Redistricting Roundup: Governor kicks redistricting chair off commission

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November 4, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

Arizona has unofficially become the most tumultuous state for redistricting.

This week, Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer (R) officially impeached Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis. With the Arizona State Senate’s 21-6 vote in favor of Brewer’s decision, the Governor has essentially fired Mathis from her role as the lone independent on the 5-member commission.

Brewer alleges that the new Congressional map does not meet Constitutional requirements. According to her lawyer, Mathis will legally challenge the decision. The current map favors the GOP 5-3. The new map would give the GOP four safe districts, two for Democrats, and then three competitive seats. Brewer says the law requires a “grid-like” map -- which she says was put off at the expense of making more competitive districts.

Arizona Democratic Party officials have threatened to recall four Republican state senators who voted to remove Mathis. The four senators are Rich Crandall, Adam Driggs, Michele Reagan and John McComish. Currently, State Senate President Russell Pearce is facing a recall election on November 8.

Experts now assume that the 2012 elections will be held on a court-drawn interim map. If a court order does not put a stay on the impeachment, the four remaining commissioners would begin the process of choosing a new chair. A separate screening panel would begin accepting applications and scheduling interviews.

State news

Alaska

As reported last week, the Fairbanks North Star Borough filed a motion to have itself removed from the consolidated Alaska redistricting lawsuit. The borough cited cost overruns as the reason for backing out of the suit. However, the attorney for the group of Fairbanks citizens’ challenging the plan filed a partial opposition to the request for withdrawal. The decision to withdraw has caused a significant controversy among Fairbanks residents since it was made in a private executive session and an original supporter (specifically named as a plaintiff in the borough lawsuit), Fairbanks Assemblyman Tim Beck, has voiced opposition to the withdrawal. The partial opposition seeks to block the withdrawal unless the vote is public and Beck consents. The borough argues that is does not need the consent of the other parties to withdraw, but the opponents argue that, since the cases have all be consolidated, other plaintiffs should have input on the decision.

Ultimately, the court decided to allow the Fairbanks Borough to withdraw, deciding Thursday to permit the move. The judge noted that the Fairbanks Assembly's open meeting rules are not at issue in the case and that the remaining plaintiffs are free to argue points raised by the borough's filings without amending their own.

California

Former California Governor George Radanovich (R) and four other plaintiffs announced they would file a lawsuit in federal district court because the state court had already dismissed a prior lawsuit.

Quote of the Week
"Speaker Thompson believes that the challenges to the (redistricting bill) in the two petitions seek to have this court improperly interceded in the purely legislative task of reapportionment of delegate districts."

-- West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson's Attorney in the redistricting lawsuits.[1]

Colorado

Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt heard closing arguments on Monday from Democrats, Republicans, and other interest groups as he decides how to draw the new congressional districts. Hyatt is considering maps put forth by both major parties, as well as The Latino Forum and Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. Regardless of Hyatt’s decision, an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court is expected. The date for Hyatt to rule on the case has not been announced, but county clerks have been instructed that they will have new maps by mid-December.

Connecticut

Yesterday the bi-partisan reapportionment committee selected Kevin Johnson to serve as its tie-breaking ninth-member. Johnson, a former Democratic state auditor and legislator, was nominated by House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero (R). The addition of a ninth member became necessary after the committee failed to adopt a plan by the September 15 deadline. The committee previously failed to meet the initial deadline following the 1990 and 2000 censuses as well. They now have until November 30 to agree to a plan. If they fail, the task of redrawing the lines will fall to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the state legislators approved new state legislative maps. The Massachusetts State Senate voted 36-0 and the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 151-3 in favor of the new district plans.

The new House map doubles the number of majority-minority districts and increases the number in the Senate from two to three. Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick (D) signed the maps into law yesterday.

Meanwhile, the new Congressional map still goes unreleased as legislators tinker with and finalize the state's nine U.S. House districts.

Mississippi

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that old districts could be used in 2011 elections. The NAACP had filed suit to stop the current districts from being used in next Tuesday’s election. All 52 Senate and 122 House seats will be up for election.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 28
Next state deadline? Pennsylvania
November 14, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 94 out of 142 (66.2%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (2), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MA (2), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (2), SC (3), SD (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 24 (AL, AR, CA, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, ME, MD, MI, MO, NE, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 26 (AK, AR, CA, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, 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)

New Hampshire

With public hearings concluded, the New Hampshire Legislature must determine how to implement the changes to the state Constitution brought about by the passage of Question 2 in 2006. Overwhelmingly supported by voters, the amendment, which will be applied for the first time this year, provides that towns and city wards would have their own representative(s) if their population meets the standards of the one-person one-vote principle. Because of the uneven distribution of population between towns, meeting the one-person one-vote requirements would often mean electing a fractional number of representatives. Thus, the amendment allows for “floterial” districts which would be made up of towns who elect their own representative but also share representatives across two or more towns. However, it remains unclear if the use of floterial districts would be a violation of one-person one-vote.

