Redistricting Roundup: Some states explore altering total number of legislators

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February 25, 2011

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

By Geoff Pallay

Most states can immediately start working on new maps once the census data for redistricting arrives. But before that process can begin, map drafters must know how many state legislative districts to create. On the federal level, these figures are provided by the Census Bureau. However, at the state and local level, legislators have more freedom to change the structure of representation.

Across the country, several legislators have introduced legislation to either increase or decrease the total number of elected officials in their state. Here are a few examples of such bills:

  • Kansas: The Senate Ways and Means Committee introduced legislation that would reduce the number of Kansas counties from 105 to 23. The bill, championed by Sen. Chris Steineger (R), is designed to strengthen counties and improve efficiency. A Wichita State University study has found that such a consolidation could result in hundreds of millions in yearly savings.
  • Maine: In late January, a member of the state's House of Representatives, Portland Democrat John Hinck, proposed LD 153 (alternately HP 136), which would shrink both the House and the Maine State Senate. The two chambers, currently seating 151 and 35 members, respectively, would be trimmed to 101 and 23, respectively.
  • Minnesota: One bill has been introduced to reduce the number of senators and representatives. The legislation would decrease the number of Senators from 67 to 56 and the number of Representatives from 134 to 112.
  • Nebraska: Cedar Rapids Senator Kate Sullivan introduced a bill, LB 195, to add a Senate seat, taking advantage of a law that allows the chamber to cap out at 50 members. A competing bill, LB 233, would cut the number of seats from 49 down to 45.
  • New Hampshire: A 2006 ballot initiative will allow New Hampshire lawmakers to divide several towns into individual legislative districts. This process would eliminate multi-member, at-large elections for those municipalities. The New Hampshire House of Representatives has some districts with as many as 13 representatives.
  • West Virginia: Currently, West Virginia elects 100 representatives from 58 districts to the West Virginia House of Delegates. Daryl Cowles (R) has introduced legislation, which would mandate 100 single-member legislative districts for the House. Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler (D), House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R) and Representative Marty Gearheart (R) have voiced support for the concept of single-member districts.
Who Received their Redistricting Data this week?
State
Oregon
Washington
Colorado
Hawaii
Utah
Nevada
Alabama
Missouri

Next week, the following states will receive their local information: Delaware, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Wyoming.

Lawsuits

This week, additional lawsuits were filed in Nevada and Indiana. Overall, lawsuits pertaining to redistricting have been filed in eight states -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana,Minnesota, Nevada,Oklahoma and Texas.

State news

Alabama

Shelby County, Alabama has an ongoing lawsuit arguing that the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act is outdated and unconstitutional. Oral arguments to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ended February 2. No action is expected until late March at the earliest. However, Shelby County Attorney Frank "Butch" Ellis believes that regardless of the outcome, the case will go to the Supreme Court.

Alaska

One of the five redistricting board members resigned and was replaced. Albert Clough accepted a job with the state Department of Transportation that precluded his ability to work on the commission. He has been replaced by PeggyAnn McConnochie. Additionally, The Alaskan Federation of Natives has been concerned about urbanization, which would lead to a decrease of representation for rural Alaskans. The co-chair of the group -- Albert Kookesh (D) -- might have his own seat redistricted out from the population changes.

Redistricting Facts
Total Lawsuits filed: 8
Next state deadline? New Jersey
March 7
States with Maps submitted None
States that have completed redistricting None

Arizona

The four Arizona redistricting commission members were sworn-in at the first commission meeting on Thursday. The commissioners then interviewed the five candidates for the final spot -- however, no decision was reached. A vote is expected to take place on March 1 to select the fifth commission member, who will serve as chair.

California

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is continuing its public input hearings, holding four consecutive days of sessions in Sacramento. One primary purpose of these meetings is to recruit and hire consultants for the map drawing process. A proposed map was generated for splitting the state into nine regions for public input.

Illinois

In his budget address, Governor Pat Quinn (D) announced a plan for a massive redistricting of the state's school districts which would cut the number of districts from the current level of 869 down to 300.

Iowa

Iowa, which has received its data, is likely to eliminate and divide the 4th Congressional District as it trims from five to four congressional seats. The 4th District does not have any major cities. State law requires a map to be generated before April 1, which will then be subject to public input.

Indiana

This week in redistricting
The U.S. Census Bureau issued a correction for Virginia population data. In the first data release, U.S. Navy sailors at the Norfolk Naval Station were incorrectly located in the census data. The mistake had placed many of the sailors into a neighboring town of West Ghent. About 19,279 sailors were misplaced -- which originally had shown an 8,300% increase in West Ghent. The new figures have been issued and will not create a problem with the state district process.

A Jeffersonville man, Bruce Herdt, was already suing the city over its population count of areas it annexed within the last three years. Herdt argued that the city significantly undercounted those areas, leading to voter disenfranchisement. Indiana's 2010 Census numbers show, according to Herdt, that his suggestion for a more generous population estimate of the annexed areas is the realistic figure. Herdt petitioned the court hearing his case to allow him to introduce the detailed Census figures. If he succeeds, and if the judge, U.S. Magistrate William Hussman, agrees with his argument, the city of Jeffersonville could be forced to start its redistricting again and possibly to hold a special city council election.

Michigan

The House Redistricting committee responsible for redistricting held its first meeting on February 22. At the meeting the 9 committee members were announced and a schedule was created for future meetings. The Michigan State Senate committee has also been established but has not held any meetings yet. Michigan is the one state that actually lost population in the past decade, and will be required to cut one Congressional district.

Missouri

Missouri received its local population data this week. Four public hearing dates have been established for next week. Those meetings will be held March 1-March 4 across the state. Missouri loses one Congressional district which will likely be cut from St. Louis metropolitan area.

Nevada

Nevada Democrats wasted no time in filing what might be the first precautionary lawsuit of the 2011 redistricting cycle. The law allows suits to be brought as soon as the Census Bureau delivers detailed data sets, which happened February 24th; the lawsuit is seeking to have any legal issues that arise settled in Carson City, the capitol. The legislature, controlled by Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate, is set to adjourn sine die on June 6, 2011, and Democrats doubt the maps will be drawn by then. Anticipating legal battles and a possible veto from Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, Democrats are also asking in the lawsuit to bar Secretary of State Ross Miller from administering or certifying any 2012 elections until all three series of maps, Congressional, Senate, and Assembly, are complete.

See also