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Redistricting Roundup: Chaos still reigns in several states

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March 30, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay


Note: Today's roundup, March 30, will be the final edition of the Redistricting Roundup. Ballotpedia staff will still cover redistricting news, with updates being added to the State Legislative Tracker, which is published on Monday afternoons.
Other states featured in this week's Roundup

Here at Ballotpedia, when we first began publishing the Redistricting Roundup, we planned to close it down at the end of March 2012. We are sticking to that schedule, as today will be the final edition of the Friday afternoon publication. After 59 editions of the Friday-afternoon Redistricting Roundup, today's 60th version will be the final Friday release. Ballotpedia staff will continue to provide redistricting updates -- but those will be contained within the State Legislative Tracker which is published on Monday afternoons.

But who knew that in March 2012, some states would still be engrossed in chatoic map-drawing, a mere 12 months after every single state had received its 2010 Census data.

After two map options were rejected last week, the Kansas House of Representatives has approved a congressional redistricting plan. Passed 81-43 on March 27, the plan would move half of Topeka (currently in District 2) to District 1, bolstering rural District 1's flagging population growth. However, the Senate's reapportionment chair, Tim Owens (R), called the plan "absurd" and predicted that the plan would founder in his chamber. House Speaker Mike O'Neal (R) responded by threatening to reject and redraw the Senate's chamber map if their congressional plan is not approved.

The conflict is part of an ongoing struggle between moderate Republicans in the Senate and conservatives in the House. In addition, regional conflicts over the location Kansas City, Manhattan/KSU, and a new federal biosecurity facility have further complicated matters. Ordinarily, each chamber defers to the other on its chamber maps and together draw a consensus congressional plan.

State news

Alaska

On March 14, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the redistricting board must redraw its first map with a priority on following the Alaska Constitution. Only when a constitutional map had been drafted could the board adjust it for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. On Tuesday, March 27, the board approved a preliminary plan in compliance with the state constitution. On Thursday, March 29, the board approved adjustments to the Fairbanks area to satisfy the VRA. The board aims to have all the necessary adjustments made by tomorrow. Most notably, Thursday's tweaks restore a Senate seat to Fairbanks.

Arizona

On Tuesday, Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation to provide an additional $700,000 to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. While the commission did ask for $1.1 million, executive director Ray Bladine said the approved sum is enough to avoid a possible lawsuit for more funding.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 37 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 17
Maps submitted for vote: 135 out of 142 (95.1%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: AL (2), KS (1), ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 41/43 (Maps unfinished: KS, NH)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 45/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, KS, ME, MS, MT)
**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)

Florida

On Tuesday, March 27, the Florida House of Representatives concurred with the Senate's chamber redistricting map. The House did not amend the map, instead deferring to a plan approved by the Senate on March 22. The map now moves to the Florida Supreme Court for review -- the Governor need not approve the plan.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich continues to oppose the plan, arguing that it violates the 2010 "Fair Districts" amendment. The revisions suggest that the revised plan may be slightly more friendly to Democratic candidates.

  • The overturned plan can be found here.
  • The revised plan can be found here.

In other news, a trial involving several challenges against the state's congressional map will begin on April 16.

Maryland

A referendum petition to overturn Maryland's congressional redistricting plan passed in October may appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot. Maryland Delegate Justin Ready (R - Caroll County), who is spearheading the move, announced on Tuesday that the referendum would continue forward with collecting signatures. In order to qualify for the ballot supporters are required to collect a minimum of 55,736 valid signatures by June 30.

Under the new map, the number of Carroll County delegates is reduced from four to three as the 4th District, which was previously only in Carroll County, now includes part of Howard County as well.

Missouri

Earlier this week, just before the candidate filing deadline, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state house districts that were drawn by a special commission. That map was originally challenged via a lawsuit.

