Redistricting Roundup: New maps released in several states this week
Edited by Geoff Pallay
On Tuesday, the GOP released a proposed Congressional redistricting map in Ohio. Yesterday, the Ohio House of Representatives approved that plan by a 56-36 vote that included several Democrats voting in the affirmative. The plan, which emerged from committee on Tuesday, eliminates two districts in the Cleveland area and one in southwest Ohio. The map also creates a new district centered in Columbus.
In Cleveland, the new map eliminates Betty Sutton's district, shifting her home into Jim Renacci's (R) Republican-leaning district. The plan also combines the districts of Dennis Kucinich (D) and Marcy Kaptur (D). In southwest Ohio, Mike Turner (R) and Steve Austria (R) will also be paired in a single district. Despite being paired with Kaptur, Kucinich announced that he would run in the new district, ending months of speculation that he would move and seek election in Washington State.
The plan has incited charges of gerrymandering from Democrats. Republicans note that although Democrats were allotted state funds to produce a competing map, no map was offered. Democrats have since responded that they favor a non-political solution for redistricting. Democrats are reportedly considering a lawsuit or even a veto referendum to block the legislation. The move has worked before. In 1915, Democrats succeeded in overturning a Republican redistricting plan at the ballot box.
On the same day as the plan's release, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting revealed the winners of its congressional redistricting competition. The first place winner was Mike Fortner, an Illinois state legislator interested in the redistricting process. Both maps can be seen side-by-side below. According to the coalition, the plan produced by the state legislature would have finished last on a metric gauging fairness, compactness, and competitiveness.
Overall, the map is expected to significantly strengthen Republican incumbents and solidify potential swing districts in favor of the GOP. Of the state's 16 congressional districts, 12 would lean Republican under the new plan. The Ohio State Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.
|Ohio Congressional Redistricting Proposals|
In a move similar to the strategy undertaken by other states like North Carolina and Texas, Attorney General Luther Strange (R) has asked a federal court to grant pre-clearance to the new Congressional map. The Congressional map was approved on June 8, 2011 -- the map was also sent to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance.
Meanwhile, the legislative committee on reapportionment will be holding public hearings throughout the state in early October to garner more feedback on the approved districts. The committee is encouraging public comments to be submitted in written form in advance of the meetings. Joe Reed, chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference, said he believes a second majority-minority district should have been drawn -- the new map has one district where the majority of voters are African-American.
Native American tribal groups testified to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission this week about the drawing of Congressional districts. Historically, the relationship between Hopi and Navajo tribes has been contentious -- but this year, the tribes have signaled a willingness to be drawn into the same district in order to have more collective unity on common issues. Additionally, the tribes expressed a desire for the district to be drawn so that it increases the likelihood of a Native American being elected to Congress.
Currently, the Navajo Reservation is part of the 1st Congressional District while the Hopi are in the 2nd District.
The tribes submitted two proposals to the commission for new Congressional maps.
Yesterday, Republicans filed a lawsuit seeking to repeal the new California State Senate map that was approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The suit -- which was prepared by the Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) organization -- asks the court to throw out the map and draw a new one. Charles Bell Jr, a Sacramento attorney, filed the suit with the California Supreme Court. As of this week, FAIR has raised more than $500,000 for its senate and congressional referendum and lawsuit efforts.
|Quote of the Week|
"They (lobbyists) are trying to build a relationship instead of just educate lawmakers on the issues. It's obvious they spent the money to influence lawmakers' decisions."
After reviewing maps proposed by Republicans and Democrats, Colorado Reapportionment Commission Chairman Mario Carrera, the only unaffiliated member, announced on Monday that he would submit his own maps. Carrera was highly critical on how the other proposals divided up Arapahoe and Jefferson counties. Carrera is also pushing for more competitive districts and districts with higher numbers of Hispanics to reflect their growth in population.
