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Redistricting Roundup: How this year's elections impact redistricting

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November 11, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

On Tuesday, three states held general elections for state legislatures. The results in two of those states -- Mississippi and Virginia -- will have deep implications into the redistricting processes in each state.

Here's an early indication of what is to come.

  • Mississippi: Prior to the election, the state legislature was split -- Democrats held the majority in the state house while Republicans controlled the State Senate. Earlier this year, the two chambers were unable to complete state legislative or congressional redistricting. On Tuesday, the GOP took control of the state house, thereby providing Republicans with complete control over the redistricting process. This will likely provide the GOP the chance to create maps that further solidify their grasp over seats in the state for the next decade.
  • Virginia: Although the legislature did complete state legislative districts, a new Congressional map was not completed during the 2011 session. As with Mississippi, the legislature was split -- Democrats controlled the Virginia State Senate and Republicans were the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans captured the Virginia Senate in the state’s general election. Although they only tied the chamber at 20-20, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R) will cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. The GOP is now expected to delay redistricting until the new senators take office in January. This will allow them them to break the long deadlock over congressional redistricting and pass their preferred maps. This plan is expected to preserved the Republicans’ 8-3 advantage in the Virginia congressional delegation.

State news

Arizona

It's been another busy week in Arizona, surrounding the redistricting commission and Governor Jan Brewer’s removal of chairwoman Colleen Mathis.

  • On Tuesday, the State Supreme Court rejected a request by commission attorneys to reinstate Mathis until the formal legal challenge is resolved. That case takes place on November 17.
  • A state nominating panel began accepting applications for a replacement for Mathis. November 15 is the deadline for applications.
  • The four remaining commissioners pledged to continue working together, although no future meeting date has been set yet.

California

Organizers of a referendum against the new California State Senate maps have until Sunday to turn in at least 504,760 valid signatures. Yesterday, the group leading the drive -- Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) -- began turning in signatures in the 58 counties across California. If the group achieves its goal of getting the referendum on the 2012 ballot, the courts will decide which map to use for the 2012 election.

Quote of the Week
"Make no mistake about it, there is a Republican majority in the state Senate."[1]

-- Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Bill Bolling (R) on how the GOP will approach a 20-20 tie and Bolling's tiebreaking authority.

Colorado

The battle over new Congressional districts may finally be over. Late yesterday Judge Robert Hyatt ruled in favor of a Democratic map, stating that it more accurately reflected the current makeup of the state and offered the greatest competitiveness among the proposed maps. Throughout the process Republicans have stressed a map that made as few changes as possible, while Democrats emphasized competition. The process was sent to the courts back in May when the legislative session ended without agreement. Both parties filed suit, with several interest groups joining along the way. Hyatt’s ruling does not necessarily end matters - Republicans can appeal the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, but it is not yet clear if they will.

This map shows the plan for Congressional districts approved by the court

Florida

Last week, the deadline passed for Florida residents to submit redistricting plans for official consideration. In total, 153 maps were submitted. Lawmakers will now begin drawing new maps. Democrats repeated calls for transparency in the selection of final maps.

Illinois

In its ongoing battle to invalidate the new Congressional districts passed this year, the Illinois Republican Party filed a request for a permanent Federal injunction on November 4, seeking to prevent the new Congressional districts from being implemented. Citing emails and other correspondence between Democratic state party leaders and national leaders, Republicans claim the parties in Springfield and Washington worked together to create a map favorable to Democrats. The GOP is arguing that the new map is unconstitutional as it is politically gerrymandered and dilutes Latino representation.

Meanwhile, the signature deadline for candidates wishing to run in 2012 rapidly approaches. Currently, that deadline is November 28, and there has been no indication that the date will be changed based on the ongoing legal issues.

Maryland

On Thursday, nine Maryland citizens filed a joint lawsuit in federal court, charging the state with civil rights violations as a result of the recently approved Congressional districts. Expected to cost between $250,000 and $400,000, the suit will be largely financed by the nonprofit Legacy Foundation of Iowa, with money from Republican Congressmen Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris. The plaintiffs put forth four main arguments alleging civil rights violations: the 5th Congressional District should be a majority-minority voting district, Districts 4 and 7 should have a stronger black vote, Districts 2 and 3 were politically gerrymandered, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was violated in Montgomery County.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently referred to Maryland’s congressional redistricting as "outrageously unconstitutional."

Massachusetts

This week, state legislative leaders finally released the draft map for the nine U.S. House districts in Massachusetts. The new map put incumbents Stephen Lynch (D) and Bill Keating (D) into one district along the coast. However, Keating, who has a second home in Cape Cod, said he would move to that house in order to avoid a primary race with Lynch. That district was drawn with no current incumbent -- thus, setting the stage for all nine current incumbents to safely run for re-election in 2012. The new map also has the state's first majority-minority district, currently represented by Michael Capuano (D).

Republicans hope to put up a formidable challenge to incumbent John Tierney (D) in a district that voted heavily for Scott Brown (R) in 2010. Former state senator Richard Tisei (R) announced he will challenge Tierney in 2012. Meanawhile, another former state senator, Andrea Nuciforo (D), said she will enter the Democratic primary against incumbent Richard Neal in western Massachusetts.

