Redistricting Roundup: Drama over North Carolina maps continues
Edited by Geoff Pallay
North Carolina has seen a number of intense partisan battles as state Republicans slowly release their plans for legislative and Congressional districts. On June 17, GOP lawmakers released plans for the state legislature's Voting Rights Act districts. On July 1 and July 12, they released full proposals for the Congressional and legislative district, respectively. The plans were swiftly labeled blatant partisan gerrymandering and transparent attempts to pack minority voters. The state NAACP has threatened legal action. However, authors of the plans insist that plans are competitive, legal, and fair to minorities.
On Tuesday, the North Carolina GOP released a revised version of its Congressional redistricting maps. Overall, the map is seen as significantly worse for the state's Congressional Democrats.
Unlike the previous plan which weakened four Democratic districts but kept incumbents within their original districts, the new draft pairs four Democrats in two districts. Specifically, the plan pairs Reps. Larry Kissell (D) and Mike McIntyre (D) in the strongly-Republican 8th District. The plan also pairs Rep. Brad Miller (D) and Rep David Price (D) in Price's District 4. Miller, who still lives near his old district (13), does not plan to challenge Price. McIntyre could return to his old District 7, but its Democratic base has been weakened.
Opponents reiterated claims that the plan is overtly partisan, but Republican redistricting leaders Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. David Lewis contest this claim, noting that Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper would have won in each of the new districts. Rucho and Lewis' press release on the plan can be found here.
|North Carolina GOP Congressional Redistricting Proposal|
|Quote of the Week|
"There's no way to draw a district that isn't gerrymandered, because gerrymandering means drawing a map for political purposes, well that's what we're doing, [we're] drawing a map for political purposes. We're deciding who's going to represent people." - Michael Waddoups, Utah Senate President
Shortly after the completion of legislative maps, Alaska had spent $1.5 million on the redistricting process. The Redistricting Board has budgeted another $1.4 million for defending the plan against lawsuits and pursuing Department of Justice approval of the plan under the Voting Rights Act. In total, three lawsuits have been filed over the plan -- two in the Fairbanks area and one by the city of Petersburg. The board plans to submits the maps to the DOJ within two weeks.
Attorney General Tom Horne (R) has launched an investigation into whether the redistricting commission violated state procurement and open meeting laws. Horne said they "don’t have any reason to believe that anything was done wrong" but his office will still investigate in order to solidify confidence in the process. Commission executive director Ray Bladine says rules have been followed properly. However, State senator Frank Antenori (R) maintains he has proof that laws were broken -- including evidence that government documents subject to public records request were destroyed. An investigation by the Arizona Capitol Times last week first detailed the possible open meeting and procurement violations. According to that report, the commission has met behind closed doors for 37 hours in executive session this year.
Governor Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released their initial senate map proposals in late July 2011. The two maps were largely similar and drew some criticism from some incumbents. Bruce Holland (R) said of the maps: "It pretty much destroys my district." According to Beebe spokeswoman Stacey Hall, the proposed map would not place any two existing incumbents in the same district. Kim Hendren also expressed displeasure at the proposed map. Another Senator Jack Crumbly (D) was displeased to see the African-American population decrease in his district. Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) released his proposed map earlier in the summer.
The proposed House maps differ with respect to majority-minority districts. Currently, there are 13 such districts. The Beebe and McDaniel maps would create 11 majority-minority districts. Meanwhile, the Martin map creates 15 districts.
The Board of Apportionment -- consisting of Beebe, McDaniel and Martin -- will meet on July 29 to vote on maps. The maps are available for viewing here.
The California Republican Party chair -- Tom Del Beccaro -- hinted at a possible voter referendum to challenge the finalized maps; if the party is displeased with the results. Once maps are finalized on August 15, opponents would have until November 15 in order to collect 504,760 valid signatures that would be needed to trigger a map review by the California Supreme Court. Currently, the commission is interviewing legal teams to hire for a court fight -- at a cost of up to $500,000.
Meanwhile, speculation also continues that the new maps will provide the foundation to allow the Democratic Party to achieve a 2/3 majority in both the Senate and Assembly -- thereby removing the need to negotiate with the GOP over tax issues.
One additional unique matter is the predicament facing Ted Gaines and Beth Gaines. Ted is a former Assemblyman who won a special election earlier this year to the Senate. Beth then went on to win the special election for Ted’s Assembly seat. But the new maps indicate that Beth’s Assembly seat would likely be safe for the GOP, while Ted’s Senate district would lean strongly Democratic. Meaning, if Ted wanted to protect his Senate career, he might consider moving to another district. But doing so could jeopardize Beth’s chances at re-election.
According to Republican commissioner Peter Yao, there are roughly 300 email suggestions coming in daily to the commission. The new maps will be released by August 1 in advance of a vote by August 15.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 21|
|Next state deadline?|| South Carolina|
August 1, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 51 out of 142 (35.9%)**||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 (3), SC (3), AK (2), MI (3), DE (2), WI (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||8 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, OK, AL, IL )|
|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)|
On June 28, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to include non-resident students and military personnel in redistricting calculations. On Tuesday, Attorney General David M. Louie (D) approved an advisory opinion written by Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina, stating that the Hawaii Supreme Court would be likely to overturn the Commission's decision. She cites a 2005 case in which the court ruled that the term "resident population," as found in the Hawaii County Charter, only referred to actual residents for purposes of local redistricting. Aina argues that the Supreme Court is likely to reach a similar decision at the state level.