Submitting his maps on Wednesday, Carrera explained that they would make 11 Senate seats and 22 House seats competitive, and of those 33, 17 would be "highly competitive." Comparatively, the other proposals included 10 competitive Senate seats with 19 in the House. Additionally under Carrera’s proposal, 24 of the 100 legislative districts would have at least 30 percent Hispanic voters. Republican plans had 18 such districts, while Democrats proposed 21.
The commission -- which will meet Monday to vote on the proposals -- has a deadline of October 7 to submit a final plan to the state Supreme Court for review.
In a repeat of the redistricting process in 1991 and 2001, the eight-member reapportionment committee tasked with drawing new state and congressional districts failed to adopt a plan by yesterday’s deadline. Earlier in the week the committee, which is composed of Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate, sent a letter to Gov. Dan Malloy (D) to inform him the work was unfinished, but stressed that both sides were working well together.
The task now goes to a nine-member commission -- eight are appointed by the governor -- who in turn select the ninth member. As has happened in the past, it is expected that the current eight members of the committee will be appointed to the commission. Who is likely to be the ninth member is uncertain; in the past two instances, former Connecticut Speaker of the House Nelson Brown acted in the role, however, he died last week.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 23|
|Next state deadline?|| South Dakota|
September 28, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 67 out of 142 (47.2%)**||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), DE (2), GA (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NV (3), OH (1), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||18 (AR, LA, IA, MO, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX, OR, SC, MI, WI, CA, GA, WV)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||17 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA, AR, WI, CA, GA, WV)|
|**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)|
On September 9, 2011 U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro rejected the lawsuit filed by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart. According to reports, Ungaro stated that she was unswayed by the arguments and had already written an order prior to the September 2011 hearing. Additionally, Ungaroo noted in her decision that the amendment was a "valid regulation of the legislative process."
In reaction to the news, Brown said she was disappointed but planned to fight the issue up to the [[Supreme Court of the United States|U.S. Supreme Court. Reports indicate that the Florida House has spent an estimated $200,000 on legal fees challenging the law. The League of Women Voters has since urged the house to stop fighting the measure and draw maps in compliance with the amendments.
- The full decision can be found here.
Following the failure of the Redistricting Commission to meet their deadline last week, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (R) and the GOP commissioners each filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court regarding the future of the process. In a brief ruling on September 9, the court dismissed both lawsuits, stating that they have no legal authority to intervene at this point in the process. However, the judges said that the court could hear cases challenging the 2002 maps and their effect on the 2012 primary and general elections if anyone wished to bring such a suit.
Per a state law modified in 2009, an entirely new six-member commission will be formed to take over drawing the district lines. Ysursa asked Democratic and Republican leaders in each chamber, along with the chairmen of both parties, to appoint new members by September 14 in order to start meetings next week. However, the deadline was pushed back when officials said they could not act that quickly, while also pointing out that the state Constitution provides them 15 days to make such appointments. The panel is expected to convene September 28. Thus far the commission has spent $296,103 of its $424,000 budget, while examining 82 state legislative district maps and 50 congressional maps.
Appointed by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, the special judicial panel on redistricting has decided to host a series of public hearings designed to gather public input on the process. The meetings will begin in October 2011. The full schedule can be found here.
The GOP introduced a Senate map on Wednesday that would not place any incumbents within the same district. The map was finalized once Kent Cravens confirmed his intention to resign when redistricting is completed. Democrats have yet to introduce their map.
Legislators in New Mexico are in the midst of a special session that was called to conduct redistricting and a number of other issues.
