Redistricting Roundup: Lawsuits continue to pile up
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Edited by Geoff Pallay
In what is likely to be a sign of things to come, the courts had a busy week this week in redistricting. Nationwide, there were 7 states where a lawsuit was filed this week relating to the redistricting process.
Some of the states had already had one lawsuit filed -- others simply say legal action relating to an ongoing suit.
Lawsuits were filed in the following states this week:
- New Mexico
Overall, lawsuits have been filed in 26 states thus far during the redistricting process.
During the 2000 census redistricting process, there were 140 total maps submitted by states in three categories: U.S. House maps, State Senate maps, and State House maps. Of those 140 maps, lawsuits were filed and the courts needed to intercede in 37 of those maps -- roughly 25% of the time.
More progress was made this week on a Congressional map, as the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission opted to advance a map with three congressional border districts -- an option favored by Republicans. Democrats had pushed for two border districts.
The commission is one week behind its initial timetable. The map with three border districts was approved by a 3-2 vote on Tuesday at a public meeting in Tucson. On Thursday, remaining gaps were filled in. Based on the map, the Phoenix metro area would be contained in five of the nine Congressional districts. Democratic officials criticized the plan for protecting incumbents and preventing the maximum number of competitive districts.
Statewide hearings will begin on October 11.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Tom Horne (R). The suit asks the court to block Horne’s investigation of whether the commission violated the open meeting law.
The suit alleges that Horne’s office is using the investigation to distract from the commission’s true purpose. Horne’s investigation relates to the selection of Strategic Telemetry as the map-drawing consultant and the process by which commissioners made their decision.
There is a hearing scheduled for October 3 in Superior Court, where the commission has requested that the lawsuit be consolidated.
View the approved map here.
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The referendums and lawsuits continue this week in California. A new lawsuit was filed against the congressional districts, this time by former Republican Congressman George Radanovich along with four others. This suit asks the court to appoint a special master to draw a completely new map for all 53 districts.
Meanwhile, the referendum on the state senate maps passed the 200,000-signature mark this week. The Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) group has until November 13 to obtain 504,760 valid signatures in order to qualify for the ballot.
On Thursday, the Florida House of Representatives announced that it will join the federal appeal of Amendment 6. US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R) promised to appeal after a federal judge upheld Florida’s congressional redistricting amendment earlier this month. The house has drawn controversy for joining the initial lawsuit and spending taxpayer dollars to fight an amendment that garnered more than 60% of the vote. Reports indicate that the Florida House has spent an estimated $200,000 on legal fees challenging the law.
- The notice of appeal can be found here.
- The original ruling can be found here.
In other news, Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz (R) said last week that legislators are considering a second round of public hearings following the release of redistricting proposals. Instead of touring the state, residents around the state could join hearings in Tallahassee via video conference. The possible plan comes after the first round of hearings received criticism for presenting neither proposals nor testimony from legislators.
On September 26, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission gave final approval to the state's redistricting plans, both congressional and legislative. The commission ultimately excluded about 16,000 military and non-residents from the counts, partially reversing an earlier vote to include non-residents. The reversal comes after political and legal pressure from opponents who feared that including non-residents would cost the Big Island a new senate seat. Nevertheless, the final exclusions were insufficient to justify the seat. Groups from the Island of Hawaii are expected to challenge the plans in court. The commission defends the decision, arguing that population figures were not detailed enough to exclude more non-residents.
- The approved plans can be found here.
Late last Friday, nearly three weeks after the deadline, the six original members of the Idaho Redistricting Commission announced that they had agreed on new legislative and congressional maps. The Democratic and Republican party chairs praised the work and were prepared to endorse the new districts. However, following a conference with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said that the maps, L-83 and C-38, had no legal standing and could only be a recommendation to the new redistricting commission.
Meanwhile, Republicans named Sheila Olsen, the widow of a former state GOP chairman, along with former state legislators Randy Hansen and Dolores Crow, to the second incarnation of the commission. The new commissioners were sworn in on Wednesday, unanimously selecting Crow and Ron Beitelspacher to serve as co-chairs. The original commissioners presented their maps, asking them to be considered. The panel has a deadline of December 13 to agree to a plan.
In a special session on Tuesday, Maine state legislators approved a new Congressional map with nearly unanimous approval. The votes were 140-3 in the Maine House of Representatives and 35-0 in the Maine State Senate.
While Republicans had initially proposed radically altering the two districts -- including possibly placing both incumbents in the same district -- the final plan makes little structural changes to the map. The two districts are essentially unchanged from the last map, only with some minor changes to bring the populations equal. Only Kennebec County was affected by the new map, with Waterville and Winslow shifting from the 2nd to the 1st District. Also, 11 towns moved from the 1st to the 2nd District.
Tension marked the weeks leading up to the session, but ultimately, there was little controversy. Some citizens had threatened the possibility of a people’s veto if Republicans passed a bill that did not obtain ⅔ majority of voters. But given the sweeping bipartisan support for the final map, any further drama would seem unlikely.
Meanwhile, a question on the November 8, 2011 ballot will allow voters the opportunity to permanently shift the timing for when legislators redraw districts. If approved, new maps will be drawn in the year after the census, like this year, rather than three years after (as had been done in the past).
Last Friday, a group of Democrats filed suit to block Missouri's new congressional districts, calling the plan "overreaching" and "highly egregious." The group is supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Trust. The lawsuit argues that the districts are neither compact nor contiguous and that they unnecessarily divide and dilute voters in St. Louis and Jefferson County. State Party Chair Matt Teter said that he only learned of the suit the day it was filed. Teter added that he supported the idea of a court-drawn plan.
