This extremely narrow victory is the tightest presidential result we’ve found for all of the 404 congressional districts we’ve released 2020 data for so far, and we’d be very surprised if it gets displaced when we wrap up our remaining three states (Alabama, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania). The second-closest seat in last year’s elections was Iowa’s 3rd, which Trump claimed 49.15-49.02, a gap of 567 votes. Four years ago, the most competitive seat was Oregon’s 4th, where Hillary Clinton edged out Trump by 554 votes, or 46.14-46.0 (Joe Biden took it 51-47 this time).
As it happens, our preliminary calculations suggested that Biden had won Missouri’s 2nd, but the closeness of the results sent us on a rigorous hunt for more accurate data that even involved researching election system software manuals to determine whether such data might be available at all. Fortunately, it was.
In St. Louis County, which makes up about three-quarters of the district, official election returns assigned every vote to a precinct, and no precincts were split between districts. We could therefore be certain that we could correctly assign every vote to its proper congressional district because we know which precincts belong to which districts.
However, official results from the other two counties in the district, Jefferson and St. Charles, only assigned Election Day votes to precincts. Absentee votes, which were almost a third of all votes cast in both counties, were only reported county-wide in both cases.
In such situations, when we have no other choice, we can use techniques to estimate how we should divvy up unassigned votes like these between districts, which is how we arrived at those extremely tight preliminary numbers that showed Biden just ahead. But we couldn’t settle for an estimate in this case, given the narrowness of the margin.
Thankfully, we learned that the software used in both counties was capable of producing reports that break down election results by congressional district—in other words, they could automatically execute the very task we almost always have to perform manually. After weeks of pursuit, and with the help of friendly local officials willing to work with us, we obtained these breakdowns for both Jefferson and St. Charles. We’re extremely glad we went the extra mile, because the final results differed from our initial estimate and ended in an extraordinarily narrow win for Trump.
We should note that even with these more accurate reports from Jefferson and St. Charles, about a dozen votes (mostly absentees) remain unassigned. But since Trump’s margin was more than 100 votes, we can say with certainty that he carried Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District—just barely.
Zooming out statewide, Trump won Missouri 57-41, which wasn’t much of a change from his 57-38 victory four years ago in what used to be a fiercely contested swing state. The Show Me State’s remaining House seats were also anything but competitive. Biden took Rep. Cori Bush’s 1st District in the city of St. Louis 80-18, while he carried fellow Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s 5th District in Kansas City at the other end of the state 59-40.
Trump, meanwhile, won the other five GOP-held seats with more than 63% of the vote. Republicans will have their chance to protect Wagner, and possibly make life more complicated for Cleaver, though, as they’ll have complete control of the redistricting process.
● LA-02: State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson has launched what her team calls a “six-figure” opening TV buy ahead of next month’s all-party primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, former Rep. Cedric Richmond. Peterson tells the audience that while the COVID-19 crisis is testing the state, “We’ve been through tough times before.” She continues by talking about her work helping the state recover from Hurricane Katrina and pledges that in Congress she’ll “lead us out of this pandemic.”
● TX-06: Fort Worth Police Officers Association head Manny Ramirez recently told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he was interested in running as a Republican in the upcoming special election to succeed the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. The paper also mentions Andy Nguyen, who served as Wright’s deputy chief of staff, as a possible contender; Nguyen, for his part, told the paper that he was focused on the congressman’s funeral.
Meanwhile, former Rep. Joe Barton, who has made it clear he won’t be competing here, also name-dropped state Rep. Jake Ellzey as a possibility. Ellzey ran here in 2018 after a sex scandal prompted Barton to retire, and he held Wright to a surprisingly close 52-48 victory in the GOP runoff. Two years later, Ellzey decisively won the primary for a safely red state House seat.
Two other Republicans, though, sound very unlikely to run. Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said he had “no intentions at all of running for that seat,” while Waxahachie Mayor David Hill said he was “content at this time serving the residents of Waxahachie.” Hill added, “I’m sure there are more qualified people than me to fill the District 6 seat.”
● Redistricting: On Friday, the Census Bureau announced that the granular data needed for states to conduct redistricting following the 2020 census won’t be available until Sept. 30 if not later, which is six months after its original March 31 deadline and two months later than the already-delayed July 30 target that it had signaled was possible just last month.
These delays have major implications for redistricting timelines that will make it impossible for a number of states to meet their own legally mandated deadlines for drawing new maps this year, throwing the redistricting process into chaos and uncertainty in many states. (The Brennan Center for Justice previously released a report that looks at which states in particular have deadlines that now conflict with the expected data release timeline.)
Consequently, many states will have to push back their candidate filing deadlines and primary elections for the 2022 elections. In the case of New Jersey and Virginia, this will even mean holding their upcoming 2021 legislative elections under maps that were drawn a decade ago, meaning new maps may not be used before 2023.
States that can’t change redistricting timelines—such as those with timelines embedded in their constitutions—are likely to see litigation seeking to alter these impossible-to-meet deadlines or have courts take over the process. And while the 2020 elections seemingly established which party (if any) would have control over redistricting in each state, that may now be subject to change in some states, most notably Illinois.
Delays also increase the risk that the public won’t have sufficient time to scrutinize and mobilize against proposed maps if state lawmakers release their new proposals with little notice before passing them into law. Furthermore, the shortened timeline threatens the ability of gerrymandering opponents to use litigation to enforce state constitutional provisions against gerrymandering or federal law protecting the rights of voters of color in time for such lawsuits to be resolved before the 2022 elections take place. That would mean illegal gerrymanders could remain in place next year even if they’re ultimately struck down in court at a later date.