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Redistricting Roundup: DOJ approves maps in Louisiana, Virginia

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June 24, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

With 16 states requiring some form of approval from the Department of Justice, many lawmakers have closely watched the review process in Virginia and Louisiana. Following DOJ approval of the first three maps from those two states, other states may interpret this as a signal about what will be judged acceptable under the Voting Rights Act.

On Wednesday, Republicans in North Carolina released a redistricting proposal for the Voting Rights Act districts in the North Carolina General Assembly.

The plan creates 24 majority-minority districts in the House and 10 in the State Senate. Currently, 18 African-Americans serve in the House and 10 serve in the State Senate.

Although the plan could increase the number of minorities serving in the General Assembly, an NAACP attorney accused lawmakers of packing blacks into fewer districts to reduce their broader influence. Moving black voters from existing districts to neighboring VRA districts may also have the effect of undermining the voting base of several Democratic incumbents.

However, Bob Rucho (R), chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, argues that lawmakers have a responsibility to empower minorities to choose their own candidates by creating more majority-minority districts. A press release explaining the proposed districts can be found here.

Following the release of the Voting Rights Act districts, lawmakers decided to push back the full release of the state’s legislative maps from July 1 to July 11. Full Congressional plans are still expected on July 1.

 North Carolina VRA Redistricting Proposal 

State news

Arizona

The Independent Redistricting Commission is meeting today to interview three firms who have applied to serve as mapping consultants. The three applicants are TerraSystems Southwest Inc., Research Advisory Services, and National Demographics Corp.

California

This week the schedule for new maps was delayed slightly as residents and commissioners alike continue to analyze draft maps. Residents were given until June 28 to submit written comment. Additionally, the release of an updated version of draft maps has been delayed until July 12. The majority of feedback continues to center around keeping communities together and avoiding combining neighborhoods with differing needs. For example, residents in Merced have spoken out against a new Senate district that combines Merced (highly agricultural) with Santa Clary County (high-tech industries). The Commission has continued holding meetings throughout the state to gather input, and citizen turnout has been larger than expected.

Additionally, minority organizations are alleging that the draft maps would hurt the chances of Latinos getting elected to office. Specifically, the map could endanger U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, members of the Sacramento City Council sent a joint letter with concerns to the Commission over the draft legislative maps. Several parts of Sacramento would be split under the proposed Senate and Assembly maps.

Quote of the Week
"This shredding of the map makes a mockery of the right to a meaningful vote... It's just so distorted...There's no possible reason for these shapes."[1]

-- Michigan Rep. Sander Levin. Levin also described his new district as looking like a "scorpion." Levin was paired with Gary Peters under the new Republican-proposed Congressional plan.

Louisiana

On Monday, the Department of Justice granted approval to the new House map. However, legal challenges are still possible. Speaker Jim Tucker (R) called the moment historic, in referring to the fact that no House plan has ever received pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.

Maine

On Wednesday, Judge George Singal ordered the Maine State Legislature to finish redistricting by September 30, 2011. If it cannot complete that task, then the Maine Supreme Court would have until November 15 to finish redrawing the two districts.

Michigan

On Thursday, the Michigan State Senate and Michigan House of Representatives each approved a portion of the state’s redistricting plan. The House approved the GOP's proposed Congressional redistricting map. The plan passed along party lines, 63-47. Meanwhile, the Senate passed the proposed legislative plan 29-8 with bipartisan support. Several Democrats signed on to the plan after the Democratic proposal for Detroit's State Senate seats was integrated into the maps. The House plan for Detroit was unaffected.

Both sets of approved maps now head to the opposite chamber for concurrence. Opponents argue that Republicans are rushing the redistricting process. However, Republicans contend that final plans should be approved by July 1 to allow sufficient time for legal challenges.

 2011 Michigan Redistricting Plans 

Nevada

On Wednesday, Judge James Todd Russell met with both Democratic and Republican lawyers to discuss the redistricting lawsuits. Another meeting has been set for July 12, 2011, when a briefing schedule and date for a formal hearing will be set. The session adjourned with no Congressional or state legislative maps, as Governor Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed every map the Democratic-majority sent to his desk.

New Mexico

The map-drawing process in New Mexico has gotten underway. The redistricting consultant hired by the legislature created seven draft maps for new Congressional districts. Among the new proposals is one that would fold all of eastern New Mexico into one southern-based Congressional district. The redistricting committee is now holding a series of public input sessions across the state. A special session is expected in September 2011 to vote on new maps.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 19
Next state deadline? Delaware
June 30, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 46 out of 142 (32.4%)** MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (3), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (3), MN (3), NV (3), NE (2), AL (1), IL (3), OR (2), SC (3), AK (2), MI (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 7 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, OK, AL, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 10 (NJ, LA, IA, VA, IN, NE, OK, IL, OR, AK)
**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)

South Carolina

Deliberations continue in South Carolina over the final appearance of the Congressional map. At stake is the creation of a new 7th District. On Monday, the South Carolina State Senate held a public input forum to gather reaction from citizens. Residents from throughout the state argued for their location as the central point of a new district. In particular, some residents from Pee Dee took a chartered bus to Columbia for the meeting.

With a special session set to conclude next week, lawmakers have until then to finalize the map. However, the Senate is split over how the final map should look, which could ultimately mean the map will be drawn by a panel of three federal judges. On Thursday, a map was passed out of committee after a 19-19 tied vote was broken by Lt. Governor Ken Ard (R). The plan now advances to the floor for debate. It would split parts of Spartanburg County between the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts. The new 7th District would be centered in Horry County.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
House Minority Leader Jerome Kelsh (D) has suggested that Majority Leader Al Carlson (R) lied about the appointment process for the interim redistricting committee in North Dakota. Kelsh maintains that Carlson promised that Democrats would be allowed to select their own committee members. However, after rejecting two separate sets of nominees, Carlson agreed to select Kelsh and Richard Holman for the committee. Carlson maintains that the promise was qualified by the condition of geographic balance on the committee.

Texas

The Texas State Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would create a citizen redistricting commission -- although it would not take effect until the 2020 redistricting cycle. Acknowledging the impossibility of removing partisanship from the redistricting process, Senator Jeff Wentworth (R) sponsored the commission bill with the aim of making the process fairer and less politically charged. The Senate passed similar bills in 2005 and 2007; both times the bills were defeated in the House.

A coalition of Hispanic advocacy groups, with the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force as lead plaintiff, filed a federal redistricting lawsuit against Governor Rick Perry on June 17th. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, challenges redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas US Congressional Delegation on grounds that minority voting representation is not proportionate to 2010 Census population data. The suit seeks to strengthen Hispanic voting power within the state.

Wisconsin

It was reported on Thursday that legislative leaders have redrawn Wisconsin state Senate and Assembly maps but are keeping them mostly secret, even from their own party members. Speaker of the Assembly Jeff Fitzgerald (R) said he has begun sharing the maps with fellow Republicans in his chamber and deciding whether to pass them in July, prior to the recall elections against nine senators.

Republican state Senators Luther Olsen and Robert Cowles, both of whom are the targets of recall elections, as well as President of the Senate Michael Ellis (R) said they have not yet seen maps of their own districts. While the legislature is not currently scheduled to be on the floor during July, a special or extraordinary session could be held. Ellis said the decision is up to Fitzgerald, but that he expects the senate to pass the maps before the recalls.

Virginia

On Friday, June 17, the Department of Justice approved Virginia's legislative redistricting plan. The approval process took only 37 of the 60 days allotted by the Voting Rights Act. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) praised the Department's speedy response. Cuccinelli had also sought approval from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as a contingency plan.

See also