Redistricting Roundup: Courts reject redistricting maps in two states

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January 6, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

The new year began with a bang, as courts found maps unconstitutional in both Hawaii and West Virginia. A total of 10 maps have been either altered or chosen by courts this year (see chart below).

Hawaii:

On Wednesday January 4, Hawaii's Supreme Court sided with plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the state's redistricting plans. The court ruled that non-residents could not be considered in reapportionment. The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission was ordered to redraw the maps, but a full opinion has not yet been released. Earlier in the year, the commission decided to consider some of the state's non-resident population in its redistricting calculations.

  • The orders in the two cases can be found here and here.

West Virginia:

On Tuesday, January 3, a federal three-judge panel ruled West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan unconstitutional due its unequal distribution of population among the state’s three districts. The court gave the West Virginia Legislature until January 17 to come up with a new map -- otherwise, the panel will redraw the map. The state plans to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court and is seeking a stay on the decision. If granted, the stay could give legislators more time to revise their maps even if the panel's ruling is not overturned on appeal.

  • The decision in the case can be found here.

State news

California

Next Tuesday, the California Supreme Court will be meeting to hear oral arguments regarding what state senate map to use in the 2012 elections. The state is currently reviewing submitted signatures for a referendum on the new map. If the referendum qualifies, the court will decide whether the map will still be used or if a different, interim map should instead be drawn up.

Connecticut

Late last Friday the Connecticut Supreme Court named Nathaniel Persily, a political science professor at Columbia University, to serve as special master to oversee the redrawing of the state's congressional districts. He was one of two out-of-state professors agreed to by the Republican and Democratic members of the failed redistricting committee. Persily is the creator of the website Draw Congress, which was set up to educate the public about the redistricting process and provide nonpartisan maps. Persily has a January 27 deadline to produce a new map, and the court has until February 15 to submit a plan to the Secretary of State.

While Republicans and Democrats were able to agree on Persily, they sharply disagreed on how he should proceed. Democrats have defended the 2001 map and are pushing for minor changes to it, noting it was the last successful redistricting process. They also argued that Persily should ignore the traditional redistricting criteria of compactness and communities of interest. Republican attorney Ross Garber, meanwhile, said those principals should be the starting point. He went on to say deference should not be given to the 2001 map, but that other maps should be included. The court released its instructions for the special master on Tuesday, siding with the Democrat's argument that minimal changes should be made to the map.

Quote of the Week
"[The map is] reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state."[1]

-- Maryland Appellate Judge Paul Neimeyer, commenting on the state's new congressional district map.

Florida

Florida's redistricting process continues to move forward. While maps drafted by the House redistricting committee are still being revised, a preliminary vote on the Senate committee's proposals could come as early as January 11. The 2012 legislative session begins on January 10. A final vote on the Senate-drawn plans is expected before January 20. US Rep. Allen West (R) has emerged as a likely victim of redistricting.

Also, the Florida Supreme Court will accept written comments on redistricting. Under the new redistricting amendments, the court is required to review state-level redistricting plans. Details on submitting comments can be found here.

  • All the proposed maps can be found here.

Idaho

The Idaho Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case brought by Twin Falls County, claiming that the new legislative districts are unconstitutional. Before the court, Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs stated that, per the state constitution, counties can only be split if necessary to meet the federal one-person, one-vote requirement. Loebs said he was able to construct a plan that splits just five counties, showing that the other six splits are unnecessary and make the map unconstitutional.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane argued that the redistricting commission has some discretion in the matter and that there are other things to consider. The court took the arguments under advisement and will issue a written ruling, but did not state when that would be. Candidate filing begins on February 27, and there is another case brought by seven North Idaho counties challenging the districts that is pending before the court.

Kentucky

The Kentucky State Legislature convened its 2012 session on Tuesday, January 3. Redistricting is a high priority item for lawmakers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) says that legislative plans could be passed as early as January 8 or 9. Each house will likely draw its own redistricting chamber plans and attempt to reach a compromise on congressional plans. The Kentucky State Senate is controlled by Republicans and the State House is controlled by Democrats.

