Redistricting Roundup: Lawsuit filed over new district in New York

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February 3, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

While less than 1/3 of states still need to complete redistricting, for some states, there seems to be no end in sight.

New York State Senator Martin Dilan (D) joined others in filing suit in Manhattan state Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that the Republican plan to add a 63rd seat in the Senate is a violation of the state Constitution. According to the lawsuit, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) did not apply the Senate size formula as set out in Section 4 "consistently, rationally, or in good faith." The suit contends that, while LATFOR has some discretion to determine how to apply the formula, when they added a 62nd seat 10 years ago they used a completely different methodology. Senate Republicans argue the plan meets all legal requirements. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) continued to threaten to veto the lines, reiterating that the plans are unacceptable and require a great deal of reworking, not just minor revisions.

Meanwhile, last Friday U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York delivered his ruling establishing the date of the New York congressional primary as June 26, 35 days prior to the deadline for sending absentee ballots overseas. While his ruling does not change the state legislative primary, it is likely that the legislature will follow suit and move the State senate and State Assembly primary date to June 26 as well.

Legislators say the ruling throws another wrench into the redistricting process and are doubtful they will be able to comply with the order without changing laws. Assemblyman John McEneny (D) said the draft of new congressional lines probably won’t be released to the public until early March. Even if the map is quickly approved and Cuomo does not veto it, the election calendar would be extremely tight. Under state law candidates have 37 days to circulate petitions to get on the ballot, which some lawmakers are looking to cut in half. There is also hope that the Justice Department would quickly sign off on the lines, rather than take the 60 days allotted to them. Seeing as how every stage of this round of redistricting has seen delays and bitter partisan battles, the feasibility of a June 26 primary appears in doubt.

State news

Arizona

Three potential measures were introduced by Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) relating to the redistricting maps. If approved by a majority of each chamber, two measures would be placed on a special election ballot in May, and one would be on the November 2012 general election ballot. Most notably, the measures propose alternatives to the maps implemented by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The three measures are:

Tobin admitted that the measures would result in more Republicans being elected. But he defended this, stating that this is fair because there are more registered Republicans in the state. According to a spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State, in order for the state to hold the May special election, the legislature would need to approve Tobin's proposals by Feb. 15, which is 90 days before the election.

Critics have said the measures would undermine the spirit of the Redistricting Commission, which is meant to take the power of drawing new maps out of the hands of legislators.

Florida

On January 31, a panel of judges from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Florida Amendment 6 which mandates nonpartisan congressional redistricting. The lawsuit, Brown v. Browning, was filed by US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R). Brown and Diaz-Balart argued that the US Constitution gives state legislatures alone prerogative over the redistricting process. The Florida House of Representatives intervened as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. No plans for an appeal have yet been announced.

  • The full decision can be found here.

In other news, the state House Redistricting Committee today approved a redistricting proposal for consideration by the full chamber. Proponents of the Fair Redistricting amendments attacked the plan, saying it unconstitutionally favors Republicans. Full House votes on the legislative and congressional proposals are expected today.

Hawaii

On January 30, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission requested an additional $90,000 to redraw its overturned redistricting maps. The commission also requested an additional $235,000 to retain its own attorney -- the Commission has argued that the state inadequately defended them during the legal challenge over redistricting.

Quote of the Week
"I have some bad habits, but one of them is not trusting the Republicans in the New York State Senate to protect minority people,"[1]

-- Reverend Al Sharpton

Idaho

After reconvening for just two days, the redistricting commission passed a new map by a 6-0 vote on January 27. The map, L93, splits only 7 counties, five fewer than the first map the commission passed but ultimately saw thrown out by the court on January 18. Chairman Ron Beitelspacher said he is unhappy with the size of three of the new districts, but noted there was little they could do as a result of the court restrictions, odd shape of the state and uneven distribution of population.

Initially, it looked as though Twin Falls County, whose lawsuit led to the first map being thrown out, might launch a suit against the new map. Ultimately, they decided against the move, calling the plan "substantially better" than the first. In both the originally approved plan and the new plan, the county is split into three districts, something county prosecutor Grant Loebs said was done for no legitimate reason.

Kansas

On February 1, the Kansas State Senate's redistricting committee approved a bipartisan congressional redistricting plan. The plan consolidates Lawrence in US House District 2, and moves Manhattan from District 2 to District 1. However, state Republicans and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have lashed out against the plan. State Party Chair Amanda Adkins argued that the plan was intended to create a Democratic 2nd District. A chamber official said the map hurts Republicans and furthers the President's political agenda. Proponents of the plan defend it as nonpartisan and note that registered Republicans in the district only drop 2% under the plan. The map will now be considered by the full Senate with a likely vote on Monday, February 6.

  • The redistricting bill (SB 344) and maps can be found here.

In other news, a new state House plan has surfaced in committee. The plan shifts 3 districts into the Kansas City metro area.

Kentucky

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D) said lawmakers in the Republican Senate and Democratic House are in the process of reaching a compromise on Kentucky's congressional districts. Stumbo said the map closely resembles existing districts. Legislators could consider the plans by Tuesday, February 7.

