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Control Of Redistricting Is Up For Grabs In 2020. Here Are The Races To Watch.

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Most of the attention on the 2020 election is focused on who will sit in the White House for the next four years. But the 2020 election could also help decide who controls the House of Representatives for the next decade.

This is the last election before data from the census is released, so whoever emerges from this year holding power on the state level will have the power to redraw their state’s congressional maps — and maybe even give their side an unfair advantage in future elections. (Although this is not true everywhere, as some states have independent or bipartisan commissions draw their maps.)

Gerrymandering, or the act of purposefully drawing a map to advantage one political party or group, has a long history in this country — and politicians of all persuasions have been guilty of it. But the red wave election of 2010 upped the ante by giving Republicans lopsided control of the 2011 redistricting process. Thanks in large part to the 21 state legislatures and six governorships they picked up, Republicans were able to draw 55 percent of congressional districts, while Democrats drew just 10 percent.

As a result, in both 2012 and 2016, the House map was more biased toward Republicans than it had been at any point since the 1970s. Republicans even won 33 more House seats than Democrats in the 2012 election despite Democrats winning the House popular vote by 1.3 percentage points. And even as courts ruled some states’ maps unconstitutional and Democrats were able to flip the House in 2018, the median seat remained 4.4 points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole.

Going into the 2020 elections, Republicans still have the inside track over Democrats in the 2021 redistricting process. We determined this by using Election Data Services estimates of how many congressional districts each state will have after the 2020 census, looking at which party currently controls the levers of redistricting in those states and assessing (based on partisanship data, expert opinions and local media reports) whether the 2020 elections could change that.

Our analysis found that 117 congressional districts (27 percent of the entire House) are likely to be drawn by Republicans, while 47 (11 percent) are likely to be drawn by Democrats. Another 132 (30 percent) will be drawn by independent commissions or by both Republicans and Democrats working together. And seven districts (2 percent) are at-large districts that cover their entire state (thus, there are no lines to draw).

That leaves 10 states worth 132 congressional districts (30 percent of the House) where control of redistricting is up for grabs in the current election. However, not all of the redistricting-relevant elections in these states are winnable by both parties; in some, the best one party can hope for is simply to block the other from gaining full control.

For example, Republicans could win the ability to draw 71 new districts without Democratic input — but the best they can do with the remaining 61 is to ensure they have a seat at the table so they can force Democrats to compromise. Still, under this best-case scenario for Republicans, they would have redistricting control over 188 seats in total (43 percent) — almost as many as after 2010.

But with the possibility of another blue wave election on the horizon, Democrats can probably prevent that from happening. In the best-case Democratic scenario, the party would gain control over drawing 77 more seats and would share redistricting control over the other 55 with Republicans. That would give them redistricting control over 124 seats in total (29 percent) — slightly more than Republicans.

Of course, the final redistricting landscape will probably be somewhere in between these two extremes. To see which party will have the eventual advantage — and how big that advantage will be — here are the states and elections to watch.

  • Without question, Texas is the biggest redistricting prize up for grabs this year; accounting for population growth, it is expected to have 39 congressional districts next decade. While Republicans currently control all three stakeholders in the congressional redistricting process — the state Senate, state House and governorship — the state House is competitive this year. Democrats need a net gain of just nine seats to take control of the chamber — and there are 22 districts that the party thinks it can flip, including nine that Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke carried in 2018. If Democrats flip the House, they would gain the ability to block GOP-proposed maps, forcing either Republicans to compromise or a court to draw the lines.
  • New York is projected to have 26 House seats next decade, but it has relatively new and complex redistricting rules under which a bipartisan commission proposes maps, but the state legislature and governor decide whether to approve them. However, if they reject the commission’s maps twice, the legislature can effectively draw its own. Only one wrinkle: If the same party controls both chambers of the legislature (as Democrats currently do), a two-thirds majority is required to pass a new congressional map. That means Democrats need to win a supermajority in the state Senate (they already have one in the state Assembly) in 2020 if they want to be able to impose a map without any Republican votes. And with 10 Republican senators retiring, including many from competitive seats, Democrats have a good chance of picking up the two additional seats they need.
  • In Pennsylvania (likely home to 17 congressional districts), Democrats are guaranteed a seat at the table in redistricting thanks to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who was reelected in 2018. If they flip both the state Senate and state House this year, they could draw congressional lines however they want. However, Democrats would need a net gain of nine seats to take the state House (despite having plenty of vulnerable members of their own) and sweep every competitive district in the Senate. So the most likely outcome may be that Wolf will share redistricting power with Republican legislators.
  • North Carolina’s House and Senate will draw the state’s projected 14 congressional districts; the governor doesn’t get a say. Both chambers are competitive in this year’s elections, meaning either party could have full control of redistricting (divided control is very possible as well). Right now Republicans have majorities in both chambers, but Democrats could change that by flipping five seats in the Senate and/or six seats in the House.
  • By contrast, the fate of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts will be decided by Amendment #1, a ballot measure to reform redistricting. (Control of state government in Virginia is decided in odd years and so isn’t in play this year.) Amendment #1 would set up a bipartisan commission of state legislators and ordinary citizens to draw Virginia’s new congressional map. The state legislature would still have to approve it, but if they don’t, the state Supreme Court would create its own map. Polling so far shows that Amendment #1 will probably pass, but if not, Virginia’s Democratic-controlled state government would draw the lines.
  • Republicans currently control all three redistricting entities — the state Senate, state House and governorship — in Missouri, worth eight congressional seats. But Democrats have an outside shot at breaking up that monopoly if two things go right for them. First, Democrat Nicole Galloway would need to overcome her polling deficit to defeat Republican Gov. Mike Parson. Then, Democrats would also have to break up the Republican supermajority in the state Senate, which they could do by flipping two seats — perhaps vulnerable Senate districts 15 and 19. Otherwise, Republicans could simply override Galloway’s veto of their maps.
  • The power to draw Minnesota’s projected seven congressional districts is currently divided: Democrats control the governorship and state House, while Republicans control the state Senate. The question of redistricting control will boil down to whether Democrats can flip the state Senate (the governor isn’t up for reelection this year). Democrats have six viable pickup opportunities but only need to net two seats to attain a majority, giving them a good shot of drawing the maps alone next year.
  • Iowa will use a unique process to redraw its four House districts. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency draws a map, and the legislature gives it an up-or-down vote. If the legislature rejects two of the LSA’s maps, though, they can amend the third or draw their own, putting the ultimate power in politicians’ hands. Right now, that means in Republican hands — the GOP controls the state Senate, state House and governorship. However, Democrats need to net only four seats to take control of the state House, which would probably make it more likely that one of the LSA’s maps is accepted.
  • At first glance, control of redrawing Kansas’s four congressional districts appears to be split between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican legislature. However, the GOP currently has veto-proof majorities in both the state Senate and state House, meaning they could enact a new map without Kelly’s input. Those supermajorities are very much at risk in the 2020 elections, though. If Democrats net three Senate seats or even just one House seat this year, they’ll ensure a new map can only pass if Democrats approve.
  • Finally, only two congressional districts are at stake in New Hampshire, but almost every possible scenario is on the table. All three redistricting stakeholders (the state Senate, state House and governorship) are on the ballot, and all three are competitive. If polling showing Republicans close to flipping both chambers of the legislature is correct, Republicans could gain total control of redistricting. If Democrats pull an upset and defeat Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, they would. However, the status quo (shared control between Sununu and a Democratic legislature) may be the most likely outcome.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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