Redistricting Roundup: Another deadline missed
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Edited by Geoff Pallay
The Idaho Commission on Reapportionment failed to agree to new maps of the state's legislative and congressional districts by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline and will now be headed to court. The six-member commission, consisting of three Republicans and three Democrats, had 90 days allotted to them to draw up a plan.
The commission worked all through the long Labor Day weekend in search of a compromise, but by just after 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Republican Co-Chairman Evan Frasure suggested they adjourn for good. While the commissioners were going through their last minute efforts, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (R) was working on the lawsuit against them, drawn up by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's (R) office.
Ysursa filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the commission asking the court to order them to reconvene with 60 days to finish the job. The same day Republican Commissioners Frasure, Lorna Finman and Lou Esposito filed suit against the commission, asking the court to adopt their proposed congressional map C38 and order the commission to reconvene for three days.
Ysursa said he believes the most likely outcome would be for the court to clarify several points of contention before ordering the commissioners back to Boise. Alternatively, the court could also choose to appoint a special master to draw the maps or draw the maps themselves. If it is send back to the commission, Frasure will most likely have to be replaced - his doctors have said the work has taken a toll on his health and advised him against continuing.
As the five-member Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission continues to work on new maps, the process continues to be mired in controversy. An October 3 court hearing has been scheduled to hear Attorney General Tom Horne’s (R) request to compel three of the commissioners to cooperate with his investigation. Horne’s investigation pertains to the selection of Strategic Telemetry as mapping consultant. Thus far, the two Democratic commissioners and the independent chair have refused to cooperate, according to accusations from Horne’s office.
In another development this week, new allegations surfaced that Colleen Mathis, chair of the Redistricting Commission, destroyed documents relating to the consultant selection process. Horne told media outlets that Republican Commissioner Richard Stertz testified that some score sheets were destroyed. If so, Horne says these actions might violate open meeting and procurement laws. Ray Bladine, executive director of the commission, said no documents that should have been kept were destroyed.
Unrelated to above matters, the Democratic Party has filed a complaint against Stertz. The complaint requests an investigation into Stertz’s commission application and possible omissions relating to his tax history.
Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman, criticized Horne for the attack on the commission. Cherny said the allegations are another example of partisan interference with the commission’s mapping process.
|Quote of the Week|
"I am giving up hope."
Although no maps have been produced, controversy over the Florida redistricting process has continued at full strength. The state held its final public hearing last Thursday, concluding a listening tour dogged by criticism. Opponents charge that the meetings are little more than a show of public input, citing aloof legislators and non-existent draft maps. More importantly, critics argue that delays in drafting and approving maps could endanger Supreme Court and Department of Justice approval of the plans in time for the 2012 elections.
According to the Florida Constitution, redistricting maps are to be approved in the second year after the census (2012). Legislators plan to approve the maps early in 2012, putting the districts on a very tight schedule for review and approval. However, critics fear that delays in the political process or revisions mandated during review could push final approval beyond the filing deadline for 2012 candidates. In Florida, candidates must declare by May 7, 2012 for state legislative elections.
US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz has even suggested that the delays are intended to ensure, regardless of court or DOJ approval, that existing districts will be used in 2012. However, Sen. Don Gaetz (R) dismissed the suggestion as a “partisan conspiracy theory.” In addition, Rep. Denise Grimsley (R) noted that the legislature had already moved the start date for the new session from March to January to better accommodate the approval process.
In other news, US District Judge Ursula Ungaro will hear arguments today in the lawsuit challenging Amendment 6. US Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) and Corrine Brown (D) brought the lawsuit, arguing that the “fair districts” amendment violates the Voting Rights Act.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 22|
|Next state deadline?|| Connecticut|
September 15, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 65 out of 142 (45.8%)**||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), DE (2), GA (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NV (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||18 (AR, LA, IA, MO, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX, OR, SC, MI, WI, CA, GA, WV)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||15 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA), AR, WI, CA, GA, WV)|
|**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)|
On September 7, Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed Georgia's Congressional redistricting maps. Upon signing the maps, Deal said the maps are compact and keep communities of interest in tact. The Governor's press release on the signing can be found here.