Nevada’s redistricting process is engulfed in legal disputes over the makeup of Congressional and legislative maps. The sticking point comes down to minority representation -- Democrats have proposed maps that Republicans contend dilute the voice of minority voters by spreading them across the state. Democrats argue that Republicans are simply trying to weaken those voters via packing. This week, the legal representation for both sides asked the court to rule on whether legally, the state is required to draw a Congressional majority-minority district because of the large presence of minority voters. Before the judge appoints panel members to re-draw the districts, both parties have stressed that the majority-minority district situation requires a resolution.
The 13th member of the New Jersey Congressional redistricting commission has been chosen. John Farmer Jr -- former Attorney General of New Jersey -- was selected by the 12 existing commissioners. Farmer previously served as counsel to Alan Rosenthal during the recent state legislative redistricting process. New Jersey will be drawing one fewer Congressional seat this year -- going from 13 down to 12.
The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), responsible for redistricting, held its first public meeting this week in Syracuse. Although the state has witnessed a major push to establish an independent redistricting commission, lawmakers -- mostly Republicans -- are saying there is not enough time to establish a new protocol and complete the process before primaries next year. Currently, districts can vary by as much as 10 percent. Like with public meetings about redistricting held across the country, the mood in Syracuse was the same -- don’t split communities of interest. On Wednesday, 18 individuals shared their thoughts with LATFOR during a public hearing in Rochester.
The League of Women Voters, Ohio Citizen Action, and Draw the Line Ohio is sponsoring a public competition to redraw Ohio's congressional and legislative boundaries. The competition will award $5,000 in cash prizes, and entries will be judged on their ability to preserve county boundaries, create compact districts, ensure representational fairness, and promote political competitiveness. The winning plans will also be submitted to the state for consideration.
In advance of the redistricting session next Tuesday, Republican Senators Glenn McConnell and Larry Grooms -- essentially the designated spokespersons for the competing maps -- took to the media outlets to defend their versions. McConnell recommends passage of the map that centers the new 7th Congressional District in the "Peedee" region. Grooms meanwhile, backs the plan to construct the 7th Congressional District around Beaufort County. Both senators published editorials outlining their stance. Coincidentally -- or perhaps ironically -- both legislators described their plan as the "common sense" map.
Governor Rick Perry signed Texas's congressional redistricting map into law on Monday. On Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott submitted Texas's four redistricting maps to a panel of three federal judges in Washington DC. Texas is among the states that must submit their redistricting plans to the federal government for approval under the auspices of the Voting Rights Act. The standard route for obtaining federal approval is for states to submit their plans to the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this is the route Texas has taken in the past. But political tension between Texas and the Obama administration's DOJ led state leaders to circumvent the traditional route this cycle.
In a move that has confused observers and spawned speculation, Attorney General Abbot simultaneously submitted the maps to the DOJ for preclearance. Abbott said filing the maps with the DOJ was "to facilitate and expedite disposition of this matter."
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno and House Republican leader Tom Cross filed a federal lawsuit on July 21 seeking to invalidate the legislative maps drawn by Democrats. They allege the new maps unfairly target Republicans and violate the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as violating the state constitution's compactness requirement. The case will be heard by a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court. If successful, either parts or the whole of the map could be redrawn.
At least two local boards of civil authority have voted to oppose the Apportionment Board's elimination of multi-member districts within their local area. In Montpelier, district lines were redrawn in order to create two districts without displacing any incumbents. However, because the city's two incumbents live on the same street, the resulting lines were less than intuitive. Bennington has also opposed the plan, arguing that stable local population growth meant that no change was necessary for their district. While these votes are not binding, they are submitted to the legislature for consideration along with the Board's redistricting plan.
On Tuesday, members of the West Virginia House of Delegates submitted a range of legislative redistricting proposals. The plans represent the first round of drafts maps submitted for consideration. The plans reinforced the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats on the future of West Virginia's multi-member districts. One notable area of disagreement in the plans was Monongalia County. Since the last census, it has grown enough to warrant a fifth legislative seat. The question for legislators is whether to further expand the existing multi-member district by adding another seat or make the new seat its own district. Expanding the district would be a setback for smaller or single-member districts. However, making the seat its own district would split the county. This sort of trade-off promises to shape the final map as legislators balance the disparate aims of single and multi-member districts.
On July 19, the Wisconsin State Senate passed new legislative and congressional maps along party lines, with the Assembly passing them two days later. Democrats called the plans an unconstitutional power grab and argued the process was moving too quickly. They were not able to offer an alternative plan in either chamber, saying there was not time to come up with one. The proposals now go to Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to approve them. Democrats have already had a lawsuit filed and have promised that the courts will have a say before the process is completed.
After six weeks since the appointment of the conference committee and over six months in session, the Virginia General Assembly has yet to reach final decisions on Congressional redistricting and judicial appointments. In a letter dated yesterday, Governor McDonnell urged lawmakers to take swift action to finish business and adjourn. McDonnell noted the deleterious effect of the delays on the court system, and asked the General Assembly to either elect judges or adjourn so that McDonnell can appoint replacements. He also noted that there were no meetings scheduled and no plan set forth for completing Congressional redistricting. Asked about the delays, House leadership blamed the Senate for refusing to discuss the plan. When Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw was asked, he replied, "We’re back when we’re back. That’s all we can say."
- The full letter can be found here.