Redistricting Roundup: States Release New Maps As Texas Faces Federal Scrutiny

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September 23, 2011

Edited by Tyler Millhouse

This week Ballotpedia's count of "maps submitted for a vote" hit 75, passing the halfway point for official consideration of redistricting plans. Nationwide, lawmakers and/or commissions will consider 142 redistricting plans -- seven states have only one congressional district and Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. New maps in Colorado and New Mexico pushed the plans over the 50% mark.

In other news, the legal tangle over redistricting in Texas gained another knot this week when the Department of Justice rejected two of the state's four maps. Texas chose to submit its redistricting maps to a DC-based federal panel of judges to obtain Voting Rights Act preclearance this cycle, opting out of the traditional route of submitting the plans directly to the DOJ. While the formal preclearance submission was filed in federal court, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also informally submitted the maps to the DOJ in an effort to gain federal approval and speed up the process.

On Monday the DOJ filed a response with the DC federal court rejecting Texas's request for preclearance, arguing that the state's congressional and State Assembly maps violate the Voting Rights Act. The DOJ didn't declare the state's Senate and Board of Education maps illegal, but that doesn't mean Texas is in the clear with those two maps either. The final decision will come from the three-judge panel.

A San Antonio federal court heard closing arguments in a similar, but separate, redistricting case last Friday. The case is a consolidation of a number of like-cases claiming that the maps recently passed by the Texas State Legislature fail to give proportionate voting power to minorities. The San Antonio judges have decided to await the outcome of the DC case before delivering their decision.

Meanwhile, two Texas Democrats filed yet another redistricting lawsuit this week after the DOJ deemed the Texas State Senate map in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The lawmakers insist that there is evidence that the Senate map violates the Act.

State news

Alabama

Earlier this year, Shelby County sued the federal government regarding the Voting Rights Act, arguing that Alabama should no longer have to be subjected to pre-clearance regarding redistricting. Yesterday, a federal court in Washington upheld the law and rejected the lawsuit.

In a 151-page opinion issued by Judge John Bates, the court held there are still instances of intentional racial discrimination which would require the Voting Rights Act to protect minorities.

Quote of the Week

"Abhorrent...you give the politicians within that doughnut hole district the luxury of being able to totally and completely ignore rural issues."

-- Steve Clark, Chair of the Sanpete County Republican Party, reacting to so-called "doughnut-hole" proposals for Utah's congressional maps.[1]

Arizona

Yesterday the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission held a meeting in which two of the main topics were competitive districts and disclosure of redistricting-related conversations and documents. Competitive districts is a heated subject in Arizona. Many interest groups would like to see more competitive races -- but speculation is that the more competitive districts there are, then the fewer the number of majority-minority districts. Concurrently, if more emphasis is placed on creating majority-minority districts, then that means the remaining districts will be highly uncompetitive.

For example, during the 2000 redistricting process, there were eight districts that were designated to be majority-minority. Those eight districts contained 13 percent of the state’s Republican-registered voters and 30 percent of Democrats. That meant that the remaining 22 districts had 825,000 Republicans and 575,000 Democrats. In essence, each time one district is made competitive, another one somewhere else is made even more non-competitive.

Another meeting is scheduled for today as the Commission continues to work through the process.

California

A report emerged this week that stated Republicans could be close to dropping the referendum to reject the state's congressional maps. Sources have indicated that members of the current Congressional delegation -- such as Kevin McCarthy (R) -- are arguing that it is not worth fighting the new maps.

Colorado

The Colorado Reapportionment Commission voted to pass new state legislative district maps on Monday. Democrats unanimously passed both maps, while two Republicans voted against the proposed Senate districts and three voted against the House districts. The approved maps are the most competitive the commission looked at - both of which were introduced by Chairman Mario Carrera, the only unaffiliated member. They now go to the Colorado Supreme Court for review, scheduled to take place October 7.

Florida

After intense criticism of the state’s redistricting timeline, Florida lawmakers have announced a more detailed schedule for the creation of new districts. Redistricting Chair Sen. Don Gaetz (R) said the senate committee will begin considering redistricting legislation on December 5. Although it is too early to tell when a full vote will occur, Gaetz says he wants to avoid “surprises” and “gotcha” tactics. On Monday, the committee began reviewing public input on the new maps. The committee will continue accepting public submissions until November 1.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 23
Next state deadline? South Dakota
September 28, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 75 out of 142 (52.8%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), CO (2), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), 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)

Hawaii

On Monday, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted to exclude some military and non-residents in the state. The decision is a partial reversal of an earlier decision to include non-residents. The original vote was opposed by Big Island officials since the additional population could distort population counts in favor of greater representation for Oahu. However, the most recent decision does not appear to remove enough non-resident population from Oahu to shift a senate seat to the Big Island.

While the commission claims that the population figures are not sufficiently detailed to exclude any additional non-residents, the decision may not avert a lawsuit against the plan. The Commission plans to give final approval to the state’s new maps on Monday, September 26 (the deadline for plan completion).

Idaho

Democrats this week announced their three picks for the newly reformed redistricting commission. Larry Grant, Chairman of the state Democratic Party appointed Ron Betelspacher, a former state senator from 1980-1992; Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai chose Elmer Martinez, a former state representative from 2001-2005; and House Minority Leader John Rusche selected Shauneen Grange, who served on the staff of the 2001 Redistricting Commission.

The newly reformed commission became necessary when the first commission failed to meet their deadline to agree on a plan. It is scheduled to convene before the end of the month, with Republican appointees expected to be named soon.

