Redistricting Roundup: More drama unfolding over maps
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Edited by Geoff Pallay
Despite only needing to draw a map for two Congressional seats, the drama continues in Maine.
On August 30, 2011, the Maine Advisory Apportionment Commission voted along party lines, 8-7, to send the Democrat-proposed map to the legislature. The deciding vote was cast by independent Michael Friedman, who also serves as commission chair. Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, York and part of Kennebec counties will all be in the 1st District.
The approved map -- called Vassalboro-Gardiner -- shifts Gardiner, Vassalboro, Vienna, Rome, Oakland Wayne and Unity townships in order to make the districts constitutional. About 20,000 voters are affected. The Republicans map will also be sent along in the form of a minority report, according to State senator Debra Plowman (R).
Republicans had presented a last-minute compromise attempt before the August 30 meeting but the commission opted for the Democratic map. Maine state representative Leslie Fossel (R) expressed frustration over the lack of consensus on a map.
The Maine State Legislature will meet on September 27 to consider the map. The commission's map is non-binding and could be altered by the legislators.
One of the main points at issue in Alaska's consolidated redistricting lawsuit is the shape of District 38, the subject of the original Fairbanks lawsuits. The Alaska Redistricting Board has announced that it will not defend the district on the basis of social or economic factors. Rather, the Board will defend the district under the Voting Rights Act, which mandates fair representation for minorities. Counsel for Fairbanks residents, Mike Walleri, welcomed the move, arguing that it simplified the facts at issue in the case.
|Quote of the Week|
"I look forward to seeking re-election to the House in 2012."
Earlier this week, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission voted 4-1 to change the contract signed with the mapping consultant -- Strategic Telemetry -- to generally require the firm to log its redistricting-related contacts with individuals or entities other than government officials and other vendors. The record keeping issue began over GOP concerns that Strategic Telemetry had ties to the Democratic Party through its other work.
The commission is meeting today to continue the map-drawing process and begin incorporating more standards such as competitiveness and minority voting rights.
On Tuesday the Attorney General reported that a referendum was filed to overturn the Congressional map approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The measure was filed by Julie Vandermost and Charles Bell.
Also this week, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission asked the Attorney General and Secretary of State to alter the petition wording because commissioners believe it is "misleading." The commission also contends that even if successful, the referendum would not require revised maps to be drawn immediately since the California Supreme Court could allow the commission's districts to be used provisionally through next year's elections.
Among the early supporters of the referendum to withdraw the Senate map are former Governor Pete Wilson and State Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton. Five other GOP senators immediately contributed more than $5,000 to the referendum group Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR):
- Mark Wyland: $25,000
- Tony Strickland: $25,000
- Mimi Walters: $25,000
- Joel Anderson: $10,000
- Doug La Malfa: $5,000
Florida Senate Redistricting Committee Chair Don Gaetz (R) has suggested a constitutional amendment to shorten the timeline for Florida redistricting. Critics say the current process unnecessarily delays final approval of maps into early 2012, giving the DOJ and citizens little time to process the maps by primary season. However, even if Gaetz's amendment makes the ballot, it will not go into effect until the next redistricting cycle. Besides moving the vote up, critics also want maps released earlier for public comment. Florida public hearings have been especially contentious given charges that public comments are not being taken seriously.
On Wednesday, the Georgia State Senate approved the state's Congressional maps(HB 20EX), 34-21 along party lines. The plan now moves to Governor Nathan Deal (R). US Rep. John Barrow (D), targeted under the new plan, criticized lawmakers for needlessly changing his district. He notes that his district was very close to the target population before legislators remapped it, drawing him out of his former district. Barrow plans to move in order to run for the district in 2012. Republicans, however, defended the plan, calling it fair and legal. The state is expected to submit the plan to the DOJ for pre-approval by October 1, 2011.
The Idaho Commission on Reapportionment is down to its last days to reach a consensus on new maps. If the six-member commission cannot agree on a plan by next Tuesday, it will go to the state Supreme Court, who could send it right back to the commission. The court could also choose to appoint a special master to draw the maps or draw the maps themselves. The commission will meet every day until the deadline, including Labor Day.
The state constitution gives the commission 90 days to complete its work, which, having started June 7, would put the deadline on Sunday. However, a legal opinion from the Attorney General's Office allowed for two extra days due to the holiday weekend. GOP Commissioner Evan Frasure expressed concern that any plan passed after Sunday could be subject to legal challenge.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 21|
|Next state deadline?|| Connecticut|
September 15, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 64 out of 142 (43.7%)**||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), DE (2), GA (2), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NV (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||14 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX), OR),SC), MI), WI), CA)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||13 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA), (AR, (WI, (CA)|
|**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)|
Illinois' Democratic congressional delegation will be paying $500,000 in order to defend the new Democrat-drawn congressional map in court. The office of Attorney General of Illinois Lisa Madigan (D) told the state's congressional Democrats that it does not have the lawyers and skills necessary to defend the map and, to that end, hired three outside lawyers, instructing the Democrats to pay the bill. The eight members of the congressional delegation each sent a check for $10,000 to the National Democratic Redistricting Trust on Wednesday, and are working to raise more.
