Redistricting Roundup: California commission cancels second draft of maps

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July 15, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Those that are interested in redistricting have been paying particularly close attention to California in light of the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

At first, the publicity was positive, as California was seen as a laboratory of redistricting -- a chance to see what a truly independent commission could produce when it comes to fairer maps. Lately however, much of that attention has been negative.

After draft maps were released in June, minority groups were highly critical of the plan. A second set of draft maps was slated to be released in early July, but the deadline was pushed back to allow for more comments. Now, however, that deadline will not be met at all. Commissioners decided this week not to publish any second set of draft maps. Instead, it will focus on finalizing the maps that will be submitted to the Secretary of State by August 15.

Earlier this year members of both political parties fueled speculation that the commission was acting in an overtly partisan partisan manner.

Of course, the maps will more than likely be an improvement from what already exists in California -- where some districts are so gerrymandered that you could drive a golf ball across their narrowest points. But the ultimate question many Californians seem to be wondering is whether the commission will still leave something to be desired. Will the commissioners truly find a way to please all parties or will the new maps be a marginal improvement at best?

State news

Arizona

In 2000, Arizona citizens passed Proposition 106, which created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to draw legislative and Congressional maps. This year’s commission has come under criticism by GOP officials in light of some of the hirings and actions by the commission. Now, a Republican lawmaker is proposing the idea that a ballot question be held to eliminate the commission and return the map-drawing process to lawmakers. House representative Terri Proud (R) said the independent chair of the commission, Colleen Mathis, did not disclose that her husband worked for the unsuccessful re-election bid of a Democratic legislator. Proud also indicated she has not seen enough interest on the commission’s part to gather public input before creating draft maps.

Quote of the Week
"It is clear that the House Committee is a mere facade to maintain multi-member districts in West Virginia... House Democrat leaders are merely going through the motions pretending to care about the best interests of the public." -- West Virginia Republican Party chairman Mike Stuart reacting to House Majority Leader Brent Boggs's suggestion that single-member districts may not be feasible in the 2011 redistricting cycle.[1]

Speaker of the House Andy Tobin also criticized some decisions by the commission. Notably, the hiring of Strategic Telemetry as the map consultant. That company has recently worked for President Barack Obama, John Kerry and the Democratic effort to recall legislators in Wisconsin.

State senator Ron Gould (R) suggested removing Mathis from the commission entirely. In order to do that, Governor Jan Brewer (R) would need to sign a petition and then the Senate would need to approve that petition with a ⅔ vote.

Hawaii

On June 28, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to include non-resident students and military personnel in redistricting calculations. Although Commission Democrats were strongly supportive of the decision, voting 3-1 for the inclusion of non-resident populations, there has been strong push back in recent days from Democrats on the Big Island. Sen. Malama Solomon, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Robert Herkes, and several others have pressured the Commission to reverse its decision. In addition, threats have been made to challenge the decision in court.

Kansas

This summer, members of the reapportionment committees plan to hold several meetings in cities around the state. Additional meetings will be scheduled in September and October. The full schedule can be found here.

  • July 26, Wichita State University
  • July 26, Hutchinson Community College
  • July 27, Salina, KS
  • July 27, Manhattan, KS
  • August 2, Chanute, KS
  • August 2, Pittsburg, KS
Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 21
Next state deadline? South Carolina
August 1, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 48 out of 142 (33.8%)** MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (3), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (3), MN (3), NV (3), NE (2), AL (1), IL (3), OR (3), SC (3), AK (2), MI (3), DE (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 8 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, OK, AL, IL )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 10 (NJ, LA, IA, VA, IN, NE, OK, IL, OR, AK)
**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)

Maryland

The Maryland GOP has released a "good-government" redistricting plan aimed at creating districts which do "what is best for Maryland residents, not career politicians." Specifically, the plan aims at creating compact, contiguous districts and a third minority-majority district. In a more partisan move, the plan pairs Democratic Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. Ultimately, the plan is unlikely to significantly impact the outcome of Maryland's redistricting efforts. Only one of the advisory commission's members is a Republican. The full plan can be found here.

The Redistricting Advisory Committee has scheduled 12 public hearings around the state. The schedule can be found on the Committee's website.

Montana

The Montana District and Apportionment Commission met on Tuesday and voted to approach the process by taking the state as a "whole" -- rather than a regional approach which had been employed in years past. The commission hopes to have a map drawn and ready for public viewing by the end of 2011. The new districts will not go into effect until the 2014 elections -- meaning the 2012 elections will continue to use the existing districts from before the 2010 census.

Nevada

Nevada First Judicial District CourtJudge James Russell ruled on Tuesday that a special panel will be charged with completing the redistricting process in Nevada. Russell said he would like to see the panel restricted to only 3 or 4 people. Reaction was mixed around the state, with some officials supporting the idea while others questioned the ability of this panel to successfully consider all interests.

