Redistricting Roundup: Lawsuits pile up as states continue to dive into new maps

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May 13, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

The lawsuits relating to redistricting continue to mount, with three more states joining the fun this week.

  • Colorado: Both parties have filed lawsuits in district court, with party activists stepping up to represent each Congressional seat in the suit. The matter will first be heard in District Court.
  • Illinois: The Republican Party has filed suit regarding the tiebreaking procedure of the redistricting process. Currently, if the legislature cannot complete redistricting, a commission takes up the process. If the commission cannot reach a verdict, then a map is chosen out of a hat.
  • Michigan: The manner of apportioning city council seats in Warren has triggered a lawsuit. In 2010, via a citizen initiative placed on the ballot, residents voted to cut the size of the council by two and to make most of the remaining seats into district based seats rather than at-large positions. The plaintiffs in the suit allege that the map gives too much weight to one neighborhood and is a bid to cement the power of politician already in office.

Additionally, another lawsuit was filed in Texas this week pertaining to the state legislative maps.

As predicted, it's becoming increasingly clear that courts are going to have their hands full with redistricting maps.

State news

Alabama

Quote of the Week
"It seems like Senator Seliger is saying that Texans with Spanish last names are all the same. To treat Texas Hispanics as one homogenous group is not only wrong but is out of touch with the reality of our growing population. Personally, I would like an apology in the form of a new map."[1]

-- Representative Eddie Rodriguez (R) commenting on the newly-released Senate redistricting map.

The Alabama redistricting committee began garnering public input with hearings across the state this week. This is the first time in Alabama's history that the legislature has held public hearings during the redistricting process. Residents who attended the meetings expressed support for keeping Lauderdale and Colbert counties together. Only Congressional maps will be drawn this year, as there are no state legislative elections in Alabama until 2014.

Alaska

Executive director dies

In October 2010, the Alaska Redistricting Board hired Ron Miller to serve as its Executive Director and provide direction to the board. Miller passed away on May 8, likely due to a heart attack. He is survived by his wife and two children. Miller was 65. A new executive director has not been named.

Anchorage controversy

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and Anchorage Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander have submitted proposals to the Alaska Redistricting Board intended to guide the state's redistricting of the area. However, at least two Assembly members have expressed anger over the submission of the plans. Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond claim that the submissions do not reflect the consensus of the Assembly and instead represent Republican partisan interests. The plans, which appear similar to those proposed by the Republican group, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, would pair several incumbents. However, Republican Party of Alaska Chair Randy Ruedrich argues that the plans are not partisan but intended to restore political boundaries to their earlier positions. Mayor Sullivan further argued that the plan better matches the geography and local political boundaries of Anchorage.

Arkansas

In May, the Board of Apportionment released five proposed House maps. One legislator -- Bubba Powers (D) said the maps "gut" his district. At least 7 public hearings will be held starting May 24 and ending July 6.

Colorado

On May 11, 2011, the Colorado's General Assembly adjourned sine die without reaching an agreement on redistricting. With the possibility of a costly special session this summer, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Denver Democrat, pushed both the Republican House Speaker and the Democratic Senate President to step down and agree to enough compromises to wrap up the session.

However, by the end of the session both parties made plans of their own regarding redistricting, filing similar lawsuits in Denver's District Court. Each suit, brought by an attorney considered to be a party insider, was filed in the names of one citizen from each of the states' seven Congressional districts, with the citizens themselves standing out as long time political activists. The case was assigned to Judge William Hood and must be resolved before the state's caucuses on February 12, 2012.

Delaware

On May 10, 2011, the House passed legislation that would exempt the state from having to adhere to last year's law regarding prisoners. The vote was 36-3. According to House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D), the Census Bureau does not have data listing last known address of prisoners. Additionally, the software used for redistricting cannot integrate prisoners' prior addresses and would have cost at least $70,000 more to properly equip the program. The new procedure for counting prisoners will now take effect with the 2020 redistricting.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 18
Next state deadline? Oklahoma
May 25, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 25 MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (1), MN (1), NV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 4 (AR, LA, IA, IN)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 5 (NJ, LA, IA, VA, IN)

Indiana

Daniels signs plan

Governor Mitch Daniels (R) signed Indiana's redistricting plan on Tuesday, May 10 along with 79 other bills passed by the Legislature. Indiana is only the third state to complete its entire redistricting process. Only Iowa and Louisiana completed the process sooner.

Jeffersonville lawsuit

In the past three years, the city of Jeffersonville has annexed several nearby neighborhoods. However, a resident of one such neighborhood, Bruce Herdt, sued the city over its drawing of city council districts in the newly added neighborhoods. The suit alleged that the city initially allotted too little representation to the neighborhoods by using 2000 census data. Herdt now contends that 2010 census data corroborates his earlier estimates and substantiates his claims. However, Judge William G. Hussman dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the 2000 census data was the best data to use at the time. The city argued that the use of alternative estimates did not conform to state law or precedent. The city plans to redistrict again before municipal elections in 2015. Herdt plans to appeal.

