Redistricting Roundup: Even as full census data has yet to be released, already 4 states have lawsuits
By Geoff Pallay
435 U.S. House districts, 7,384 state legislative seats, 50 states, one stop. Once each decade, the 50 states embark on the process of redistricting -- where Congressional and legislative seats, along with a host of special districts, get new boundaries. In each round of redistricting, some states gain seats in Congress and others lose. The redistricting process varies in each state and is often a political minefield.
Ballotpedia's 'Redistricting Roundup' will cover news, legislative issues, court battles, trends and the final maps as America implements the legislative changes mandated by the 2010 Census. This publication -- compiled by Ballotpedia reporters -- will be released weekly on Friday afternoons.
U.S. House of Representatives
Two Representatives in Congress have introduced legislation that would impact redistricting at the state-level. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) each plan to put a bill on the floor of the House. Shuler's bill would require each state to put redistricting in the hands of a five-member commission, in much the same structure as Arizona. Cooper's bill would require each state to create a website to solicit input on the redistricting process. Maps would be required to be posted 10 days before a vote on their adoption, according to Cooper's bill. Shuler's bill would take effect in 2020, while Cooper's would be enforced immediately.
|Total Lawsuits filed||Next state deadline?||States with Maps submitted||States that have completed redistricting|
|4 (Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma)||New Jersey, February 1, 2011 or 1 month after census data arrives||0||0|
Arizona is one of 11 states that uses a redistricting committee to redraw its maps. The committee is made up of 5 members -- 4 of which are appointed by the legislative majority and minority leaders. The leadership chooses from a nominee list, which is provided by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. The fifth and final member is an independent, chosen by the first four appointees. The fifth member will also serve as the chair.
A lawsuit was filed by House Speaker Kirk Adams (R) and Senate President Russell Pearce (R) over the composition of the nominee list for the redistricting committee. They requested that two Republican nominees and one independent nominee be removed from the list. Adams and Pearce argued that the three candidates did not qualify because they were "public officials" from other civic services. The Arizona Supreme Court on Jan. 18 ruled that two Republican candidates would need to be replaced from the initial list. Additionally, the Court held that the independent -- Paul Bender -- would remain on the final list of 25 candidates. The two names added to replace Mark Schnepf and Steve Sossaman are Crystal Russell and Richard Stertz.
|Redistricting Types by State|
One of the 14 members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission resigned, citing time constraints. Elaine Kuo will be replaced by another Democrat, chosen from a list of previous applicants to the California redistricting process. Additionally, the commission hired an executive director, Daniel Claypool.
Last fall, voters approved Amendment 5 and Amendment 6, which require the legislature to draw "fair" congressional and state legislative districts in Florida. The Florida House of Representatives joined a lawsuit against the amendments that claim the measures violate the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, Governor Rick Scott (R) pulled the request for federal approval of the amendments.
Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 3976. The bill would require at least four public hearings for redistricting and add language involving how districts can be drawn. If signed into law, there could be three different new types of districts: crossover, coalition, and influence. A crossover district is where the district has a minority that has a big enough population to convince the majority population to cross over and vote for their candidate. A coalition district is where more than one minority group can form together a coalition to get their candidate elected. An influence district is a district where a minority group can make enough of an influence to affect the outcome of an election despite the fact that their candidate may not win. The bill has not been signed yet by Gov. Pat Quinn.
In January 2011, Republican senators introduced legislation that would create an independent redistricting commission. The bill was rejected by a 34-5 vote. The measure was introduced by Republicans and received a large partisan vote (1 Democratic Senator voted in favor of the legislation). The bill would have established a seven-member commission which would be responsible for drawing the maps. Those maps would then be approved or voted down by the Massachusetts State Legislature. The independent commission was supported by Governor Deval Patrick (D), former Governor Mitt Romney (R), current Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.
Legislators in the New York State Senate introduced a bill to establish an independent redistricting commission. Prior to the 2010 elections, many legislative candidates signed a pledge -- circulated by former New York City mayor Ed Koch -- to support creation of a non-partisan redistricting commission. Senator Chuck Schumer (D) has come out against the plan. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) says he will not sign a redistricting plan that is too heavily partisan.
As a result of the census recount, Pennsylvania is losing two Congressional districts in the redistricting process. Early signs are that the two seats will be carved out of the southwestern portion of the state. That region currently includes the 12th and 18th Districts, two of America's most heavily gerrymandered seats.
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 Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth noted that Texas will probably not submit their redistricting plans to the Justice Department for preclearance this year, citing the partisanship of the Obama administration's DOJ as reason. Instead, Texas may use the alternate method of going directly to the courts and having their redistricting plans reviewed by a three-judge federal court in DC.
Virginia is one of 4 states to hold legislative elections in 2011. The Virginia House of Delegates approved legislation on January 19, 2011, to change the state's primary election date from June 14 to August 23, 2011, in anticipation of redistricting. The bill is pending a floor vote in the State Senate. The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections favorably reported the legislation by an unanimous 15-0 vote on January 25, 2011.
Washington is one of 11 states that uses a commission primarily to re-draw its districts. The commission is made up of five members, four of which have already been appointed. All four members are from the Western part of Washington, which has left Eastern representatives feeling disenfranchised. The deadline for the fifth member to be appointed is not until May 2011. Recent media coverage and editorials have decried the lack of an Eastern Washington voice on the commission. The fifth member is appointed by the existing four commissioners. Thus far, there has been little speculation as to who the fifth member might be.