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: 109 out of 142 (76.8%)** 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), 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 (1), 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 33 (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)

Michigan

After local Republicans lost their legal challenge to Oakland County's redistricting maps, state GOP lawmakers passed a law stripping the bipartisan committee of its redistricting authority and giving the power to the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners. However, on January 4, Democrats sued to block the law, arguing that it violates the separation of powers. Republicans, on the other hand, defend the law as a cost-saving measure for the county.

Minnesota

Minnesota's judicial redistricting panel heard oral arguments on Wednesday, January 4, concerning redistricting proposal made by both Republicans and Democrats. Both sides accused the other of drawing partisan maps. A decision on final maps is expected by February 21.

Missouri

On Wednesday, January 4, attorney David Brown of Columbia filed suit against Missouri's State Senate redistricting plan. Despite revisions to the court-drawn plan, Brown argues that the map still inappropriately divides counties and, due to staggered Senate elections, will leave at least one district without representation until 2014. He also maintains that the court had no authority to revise its redistricting map after giving it final approval.

Last year, local Republicans and Democrats filed separate lawsuits against the state's congressional maps. These challenges, along with Brown's, will be taken up by the Missouri Supreme Court on January 12, 2012.

  • Brown's petition can be found here.

New Hampshire

The Republican proposal for new State Senate districts was released yesterday. The plan, by Sen. Russell Prescott, includes the creation of a new district that no one currently represents. Additionally, it draws Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen (D) into the same district as freshman Republican Andy Sanborn and gives a number of GOP incumbents stronger Republican districts, including Senate President Peter Bragdon. The GOP currently holds a 19-5 advantage in the chamber.

Larson criticized the plan for being crafted in secret with clearly partisan motives. There will be a public hearing on the plan on January 11 and it is expected to be adopted by the Senate on January 25.

New Mexico

Weeks after the congressional map was approved by judge James Hall, New Mexico now has its new state house map for the next decade. The new map, approved on Tuesday, pairs two incumbent Democrats and two incumbent Republicans. Bob Wooley (R) and Dennis Kintigh (R) have been placed in the same district, while Al Park (D) and Jimmie Hall (D) have been combined into an Albuquerque-based district. There are six majority-minority districts for Native Americans. While Governor Susana Martinez (R) applauded the new districts, Democratic state representative Antonio Maestas expressed his displeasure with the new map which he says rigs the seats to protect Republican incumbents.

New York

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) announced on Tuesday that there's a "good chance" the redistricting committee would add a 63rd seat in the Senate. The 62nd seat was added after the 2000 census. Adding an additional seat would eliminate the possibility of a tie in the chamber, which happened in 2009. Democrats were critical of the proposal, calling the move illegal and unconstitutional. The legality, however, remains somewhat unclear, and if the plan is pursued, the resulting maps would most likely end up in court. The state constitution set the number of Senate seats at 50 in 1894, allowing districts to be added based on a complex formula of county versus state growth. The court has since interpreted that in two different ways over the years. Skelos said maps are now being prepared and would probably be released in the next few weeks.

Additionally, a lawsuit filed in November by a group of civic leaders got a boost last week from a pair of Senate Democrats who were originally named as defendants. Senate Minority Leader John Sampson and Sen. Martin Dilan said they support the suit, which has asked that the court appoint a special master to redraw the state's district lines. Earlier in December a group of defendants, including Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying it was too early for the court to intervene. Sampson and Dilan said they do not support that move, stressing that time is running short.

Meanwhile, although Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) did not mention redistricting in his State of the State address on Wednesday, he released a book to the media about the speech, in which he once again stated that he will veto any lines not developed through an independent redistricting process.

Ohio

On Wednesday, January 4, Ohio Democrats filed suit against Ohio's state legislative redistricting maps. They argue that the map violates state constitutional requirements for compactness and the preservation of county and municipal boundaries. The new map splits 51 counties and 55 cities -- a sign of political gerrymandering according to Democrats. They also charges that the committee violated open meetings laws by holding secret meetings in a hotel room. Republicans note that renting the hotel room was approved by both Republican and Democratic leaders. They also contend that Democrats are attempting to disrupt 2012 elections by challenging the new maps.

  • The petition in the case can be found here.