On Wednesday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) announced a November 7 special session to tackle state redistricting. The session is expected to last five days and, in addition to redistricting, address disaster relief, a health insurance exchange, and the "Fighting Sioux" nickname controversy. Senator Ray Holmberg (R), chairman of the state's joint redistricting committee, said the committee hopes to have a draft map ready for public comment soon. He added that the plan will keep the number of districts steady at 47, shifting two districts from rural areas into Fargo and Bismark.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
This week, Rep. Gary Banz (R) proposed downsizing the Oklahoma State Legislature. Under his proposal, the house would drop from 101 to 91 members, and the senate would drop from 48 to 43 members. Banz argues that fewer legislators could more efficiently serve constituents, using advances in technology to facilitate communication over a wider district. The proposal, if approved, would not take effect until 2021 redistricting. Banz is one of several legislators around the country to forward such a proposal.
On Tuesday, South Dakota's Legislative Redistricting Committee adopted changes to the state's American Indian legislative districts. Under the new boundaries, the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation would be included with the Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations in a single legislative district. Minor changes were made to other districts containing reservations. The changes received bi-partisan support.
The committee will be accepting map submissions from the public in advance of final plan approval. Public proposals should be submitted by September 21, 2011. The committee will meet September 27 and 28 to adopt its final plan recommendations for the South Dakota State Legislature.
The federal three-judge panel overseeing Texas' consolidated redistricting case began hearing closing arguments from plaintiffs yesterday. The plaintiffs include Democratic Texas lawmakers and Latino advocacy groups who claim the redistricting maps passed by the Texas State Legislature violate minority voting rights. Democratic Representative Marc Veasey's lawyer, and attorneys for the Mexican American Legislative caucus and the Latino Redistricting Task Force all gave closing arguments.
The state of Texas (defendant in the case) asked for a one-day delay in order to better prepare and deliver their closing arguments today. Spokeswomen for Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and Governor Rick Perry (R) said yesterday they were confident the state's maps were in line with both the Voting Rights Act and the US Constitution.
While the final closing arguments will be heard tomorrow, participants and watchers of the trial will likely have to wait weeks for a decision. The reason for the delay is that the judges in the case are awaiting the outcome of another Texas federal redistricting case simultaneously occurring in DC. Texas submitted its plans to a DC federal panel in hopes of obtaining Voting Rights Act pre-clearance. A Dallas lawyer close to the redistricting case said yesterday that the San Antonio court will wait on the outcome of the DC case before delivering its decision.
On Tuesday, Utah's Joint Redistricting Committee approved preliminary plans for the state's house and senate districts. The plan pairs 12 incumbents -- 10 house members and two senators. The maps show a transfer of seats from Salt Lake County (which experienced sluggish growth) to faster-growing Utah County. Salt Lake County will lose one senate seat, and two house seats. Utah County will gain one senate seat and one and a half house seats. While the house map has won praise for pairing a redistricting committee member (Republican Todd Kiser), the senate map has drawn more controversy for dividing Tooele County and allegedly favoring incumbents. Approval comes less than a week after controversy over the fairness of the senate map prompted a series of revisions.
- The preliminary maps can be found here.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission unveiled its first set of draft maps on Tuesday. Each of the four voting members of the commission presented their proposals, kicking off the public comment period that will continue through October 11. Maps by the two Republicans on the commission and one of the Democrats included the creation of a majority-minority congressional district, an issue that took center stage at most of the public forums held to date. The first of its kind in the state, the district would be made up of some variation of parts of southeast Seattle and South King County cities. All of the commissioners took widely different approaches when it came to the location of the new 10th Congressional District, something that may prove to be a big bargaining chip down the line.
Meanwhile, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D) announced this week that he will be seeking re-election in Ohio, rather than moving to Washington. He had been said to be considering the idea since early in the year when it appeared that Republicans might dismantle his current district. While it now looks to be in tact, he'll likely face a challenge from another Democratic incumbent in the primary.
On September 13, Putnam County issued a notice of pending legal action against West Virginia's house redistricting plan. Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes argued, "If this isn't gerrymandering, then they need to take that word out of the dictionary."1 Putnam county is divided among five house districts with only one fully contained within the county. By itself, the county warrants three house districts. Mason county will also join the suit, arguing that it deserves its own house district. According to Andes, five to six other counties are considering joining the suit.