The congressional map, signed into law on June 24, has drawn lawsuits from the state Republican Party as well as the League of Women Voters, both alleging the districts were unfairly drawn in favor of Democrats.
A redistricting competition deadline passed this week in Massachusetts. The deadline was this past Tuesday. Winning maps will receive a cash prize ($750 State House Map; $500 Congressional Map; $500 State Senate Map). The contest was sponsored by Common Cause of Massachusetts.
This past Wednesday Native American leaders urged lawmakers to maintain the Indian-majority districts. Currently there are six state house and three state senate districts where Native Americans account for at least 65 percent of the population.
Today, North Carolina officials plan to submit the state's redistricting maps for pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act. The act requires that certain states submit their redistricting maps to the Department of Justice for approval in order to prevent the marginalization of minority voters. The act alternatively allows states to submit their maps to the US District Court for DC for approval. North Carolina officials will submit the maps to both the DOJ and the District Court in order to better ensure approval. District 12 is seen as the most likely target of federal objections. A lawsuit over the district is likely. This week, US Rep. Mel Watt (D-12) and an NAACP legal adviser questioned the legality of the new maps.
According to statements from Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus (R), state lawmakers are considering Districts 3 and 7 as they look for a second district to eliminate under redistricting. Although the Cleveland area will likely lose a Congressional district, it has been less clear where lawmakers will eliminate the second district required by the 2010 Census. Possible scenarios for the districts may ultimately pit US Representatives Steve Austria (R-7) and Mike Turner (R-3) against each other in a primary battle.
In legislative redistricting news, the Ohio Apportionment Board's public hearings have heard from only a handful of Ohio citizens. Although the public is free to speak at the hearings, few have taken the opportunity. A meeting in Marietta drew about 18 residents with only three speaking. At a meeting in Canton, no members of the public offered testimony. Only one meeting, at which four residents spoke, has heard from more than three residents. Critics of the Board's timeline argue that more meetings should be held after draft maps are published so citizens have something to comment on.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a redistricting lawsuit filed by Sen. Jim Wilson (D). The court ruled 9-0 that the maps complied with the Oklahoma Constitution's population requirements. However, the court noted that claims of gerrymandering should be adjudicated at the state district court level. Wilson immediately announced that he would pursue the lawsuit in the District Court (Oklahoma is in the 10th Circuit). He further noted that his attorneys never argued population levels, but focused on split communities and gerrymandering. Republicans argue that the decision is a sign that their maps are constitutional. Wilson has hired a professor to draw new maps for the courts consideration.
Two weeks ago, State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax decided to redraw state precincts based on the redistricting plan approved in May, despite the legal challenge to the senate plan. He argues that delaying the process further would create "confusion and chaos" for voters. Besides notifying voters of their new precincts, the state must also install new voting machines and train poll workers. Ziriax has indicated that there are only enough funds to redraw precincts once. While the Supreme Court decision mitigates these worries, a federal challenge could disrupt the process. Ziriax contends that he needs a final decision by next week.
Although new Congressional and state legislative maps likely will not be released or voted upon until 2012, that has not stopped early criticism of the process in Tennessee.
Current U.S. House representative Jim Cooper (D) and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean publicly decried the possibility that a new Congressional map would split Nashville into three districts. The GOP controls 7 of the 9 Congressional seats and speculation has been that Cooper would be a target for Republican map drawers.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester accused Republicans of being secretive about the redistricting process. Beth Harwell (R), Speaker of the House, said the legislative website will allow public comment on suggestions for maps sometime after Labor Day.
On Wednesday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) announced an October 3 special session to address state redistricting. The legislature's redistricting committee will meet three more times in advance of the session. The state's primary controversy has been redistricting in and around Salt Lake City.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
Following three months of public input, the Washington State Redistricting Commission will unveil draft maps for congressional and legislative districts in Olympia on September 13. Each of the four voting members of the commission will present their ideas. This will mark the opening of the public comment period on the draft maps, which will continue through October 11. Final maps are expected to be completed by early November.
The extended deadlock over Congressional redistricting in Virginia continued this week. However, lawmakers now say that they will revisit the issue following the November elections. Even then, partisan gridlock may still send the process to the courts. Republicans stand to gain if they can win control of the Senate and Democrats may get more favorable districts if the courts draw the map.
As reported last week, Putnam County has voted to challenge the state's legislative redistricting plan. In addition to Mason county, Raleigh County is now considering either joining the suit or filing its own. County Commission President John Aliff has reportedly asked the county attorney to investigate the suit being prepared by Putnam. Raleigh, like Putnam and Mason, is concerned about being divided among neighboring districts. West Virginia's acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) may sign the state's revised house redistricting maps as early as today.
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