Russell has given lawyers until July 20 to propose panel members. The panel of “special masters” will then oversee the final map-drawing process. Judge Russell suggested that using county voter registrars would be a possible way to remove the political nature of the maps. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) commended that idea and suggested Scott Wasserman -- chief executive officer and special counsel to regents -- as a backup option if the registrars do not agree to the process.

North Carolina

On Tuesday, Republicans in both chambers released state-level redistricting plans. While details are still emerging, the plans appear to favor urban areas and the Republican party. Wake and Mecklenburg counties, each with five senators, would have a strong influence in the legislature. The State Senate maps pair eight incumbents in four districts. Two of these pairings pit Republican and Democratic incumbents--in each case favoring the GOP. The two remaining pairings, join GOP incumbents. Overall, the plan appears to pair or relocate 19 Democrats and 19 Republicans. In a statement released along with the maps, Republican redistricting leaders Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. David Lewis explain that the maps eliminate one of the controversial VRA districts in response to public criticism. However, they defend the maps as a whole, arguing that charges of "packing" black residents are unfounded. In other news, revisions to the Congressional proposal may be released this weekend.

 North Carolina GOP Legislative Redistricting Proposal 

Ohio

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Alaska’s litigation deadline expired this week with only two cities filing lawsuits. The Fairbanks North Star Borough lawsuit was officially filed on Wednesday. The community argues that the map impermissibly dilutes Fairbanks voters by placing a significant portion of northwest Fairbanks in a expansive house district which includes communities along the Bearing Sea coastline. In addition, the Borough Assembly argued that some of the city's voters had been unnecessarily split into two house districts. The Alaska Constitution requires that, "Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area."

On Tuesday, the City of Petersburg filed a complaint against Alaska's legislative redistricting map. Joining the suit as plaintiffs are a board member of the Petersburg Indian Association and a local resident. The complaint argues that the map violates the Alaska Constitution by including Petersburg and part of Juneau in a single district. Much like Fairbanks, Petersburg argues that the regions are not socio-economically integrated.

The Democratic party and at least two other boroughs had considered legal action, but decided against it. In Mat-Su, the Borough Assembly unanimously voted in favor of challenging the state's redistricting plan, but the Mat-Su mayor vetoed the resolution. The Aleutians East Borough simply decided to let the deadline expire. Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins said that while the party will not sue over the maps, they will support others who choose to challenge the maps.

On Thursday, the Cleveland State University Levin College of Urban Affairs released reorganized census data necessary for Ohio redistricting. Ohio's census data must be reorganized to give census counts for each of Ohio's almost 10,000 precincts. The release of the data allows legislators and commission members to begin redrawing the state's political boundaries.

Utah

After circulating several regional maps, the legislative Republicans have combined the maps into a single draft map for Utah House of Representatives. The plan, which lays out boundaries for Utah's 75 house districts, pairs a number of incumbents. In its present form, the map contains 3 districts where Democrats are paired together, 3 districts that pair Republicans, and 1 district with a bi-partisan match-up. Democrats argue that the map's new lines in Salt Lake City could significantly weaken the city' representation by pairing Democratic incumbents. Rep. Merlynn Newbold (R), who helped craft the plan, argued that pairing legislators was not an objective of the plan and that a concern for "one person, one vote" and the preservation of local boundaries guided the process. Rep. Kenneth Sumsion (R), chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, noted that plans are only a first draft and will be modified.

Texas

Democratic State Representative Marc Veasey announced this week his intentions of filing a lawsuit to block the state's congressional redistricting plan. He claims the plan disproportionately dilutes minority voting power in the Lone Star State.

Virginia

Recently, the sponsor of the Republican-drawn Congressional plan, Delegate Bill Janis (R), stated that the bipartisan committee is still strongly divided over Virginia's Congressional redistricting plan. The chief area of disagreement remains the creation of minority districts in the Southeast. Janis also suggested that the legislature may simply allow the process to pass to a federal judge.

Wisconsin

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an executive session today to vote on three redistricting bills, with full Senate and Assembly votes coming next week. Redistricting in Wisconsin is normally dealt with later in the year -- once localities have redrawn wards -- but Republicans sped up the process this year. Speculation is they did this in order to pass maps prior to pending recall elections that have the potential to flip the Senate to Democratic control.

Legislative hearings on the maps were held on July 13. Republicans defended their maps as legally sound, while Democrats said the plans are unconstitutional and nothing short of gerrymandering. Due to the unexpectedly ramped up schedule, many cities will likely have to start over on their newly drawn aldermanic maps. Under current state law, these are completed before the state maps in order to prevent the splitting of municipal wards. Republicans are reportedly planning on changing the law so that legislative maps are put in place first, which has drawn anger from local politicians.

See also