To that end, the House Redistricting Committee is considering adopting rules that would ignore the state constitutional requirements in order to avoid a possible federal court challenge. Doing that, however, could potentially spur legal challenges from voters in any town large enough to have their own representative but not allotted its own district in the new map.

North Carolina

On November 1, the U.S. Department of Justice pre-approved North Carolina's congressional and legislative maps in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. Despite the approval, multiple lawsuits have been filed over aspects of the plan.

Today, state Democrats filed suit against North Carolina's congressional and legislative redistricting plans in Wake County Superior Court. Arguing that the maps violate both the State and U.S. Constitutions, Democrats contend that the maps illegally pack black voters into a few districts and weaken their political clout. In addition, plaintiffs point to the contorted shape of the new districts and high number of split precincts as evidence of gerrymandering. In the 113-page filing, several of the most problematic districts are named: Senate Districts 19 and 21; House Districts 42, 43, and 45; and U.S. Congressional District 4.

In addition, today four community groups joined together in opposition to North Carolina's legislative and congressional maps, filing a separate suit over the new plans. Much like the Democratic Party lawsuit, the groups argue that the maps pack black voters and senselessly split precincts.

Republican and House Redistricting Committee Chair David Lewis, Sr. called the charges false but unsurprising. GOP leaders point to DOJ approval as proof of the maps' legality.

Pennsylvania

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to pass a preliminary Republican proposal that moves state legislative seats from west to east. House seats would be added in Allentown, Berks County, Chester County and York County, while eliminating existing districts in Erie, Philadelphia and Allegheny County. Democrats attacked the plan as partisan, expressing hope that the plan would change prior to adoption. Republicans called their plan fair, stressing that the overwhelming loss of population in the west came from Democratic districts, and thus their map was simply an accurate reflection of population changes.

Democrats have also been critical of the negotiating process. House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D) lividly complained that Republicans didn't share their proposed plan until right before the final vote. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for November 18.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
On Monday the Department of Justice approved the new Congressional map. Meanwhile, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian said a lawsuit will be filed within two weeks.

Texas

Texas' two redistricting cases progressed in their respective federal courts this week. The DC court in charge of the state's pre-clearance case heard oral arguments on Wednesday. Texas officials worried about looming election deadlines are clamoring for a quick decision, but the judges in the case indicated that expediency may not be an option due to the complexity of the issues. With a decision in the DC case probably coming later than needed for timely elections, the interim maps drawn by the San Antonio court could likely be used.

The San Antonio panel heard arguments regarding interim map proposals on Monday and Thursday, and are continuing today. It is expected that the court will alter the signature filing deadlines due to interim maps not being ready. Currently, the filing period is November 12-December 12. The court is expected to alter the dates to November 28-December 15.

Vermont

Vermont’s House Government Operations Committee continued its series of public hearings on redistricting this Thursday, gathering input on new maps. In early October, the House committee decided to largely abandon the Legislative Apportionment Board’s plans -- which included creating more single-member districts -- and work from existing maps. The committee will hold additional hearings on November 10 and 16, and December 7 and 15. The meeting schedules for legislative committees can be found here. The legislature will consider final plans in January 2012.

West Virginia

Last Friday, House Speaker Rick Thompson (D) asked to intervene as a defendant in the two redistricting cases currently before the West Virginia Supreme Court. Thompson argues that court involvement in redistricting would be a significant breach of the separation of powers. Some speculate that Thompson decided to intervene because Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (named as a defendant in the lawsuits) is privately sympathetic to the challenges.

Wisconsin

The Latino community group Voces de la Frontera filed suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on October 31, stating that the new legislative redistricting plan deprives Milwaukee's south side Latino community of a voting majority in the 8th Assembly district.

According to a statement from the group, the Latino community on Milwaukee’s south side has increased by 44 percent, large enough to support a single legislative district. The Republican-created redistricting plan, they contend, reduces the voting power of the community by dividing and diluting Latinos into different districts.

See also