Redistricting Roundup: Governor threatens to impeach redistricting commission members

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October 28, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Governor Jan Brewer (R) this week threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against the members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. She sent her allegations to the five commissioners and gave a deadline of October 31 for them to respond. If she is not satisfied, she will begin impeachment proceedings -- meaning with a 2/3 vote from the Senate, members could be removed from the commission. Should that occur, the process would start from scratch with the selection of replacements and the drawing of new maps.

Brewer’s point of contention is the Congressional map. Namely, three of the chief complaints are that the commission over-prioritized competitiveness, disregarded natural borders and violated open-meeting laws. Democrats argue that the complaints are "bogus" and just an attempt by Republicans to protect their incumbents.

James Huntwork, a Republican who sat on the Commission from 2001-2010, said the current commission erred in its order of priorities when creating maps. He said the new commission should have first drawn maps that satisfied minority voting, equal population, and local government boundaries. Only at that point, should the commission have considered competitiveness and parties. Huntwork’s comments are contrary to what a former Democratic commissioner said several months ago, when she criticized the commission for waiting too long to consider competitiveness.

Since the beginning, the map-drawing process in Arizona has been marked by a sharp polarization of parties. Like last decade, it seems the maps are destined for a court battle.

State news

Alaska

On October 25, the Fairbanks North Star Burrough filed a motion to have itself removed from the consolidated Alaska redistricting lawsuit. The burrough cited cost overruns as the reason for backing out of the suit. Following the Fairbanks decision, the City of Petersburg has decided to consolidate its position, dropping some of its more tenuous arguments and focusing on the new districts' lack of compactness. The recent DOJ pre-approval made several of the city's claims harder to litigate. Petersburg was split by two legislative districts under the new plan.

California

The California Supreme Court unanimously rejected two lawsuits filed by Republicans against the Congressional and State Senate maps. In throwing out the lawsuits, the Court also rejected GOP requests for an emergency order to halt implementation of the maps.

There are still two referendum challenges to the Congressional and Senate maps that could delay the use of the maps in 2012. However, reports indicate that the Congressional referendum has stalled and may not reach the signature requirement before the deadline. Additionally, recent legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown (D) mandates that all ballot measures appear on the November ballot -- meaning even if the referendums qualified, voters would not cast their ballot until November 6, 2012. If the referendum does qualify, the Court would likely draw an interim map -- or consider using the commission-approved maps as the interim map. After the lawsuits were rejected by the Supreme Court, GOP leaders filed arguments with the Department of Justice arguing that the Senate map is not legal because it dilutes Latino voting power.

Quote of the Week
"Somewhere between the Vikings winning the division and the Vikings winning the Super Bowl."[1]

-- Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) opines on the odds of a redistricting compromise with Republican lawmakers.

Idaho

With the recent approval of new maps for 2012, state legislators can now look ahead to next year’s election. For those who were drawn into new districts, however, time is running out to decide if they’ll stay in the newly configured district or move. Candidates must reside within their district for a year prior to the election, which in this case means a deadline of November 6, 2011. Thus, any candidate wishing to move has just over a week to do so. The new districts put together a number of incumbents, leading to conflicts. In at least one case so far, a senator has chosen to not seek re-election rather than face a fellow incumbent. Sen. Joyce Broadsword, drawn into the same district as fellow Republican Shawn Keough, bowed out, throwing her support behind Keough.

Next year’s elections will see at least five open Senate seats and 10 open House seats. All 35 seats in the Senate and 70 in the House will be up for election.

Maryland

Maryland’s new congressional districts will soon see a court challenge in what could be the first of a number of suits against the Governor's approved plan. Maryland resident Howard Gorrell filed suit over the new congressional redistricting map in U.S. District court yesterday, arguing that it is gerrymandered in favor of Democrats and unnecessarily dilutes the voting power of like-minded communities, especially agriculture-related electorates in the 6th Congressional District. The suit asks the court to assume jurisdiction and redraw the map. That same day, Republicans asked the US Department of Justice to investigate claims of minority voter dilution in Montgomery County, a majority-minority county which was removed from the 4th District.

Meanwhile, an offshoot of the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC known as Marylanders for Fair and Coherent Representation, announced plans to file a federal lawsuit over what they see as a violation of black voting rights through vote dilution and racial gerrymandering. Additionally, the group MDPetitions.com is also considering a challenge to the map. Earlier this year, the group successfully ran an online petition campaign in opposition to a law that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. In order to suspend the redistricting bill, voters would have to vote to overturn it.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 28
Next state deadline? Pennsylvania
November 14, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 90 out of 142 (63.4.0%)** 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), 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), 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 25 (AK, AR, CA, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, 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)

Massachusetts

One Congressman's resignation is nine members' gain.

For months, rumors swirled about which current member of the U.S. House delegation from Massachusetts would get the "shaft" in redistricting, with the state losing one seat and none of the 10 incumbents signaling intention to resign. Now, with the drop of a press release, that process becomes simpler. John Olver, 75, announced on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his term in 2012. His decision likely makes the process significantly easier for map-drawers, as they will not have to place two incumbents in the same district.

As a result, western Massachusetts residents now expect there will be only one district for their region of the state. Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto said it would "squash the voices" of smaller cities in the more rural parts of the state.

The new draft map has yet to be released, although with Olver’s retirement announcement the maps are expected to be debuted next week.