Illinois

Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady and the state Republican Party filed a lawsuit on May 11 asking the Supreme Court to declare the redistricting process tiebreaking provision in violation of the state constitution. Additionally, the suit seeks to stop the legislature from finishing redistricting until the court declares a ruling.

In the past, ties have been broken by drawing a name from a hat. This year, however, Democrats have the numbers to pass a map without any Republicans. Brien Sheahan, general counsel for the Illinois GOP, said the suit was filed when Republicans began to see how Democrats were drawing the map.

Mississippi

Tuesday, May 10, saw Mississippi's federal lawsuit go back to the courtroom for a second hearing. NAACP and Democratic plaintiffs continued to argue that the current maps aren't racially equitable and that the maps drawn in the regular legislative session earlier this year should be used on an interim basis. Republicans, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, maintain that even if the court ordered those maps used, the state's counties won't be able to implement them by the June 1, 2011 deadline for candidates to file for the fall elections.

Earlier this year, the Democratically held House and the Republican Senate each passed a bill for its own districts. The Senate would not, though, sign off on the House maps, leaving the entire matter ripe for a lawsuit, which was duly filed. If the plaintiffs win, as the three-judge panel had indicated is likely, Mississippi will hold its fall elections using the completed but not passed maps on an interim basis. This week's hearing brought no immediate decision, but the judges promised to draft a resolution "expeditiously."

Nevada

Nevada's legislature dealt with both the Republican and Democratic plans this week for the state's Congressional delegation, including a newly apportioned fourth seat. Republicans, the minority in the legislature, didn't get a vote on their map, while the Assembly and Senate both passed the Democrat's map. It now awaits Gov. Brian Sandoval's (R) signature or veto.

The first term Republican governor won with strong Hispanic support and will likely be paying keen attention to that demographic as the bill hits his desk. Both parties have claimed they also have the best interests of Nevada's enormous and growing block of Hispanics voters. Democratic plans split Hispanic populations among seats, with the argument being that such a practice maximized Hispanic representation. Republicans instead proposed at least one seat with a Hispanic majority, allowing the group to elect their own Congressman but also leading to accusation that they were attempting to pack the demographic into a single district.

New Mexico

The 18-member redistricting committee was named on Monday. There are 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans on the committee. House Representative Mary Helen Garcia (D) and Senator Linda Lopez (D) are the co-chairs. The committee was originally appropriated $100,000 in the budget for expenses, but that funding was vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez (R). Some legislators have speculated that this reduction in money could lead to fewer public input hearings held across the state.

Oklahoma

With hopes of an early adjournment, the legislature is working on redistricting for the state's House and Senate. The House has passed a map out of conference committee and put it before the entire chamber for consideration. The Senate took a little longer to smooth out the details but the map did meet the committee's muster on Wednesday, May 11. Even with some Democrats announcing their intention to vote against the map, it's predicted to pass the GOP controlled Senate easily.

Also this week, the already completed Congressional map was finalized as Governor Mary Fallin signed off on it.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
On May 6, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the proposed state redistricting plan along party lines. The Republican-controlled Senate will likely pass the bill, but see it vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. Earlier in the year, Dayton indicated that he would only sign a map with significant bipartisan support. In a press conference on May 10, Dayton indicated that a veto was likely for the legislative plan. However, he declined to comment on the proposed Congressional plan.

Oregon

Oregon's legislature, split evenly in the House and with the Democrats holding a slight edge in the Senate, met yesterday to discuss the first set of offered maps. Each party drew the state's five Congressional seats in widely different ways. The GOP made major changes from Oregon's current face, looking to change their minority status. Of note is the treatment that deep blue Multnomah County received. Republicans kept it intact, a way of packing so many Democratic voters into one seat. Democrats split the area, which includes the city of Portland, into three seats, keeping their edge intact.

If the legislature cannot agree on maps, the Secretary of State, an office in Democratic hands, will draw the maps. Oregon has seen her redistricting go this route the past several cycles and is anxious to avoid a repeat.

Texas

The Texas State Senate caused a stir on Wednesday by releasing a proposed map of its 31 districts. As with all of the other maps that have surfaced during this redistricting cycle, Democrats immediately criticized the Senate map for underrepresenting minorities. Perhaps even more unpopular was the redrawing of existing districts, which would dilute the power of some incumbents and pit others against each other in the next election. Travis County, which includes the capital city of Austin, goes from being divided by two Senate districts to four. Following the predictable litigation trend, the maps opponents say they are heading for the courts.

Also, a third redistricting lawsuit has been filed in Texas. Representative Harold Dutton (D) of Houston filed a suit in federal court against the state of Texas on Monday May 9th arguing that prisoners should be counted in their homes of residence for redistricting purposes. They are currently counted in the locations of their incarceration.

Virginia

On May 10, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sought pre-clearance for the state's legislative redistricting plan before the US District Court for the District of Columbia. While the state has already submitted the plans to the Justice Department, the District Court is also permitted to clear the maps. This avenue may prove quicker for the state as it faces looming general elections in the new districts.

See also