In other news, US Rep. Steve Austria dropped (R) his bid for re-election after being drawn into the same districting as Rep Mike Turner (R). Democrats Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, also drawn together, are sticking by their re-election bids. Meanwhile incumbents Betty Sutton (D) and Jim Renacci (R) are heading for a general showdown for the 16th District seat.

Pennsylvania

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D) announced yesterday that Democrats would be filing an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court against the new legislative districts. Costa was the only member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to vote against the new maps, which were passed December 12. Costa said there are issues the court needs to address, including the move of a Senate district from the southwest part of the state to the northeast.

A Chester County coalition, which includes the county Democratic Party, also said they plan to file an appeal, arguing that dividing both boroughs into two House districts violates a constitutional provision which mandates that county and municipal splits be avoided whenever possible. The deadline to file appeals is January 11. The court has scheduled a hearing on January 23 to consider the appeals.

Tennessee

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Following their agreement on new congressional districts on December 28, the Washington State Redistricting Commission focused their efforts on new legislative maps. Meeting through the weekend, the commission finally announced unanimous agreement on new district lines at 9:55 p.m. on January 1 - two hours before the job would have gone to the State Supreme Court. It wasn't the first time maps approved in the final moments - redistricting went to the New Year's Day deadline in 1991 and 2001 as well. While several issues needed to be resolved, the main focus was on reaching an agreement on the state's eastern legislative districts, especially how to distribute Hispanics in the Yakima area.

Following the vote, the commission sent their plans to the Legislature. Lawmakers are still able to make minor adjustments to the maps, but that would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Current Washington State Senator Margarita Prentice already announced she would resign rather than seek re-election.

Republicans hold large majorities in the Tennessee legislature, and earlier this week, they wielded that power with proposed redistricting maps for the State Senate and State House. The maps heavily favor the GOP and would target the careers of a number of Democratic incumbents.

State Senate

The proposed Senate map would likely eliminate one incumbent Republican and one Democrat.

  • Republicans Kerry Roberts and Jim Summerville are combined in the 25th District. The 25th is not up for election in 2012, therefore, Roberts will be out of office after the election unless he moves.
  • Jim Kyle -- current Senate Minority Leader -- is in District 28 with Brian Kelsey (R). Kelsey is not up for election in 2012, but Kyle's term is up and therefore he likely cannot run for re-election if the map is implemented.

There are two districts with no incumbent.

State House

The proposed map drawn by Republicans could possibly end the careers of at least six incumbent Democrats, while creating six new districts without any current resident legislator. A total of eight incumbent Democrats are paired in the same district in the proposed map (figure A). The Democrats paired into single districts are:

Additionally, two incumbents Democrats have each been paired with a Republican incumbent in districts that favor the GOP.

The state house map was approved by committee hours after initial introduction.

 Redistricting Maps, approved December 2011 

Congressional maps are expected to be released soon, possibly next week.

Virginia

Virginia legislators are bracing for a legal battle as they prepare to approve new congressional maps for the state. While the state constitution required new maps to be approved in 2011, Republicans delayed the process until 2012, hoping to take control of the VA Senate in the 2011 elections. The GOP ultimately tied the Senate but controls the tie-breaking vote in the chamber, the Virginia Lt. Governor. However, the Democrats are expected to file suit asking the courts to take control of the process since the deadline was not met. Republican leadership are hoping for a temporary extension in order to complete new maps.

Wisconsin

A redistricting lawsuit brought by a group of citizens in June, prior to the adoption of new legislative district lines, continued to develop this week. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel ruled for the third time that a Democratic group is entitled to see information on how Republicans drew the lines. The panel first ruled on December 8 that a consultant and a Senate aide who helped in drafting the maps had to give depositions and turn over documents to Democrats. A similar ruling was issued on December 20. At both of those rulings, Republicans asked for clarification on what information had to be released, arguing some of the work fell under attorney-client privilege and should be kept secret.

In this week's ruling the panel said there was little information that could be considered to fall under that privilege and that the consultant, Joe Handrick, must testify. The panel, which includes two Republican appointed judges, chastised GOP lawmakers and their attorneys for filing "frivolous" motions to keep the information private and ordered them to pay the attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs. A trial is scheduled to take place in February.

See also