This week the congressional redistricting commission kicked off its contentious task of redrawing New Jersey’s 12 U.S. House districts -- down from the previous total of 13. The Garden State lost a seat due to population swings across the country. The commission -- comprised of 6 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 1 independent -- has until January 17, 2012 to create the new map. Commission chairman John Farmer Jr. -- the independent -- said the process will likely go down to the wire as commissioners negotiate over which district is eliminated. Currently, there are 7 Democrats and 6 GOP representatives in New Jersey's U.S. House delegation. There will be three public hearings held in the coming months, the first on September 22.
This week the legislature began a special session to conduct Redistricting in New Mexico. Early indications are that the GOP will pick up seats in Albuquerque due to population swings. Rural New Mexico is also expected to lose seats since the eastern and north-central part of the state had slower population growth compared with the rest of New Mexico.
Redistricting will have a major impact on partisan control of the State Senate and State House. Currently, the Democrats hold slim partisan advantages in each chamber -- 36-33-1 in the House and 25-17 in the Senate. However, Republicans made significant gains in the 2010 State House elections, picking up 8 seats. The 2012 senate and house battle are expected to be close -- triggering a contentious redistricting process where each party looks to bolster their chances at chamber control.
Today is the deadline for public submissions to the Ohio House Redistricting Committee. The committee is responsible for redrawing the state’s congressional districts. While the deadline is not entirely firm, the lawmakers on the committee set the date to allow time for discussion of the plans.
After having his initial suit thrown out of the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week, Sen Jim Wilson (D) has renewed his challenge with a state district court. In its decision on the initial case, the Supreme Court argued that district courts had jurisdiction over questions of gerrymandering. In addition to challenging the senate redistricting plan, Wilson is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the new maps. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax argues that a delay in remapping precincts could seriously disrupt elections and confuse voters.
The Oklahoma State Senate is now attempting to join the case in defense of the plan, asking that the court dismiss the lawsuit. Even if the lawsuit fails, Wilson has started a petition drive to overturn the plan. The proposed measure would require lawmakers to redraw maps in 2013, using a bi-partisan process.
The legislature will hold a special session on October 24 to vote on district maps. Next week, a key meeting will be held to discuss the drawing of districts 26-28 -- which are the majority-minority American Indian districts. There are 35 districts in South Dakota -- 1 senator and 2 representatives are elected from each district.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
Utah’s Joint Redistricting Committee is considering several map proposals as it meets in advance of the state’s October 3 special session. Notably, the decision of State Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) not to challenge Congressman Orrin Hatch (R), may require some preliminary districts to be reorganized in order to preserve Chaffetz’s district and re-election. In other news, the Fair Boundaries Coalition submitted maps to the state detailing its proposal for nonpartisan districts.
On Friday, August 2, acting-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed the revised map for the state's House of Delegates districts. Republicans criticized the decision, arguing that Tomblin had failed to take the lead on creating 100 single-member districts. In addition, Brooke County officials have suggested that the bill contains lingering technical errors. Tomblin, however, defended the legislature's lead role in redistricting and noted that the technical flaws he had seen in the first map had been corrected.
While Tomblin’s signature makes the new maps law, Monroe County announced Thursday that the county will challenge the House of Delegates redistricting plan. Under the plan, nearly all of Monroe is part of a two-member district including parts of Summers and Raleigh counties. Monroe has a smaller population in the district than either of the other two counties. The rest of Monroe county would be paired with Greenbrier county. Given that the county is at a population disadvantage in both districts, Monroe officials argue that it will have difficulty electing its own representative. Raleigh county was also considering a challenge, but announced this week that it would not pursue the suit.
In other news, the West Virginia State Legislature has denied a Freedom of Information Act request for internal redistricting communications. The request was filed by the West Virginia Republican Party. Legislative officials argue that the state’s FOIA law specifically exempts communications of this kind.
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