Illinois

While Democrats are preparing to defend their new congressional districts in a lawsuit brought by Republicans, three members of the Democratic Congressional Delegation are questioning the legality of the map themselves. U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Bobby Rush - the three African-Americans in the delegation - have raised concerns that the districts may not be in accordance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The three appear hesitant to help defend the map in court and at a recent meeting refused to help pay the associated court fees.

The lawsuit, brought by Illinois Republicans in July, argues that the map violates Hispanic voting rights and the districts are severely gerrymandered. Hispanics outnumber blacks in Illinois, yet the new map creates three districts with majority black population, but only one with a Hispanic majority.

Nevada

A three-hour court hearing was held Wednesday to provide more guidance to the court-appointed panel that is taking on the roll of drawing congressional and state legislative districts. Judge James Russell said he wants to approve a new redistricting plan by November 16, 2011. In the court hearing, Democratic lawyers argued against the need for majority-minority Hispanic districts. It was also announced that there will be two public hearings held on October 10 and October 11, at which time citizens can weigh in on possible maps.

The next court hearing will be on November 15 or 16, when Judge Russell will either adopt new maps or send them back to the panel for changes.

New Mexico

The special session on redistricting is advancing quickly as maps moved through the chambers this week. Democrats control both chambers but the governor’s mansion is occupied by a Republican, Susana Martinez.

  • Congressional map: On Monday, The Senate quickly passed a map on a 27-14 party-line vote. The map now goes to the House for consideration. There are three U.S. House seats in New Mexico, with Democrats currently holding 2 seats. The map, if passed in its current form, would likely solidify a 2-1 Democratic advantage for the next decade.
  • State Senate map: A plan passed along partisan lines 27-15 on Wednesday. The map will pair two sets of incumbents -- Republicans Rod Adair and William Burt will be in one southeastern district; Dede Feldman (D) and John Ryan (R) were placed together in a district containing parts of Albuquerque.
  • State House map: With a 36-33-1 partisan advantage, Democrats controlled the process. However, two state representatives -- Sandra Jeff (D) and independent Andrew Nunez -- would not support the early Democratic proposals which hinted at a stalemate of 35-35. However, Nunez later switched his vote which led to the bill passing on the House floor on Thursday by a 36-34 vote.

Governor Susana Martinez (R) has the authority to veto any map -- and early indications are she plans to use that power, much like former governor Gary Johnson (R) did 10 years ago.

If no agreement can be reached between the legislature and governor, then the map-drawing responsibilities will shift to the courts.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight

On September 2, the West Virginia State Legislature denied the state GOP's Freedom of Information Act request for internal redistricting communications. Party leaders have called the 2011 redistricting process "a fiasco" and call the denial a "cover-up." Legislative officials argue that the state’s FOIA law specifically exempts communications of this kind.

On Monday, September 19, the West Virginia Republican Party announced that it plans to challenge the denial in court.

  • The FOIA request and denial can be found here.
  • The GOP lawsuit press release can be found here.

North Dakota

North Dakota's redistricting committee met last Friday to finish a preliminary map of the state’s legislative districts for public review. While the plan primarily affects rural Republicans, Democrats say the plan unfairly targets Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor (D) by pairing him with a fellow Democratic incumbent, David O'Connell. Republicans argue that demographic changes necessitated the move.

Ohio

On Wednesday, September 22, the Ohio State Senate approved the new congressional redistricting plan by a 24 - 7 vote. The senate amended the house-approved bill by adding $2.75 million in funds for local Boards of Elections. The funds are officially intended to help local governments implement the new maps. However, by adding the appropriation to the redistricting bill, the entire law may be immune from a veto referendum. Ordinarily, appropriations bills are not subject to referendum in Ohio. However, legal experts argue that the Ohio Supreme Court would likely hold that merely adding an appropriation to the bill does not exempt it from the proposed referendum. The House of Representatives concurred with the amendment the same day.

Even if the referendum fails, both the Ohio Democratic Party and Dayton NAACP are considering legal action against the plan. The Dayton NAACP has sharply criticized the new map for splitting the city's black population among two heavily-Republican districts -- a move the NAACP says will dilute minority voting power. However, Republican legislators defend the map. Sen. Keith Faber called the plan both "fair and balanced."

Governor Kasich's spokesman has announced that the Governor intends to sign the bill. His signature is expected within days.

Utah

Utah’s Redistricting Committee met Thursday to narrow down its options on new maps for the state’s congressional Districts. The committee ultimately selected six plans for further consideration next Tuesday. Five of the six plans are “pizzas,” dividing the Democratic urban center of Salt Lake City amongst the surrounding, largely rural districts. This plan has been opposed by Salt Lake County lawmakers, but supported by some lawmakers from neighboring Utah County. Only one of the plans is a "doughnut hole," the plan favored by Democrats and several redistricting reform groups. This plan would give Salt Lake City its own congressional district.

  • The six maps under consideration can be found here.

Washington

Following the introduction of proposed maps from each of the four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission last week, commissioners began the long and often arduous process of bargaining. The newly proposed state legislative districts each move some current sitting lawmakers out of their districts, leaving them eager bystanders to the process, as well as turning them into bargaining chips.

Meanwhile, the congressional maps only move one incumbent - U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. He, however, is making a bid for governor, leaving his seat open. The largest point of contention here will be the placement of the newly created 10th District. The commissioners each proposed a widely differing solution to the issue, leaving everyone guessing where it will end up.

See also