Minnesota

On October 26, the Minnesota judicial redistricting panel heard from Republicans and Democrats on which principles that should guide redistricting efforts. Republicans emphasized equal population and compact districts that respect city and county lines. Democrats argued that these considerations must be balanced with protection for communities of interests (racially, socially, or economically unique areas). Republicans, however, worried that overly subjective criteria could be used to justify virtually any map.

Nevada

Last week the three-member special masters panel released its versions of new Congressional and state legislative map. Yesterday, Judge James Todd Russell approved the maps after meeting with the panel. Several minor changes were made to the maps based on concerns expressed by both parties.

Democratic and Republican lawyers said they would be reviewing the maps before deciding if an appeal will be filed to the Supreme Court. Speculation is that there may be a lawsuit from rural Nevada politicians. The main district of contention is Nevada State Senate District 19, which under the new map would span 500 miles. In addressing the concern, Russell said there is no way to pacify everyone.

On November 14, the Supreme Court will hold a hearing to decide whether the maps can stand at all. Secretary of State Ross Miller filed a challenge over whether the panel can legally draw the new maps.

New Mexico

On Tuesday, District Judge James Hall rejected a proposal by Governor Susana Martinez to use a special master to draw new redistricting maps in New Mexico. The GOP favored this process while Democrats were opposed. Redistricting trials begin in December and will be finalized in January.

New York

This week Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued further signals that compromise over the redistricting process might be possible, but continued to stand by his threat to veto gerrymandered legislative districts. Since before the process began, Cuomo has advocated for an independent commission to redraw the lines, initially threatening to veto any plan submitted by the Legislature. A few weeks ago, Cuomo said a compromise might by possible, which he reinforced this week, saying a veto would result in chaos. If the plan is vetoed the task of redrawing the lines would most likely fall to the courts.

Results of a new Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday found 48 percent of citizens were in favor of an independent commission, while 28 percent want legislators to have some role in the process, with 11 percent advocating for the current system.

South Dakota

On October 24, 2011, the final redistricting map was approved by the legislature. The final vote was 31-4 in the South Dakota State Senate and 50-18 in the South Dakota House of Representatives. Five incumbent Democratic legislators were placed into one district that elects three legislators. Sen. Jason Frerichs, Rep. David Sigdestad, Rep. Dennis Feickert, Rep. Susan Wismer and Rep. Paul Dennert all reside in District 1. The map was signed by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) on October 25, 2011.

 South Dakota Redistricting: 2000 vs. 2010 Census Maps 
This Week's Redistricting Highlight

The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission is scheduled to hold a meeting on October 31 where it is believed that the five members will vote on new legislative district maps. The LRC has a deadline of November 14 to adopt a preliminary map, but is attempting to do so sooner. Once adopted, the public will have 30 days to comment on the map, followed by 30 days for the commission to finalize the districts.

Texas

Texas' legal battles over redistricting, which are playing out in two federal courts, inched closer to decisions this week. With election deadlines looming, every day that passes without legal resolution increases political uncertainty over the 2012 elections. The Department of Justice filed detailed briefs with the DC court on Tuesday arguing that Texas' US Congressional and State House maps were discriminatory and retrogressive - meaning they reduce minority voter's ability to elect candidates of choice. The DC court is set to deliver a ruling in the case on Wednesday.

The San Antonio federal panel hearing Texas' consolidated case over the constitutionality of the state's proposed maps is scheduled to review the recently submitted interim map proposals on Monday. Last week was the deadline for parties to submit interim maps to the court; objections to those plans were due to the court on Monday. The San Antonio court plans to hear the proposals on Monday and then break until Thursday, November 3 to account for the judgement of the DC case which is scheduled for Wednesday, November 2.

West Virginia

Last Friday, Putnam and Mason counties formally filed suit against the House of Delegates redistricting plan in the West Virginia Supreme Court. Both counties maintain that their populations justify additional dedicated representatives.

On Thursday, former legislator Frank Deem and several Monongalia residents petitioned to join Thornton Cooper’s challenge of the House redistricting plan. However, unlike Cooper, Deem and the other intervenors seek to challenge the West Virginia State Senate plan. They argue that if multi-member House districts are unconstitutional, then any Senate districts formed around those districts may be unconstitutional. In addition, they argue that the Senate districts are not in keeping with the state constitutional requirement that districts be "compact, formed of contiguous territory, bounded by county lines, and, as nearly as practicable, equal in population." Their challenge centers on the division of Monongalia County into three Senate districts.

Wisconsin

A three-judge panel ruled on October 21 that a lawsuit challenging the new state legislative districts as unconstitutional could go ahead. Plaintiffs argue the new maps disenfranchise a large number of voters by depriving them of the right to vote for a state senator in November 2012. Senators in Wisconsin serve four-year staggered terms. Under the normal process, voters electing a senator in 2008 would vote again in next year’s election, but some 300,000 of those voters have been shifted to new districts, meaning they won't vote until 2014.

In its ruling the panel noted that if the claim regarding the 300,000 voters is correct, the case has a much stronger footing to stand on. Following a 1983 redistricting law, 173,976 voters were similarly disfranchised, leading a three-judge panel to find a constitutional violation.

Wyoming

On October 21, the joint committee in charge of Wyoming redistricting adopted a partial draft map for the state. The map places Jeffery City and Dubois in the same district and gives Jackson a district almost entirely contained within the city. The map leaves districts in eastern Wyoming in limbo as lawmakers consider two possible plans for the region, each offering different approaches for Campbell and Laramie Counties. The committee plans to resolve the issue in early December.

See also