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Redistricting Roundup: As 2012 sessions begin, states look to finalize maps

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January 13, 2012

Note: There will be no redistricting roundup next Friday, January 20. We will return on January 27.

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

There are currently 7,384 state legislators in the 50 states. However, if Republicans have their way in New York, that number could increase by one.

On Tuesday, Republicans confirmed that they plan to add a 63rd seat to the Senate. During the last round of redistricting in 2002, they added two seats to the Senate. Adding another would prevent a tie in the chamber, which happened in 2009. Democrats are calling the move illegal and unconstitutional, while Republicans are justifying the seat on a constitutional analysis by Michael Carvin, a lawyer hired by Republicans for the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), whose law firm is being paid $3 million. They say the 63rd seat is necessary when taking into account census figures, requirements of the state constitution, and voter protection laws.

The legal analysis by Carvin was quietly posted on the LATFOR website after 5 p.m. last Friday, leading LATFOR member Sen. Martin Dilan (D) to decry the move as being "done in the dark of night." Additionally, Democrats argue that it does not make sense to grow the state Senate while slow population growth has required New York to lose two of its congressional seats.

The portion of the constitution addressed was written in 1894 and only allows districts to be added based on a complex formula of county versus state growth - something that the court has interpreted in different ways over the years. If the 63rd seat is added, the issue will most likely end up in court.

Also on Tuesday, LATFOR approved a motion to count 46,003 state and federal prisoners in their last home district rather than in the district where the prison is located. The issue, which began with the passing of a state law two years ago, has been a contentious one. In April 2011, Senate Republicans filed suit against LATFOR and the state Department of Corrections for their plan to follow the law, calling the statute unconstitutional. The case was eventually thrown out by New York Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine on December 2, 2011.

State news

Alaska

On Monday, January 9, a trial began for the remaining Alaska redistricting lawsuit. The trial is expected to last two weeks. The chairman of the redistricting board, a redistricting expert, and two state senators have already testified.

Arizona

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is meeting today to discuss minor, technical changes to the state legislative and congressional maps. The commission is expected to give final approval to the maps either today or next Tuesday.

California

The California Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday regarding the use of maps for the upcoming elections. At the hearing, GOP lawyers asked the court to throw out the new Senate map for the November 6, 2012 election. The legal fight is tied to the 47-word passage of the California Constitution which uses the phrase "likely to qualify" regarding a map being removed by referendum. The court has 90 days to issue a ruling.

Quote of the Week
But maps are hard to draw, and this is not an easy task.[1]

-- Jim Cooper (D), U.S. House rep from Tennessee's 5th Congressional District.

Connecticut

A public hearing was held on Monday to allow Republicans, Democrats, and members of the public to present their ideas and plans for new congressional districts to Nathaniel Persily, the special master appointed by the court last month. Ross Garber, attorney for the Republicans, said the map proposed by Republicans satisfies the instructions laid out for Persily by the court's order. Democrats, meanwhile, continued to argue for as few changes as possible to the 2001 map.

The dispute comes down to the 5th District, part of which is surrounded by the 1st District like a clamp. Democrats are pushing to move 523 residents out of the 5th in order to meet population requirements, while Republicans want to move the entire city of New Britain into the 1st. State Rep. Arthur O'Neill (R), the only member of the current reapportionment commission to have served on the 2001 commission, said that in 2001 they never saw the odd shaped 5th District as a permanent solution, but rather a move that was fair to the two incumbents at the time.

Along with the proposed plans from Republicans and Democrats, Persily is also considering maps from the Coalition for Minority Representation and a resident associated with Democracy for America. He has until January 27 to produce a new map.

Florida

On Wednesday, January 11, the Florida State Senate's redistricting committee approved Senate and congressional maps for consideration by the full chamber. The plans were approved after the committee rejected a Democratic revision. The alternative plan drew controversy since it was drawn by the Democratic party -- despite a redistricting amendment requiring nonpartisan maps. Democrats defended the proposal, arguing that Democratic committee members didn't have the resources to draft maps without party assistance. The revision may be reintroduced for consideration by the full Senate.

Meanwhile, the House committee approved the Senate committee's chamber map and narrowed its own list of proposals. Final consideration of the proposals could occur on January 20. Democrats were critical of the remaining plans.

  • House plans can be found here.
  • Senate plans can be found here.

In other news, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on January 10 in the appeal of Brown v. Browning. The lawsuit, backed by US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R), challenges a recent state redistricting amendment. Brown and Diaz-Balart argue that the US Constitution gives state legislatures alone prerogative over the redistricting process.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 31 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 10
Maps submitted for vote: 112 out of 142 (78.9%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), KY (2), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (3), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (3), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (3), SC (3), SD (2), TN (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 33 (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NM,NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 34 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI)
**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

After its redistricting plans were struck down last week, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission announced that it will meet on January 20 to begin revising the maps.

Kansas

The Kansas State Senate's Reapportionment Committee is meeting today to establish rules to guide its drafting of new redistricting maps. The House committee has already adopted its own guidelines, permitting a 5% deviation from ideal district populations.