Last week, the New Mexico legislature adjourned a special session after approving state legislative maps but without sending a Congressional map to the Governor. With Governor Susana Martinez (R) likely to veto the state maps, several lawsuits have been filed asking the courts to step in.
- Democrats, including state representative Brian Egolf, filed suit in Santa Fe.
- Republicans, including state representative Donald Bratton, filed a suit in Lovington. Another set of Republicans filed a suit in state district court in Albuquerque
- There have currently been four judges in three different courts assigned to current lawsuits
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 26|
|Next state deadline?|| South Dakota|
October 24, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 78 out of 142 (54.9%)**||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), CO (2), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), ME (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||20 (AR, LA, IA, MO, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX, OR, SC, MI, WI, CA, GA, WV, ME, HI)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||18 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA, AR, WI, CA, GA, WV, HI)|
|**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)|
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who has been the most vocal proponent of redistricting reform, announced at a public hearing of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) last week that he would sue in order to have the current redistricting plan thrown out. Koch and his group NY Uprising have advocated for the implementation of a nonpartisan commission since the November 2010 election cycle. A majority of the legislators elected that year signed a pledge to support such reform, but nothing has come of it. Koch has continually chided the lawmakers for breaking their promise, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sworn he will veto any plan that is not drawn by an independent commission.
State Assemblyman John McEneny (D), who serves as chair of LATFOR, said the panel could be ready to present newly proposed districts by next month. Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University poll found half of voters still want an independent commission, while 55 percent don’t believe Cuomo or state lawmakers will attempt to stop LATFOR from drawing the lines.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Apportionment Board gave final approval to the state's legislative redistricting plan after releasing draft maps online just two days earlier. The final plan is expected to solidify the state's Republican majority. The board passed the plan by a 4-1 vote. The board's only Democrat, Armond Budish, opposed the new maps. Budish said the map effectively "quarantines" state Democrats in 1/3 of Ohio's legislative districts. Analysis by the Dayton Daily News suggests that only 20 of the 99 house districts are competitive and only 7 of the state's 33 senate districts are competitive. The analysis also suggests that 51 of the house districts and 17 of the senate districts favor the GOP by five points or more. House Speaker William Batchelder defended the maps, arguing that they are a fair revision of the previous plan. He also noted that the board doubled the number of districts where African Americans are the majority.
- The full plans can be found here.
- For those unable to read these file formats, the earlier pdf draft maps can be found here (house) and here (senate).
- All map submissions to the board can be found here.
In other news, Democrats have filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm their right to challenge the state’s congressional map via veto referendum. Before passing the state's congressional redistricting plan, the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly added a $2.75 million appropriation to help local Boards of Elections implement the plan. Defenders of the move say the bill should count as an appropriations bill and should be exempted from a veto referendum per the Ohio Constitution. An earlier ruling in 2009, upheld the right of citizens to challenge a racetrack slots provision in a state budget bill. The Ohio House GOP called the suit "baseless," arguing that the appropriation was pertinent to the bill.
The special committee on redistricting approved new state legislative maps on Tuesday, setting the stage for a special session on October 24. The panel approved the new districts on a party-line vote of 10-3.
The final meeting contained tension as legislators were accused of partisan politics and drawing districts to favor incumbents. State representative Susan Wismer (D) said Republicans have gerrymandered districts for the past 30 years which has led to big GOP advantages in each chamber. Republicans currently have overwhelming majorities in the legislature -- 30-5 in the Senate and 50-19-1 in the House.
According to Wisner, Democrats make up about 45 percent of registered voters, but she says gerrymandering is the reason why the legislature is far from having 45 percent of seats occupied by Democrats.
There are 35 districts, and each district elects one senator and two representatives. The plan as passed would place Wisner and four other Democratic incumbents in one district.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
US District Judge Orlando Garcia stopped Texas's redistricting maps from becoming legally adopted yesterday. Garcia is one of three judges on a federal panel in San Antonio hearing a consolidated case consisting of numerous legal challenges to the state's 2011 redistricting plans. The court heard closing arguments in the case two weeks ago, but decided to delay its decision until a DC-based federal panel rules on a similar but separate case involving Voting Rights Act preclearance.
The court order was needed because the maps were set to become law on October 1st, and with no legal declaration yet to come down on either side, county election officials were in limbo. Democrats and other supporters of the suit against the state immediately claimed victory upon the court's order. Texas officials stated that the order was expected and neutral, contending that it simply restated the already known fact that the maps can't be implemented until precleared.
On Tuesday, September 27, Utah's Joint Redistricting Committee adopted a modified "doughnut hole" proposal for the state's congressional districts. The plan, a modified version of the proposed plan by Kenneth Sumsion (R) earlier in the year, draws the new Fourth District to include the western half of Republican-heavy Utah County and the southern half of Salt Lake County. The remainder of Salt Lake County is split into two districts. Salt Lake City, kept intact under the plan, is paired with Tooele County in a district stretching to San Juan County and covering the state's entire south. The southeastern part of Salt Lake County and the eastern portion of Utah County are paired in the Second District, now stretching only as far south as Grand County.
Democrats, who had called for a Salt Lake City-centered district, have sharply criticized the maps. Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis said the map disenfranchised Democratic voters. Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Bishop called the map deeply saddening. Interestingly, the plan draws all of US Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D) announced Republican challengers outside the new District 2. Some may run from outside the district, one is considering a move. Federal law does not require congressmen to live in their district. Matheson himself has suggested he may seek election in the newly created district.
On Wednesday, the Governor formally called a special session for Monday, October 3. The session is expected to last around three days.
- The recommended map can be found here.
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