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Redistricting Roundup: Final local census figures delivered as states dive into data
By Geoff Pallay
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau fulfilled its obligation to send out local population figures to all 50 states before April 1. Since the process is now concluded, a moment of reflection is warranted to analyze some of the main themes that emerged from that information. There are three big takeaways to consider:
|Who Received their Redistricting Data this week?|
- From the City to the suburbs: Many city centers are expecting to lose representation in their state legislatures as populations shift across states. Among others, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco all came in below expectations and may see their number of state legislators fall.
- Away from rural areas: When looking at a map of the United States based on percentage of population change at the county level compared to nationwide growth, an immediate fact stands out. The mid-western and rural areas are declining while coastal and metropolitan areas are growing.
- Growth of Hispanics: The total Hispanic population has increased from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010 -- an increase of 43 percent.
An increase in Hispanic population typically tends to favor the Democratic Party, while an exodus away from cities would favor Republicans. Minorities and city-residents historically vote more heavily for Democratic candidates.
Now that all 50 states have received their data, the map-drawing can unfold in greater detail.
The Arkansas House of Representatives is in the process of debating the first version of a new Congressional map. The map emerged from the State House Agencies Committee after a party-line vote of 11-7. Republicans have objected to the map, stating that it is gerrymandered. The map would move Fayetteville from the 3rd Congressional District into the 4th.
In state legislative map news, the Board of Apportionment -- composed of the Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General -- has moved toward hiring Joe Woodson as director of redistricting. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) -- the lone Republican on the 3-member board -- was criticized after he authorized expenditures for a car and consulting services without seeking prior approval from Governor Mike Beebe (D) and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) -- the other board members. Martin reclassified $60,000 as Secretary of State spending -- allowing the $200,000 redistricting budget to remain largely untouched.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 11|
|Next state deadline?|| New Jersey|
|Maps submitted for vote: 2||(Mississippi House)(Mississippi Senate)|
|States that have completed redistricting||None|
Governor Rick Scott's (R) office requested a delay on the lawsuit against him for pulling a request for federal approval of Amendment 5 and Amendment 6. The two ballot measures are an attempt at making the redistricting process fairer, and were approved by voters in 2010. While his office was required to respond to the suit following the release of the state's census data on March 16, it requested a delay until April 1, stating that the matter will be resolved by then without the court's involvement. Supporters of the amendments believe this means Scott will be submitting them for approval.
Chair of the Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee Kwame Raoul (D) announced a series of five public meetings around the state beginning in Chicago on March 28. The rest include April 6 in Springfield, April 16 in Kankakee and Peoria, and April 19 in Cicero. Kwame is also personally sponsoring a website to further involve the public in the redistricting process.
Before the legislature can act on the upcoming redistricting plans, the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission must compile public input on the proposed plan. To this end, four public hearing have been planned in early April. Comments will be aggregated and submitted to the state legislature which cannot vote on new maps until three days after the report is submitted. A schedule of the public meetings can be found here.
Currently, the Louisiana State Legislature is in a special session from March 20 to April 13 in order to conduct redistricting. While no maps have yet emerged from committee, the consensus is the Congressional maps will be more controversial than the state legislative maps. There have been at least four maps introduced that would re-draw Congressional districts. Three of those maps would preserve the northern districts while cutting a southern district. One proposed map, would do the opposite. Additionally, this week it was decided that the Louisiana Supreme Court districts will not be redrawn in the redistricting process. Because there are fewer state supreme court representatives then Congressional Districts, and they were not redrawn in 2000, citizen pushback is expected to be high. With seven court members, each justice represents 906,674 people -- the largest district of any elected official in Louisiana. The contention has a general "north" vs "south" slant -- as constituents of their respective regions of the state defend their positions.
In April 2010, Governor Martin O'Malley (D) signed a bill requiring prison inmates to be counted at their last known address prior to incarceration - the first of its kind in the U.S. His law, however, did not even make it to one year. Backed by 13 Senators and over 80 Delegates, the "No Representation without Population Act" presented itself as a remedy to rural counties, which house most of Maryland's prisons, having artificially high population counts. Various Maryland agencies signed off on adjustments made to population figures after the February 2011 delivery of Census data.
This week however, Maryland's plans were denied by the Federal government. When the state asked prison officials to provide detailed information on the previous addresses of current inmates, the Federal Bureau of Prisons refused, citing privacy violations. Maryland has appealed directly to the U.S. Justice Department in a bid to get that information. This case has implications in Delaware and New York as well, who also have attempted to reform prison-based gerrymandering.
The Bay State received its local redistricting data this week, helping shed light on which of the 10 Congressional Districts could be cut when they are parsed into 9 new districts. Overall, Western Massachusetts experienced the slowest growth this past decade. Each Congressional district will have 727,514 residents. To date, no representative has hinted at a possible retirement, which would simplify the process for state legislative decision-makers.
|This week in redistricting|
The tornado of redistricting in Mississippi continues. Speaker William McCoy (D) still refuses to enter into a joint conference with the Senate, declining even to appoint anyone to the conference committee. Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant has however named three Senators should the committee ever meet, including Senate Redistricting Chair Terry Burton. McCoy says he is instead sending his map directly to the Justice Department for approval. Governor Haley Barbour (R) has veto power only over the Congressional map. However, he sent a letter to Republicans to request that they bring down the House-sponsored map. Meanwhile, House Democratic leadership voted to join the NAACP lawsuit, though they say all legal expenses will be privately covered.
Although the Republicans and Democrats control the legislature and governorship, respectively, census data suggests that the process is likely to favor state Republicans. Of the 9 state senate districts which exceed their population target (79,163 residents) by more than 10,000 people, all 9 are controlled by the GOP. In addition, Republicans hold 20 house districts that exceed their target (39,582 residents) by over 5,000 people. Democrats, on the other hand, represent a large majority of the state's underpopulated districts. This means that state lawmakers will likely have to move many conservative precincts to Democratic districts, weakening the re-election prospects of several Democratic legislators.
Following recent public calls for an independent commission, Rep. Steve Simon (DFL) is renewing his support for HF 406, introduced on February 7. The bill would allow party leaders to select a bi-partisan commission of retired judges. Simon says he is not optimistic about the bill chances, but contends that it could avoid yet another decade of court-drawn maps.
The Palmetto State received its redistricting population figures this week. Early signs are that the highest growth was in Horry County -- which could likely point to the new, 7th Congressional District being placed in the corner of the state near Myrtle Beach. It was also revealed that many of the majority-minority districts in the Senate and House are underpopulated with respect to the ideal size -- 37,301 and 100,551 for Senate and House, respectively. It may be difficult for state legislators to maintain the same number of majority-minority districts.
The Legislative Black Caucus is calling for a second majority-minority Congressional district in the state. Currently only one member of the Congressional delegation is African-American, despite a total state population of 20 percent. However, experts say it may be difficult to create another majority-minority district of more than 40 percent. Meanwhile, the Virginia House of Delegates have proposed stronger standards with respect to the ideal size of state districts. Currently, the allowed deviation is 2 percent, but legislators are proposing to tighten the difference to 1 percent. While this could make the process more challenging, it would ultimately limit the discrepancies in district sizes.
A special session to conduct state legislative redistricting will begin on April 4.
After receiving its local population data this week, it appears likely that the West Virginia panhandle will pick up two House and one Senate seats. While many cities lost population, Berkeley and Jefferson counties -- both in the panhandle -- showed growth of 37 percent and 27 percent, respectively.