Redistricting Roundup: Illinois maps reach governor's desk

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June 3, 2011

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Edited by Geoff Pallay

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

The last days of the regular session of the Illinois Legislature saw a flurry of activity on redistricting, with the Democratic majority rushing through new congressional and state legislative district maps.

The state House and Senate district maps were approved on May 27, just about a week after they were released. That same day saw the release of proposed congressional districts, which were passed on May 31.

According to state rep Mike Fortner (R), there were changes made to the map only two hours before it was ultimately passed in the House. Republicans blasted the speed of the process and partisanship of the new maps. Some analysts believe the new districts could cost the GOP up to five U.S. House seats, more than undoing the four they won from Democrats in the November 2010 election. Democrats defended the map, calling it solid and fair, according to House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D).

The new maps have all been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who is expected to sign them next week. Republicans have called on Quinn to veto the maps, saying that if the governor is to live up to his words on a fair, open process and competitive districts, he cannot approve the plans in their current state.

State news

Alabama

Yesterday the legislature passed a Congressional redistricting plan and sent the bill to the governor for approval. The map is a compromise between two initial versions passed by the Senate and House. Democrats have criticized the map's impact on minorities, claiming that it weakens their voice -- particularly in the 3rd Congressional District. The percentage of Black voters in the district declined from 32 percent to 25 percent under the new map.

Quote of the Week
"Congressional districts should be compact -- not look like E.T.'s finger or Yoda's head. Districts should follow natural boundaries--not...ignore major roads as logical dividers. Districts should respect communities of interest -- not disregard them to maximize party victories."[1]

-- Op-ed by Editorial Writer Linda Campbell in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, responding to the newly-released Congressional proposal in Texas.

Alaska

On May 28, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted new maps for the state's Southeast. As several leaders in the area had requested, the plan gives the region two Senate districts. The new House districts, however, are less in keeping with local requests. The plan pairs downtown Juneau and Petersburg. In addition, Skagway is paired with some northern Juneau neighborhoods, and Prince of Wales Island lies in two House districts. Redistricting board member Peggy Ann McConnochie argued that the pairings reflect similar local interests in the fishing and cruise industry.

The plan pairs 4 state representatives in 2 districts. Kyle Johansen (R) and Peggy Wilson (R) will be paired in one district, and Bert Stedman (R) and Albert Kookesh (D) will be paired in another. The plan also creates a minority influence district in House District 2, with a 37% native population. Although Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho (D) argued that the maps appear to follow constitutional principles, he still expects litigation over the final plan. The plans are not complete until the full state plan is adopted.

  • A map of the Southeast plan can be found here. (Large image, allow time for loading)

California

Next Friday, Californians will get what they have been waiting for since they created the California Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2008 -- a set of draft maps for Congressional and legislative redistricting. Throughout the past few months, citizen interest groups have been releasing their own maps, using the power of the do-it-yourself redistricting tools that are available. Yesterday, the first true insight into what maps might look like was revealed when commission staff unveiled "visualized" maps -- maps that will be given to the commissioners as a baseline for the actual draft maps released next week.

Colorado

The Centennial State's redistricting lawsuit, brought in federal court by both major parties, now has a trial date. Judge William Hood will hear the first arguments on October 17, 2011. Last month, the legislature adjourned without making any headway on Congressional map. Hope of avoiding the partisan strife that dragged 2001 redistricting all the way to the Supreme Court is rapidly evaporating. The Colorado Reapportionment Commission continues to work on the separately-handled legislative maps.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 19
Next state deadline? Alabama
June 13, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 34 out of 142 (23.9%)** MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (2), MN (3), NV (3), NE (2), AL (1), IL (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 6 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, OK)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 7 (NJ, LA, IA, VA, IN, NE, OK)
**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)

Delaware

Yesterday the Senate took public comments in a forum on its redistricting process. About 25 residents attended -- with some blasting the committee for splitting communities and creating odd-shaped districts. Still others praised the legislature for opening up the process significantly more than 10 years ago. Eventually, the House and Senate maps will be merged into one bill. The deadline to pass new maps is June 30.