Meanwhile, a state circuit judge considering a lawsuit against the state's legislative maps has extended the filing deadline for legislative candidates from January 31 to February 7. The lawsuit was brought by members of the minority parties in each legislative chamber. The delay is expected to put legislative activity on hold as incumbents wait to size up their fall challengers.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 35 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 13
Maps submitted for vote: 122 out of 142 (85.9%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), CT (3), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), KS (1), KY (3), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (3), NC (3), NE (2), NH (1), NJ (3), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (3), RI (3), SC (3), SD (2), TN (3), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), VT (2), WA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 36 (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NM,NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 35 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI)
**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)

New Hampshire

The Republican plan for new Senate districts was passed by the Senate along party lines by a vote of 19-4 on Wednesday. It includes changes to 18 of the 24 Senate districts. The bill now goes to the House. While Gov. John Lynch (D) has the power to veto any plan, they are expected to pass since Republican supermajorities in both chambers mean the GOP could override the Governor's ruling.

Pennsylvania

At least two lawsuits have been filed in response to last week's decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to throw out the newly drawn state legislative districts and allow the 2001 districts to stand for the 2012 elections. Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R) filed a federal suit in Philadelphia seeking to stop primaries from being held in what he says are unconstitutional boundaries due to population shifts. Additionally, six legislative seats remain vacant. As Speaker, Smith is constitutionally required to call elections for the seats, however, he says doing so would schedule them to take place in unconstitutional districts.

The second suit was filed by the New York-based group Latino Justice, working in concert with Latino Lines. According to their lawsuit, use of the 2001 lines is unconstitutional and hurts the ability of Latinos to elect representatives of their choice. Under the 2001 map there is only one majority-Latino seat, while the plan the court threw out added three additional seats.

The Court has yet to provide an opinion detailing why they sent the maps back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. It is the first time the court has not approved a redistricting plan since the state adopted a revised Constitution in 1968.

Rhode Island

The Senate and House both passed proposals for new Congressional and Legislative districts on Wednesday. The initial Congressional plan, which shifted nearly 100,000 residents between the state’s two districts, was met with a great deal of criticism. The proposal that was passed, however, moves about 30,000 fewer voters and did not meet with much resistance.

The Senate passed the House version of the bill by a vote of 33-2 on Thursday. Several lawmakers in the House, however, complained that some changes appeared to be politically motivated. Republicans announced yesterday that they intend to file a lawsuit over gerrymandering in House District 47. They say the district was changed to remove Republican neighborhoods and the home of a Republican challenger, giving an unfair advantage to Democratic incumbent Cale Keable.

According to House Deputy Majority Leader Stephen Ucci (D), who introduced the bill, the plan moves 20 percent of people, with 69 districts having a population change of up to 25 percent. Population in five districts would be altered 30-37 percent. The bill now goes to Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) who has not said whether he would sign it or not.

South Dakota

State House members rejected a proposal to alter the redistricting process for the 2020 Census. A measure was proposed by Peggy Gibson (D) to create a seven-member commission made up of members of both parties. But a party-line vote in committee defeated the measure. Currently, the legislature is responsible for drawing new maps. Republicans hold a commanding partisan advantage in both chambers.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Following the Missouri Supreme Court's rejection of the court-drawn Senate redistricting maps, the process has gone back to square one. On Tuesday, January 31, Gov. Jay Nixon appointed a new bipartisan commission to redraw the chamber's districts. The earlier commission deadlocked, prompting court intervention. Meanwhile, Sen. Jason Crowell (R) has proposed a constitutional amendment subjecting the panel to the state's sunshine laws. Also, as directed by the state Supreme Court, a challenge of the state’s House redistricting plans has been taken to state circuit court. The commission will meet for the first time on February 18.
  • The Governor's press release listing the appointees can be found here.

Texas

Texas officials are still waiting on judgements from two ongoing federal redistricting cases being heard in San Antonio and DC courts. The courts' rulings in both cases will greatly impact this year's elections, and without decisions things, are at a standstill.

Last week, the three-judge federal panel in DC district court wrapped up hearings on whether the state's legislatively drawn maps violate the Voting Rights Act. The court released a statement on Wednesday announcing that a decision should not be expected within 30 days - it will be at least a month or more. The San Antonio court tasked with redrawing interim maps was hoping to have guidance from the DC decision, but is now faced with either moving the primary date again or moving forward without the DC decision. Last Friday, the San Antonio judges told the parties in the redistricting case that the current April 3rd primary date could possibly stand if they could agree on interim map plans by today. But disagreements between the two sides halted discussions, and the hopes of a Friday consensus quickly went out the window. The only thing for sure at this point in Texas redistricting -- more waiting.

Vermont

The Vermont House of Representatives has given preliminary approval to a state House redistricting plan. The plan was tentatively approved by a 138-4 vote, winning the support of members of all three parties. A final vote is expected today. The plan then moves to the Vermont State Senate where Senators are finishing their own chamber's maps. The Senate is not expected to modify the House plan.

Virginia

On January 31, the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging the Virginia General Assembly's authority to pass a redistricting plan after 2011 -- the state constitutional deadline. On January 25, a district court had allowed the case to move forward. Given the details of the case, the decision effectively grants the plaintiff's central argument. However, the Supreme Court found that the district court's decision was not final enough to warrant review.

The maps must still face the 60-day pre-approval process before taking effect. VA has already submitted their plan to the Department of Justice and DC District Court -- seeking approval under both of the VRA's prescribed channels. To accommodate this process, VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) has asked the General Assembly to move the state's congressional primary from June to August.

Washington

Last week, the Legislature made small tweaks to the congressional and legislative redistricting plans that were passed by the state Redistricting Commission on January 1. Under the law, legislators are only allowed to make adjustments that impact less than 2 percent of a district's population and must be approved by a two-thirds majority. The small changes were unanimously approved by the House on January 27 and passed in the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 44-4. The maps now become law.

See also