Kentucky

This week, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed redistricting maps for the state House and U.S. House. Approved on Tuesday, January 10, the US House map would dramatically reshape the state's congressional districts. Most notably, the plan makes significant changes to Districts 4, 6, and 2. Overall, the plans seems to benefit Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth (District 3) and Ben Chandler (District 6) and undercut Republican Rep. Hal Rogers (District 5). Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover sharply criticized the plan, saying that political motives drove mapmakers. Republicans currently hold a 4-2 edge in the Kentucky Congressional Delegation. The plan was approved 54 to 42 -- more or less along party lines.

  • A copy of the House-approved congressional plan can be found here.

On Thursday, January 12, the Kentucky House also approved new chamber lines, passing the bill by a 63-34 margin. Republicans decried the proposal and suggested that legal action may be taken against the map if approved. The bill draws seven Republican incumbents into three districts and another Republican would be paired with entrenched Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) said the changes were based on demographic changes required the changes. Opponents have also been critical of several un-compact, meandering districts in the new plan.

Maryland

Governor Martin O'Malley (D) formally presented the new map of state legislative districts to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House on Wednesday. They, in turn, introduced the plan as a joint resolution to the General Assembly. Legislators have 45 days to approve the plan or pass an alternative map. If they do not pass an alternative plan, O'Malley's proposal automatically becomes law. The plan notably creates 12 majority African-American districts, up from 10, and creates four additional majority-minority districts.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a black activist group, says it will sue the state if the map is approved by the legislature. The group argues that the plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act by purposely reducing black influence and violates state laws by splitting more boundaries and counties than is necessary.

Meanwhile, opponents of the approved congressional plan say that if they are unable to successfully appeal a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the new districts, they may start a petition drive to put the issue before voters in a fall referendum. In order to achieve that, organizers would have to collect 55,736 valid signatures, including 18,579 by May 31.

Missouri

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
This week, the Virginia House redistricting committee revived and approved last year's failed congressional redistricting bill. The House of Delegates approved the plan by a 74-21 vote, and the Senate is expected to consider the bill next week. Passage of the plan stalled last year after lawmakers in each chamber failed to agree on the number of minority-majority districts. But with Republicans maintaining effective control over both chambers, the new map is expected to proceed. Currently, the filing deadline for congressional candidates is January 16.
  • An interactive version of the plan can be found here.

On Thursday, January 12, oral arguments began in three redistricting challenges currently before the Missouri Supreme Court. Observers expect prompt decisions in the cases. Candidate filing for the state begins on February 28, 2012.

New Mexico

A new bipartisan plan has emerged for the New Mexico State Senate districts, and it was presented to the state court this week for consideration. Lawyers for the Democrat-controlled state legislature are opposing the maps, which are being promoted by Governor Susana Martinez (R), state legislative Republicans, a group of Democrats, and Native Americans. The plan would combine Republicans Rod Adair and William Burt into one district. Democratic incumbents [[Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Eric Griego would also be in one district. However, Griego has already declared as a candidate for a U.S. House seat.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court received 11 appeals against the new state legislative maps by Wednesday’s deadline. The broadest appeal came from the Senate Democrats, arguing against plans to move a Senate district from the southwestern portion of the state to the northeast, move Harrisburg out of its present district, and split multiple counties and municipalities. Another major appeal was made by Michael Churchill, a lawyer at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, on behalf of 13 citizens. He argues that counties and towns were unnecessarily divided in order to include the homes of incumbents in their current districts.

The court plans to hear oral arguments on January 23 -- the day before legislative candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions.

Tennessee

Proposed Congressional redistricting map from January 2012.

The Tennessee General Assembly continued to advance redistricting maps this week.

  • The Tennessee State Senate passed its redistricting plan out of committee.
  • The Tennessee House of Representatives passed its redistricting map on a 67-25 vote. Democrats proposed an alternative map that was rejected by the Republican majority. Republicans tweaked the map to preserve the seats for three Democratic incumbents -- Sherry Jones, Eddie Bass and Harry Tindell.
  • State lawmakers released a draft congressional map last Friday. The State House gave it initial approval yesterday, on a 68-25 vote.

The Tennessee State Senate is expected to meet today and consider voting on maps.

Texas

The US Supreme Court held a highly anticipated hearing Monday on the fate of redistricting maps in Texas, but no decision was reached nor was there much indication of when a ruling might come. The Supreme Court is trying to resolve a months long legal battle that has continually thrown the 2012 election into disarray.

After Texas' maps failed to receive Voting Rights Act pre-clearance from a federal panel in DC, a federal court in San Antonio drew interim redistricting maps so the 2012 elections could continue without further delay. The court-drawn maps drew heavy criticism from officials throughout the Texas government, leading Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to ask the nation's highest court to intervene. The Supreme Court answered by temporarily halting the implementation of the court's interim maps until it could review the case and issue a ruling.

Monday's hearing brought no clarity from the Court - only continued speculation of what the outcome will be. The High Court discussed moving the primary election, yet again, from its current April 3rd date to as late as June. Until the Court issues a decision, Texas redistricting remains at a standstill.

Vermont

Vermont's House Government Operations Committee has begun the process of redrawing district boundaries for the chamber. A preliminary map is currently being revised. The committee hopes to complete its final plans by the end of January.

West Virginia

After the state's new congressional map was struck down by a panel of federal judges, the judicial panel agreed remove the January 17 deadline for the West Virginia Legislature revise its maps. The panel's January 10 decision will also allow the state to change its candidate filing deadlines to accommodate the revision process. The state had asked for a stay of the decision while it pursues an appeal with the US Supreme Court, but its motion was denied.

See also