

The Jets offense sputtered in the fourth, but they were able to secure a 37-yard Matt Ammendola field goal with three and a half minutes to play and their defense finished the Texans off.

With the hype surrounding Wilson’s return it was the run game and the defense that played lights out and carried the rookie to a win.

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