The map is likely to be approved next week with very few changes. On Thursday, the map was passed out of committee and set for a final vote on Tuesday.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 29
Next state deadline? Pennsylvania
November 14, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 96 out of 142 (67.6%)** 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), ND (2),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, IN, IA, LA, ME, MD, MI, MO, NE, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 27 (AK, AR, CA, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, LA, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NC, ND, 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)

Minnesota

Last Friday, Minnesota’s judicial redistricting panel released a list of principles to guide its redistricting efforts. For both congressional and legislative redistricting, the panel will attempt to draw districts that are very close to population targets, preserve minority voting rights, display compactness and contiguity, respect political subdivisions, protect communities of interest, and neither protect incumbents nor generate "excessive incumbent conflicts." For the purpose of legislative redistricting, the panel will expand the definition of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area to include 11 rather than seven counties. This could lead to urban and exurban counties being paired with more suburban counties. Republicans pushed for this move, but Democrats have not objected.

  • The court order detailing the principles can be found here.

Missouri

Missouri representative and Secretary of State hopeful Shane Schoeller (R) has proposed legislation dubbed the "Missouri Fair Elections Act." The bill would replace Missouri’s existing bi-partisan redistricting process with a nonpartisan one modeled after Iowa’s. Earlier this year, Missouri’s state redistricting process stalled and was turned over to the courts. The bill would also address state ballot measure law and create a photo-ID requirement for voting. Schoeller is currently House Speaker Pro Tem.

Nevada

Democratic and Republican lawyers have dropped their lawsuits, and a November 14 court case on redistricting has been canceled -- in essence, finalizing the redistricting process in Nevada. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) said he is pleased with the maps and does not expect any further challenge.

The signature filing deadline for candidates was March 16, 2012 and the primary for state legislative and congressional elections will take place on June 12, 2012. All 42 Assembly seats and 10 State Senate seats will be up for election. The current partisan count in the Senate is 11-10 in the Democrats’ favor. However, next year, of the 10 seats up for election, seven are currently Democratic seats and three are Republican-held.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed a redistricting bill which redraws the state’s 47 legislative districts. Democrats objected to the map, asking for a new plan for central North Dakota and an increase in the total number of house seats in order to avoid extensive reshaping of rural districts. Both requests were denied. Although Democrats call the plan unfair, Republicans insist that Democrats were consulted and note that the plan will force many Republicans to run for re-election earlier than usual. Overall, the plan cuts two rural districts and creates new districts in Bismark and Fargo. The plan pairs over a dozen incumbents, including Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor (R).

Ohio

Last week, a push for revised maps was shot down by Ohio Democrats. With the Republican-drawn congressional maps facing a referendum and the state facing the possibility of a 2012 election without maps, lawmakers scrambled to reach a compromised on maps before the December 7 candidate filing deadline. Due to the short timeline, any bill would have to be passed as an emergency measure and would thus require a supermajority vote. Despite overtures toward a compromise plan, Republicans were unsuccessful in gaining Democratic support.

In other news, a lawsuit filed in October will get a hearing later this month. The lawsuit, filed by a Batavia, Ohio resident, argues that the present lack of a congressional redistricting map is unconstitutional. Moreover, the lawsuit argues that the local judge, Jerry R. McBride, should draft new plans and retain jurisdiction over future redistricting efforts. Opponents see the case as effort to "shop" for a sympathetic court and tilt any judicial redistricting efforts toward the GOP. Joseph Braun, attorney for the plaintiff, rejected this charge. Legislative leaders William Batchelder and Tom Niehaus have already filed documents conceding the central claims of the lawsuit.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
A federal court shot down Texas' redistricting plans on Tuesday, denying the state's request for a preclearance summary judgement. The DC-based three-judge panel said that the methods used by the state to draw state house, state senate, and congressional maps were improper and were in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The long awaited decision sets the stage for a potentially lengthy full trial in the West District of Texas, which will likely redraw the maps for the state. The San Antonio federal court preemptively began drawing interim maps for the 2012 election last month, in attempt to avoid further election delays in the event of an unfavorable DC decision.

Last week the San Antonio court changed the signature filing period from to November 28-December 15. The previous filing period was November 12-December 12.

West Virginia

West Virginia's chaotic legal process surrounding its redistricting maps continues.

  • Last week, the Jefferson County Commission voted unanimously to challenge the state’s congressional redistricting map, specifically targeting the new 2nd District. Attorney Stephen Skinner, who prepared the lawsuit, filed his complaint last Friday. The complaint argues that the exclusion of Hampshire or Mineral counties dilutes representation in the Eastern Panhandle by splitting it into two districts. The complaint also argues that District 2 does not meet the state constitution’s compactness requirement. Several commission members have joined the lawsuit as private individuals.
  • Monroe County also officially filed its redistricting challenge last Friday, seeking to overturn the new House of Delegates redistricting plan. Under the plan, Monroe is divided into two districts. Given that the county is at a population disadvantage in both districts, Monroe officials argue that it will have difficulty electing its own representative.
  • In other news, several Monongalia and Wood County residents (including Frank Deem) officially filed suit last Friday, challenging West Virginia’s State Senate redistricting plan. In addition, Thornton Cooper, who is also challenging the State House maps, filed a separate petition against the Senate plan. The complaints argue that several new districts exceed population targets and unnecessarily divide counties. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant responded to the petition and reinforced her commitment, despite personal reservations, to defend the maps. House Speaker Richard Thompson has also intervened in defense of the maps. Tennant’s response can be found here.

The West Virginia Supreme Court has asked the state to present arguments in defense of the legislative redistricting plans on November 17. In total, five lawsuits are now challenging the legislative maps.

Washington

Attempting to move the process along, the Washington State Redistricting Commission decided to split up into bipartisan subcommittees. Commissioners decided on the change at their monthly meeting this week after noting disagreements over the two proposed maps they have been working with since October 14. They will be holding meetings at least once a week and have until January to agree on a map to submit to the Legislature.

See also