Redistricting Roundup: Flurry of activity moves total completed maps beyond two-thirds
Edited by Geoff Pallay
|Other states featured in this week's Roundup|
As the filing deadlines for the 2012 elections get closer and closer, the redistricting process is becoming more and more frenetic across the country.
In the last two weeks, redistricting maps have been approved, thrown out by court, and introduced at a rapid rate across the country. The most intensive and controversial events have occurred in Florida, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
- Florida: The Florida State Senate has succeeded in getting largely bi-partisan approval for its State Senate and US House redistricting plans. The plans passed on January 17 by a 34-6 margin. Opponents argue that the maps gained support by protecting incumbents and, thus, violate the new redistricting amendments. However, redistricting committee chair and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz (R) defended the plans as the product of bi-partisan cooperation. Gaetz also argued that opponents plans would have weakened minority influence districts. The map is expected to favor Republicans--the GOP could theoretically hold 21/27 seats after the 2012 elections. A legal challenge is expected. However, some Republican districts were softened in order to accommodate the state's demographic changes. As predicted, Allen West will be among those weakened. The plans now proceed to the House, where a committee vote is expected today and a floor vote is expected next week. These votes will also address House redistricting.
- An interactive version of the congressional map can be found here.
- Missouri: On January 17, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the state's Senate redistricting maps. The court found that the Senate plan unconstitutionally divided counties. The court also addressed two lawsuits concerning Missouri's new congressional districts, ordering a lower court to review the maps for compactness -- the lower court had initially rejected the lawsuits without considering the question. After these successes for redistricting opponents, a lawsuit was filed against the new state House plans with the Supreme Court. The court declined to hear the case and directed plaintiffs to filed the case in state circuit court. A new 10-member redistricting committee, composed of residents, will be appointed by the Governor to redraw the Senate maps. It is unclear if the revision process will be completed in time for the February 28 candidate filing deadline.
- New York: After a number of delays, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) released proposed Senate and Assembly maps yesterday. Gov. Cuomo has long stated he would veto any lines not drawn by an independent process, but on Thursday, prior to the release of the maps, he was unclear about his course of action after the plans were released, saying he wants to see how the process plays out. After the lines were unveiled, however, a spokesman for the governor said that at first glance the districts were unacceptable and likely to be vetoed. The Senate plan includes the addition of a 63rd seat in a Republican dominated area upstate which would result in the division of Albany, a Democratic stronghold, for the first time. Additionally, the map merges four Senate districts based in Queens into two, all four of which are represented by Democrats, including Michael Gianaris, Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. The Assembly's plan would create three Asian-majority districts and merge two upstate Republican districts into one. LATFOR will be holding nine public hearings on the plans beginning Monday and going through February 16.
- Pennsylvania: After hearing arguments on January 23, the state Supreme Court threw out the new legislative maps just two days later by a vote of 4-3. Calling the redistricting approach "contrary to law," the court ruled current district lines would stay in place until the Legislative Reapportionment Commission could devise a plan that was legal. With the signature filing deadline for state legislative candidates quickly approaching on February 14, the 2012 elections could take place in districts that were drawn in 2001. The court did not immediately specify its problems with the maps - it is expected to render its full opinion soon. Democrats had argued that the new map unnecessarily split counties and municipalities.
- Texas: The US Supreme Court ruled last Friday that the interim maps that had been put in place by a San Antonio federal court could not stand, sending the maps back to the lower court for redrawing. The Supreme Court said that redistricting is primarily a legislative responsibility and that the San Antonio court didn't give enough credence to the maps drawn by the Texas legislature. The ruling ordered the San Antonio court to use the legislative maps as a starting point for redrawing the boundaries. Texas officials saw this as a big win, although the ruling means 2012 election dates are again in jeopardy. Meanwhile, a three-judge federal panel in DC court continued hearings this week on whether the state's legislatively-drawn maps violate the Voting Rights Act. Testimony wrapped up yesterday and closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday. Back in Texas the San Antonio court is holding a status conference today regarding their plans moving forward for drawing new maps and accommodating the election schedule.
Here's the rest of the news from across the country.
Approximately a week after it got underway, the trial for the remaining Alaska redistricting lawsuit drew to a close on January 17. A final decision in the case is expected to be issued by the Fairbanks Superior court by February 6. However, observers believe that the case will ultimately be decided by the Alaska Supreme Court.
State senator Jack Crumbly (D) and a group of residents from eastern Arkansas sued the three-member Board of Apportionment on Monday. The suit was filed in federal court. The lawsuit alleges that the new boundaries dilute the black vote in Crumbly's district, as the number of voting-age blacks was lowered from 58 percent to 53 percent. The maps were defended by Board of Apportionment members Governor Mike Beebe (D) and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D). Crumbly is slated to face fellow Democrat Keith Ingram in the May primary.
