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Redistricting Roundup: Court rules another map needs revision

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March 23, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay


Note: Next week'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

Acting with a sense of urgency, a three-judge federal panel approved new congressional districts for New York on Monday--the day before candidates could begin collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot. The map is nearly identical to the one proposed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, who was appointed to act as special redistricting master. The panel noted that Mann was able to provide the court with a map in two weeks' time - something the legislature has unable to do for over a year.

The new map reduces the number of congressional seats from 29 to 27, eliminating the mid-Hudson Valley seat held by retiring Democrat Maurice Hinchey and the Queens district held by Republican Bob Turner. Turner, in response, is now running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand (D). According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, six of the seven GOP-held U.S. House seats will be less safe for incumbents, while at least four Democratic incumbents will face less friendly districts.

New legislative districts were approved by the legislature last week and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The districts still need to be approved by the Justice Department to ensure that they comply with the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, a court case brought by Democrats against the addition of a 63rd seat in the Senate is pending. They argue that the new seat is nothing but an attempt by the GOP to retain their majority in the chamber, while Republicans argue it is required by the state Constitution.

Meanwhile, it is appearing more likely that New York will have two different primary dates for state legislative and congressional primaries. A judge has moved the congressional primary to June 26. While the Democrat-controlled Assembly favors moving the legislative primary to June 26 as well, the Republican-controlled Senate prefers to keep the primary on September 11, so as not to disrupt the legislative calendar.

State news

Alaska

After the Alaska Supreme Court remanded the redistricting challenge to the superior court, Judge McConahy set an April 2 deadline for submitting new plans and an April 13 deadline for review and adoption by the Board. Opponents were also invited to file their own map submissions by April 2 or file objections to the adopted plan by April 23. The board was given until April 27 to respond to any objections. McConahy set a May 7 court date for revisiting the plans.

Although the Alaska Redistricting Board had already scheduled meetings to make the necessary revisions, it questioned McConahy's authority to establish the timeline. On March 16, attorneys for the Board asked McConahy vacate the order establishing the deadlines. On March 21, McConahy agreed to vacate the order. The board now plans to complete the revised map by June 1--Alaska's filing deadline for legislative candidates. The board will hold a series of meetings each day next week to begin work on the new map. Citizens unable to attend the meetings in person may participate via streaming video or teleconference.

  • Dates and other information on the meetings can be found here.

Arizona

On Wednesday, the Arizona State Senate approved an additional $700,000 appropriation to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The Senate voted 18-9 to approve the measure which had been sent to its chamber by the House. The commission had sought an extra $1.1 million.

Meanwhile, House speaker Andy Tobin (R) is considering whether the Legislature will sue to attempt to block the legislative and congressional redistricting maps.

Quote of the Week
"I think it's one step in a long process. We're in court, and this whole process may have to repeat itself if we win the lawsuit over the 63rd seat. People shouldn't take these lines to the bank just yet."[1]

-- Mike Gianaris (D), New York State Senator commenting on the new state senate map.

Florida

Yesterday, the Florida State Senate passed a revised chamber map, seeking to comply with changes mandated by the Florida Supreme Court. On March 10, the state's High Court rejected the original maps, finding eight districts unconstitutional and ruling that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others. Ultimately, 24 districts were modified to accommodate the changes to the eight rejected by the court. The revised numbers were picked using Bingo machines.

Despite these modifications, Democratic leaders maintain that the revised maps still violate the 2010 "Fair Districts amendment by favoring incumbents. The plan was approved 31-6 with five Democratic senators supporting the plan. The House is expected to pass the plan.

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

Meanwhile, court challenges are pending against Florida's new congressional districts. Last Friday, a state circuit court judge said he will likely begin hearing the challenges next month. The challenges were filed by a collection of voter groups and the Florida Democratic Party. Florida's petition filing deadline is in May and the candidate qualifying deadline is in June.

Kansas

This week, the Kansas House of Representatives rejected two competing redistricting plans, sending lawmakers back to the drawing board. The committee map, approved on March 14, floundered in the House until it was replaced by Rep. Tom Arpke (R). The replacement map passed 70-51 in a preliminary vote on Tuesday. However, House Speaker Mike O'Neal (R), an advocate of the original map, sharply criticized the map and the House promptly voted it down on Wednesday, 48-76. It now appears that neither map is destined for passage. Another, Senate-drawn congressional map appears doomed as well.

