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Redistricting Roundup: Chaos in Colorado: Compromise nowhere in sight

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May 6, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

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With pundits now assuming Colorado's redistricting maps are destined for the courts, legislators are at least keeping up the appearance of being committed to a compromise.

Earlier this week, Democrats withdrew the first map they had submitted to the legislature, a version of the "City Integrity" plan they submitted during the failed Joint Select Committee hearings. That map had caused an outcry over its radical changes to current districts, its bisecting of portions of Denver's Republican suburbs, and the fact that it put Boulder and Grand Junction in one city.

Meanwhile, Republicans published their own map, one that made some alterations but still largely kept district borders in a familiar shape, making minimal adjustments in response to population shifts. As it was introduced on the floor, House Republicans described it as an "olive branch," leading to a swift Democratic response. The next day, Democrats introduced a new map of their own, one they labeled the "Colorado Compromise." It did much to give the GOP its way in El Paso County and in the rural parts of the state. And while Grand Junction was again severed from Boulder, the 2nd District, anchored by the heavily liberal city, was instead drawn to curve around to Denver's south and include GOP-friendly Douglas County.

Both maps had public hearings yesterday afternoon, though key decision-makers spent much of the legislative day in closed-door meetings. If the legislature cannot resolve the issue before adjourning sine die on May 13th, they could theoretically call themselves into a special session. The Governor, John Hickenlooper (D), could also order a special session though the price tag of a special session means no one is likely to reconvene without a plan already selected.

If the map does go to the courts, it will represent a painful public failure for the legislature and may favor the Democrats, who made most of the appointments currently on the Colorado Supreme Court. Hickenlooper has avoided directly stating what he might do in relation to the process, instead joking at a recent event in the gardens of the Governor's Mansion that perhaps a little bipartisan weeding of the gubernatorial vegetable patch would be good therapy for the strained lawmakers.

The air between the two parties at the state Capitol has grown so rancorous that when the Republican Speaker, Frank McNulty, was challenged to say one nice thing about Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D), he finally quipped that Shaffer is a "snappy dresser."

Republicans control the House by a slim 33-32 margin while the Democrats hold a 20-15 advantage in the Senate. Prior to the 2010 state legislative elections, Democrats controlled the House with a 37-27 (plus 1 Independent) advantage.

Quote of the Week
"They extend the olive branch, and then they burn it and they hit us with it."[1]

-- Representative Sal Pace (D), commenting on the redistricting process in Colorado.

State news

Alaska

The Alaska Redistricting Board will hold its final public meeting today. The statewide teleconference marks the end of public hearings and the beginning of the Board's work session for its final plan.

Arizona

A public contest is being held from May 1 through June 6 for citizens to generate Congressional and state legislative maps. The contest uses an online website that lets individuals create their own version of new districts. The Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition organized the competition and will offer prizes for the winners. The winning maps will be presented to the redistricting commission later in the summer.

Delaware

Delaware legislators announced this week that they plan to ignore their own law, passed in 2010, which would alter how prisoners are counted for redistricting purposes. The new law requires prisoners be counted according to their last known address, rather than their prison address. A similar law was passed in Maryland, but could not be implemented when the Federal Bureau of Prisons refused to provide the state with the necessary information. The issue in Delaware, however, came down to time and money. The maker of Maptitude, the computer software used to redraw districts, said it would cost $40,000 to $75,000 and take two months to alter the program to account for prisoners differently - too much and too long according to lawmakers. Critics are saying the legislature simply should have started sooner.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 15
Next state deadline? Oklahoma
May 25, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 21 MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (1)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 3 (AR, LA, IA)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 4 (NJ, LA, IA, VA,)

Florida

While redistricting related-lawsuits have come to be expected, the addition of Amendments 5 & 6 have led lawmakers to predict an increase in litigation during the current cycle. To that end, the Senate on Tuesday increased its budget by over $9 million from last year in order to be prepared for the fights ahead. Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) explained, "I let people know reapportionment costs a lot of money, and it will cost even more with Amendment 5 and 6. And we have to pay for it." The House, meanwhile, will not raise its budget but rather tap into a $30 million reserve of unspent funds from prior years. Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz (R) said lawmakers spent nearly $10 million during the last redistricting cycle.

Hawaii

Following the failure of the eight members of the Reapportionment Commission to select a ninth member to serve as Chair, the Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously appointed retired Circuit Court Judge Victoria Marks to the leadership position. Meanwhile, several groups, including the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, asked the commission to change their rules in order to be in line with state sunshine law standards. Currently the commission requires only three days public notice be given for meetings, while the sunshine law requires six. The groups also point out that citizens must request to testify at a commission meeting 48 hours in advance, giving them only 24 hours to decide to testify.