The final congressional and state legislative maps were approved and sent to the Department of Justice on January 17, 2012. The final vote was 3-2, with chairwoman Colleen Mathis voting in the affirmative alongside the two Democratic chairpersons. The vote was essentially a formality, as maps had been tentatively approved weeks earlier.
|Quote of the Week|
"I would also note that redistricting across the country has helped those freshman members and others in tough seats who will now have better seats. So I think we’re in pretty strong shape for the year ahead."
Earlier today, the State Supreme Court upheld the state Senate maps drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The high court ruled that even if a referendum to toss the Senate maps qualifies for the ballot, the new commission-drawn map should be used in the 2012 election this November. The decision is a setback in the GOP's attempts to prevent the Democratic Party from gaining a 2/3 majority in the State Senate.
Court-appointed special master Nathaniel Persily submitted a draft report and plan for new districts to the state Supreme Court on January 13, and his final proposal January 19. It has three districts with 714,819 people and two with 714,820. Additionally, the new map keeps Bridgeport in the 4th District and New Britain in the 5th.
Persily's plan resembles the map submitted by Democrats, making only minor changes to the existing map. According to Persily, the plan moves only 28,975 people from current districts, splits one fewer town than the current congressional plan and includes more compact districts.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero (R) noted Persily’s plan is essentially the Democratic plan, but said it is unlikely that Republicans would appeal the decision. State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, meanwhile, had harsher words, calling the plan a “perpetuation of gerrymandering.” Objections to the plan can be filed with the court until February 1. The court will hold oral arguments on February 6 and submit its final plan to the Secretary of State on February 15.
On January 13, the Hawaii Redistricting Commission asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to reconsider its overturned redistricting plans. The commission argues that the representation provided by Deputy Attorney General Russell Suzuki was inadequate. The commission had sought private counsel, but the Attorney General refused to either procure or pay for other attorneys. Notably, Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) sided with the plaintiffs despite being named a defendant in the case. The AG's office has since defended Suzuki's legal representation.
In other news, it was revealed that the invalidated maps cost Hawaii taxpayers around $600,000. Also, some have speculated that adjusted redistricting data may not be available in time to make revisions to the map. Hawaii's signature filing deadline is June 5 and the primary is scheduled for August 11.
In a 4-1 decision on January 18, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the new legislative map unconstitutional. The justices said they could not declare a map constitutional that split 12 of the state's 44 counties, more than was necessary to meet federal one-person, one-vote standards. The case was brought by Twin Falls County back in November. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (R) said he would reconvene the redistricting commission as soon as possible, with hopes of finishing the job in less than a month. Court officials said the decision rendered all other pending redistricting lawsuits moot.
In a move that has pitted Republican officials against one another, House Speaker Lawerence Denney (R) and GOP party Chair Norm Semanko said they wanted to replace the members they appointed to the commission, Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen respectively, before it reconvened. Despite an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office stating such an action would be illegal, Denney and Semanko fired their appointees on January 23 and appointed new members in their place.
Crow and Hansen refused to resign and Ysursa said they could not be forced off the panel as such a move would be go against the point of having an independent commission. In turn, Denny and Semanko sued Ysursa, arguing they do have such authority and Ysursa was illegally blocking their demands by refusing to declare two vacancies on the commission. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, saying Denny and Semanko failed to properly make their case.
Thus, when the commission reconvened yesterday, Crow and Hansen continued to serve.
Fallout from the court’s decision on the map continues to ripple through the legislative process - with the filing period for state legislative candidates scheduled to begin February 27, the legislature is considering a bill to move the current primary date from May 15 to August. Gov. Butch Otter (R) said he is against the move, primarily over concerns that it would result in a lower voter turnout.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed:||34 See full list here|
|Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 13|
|Maps submitted for vote: 114 out of 142 (80.3%)**||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 (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 (3), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||35 (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, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, )|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||35 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, KY, 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)|
On Monday, January 23, two draft congressional maps surfaced in Kansas. The competing plans agree on placing all of Lawrence in District 2 but disagree about whether to place Manhattan in the 1st. A committee vote could come on the maps as early as next week. Legislative maps are still being considered.
On January 20, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) signed the state's legislative redistricting maps. Each chamber drew its own maps, guided by the majority party (Republican in the Senate and Democratic in the House). The Governor criticized Senate Republicans for drawing partisan maps, but did not chasten the House's plan. The votes in both chambers were marked by anger from minority party legislators. The chambers remain at an impasse on congressional maps.
On January 26, House Republicans filed suit against the Democrats' chamber map. The GOP lawmakers argue that the plan unnecessarily divides counties. The approved plan splits four more counties than the Republican alternative.