Montana

The Montana Redistricting Commission has begun gathering public input on new state legislative maps. The commission is touring the state to hear input from citizens. A new map will not be implemented until the 2014 elections, as is typical under Montana’s map-drawing calendar. Hence, the commissioners are on schedule in its process.

New Hampshire

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Rhode Island Republican State Committee Chairman Mark Zaccaria acknowledged that the GOP will most likely not be able to have their pending redistricting lawsuit decided in time to change the map prior to the elections, but that they are determined to take it to trial anyway. The lawsuit, filed three weeks ago, claims that the new House lines were drawn for political reasons in order to help Democrats in the state, specifically freshman Rep. Cale Keable. The argument focuses on Districts 47 and 48, where only around 300 people needed to be moved from district 48 to 47 but 1,500 were moved instead. The suit asks the court to adopt a plan for the state's northwest corner submitted by House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R).

The deadline for candidates wishing to run in Rhode Island’s legislative races is June 27.

Gov. John Lynch (D) signed the new Senate map into law last Friday, but vetoed the plan for the House, saying it violates the constitutional principle of equal and local representation, is inconsistent, and changes boundaries unnecessarily.

Under a successful 2006 ballot initiative, any town of 3,000 citizens or more is guaranteed a resident member in the House of Representatives and, according to Lynch, 62 towns and wards that deserved their own seats did not receive one. The proposal for new House districts was passed in the House by a veto-proof majority, but was one vote short of that mark in the Senate.

On Wednesday, the House voted 246-112 to override Lynch's veto. The item was not on the calendar, however, and House Speaker William O'Brien’s (R) move to put it up for a vote was a controversial one. It began when O'Brien called for a recess in order to hold a private Republican caucus, forcing Democrats and onlookers to leave the chamber. When reconvened, the motion was put forward, angering Democrats. They attempted to delay the motion and tried to called a recess in order to have their own private caucus, but O'Brien denied the request. The Senate took up the matter that night, voting to override the veto 17-7.

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Collin Gately said there is no question that a lawsuit will be filed and that the party is currently reviewing their options. Community and advocacy groups are also expected to join legal challenges.

New York

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed off on new state legislative districts on March 15, the maps still need to go through a number of legal challenges before becoming law. Last week the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York appointed Nathaniel Persily, who previously provided assistance to the court to draw up a new congressional map, to determine when the court would have to intervene to ensure state legislative districts are finalized in time for candidates to file.

The legislature’s plan is currently undergoing the pre-clearance process by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if it is in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the Senate map is the subject of a lawsuit brought by Sen. Martin Dilan (D) and others who claim the addition of a 63rd seat in the chamber is unconstitutional. State Supreme Court Judge Richard F. Braun previously ruled that the court had no ability to review the proposal as it had not been voted on or signed into law and was only a recommendation, but now that it was signed the case is proceeding with oral arguments scheduled for April 6.

If the map fails to get pre-clearance or the 63rd seat is found to be unconstitutional, the U.S. District Court may intervene in order to draw the maps, something they have made clear they are reluctant to to do.

Wisconsin

Following a long court battle, Wisconsin’s new districts for the next decade are all set, with the exception of Assembly Districts 8 and 9. Last week a three-judge federal panel upheld 130 of the state’s 132 districts, but ordered two in the Milwaukee area be redrawn because they weakened Latino voting power and violated the Voting Rights Act. The court initially ordered the legislature to take up the task, but on Tuesday took the job away from the sharply divided lawmakers, who they said were unable to make even the "precious few" changes necessary to bring the map into compliance. In doing so the court ordered the state and plaintiffs in the case to try to reach an agreement by April 2. If unable to do so, they were instructed to submit their own recommendations to the court by April 3.

Wyoming

A group of Wyoming residents said they will file a lawsuit regarding the recently passed state legislative redistricting plan. The residents claim the map fails the two-pronged approach regarding protecting one-person, one vote, as well as splitting more county lines than is necessary. The suit will be filed with the State Supreme Court.

See also