Alabama has to roll out a new map.
Gerrymandering. Every 10 years, the US Census gives a pulse check on how many House seats each state should get. The process gets state legislatures and commissions to start redrawing maps like millennials taking on a pandemic-era coloring book. In theory, these new maps should reflect changes in population size. But the party in power has sometimes used this as an opportunity to draw outside the lines — and sketch the map to keep themselves in power. Enter: Alabama.
Last year, the state’s Republican-majority legislature approved a newly drawn map that had only one majority-Black district and essentially said, ‘Picasso, I like it.’ But the state is about 27% Black, so lawmakers and voters sued. And said there should be at least two significantly Black districts. This week, a federal court agreed, saying the GOP map likely violates the Voting Rights Act — the landmark law that bans discriminatory voting practices. And told the state legislature ‘back to the drawing board.’
It's common. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court said ‘redo’ over a map favoring Republicans. Republicans in Maryland and Illinois are suing over maps that allegedly favor Democrats. The Justice Dept sued Texas over its redistricting maps. North Carolina just got the OK from a panel of judges upholding their latest map. And New York is throwing its hands up over a partisan stalemate. It comes amid a broader trend of states cracking down on voter rights.
How district lines are drawn can affect everything from federal funding allocation to hospitals and schools — to voting power for this year’s midterms and beyond. And so far, gerrymandering is leaving a stain.
Skimm More: Here's how redistricting could impact your vote in the 2022 election.
The Australian Open. Yesterday, the tennis tournament reversed its ban on fans wearing t-shirts saying “Where is Peng Shuai?” Last year, the tennis star disappeared for 18 days after accusing a former Communist Party official of sexual assault. Since then, Peng has retracted the claim — causing concern that she's only changed the story after pressure from Chinese officials. She’s appeared rarely since. And with the star missing from the Australian Open, fans started a movement to draw attention to her whereabouts. Over the weekend, the tournament told them to hold off on the t-shirts, citing its longstanding ban on political statements. Cue: outrage. Now, organizers say spectators are allowed to wear the shirts as long as fans remain “peaceful.”
Babies. Earlier this week, a study found that giving low-income mothers just $333 per month changed their baby’s brain activity, and developed stronger cognitive skills. A neuroscientist called the findings “proof” that even a small amount of money leads to better brain development. And the report comes just weeks after the federal gov's pandemic-era child tax credit expired. It could boost calls for more direct cash transfers to America's poor — with more than 37 million people in the US living in poverty. But the study still requires more research. That's because the effect size was relatively modest. And it's still not clear what the lasting impact may be.
...Oh and in DC, a pilot program will give new and pregnant mothers living in the area $900 in monthly cash assistance. Cues, taken.
Skimm More: Most Americans don't have access to paid family leave. Here's a look at the reality of child care in the US.
Pfizer and BioNTech. Yesterday, they announced the launch of clinical trials for an Omicron-specific vaccine. In the US, the Omicron peak is expected to come next month. But results for this trial aren’t expected for several months at least. It comes as Regeneron and other antibody drugs are struggling against the variant. But as the CDC found existing vaccines and boosters still provide protection against hospitalizations and death.
Skimm More: Here's what you need to know about the Omicron variant.
Skimm’d by Rashaan Ayesh, Kate Gilhool, Julie Shain, and Mariza Smajlaj
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As Omicron continues spreading, Americans are learning more about how variants are able to mutate and become more transmissible. Cue: More Omicron variants. Learn more here.
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Got COVID questions? We did, too. "Skimm This" talked to US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy about what to call this big spike in cases, how bad things might get before they get better, and whether employers should be mandating employees get vaccinated.