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Is Gerrymandering to Blame for GOP Efforts to Keep Donald Trump in Office?

Gerrymandering is largely to blame for the Electoral College opposition vote on Wednesday when members of the 117th Congress are expected to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. According to recent statements by Republican members of Congress, more than 140 House Republicans plan to challenge the 2020 presidential election results in favor of outgoing President Donald Trump. More than 12 GOP Senators are joining in their doomed cause.

A handful of House Republicans and more than 16 Senate Republicans have released statements in recent days saying that they will vote to certify the election results. House Republicans and Senate Republicans who are planning to object to the official certification will need to have a majority to overturn the election. Still, with a Democratic House majority and a tight Republican majority in the Senate, a successful overturning of the results is doomed to fail.

“[A member of Congress] who is secure in [a gerrymandered] districts could be more than partisan,” said Mark Rush, Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. A representative’s behavior in significant votes depends upon whether they are in a safe Blue or Red district, added Rush, who has been studying congressional behavior and elections for more than 30 years.

States will redraw congressional districts later this year and how these Republicans vote on Wednesday poses some risks. The future of who they represent could change significantly. “In most states, redistricting is controlled directly by the state legislature, and there is no requirement to protect incumbents or to achieve partisan fairness,” said Micah Altman, a Political Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Republicans in one-party districts will be most concerned with the chance that they would be opposed in a primary election by someone who would challenge them as not being sufficiently supportive of President Trump,” said Ted Arrington, a professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who studies voting behaviors and voting systems, adding that he does not think gerrymandering will directly affect the vote but could slightly influence it.

Micah Altman, who concentrates on the intersections of information, technology, privacy, and politics, said that he does not think gerrymandering will directly impact the election certification vote on Wednesday. “The most one can say is that polarization and partisanship generally have contributed to the failures of American politics — of which the contention over election certification is one manifestation,” said Altman.

While it is still unclear how a significant number of House Republicans will vote on Wednesday, some members have already stated how they will vote.

Congressman John Katko (R-NY) said that he would vote to certify the election. Katko’s New York district was rated a Democrat-leaning flip-district by the Cook Political Report. On the other hand, Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) said that he would vote to oppose the election certification. The Cook Political Report considers Donalds’ district on Florida’s West Coast to be a safe-Republican district.

Senate Republicans, on the other hand, are focusing on their chances in their future Senate battles and presidential ambitions in 2024 when they cast their votes on Wednesday, said Arrington and Rush.

“Failure to support Trump’s fantastic contentions that he won the election will likely generate primary opposition for Republicans,” said Arrington, when discussing the risks involved for House and Senate seats in 2022 and 2024.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is leading the pack of Senate Republicans in challenging the election results on Wednesday. Rush noted that “Cruz is playing to a base” for his 2024 bid. On the other hand, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a potential 2024 candidate and Trump ally, said that he would vote to certify the election.

“It’s a question of one’s ethics,” said Rush, who questions, “Why are they doing this, and is there a legitimate belief that the election was stolen?”