Idaho

Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney (R), Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill (R) and state GOP chairman Norm Semanko met in Boise on Wednesday to discuss their selections for the redistricting commission. The Republican leaders are required to appoint one member each and have until June 1 to make their picks. Democratic leaders made their appointments on April 22.

Minnesota

Representative Sarah Anderson (R) and fellow Republicans have proposed a state legislative redistricting plan. Under the plan, 20 incumbent representatives would be paired in 10 of the newly drawn districts. Six incumbent senators will be paired in three of these districts. Overall, the plan is seen as protecting Republican incumbents, especially newly elected members. In the house, the plan would pair 10 incumbent Democrats in five districts. Only two Republicans would be paired. The remaining four districts would contain bipartisan match-ups. In the senate, four Democrats would be paired in two districts, and one district would contain a bipartisan match-up. The Republican-controlled State Senate is also expected to craft a proposal. Either plan will ultimately require the approval of Governor Mark Dayton (D). If lawmakers fail to reach a compromise by then end of the session (May 23), they could approve plans in the next session (January 2012) just in time for the February deadline.

The map has drawn sharp criticism from state Democrats and spurred heating debate during a committee hearing on the plan. Each redistricting cycle the legislature adopts principles intended to guide the drawing of new maps. Opponents of the plan argue that neither the maps nor the principles have been drawn with an eye toward competitiveness. They further argue that proponents of the plan are rushing passage and avoiding public input. Anderson, however, defended the plans, contending that the maps were intended to create compact districts that preserve communities and that mapmakers did not concentrate on political concerns. She also said that Democrats have failed to offer a sufficient amount constructive input during the process.

Missouri

On Wednesday the Senate and House each secured sufficient votes to override Governor Jay Nixon's (D) veto. Four Democrats were needed to vote with the GOP in the House. The fourth and final vote in favor of the plan was cast by Leonard Hughes (D) of Kansas City. Hughes -- who after the vote was reported to be crying -- said he voted for the plan because his Congressman (Emanuel Cleaver) requested he do so. The House vote was 109-44 to override while the Senate vote was 28-6.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich -- Congressman for Ohio -- has flaunted the idea that he might move to Washington in order to run for the U.S. House in the state's newly-created district. Kucinich has been a center of media attention surrounding redistricting. making many public appearances to discuss the issue. Recently, speculation has been that Kucinich might not actually lose his current district in Ohio. Betty Sutton (D) of the 13th District has been identified as a more likely incumbent to be left without a protected district. Ohio is losing two Congressional seats as a result of new population counts.

Nebraska

Three Congressional maps were under debate this week in Nebraska, one from the GOP and two from Democrats. The Republican plan moves the western suburbs of Sarpy County, a strong Republican territory, into the Omaha-based second district, giving a definite boost to Congressman Terry Lee's re-election ambitions. Both versions of the Democratic map instead place Sarpy's southern areas, full of Democratic voters, into the second.

On a 5-4 committee vote yesterday, the GOP won the first round, with their preferred map advancing. That map also place Bellevue and Offut Air Force Base into the 1st District, a seat also currently in Republican hands.

Oklahoma

A Congressional map has been sent to Governor Mary Fallin (R) for signature. The Congressional redistricting bill would redraw the state's five U.S. House seats, in largely the same way as they currently exist. The Senate passed the bill by a 37-5 vote. Meanwhile, the House is expected to release a state legislative map today in advance of hearings next week.

South Carolina

The deadline for public submissions of maps was extended until May 9. The subcommittees in charge of redistricting adopted redistricting guidelines on April 13. Additionally, the House voted to return for a special session on June 14, at which time it will take up redistricting. The extended session is set to end on July 1.

Texas

The Texas House of Representatives approved a map for the 15-member State Board of the Education (SBOE) yesterday. The vote was 80-61. The map passed the Senate on April 29 and is now on its way to be signed into law by Governor Rick Perry (R). The map's opponents claim that minorities do not receive enough representation. House Redistricting Committee Chairman Burt Solomons quipped "You can’t please everybody" in response. Observers on both sides of the political divide agree the map will be challenged in court.

Utah

The GOP-controlled Redistricting Committee adopted a list of "redistricting principles" during a meeting on Wednesday. The list is nearly identical to the one used during the 2000 redistricting process. Democrats tried several times during the meeting to change the process but each was rejected by Republicans. During the meeting, another proposal was offered to create multi-member districts -- like New Hampshire and Vermont -- but that idea was rejected. There are 29 Senators and 75 House representatives in Utah.

See also