The signature filing deadline for congressional and state legislative candidates is January 31. However, the congressional deadline is expected to be moved to February 7 in order to create time for a compromise map.
Last Friday, the group opposing Maryland’s new congressional districts filed a notice of appeal, seeking to take their case to the United States Supreme Court. Attorney Jason Torchinsky said the appeal focuses on the state law counting prisoners in their home districts, rather than where they are imprisoned. They will not be appealing other arguments in the case, including the charge that the map was gerrymandered and purposely diluted the black vote. Instead they will argue that all states should count population in the same manner for congressional reapportionment.
Meanwhile, a case filed against the new congressional districts by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith was rejected on procedural grounds on January 10. He has a similar lawsuit pending in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. In both cases Smith argues the plan fails to create contiguous and compact voting areas. Under the approved map, Frederick County is divided into two congressional districts - something that has not happened in some 200 years.
Michigan’s congressional and legislative redistricting maps were approved on January 24 by the US Department of Justice. The decision does not directly affect the NAACP and Legislative Black Caucus' lawsuit against the House of Representatives maps.
The proposed Republican Leadership Plan for new House districts was approved by the House last Wednesday by a vote of 205-68. Democrats offered an alternative plan, but it was defeated 261-70. Democrats argued that the Republican plan is unconstitutional because more than 50 towns that qualify for their own representative are not allotted one. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Judge James Hall adopted a new New Mexico State Senate map on January 16, 2012. Two Democratic incumbents will be paired together and two incumbent Republicans. The bipartisan plan combines 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
On January 20, the three-judge panel hearing the congressional redistricting challenge refused to delay the North Carolina primary. The plaintiffs -- including state Democrats, the NAACP, and advocacy groups -- argue that the new map constitutes racial gerrymandering and contains too many split counties. In addition, they argue that the new precincts will create long lines and confuse voters. However, the judge found that delaying the primary would not help resolve these concerns, but noted that the decision shouldn't be interpreted as a rejection of the plaintiffs' arguments.
- The panel's decision can be found here.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) is calling for revisions to the state's redistricting process. He urged the newly formed Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission to take up the issue. Husted acknowledged that no system is perfect, but said reforms could help restore voter confidence.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court concurred with a state district court in throwing out Senator Jim Wilson's redistricting challenge. Wilson also attempted an initiative campaign against the maps, but was unsuccessful.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
Over the last two weeks, maps have emerged and made their way to the Governor’s desk in Tennessee.
Utah lawmakers from both chambers unanimously approved revisions to the state's recently approved state legislative redistricting maps. The revisions address errors discovered by several county clerks. The bills now move to the opposite chamber for concurrence and then to the Governor's desk for his signature.
On Tuesday, January 25, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed the state's new congressional redistricting plan. The plan passed the Senate 20-19 and passed the House 74-21. The plan is the same as the plan rejected in 2011 by the then-Democratic State Senate. Democrats rejected the plan, in part, because it did not create a second majority-minority district.
A lawsuit is still pending against the plan in state district court. The plan challenges the authority of the legislature to pass a redistricting plan after 2011 -- the state constitutional deadline. On January 25, the district court allowed the case to move forward. Given the details of the case, the decision effectively grants the plaintiff's central argument. However, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to settle the matter. The maps must still face the 60-day DOJ approval process before taking effect. The signature filing deadline for congressional candidates is March 29 for those seeking election in 2012.
On Friday, January 20, the US Supreme Court stayed a lower court's ruling requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional redistricting map. The order suggests that the court would be sympathetic to the state's defense in a full appeal. The order also allows the state to move forward with the new maps for the 2012 elections. Prior to the ruling, several alternative plans had been considered in the state legislature.
In a memo issued January 13, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board said they are unable to strictly follow the law in setting new legislative boundaries, and that some voters are not in the districts legislators intended them to be. An analysis of 19 counties by legislative technology workers found over 4,000 voters in the wrong municipality, with at least 1,000 that will probably have to be moved to a different Assembly district. The memo warns that the situation could have occurred in most or even all counties.
The problem stems from a procedural reversal of the redistricting process. Normally, local officials draw their maps first, with legislative lines drawn afterward. During this cycle, Republicans, who were in the middle of recall elections that threatened their majority in the Senate, changed the law to allow them to draw legislative lines first. This meant they were drawing new lines without fully accurate information.
On January 19, the state agreed to turn over documents regarding the errors and identify someone who could be deposed over the matter. Initially, the state had refused to relinquish the files. The case is scheduled to be heard in February.
On January 19, Wyoming's Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee approved a legislative redistricting plan. Although the maps may still be revised, they currently pair two Republican lawmakers in both chambers. The plans will be considered by the full legislature in the legislative session beginning in February.