As House lawmakers begin drafting a consensus map, it appears likely that parts of Shawnee County will be used to bolster the 1st Congressional District. The now-dead committee bill moved a portion of Wyandotte County--home to Democratic-leaning Kansas City--into the conservative 1st Congressional District of Kansas. The Senate chose a bipartisan map that kept Wyandotte in the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, drawing population for District 1 from Riley County.

Meanwhile, a Kansas State Senate panel approved a chamber map on Monday, protecting three incumbent Republicans from conservative challengers. The changes would protect Carolyn McGinn, Tim Owens, and Jean Schodorf.

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 43/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, KS, ME, MS, MT, NH, NY)
**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)

Maryland

Maryland's redistricting process was marked by rampant criticism and several lawsuits, but in the end, congressional and legislative maps were passed without great incident. Some of the greatest anger came toward the legislative maps, which became law without having hearings in the General Assembly. Lawmakers put forth a number of alternative plans, but none of them saw hearings either. With new districts in place and anger subsided, a slate of bills have been proposed to reform the next round of redistricting.

Nine bills in total have been heard by committees, but so far no votes have been taken. Most legislators don't appear optimistic at their chances of passing. Suggested reforms include creating task forces to study redistricting, increasing the time for public comment, and creating a bipartisan commission to draw the districts and remove political considerations from the process.

Mississippi

In 2011, Mississippi lawmakers failed to redraw their legislative boundaries. As a result, the 2011 elections were held using the map from the 2000 Census. Republicans ultimately took control of both the Senate and House. Now, legislators must once again attempt to draw new districts using the 2010 Census. The legislature will be accepting public input through mid-April before embarking on another attempt at completing the constitutionally-mandated redistricting process.

Missouri

The Missouri Supreme Court has missed a scheduled hand-down day as candidates wait for it to rule on challenges to the state's congressional and state House districts. The court could release the ruling on a special day, but some are concerned that the Court could now miss the state's March 27 filing deadline.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
The Ohio "Voters First" coalition has submitted initial signatures for a state constitutional amendment creating a nonpartisan citizens redistricting commission. The 12-member commission would be drawn from around the state, while excluding donors, politicians, and lobbyists. Once petition language is approved, the group will begin collecting the 386,000 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot.

South Carolina

Earlier in March, a three-judge federal panel dismissed a lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination in South Carolina's new districts. This week, six voters have appealed that ruling up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has not yet decided if it will take up the case.

Tennessee

Last Friday, March 16, Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Republican-drawn Tennessee State Senate redistricting maps. The suit argues that the Tennessee State Senate map unnecessarily splits too many counties. The implemented map splits eight counties while a map drawn by the General Assembly Black Caucus map would split five.

West Virginia

On January 20, the US Supreme Court stayed a federal court ruling requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional redistricting map. The state has until March 27 to file a brief with the Supreme Court or seek an extension on the stay. If the case does not go before the Court, the lower court's ruling will take effect and the maps will be redrawn. The court will likely make a decision on whether to consider the appeal by this fall.

Wisconsin

Yesterday, a three-judge federal panel upheld Wisconsin's new congressional and State Senate districts, but ordered two Milwaukee-area Assembly districts to be redrawn for violating the Voting Rights Act. The panel held that the map unfairly diluted Latino voting power and ordered the map back to the legislature, mandating that lawmakers redraw Districts 8 and 9 without affecting any other districts. In the meantime, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has been barred from implementing the new map.

Although the judges upheld the great majority of the districts drawn by Republicans, they harshly criticized the process, calling it "needlessly secret” and stating that every effort was undertaken in order to complete the work out of the public eye. The legislature recently adjourned their 2012 session and it is unclear how they will take up the task, especially since the state Senate is evenly divided following Republican Pam Galloway's resignation on March 17.

The court challenge was first filed back in June 2011, prior to the passage of maps. Throughout the process the panel criticized Republicans for unnecessary secrecy, ordering them to release documents numerous times. Among these were agreements signed by nearly all Republican legislators stating they would not discuss the maps while they were in progress. Still, with the ruling, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) called it a win for GOP leaders.

See also