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State Legislative Tracker: Technology provides easier access to new maps

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August 27, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features news about techonology that will allow voters greater access to legislative district maps.

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Weekly highlight

Today Ballotpedia announced a new partnership with Moonshadow Mobile, Inc. Using proprietary technology and data supplied by Labels and Lists, Inc., Moonshadow has created maps comparing districts before and after the redistricting process, showing the old (2001) and new (2011) lines for state legislative districts, as well as U.S. Congressional districts.

Ballotpedia has incorporated these maps into their coverage of the statewide elections in Arizona. Maps have already been generated for Arizona’s 30 legislative districts and nine congressional districts. Over the next two months, the organizations will work to add similarly detailed maps to Ballotpedia’s election pages for the other 49 states.

Moonshadow Mobile, Inc., based in Eugene, Oregon, has developed Internet technology to instantly visualize "Big Data" inside of Bing Maps or Google Maps. With Moonshadow's patent-pending technology databases with hundreds of millions of records can be visualized within seconds in the cloud. Moonshadow's technology can visualize close to 100 million records per second per processor core which is roughly 100 times faster than traditional databases. It is Moonshadow's mission to change the way people access, understand, analyze and work with data.

Redistricting was a major issue in most states in 2010-2011. While some legislative districts remained largely or wholly unchanged, many across the country were dramatically altered, often leading to confusion as to what district voters are in for the 2012 elections. Ease of access to maps and how districts changed aims to reduce this confusion.


This week 4 out of 50 state legislatures - New Jersey, Ohio and California are meeting in regular session, while Massachusetts is meeting in informal session, which it will continue to do throughout the rest of the year. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. California is projected to adjourn this week.

Thirty-nine states have adjourned for the year, while four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - did not hold regular sessions in 2012.

Current sessions capture for the week of August 27, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Although most states have concluded 2012 business, some states have already begun 2013 action. Drafting for 2013 has begun in Montana and North Dakota, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.[1]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, August 27, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,301 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,953 (53.5%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 37
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 30
Total Special Sessions 19

In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 19 special sessions in 15 states. There are no special sessions currently ongoing.


The Minnesota State Legislature met for a one-day special session on August 24 to address flood relief. While the session had been in the works since storms ravaged some parts of the state in early July, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) did not officially call it until August 22.[2] During the session, legislators easily approved a $167.5 million disaster relief package, passing it 125-3 in the House and 60-7 in the Senate.[3]

In recess

As of today, August 27, 5 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • Illinois - In recess from August 17, 2012 to November 27, 2012.[4]
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[5]
  • Michigan - In recess from August 16, 2012 to September 10, 2012.[5]
  • Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.[5]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[5]
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State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 138 out of 142 (97.2%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 43/43
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, ME, MS, MT)
**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 August 21, the state of Alaska filed suit arguing that Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional and should not be enforced. According to the lawsuit, "no such evidence exists" that Alaska should be on the list of states required to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for redistricting plans or proposed election changes. Earlier this year, several Alaska Natives filed suit seeking to stop the implementation of new redistricting plans. While that case was dropped after DOJ approved the plans, the new state lawsuit says that case "jeopardized the state's ability to hold its elections" and could have prevented the state from holding elections at all in 2012, and thus they are seeking to stop that possibility from arising again.[6]


A case challenging Arizona's new congressional districts got underway on August 22. Lawyers for the Republican-backed lawsuit argued it should proceed as the redistricting commission violated requirements that were put in place to protect voters while creating the new districts. Lawyers for the redistricting commission, meanwhile, are seeking to have the suit dismissed, arguing the allegations are unfounded.[7]

Republicans filed the lawsuit in US District Court on June 7., asking that the congressional map approved by the redistricting commission be prohibited after this year's elections. The lawsuit contends that the voter approved law, which allows a commission rather than the legislature to draw congressional districts, violates the Constitution. Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) stated, "Today, the Legislature is asking the federal courts to bring the constitutional redistricting process back to Arizona's elected representatives."[8]

Attorney for the redistricting commission Joe Kanefield stated, "The truth is that the plaintiffs don't like the congressional map drawn by the commission and are trying to force the commission to start over."[9]

See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
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A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for election during the presidential election year.

  • 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
  • 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.

The 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines

As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines have passed.


See also: 2012 election dates

There are state legislative primaries taking place this week in three states - Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont.

A total of 156 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 99 Republicans and 57 Democrats.

So far, primaries have taken place in 36 states:

States with upcoming primaries:

Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. In 2011, there were 11 state legislative recalls in three states, four of which resulted in the legislator being recalled. In 2012, there have been four state legislative recalls - three have failed while one succeeded.


Recall efforts are currently targeting four Republican members of the Louisiana House of Representatives - Charles "Chuck" Kleckley, Kevin Pearson, George Cromer and Ray Garofalo.

The legislators have been targeted primarily because of their support for controversial public education reforms backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).[10] There has been little news about the campaigns since they began.


2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns continued on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful on November 8, 2011). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) set their sights on the August 2012 ballot, but in April organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts.[11] The Caswell campaign appears to be no longer active as well.

Following several attempts to get recall language approved against Sen. Randy Richardville, organizers succeeded on June 12, 2012. The approved petition language against Richardville states that one reason for the recall is Richardville's support for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.[12]

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 30 special elections in 12 states.

There are no special elections scheduled to take place this week.

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • September 4: Virginia Senate District 5, Virginia House of Delegates District 45
  • November 6: Kentucky Senate District 19
  • November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68
  • November 6: Texas House of Representatives District 41
  • December 11: Alabama House of Representatives Districts 30, 34

See also