Florida

After an extended political struggle over the pre-clearance of Florida's redistricting amendments, the Department of Justice has signed off on the controversial measures. The DOJ concluded that the amendments did not violate the principles of the Voting Rights Act. Amendment 5 and Amendment 6 mandate that the state create compact, contiguous, non-partisan, and racially equitable districts using, where possible, local geographic and political boundaries.

Minnesota

This week, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea selected a five-member panel of judges to hear lawsuits over the Minnesota redistricting process. The Governor's veto of the Republican redistricting plan in May and court intervention in previous decades suggests that court involvement is likely.

North Carolina

New Congressional maps are expected within days for North Carolina. The state did not gain or lose seats as a result of the 2010 census. Republicans, for the first time in recent memory, control the redistricting process. Both chambers are majority-Republican and while Governor Beverly Perdue is a Democrat, she does not have veto power over the redistricting process.

Nevada

Outnumbered in the legislature but holding the Governor's mansion, Silver State Republicans have shut down a Democratic redistricting plan for the second time. Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed AB 566, citing maltreatment of Nevada's Hispanic voting bloc, the same reason behind his first veto, of SB 497. Nevada's legislature is running out of time as the session set to adjourn on Monday. Majority Democrats say they will only introduce a third bill if they are satisfied that the GOP will negotiate. While party leaders indicate a compromise map is on the way, there are only a few short days left to complete such a resolution. However, both parties have betrayed a cynical hand, filing 'placeholder' federal lawsuits should the session adjourn without maps completed.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight

While legislators are elected under a nonpartisan tag in Nebraska, the state is known to lean Republican. Outnumbered more than two-to-one in the state Senate, Nebraska Democrats were unable to block the state's redistricting bill from passing its third and final vote. The bill includes maps for both the unicameral legislature and Nebraska's three Congressional seats.

Republican Governor Dave Heineman signed off on the bill almost immediately. With his signature, Nebraska may have wrapped up redistricting for the next decade, unless those who threatened litigation make good on their promises.

South Carolina

With maps released and an upcoming special session on redistricting, South Carolina legislators scrambled to finish their regular session. Governor Nikki Haley (R) signed an executive order calling the legislators back into session on June 7. Among the items on the agenda, a hearing will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with a Redistricting subcommittee hearing to follow.

Texas

The 82nd Legislative Session came to a close on Monday with a slew of open problems still facing the Texas Legislature. As we reported on Tuesday, Governor Rick Perry (R) called an immediate special session to rectify those issues. Chief amongst the issues forcing the special session is balancing the budget, but redistricting is an equally vexing open issue. While redistricting maps were passed for the House, Senate, and State Board of Education, the legislature failed to pass a Congressional map within the regular session. As many observers expected, Governor Perry added congressional redistricting to the agenda.

After redistricting was added to the special session agenda on Tuesday, legislators finally released a long-awaited congressional redistricting map. Senator Kel Seliger (R), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, and Representative Burt Solomons (R), Chairman of the Committee on Redistricting, sponsored the map. Following the major trend of Texas's 2011 redistricting cycle, Democrats immediately railed against the Republican plan for not giving enough representation to minorities, even going as far as calling the map illegal.

The proposed map can be viewed here. Congressional redistricting hearings begin today in Texas.

West Virgina

House Speaker Rick Thompson (D) has come under criticism for failing to appoint Republican Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R) to the House Redistricting Committee. Some have alleged that the decision was motivated by a desire to protect Democratic incumbents. Armstead has suggested that he was excluded because of his vocal support for single-member districts. Democratic Majority Leader and chairman of the committee, Brent Boggs argued that Democrats are opposed to an "incumbency protection plan" and that Thompson chose the committee with an eye to geographic diversity.

See also