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Redistricting Roundup: Let the games begin, as census delivers first round of local population data

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February 4, 2011

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

By Geoff Pallay

The redistricting process has officially begun, as the first four states yesterday received their local population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia are holding state legislative elections in 2011, and thus were granted first access to their population datasets. New Jersey's redistricting commission now has 30 days to prepare state legislative maps. Louisiana's deadline is April 29, 2011; Mississippi's deadline is June 1, 2011; and Virginia's deadline is June 1, 2011 (or the end of a likely special legislative session in April/May).

In the four states, the Congressional district with the greatest population deviation is Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. Currently, that district has a population of 493,352, but the new Congressional districts are slated to have about 755,562 residents. Thus, the 2nd Congressional district will need to grow by nearly 50 percent.

Conversely, Virginia's 10th Congressional district, with a population of 869,437, has 142,071 more residents than the average district size is supposed to be based on new census data. Each Congressional district in Virginia would ideally have 727,366 residents.

Lawsuits

Lawsuits pertaining to redistricting have been filed in four states -- Arizona, Florida, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

State news

Alabama

The District Court of Columbia Judge John Bates heard arguments for a lawsuit brought by officials of Shelby County, Alabama. The lawsuit challenges the Voting Rights Act's pre-clearance mandate, arguing that states and local jurisdictions should no longer be forced to justify voting changes to the federal government. Individuals in other states may be joining the lawsuit, or filing lawsuits of their own, challenging the necessity of federal pre-clearance.

Arizona

Redistricting Facts
Total Lawsuits filed Next state deadline? States with Maps submitted States that have completed redistricting
4 (Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma) New Jersey: March 7 0 0

Two of the four appointed members have been selected to the Arizona redistricting commission. The first two members -- Scott Freeman (appointed by House Speaker Kirk Adams (R) and Jose Herrera (appointed by House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D) -- are residents of Maricopa County. Arizona's redistricting rules stipulate that no more than two appointed commissioners be from the same county, thus, the remaining two appointees cannot be from Maricopa. However, the fifth member (chosen by the first four commissioners) can be from any county. The next appointment will come from Senate President Russell Pearce (R), who has only two eligible Republicans on the nominee list to choose from. Of the initial ten Republican nominees for the commission, eight of them are from Maricopa County. His choice must be submitted by Wednesday, February 9th.

CORRECTION: The first version of this story said both additional nominees are disqualified. Only one of the additional nominees is disqualified. Richard Stertz is from Pima County.

Colorado

With split-control of the Senate and House, political leaders in Colorado have been pushing for a bi-partisan redistricting process. However, things got off to a shaky start, as two members of the Colorado redistricting committee had a fiery debate in the capitol. Senator Gail Schwartz (D) and representative David Balmer (R) were discussing the location of an upcoming redistricting public meeting. Balmer reportedly made "boisterous noise" and had to be escorted off the Senate floor. Balmer is banned from the Senate floor for the rest of the session, and he was required to issue a public apology to avoid censure.

Florida

Last week, the state House and Governor Rick Scott (R) openly challenged Amendments 5 and 6 that were passed in November 2010. This week, the supporters of the amendments are fighting back, suing the governor for pulling the request for federal approval of the amendments, which are meant to create a fairer redistricting process.

Additionally, the House released a test version of the redistricting website. This site will allow the public to draw district lines using the same tools as legislators. The site is meant to allow great public input in the process.

This week in redistricting
California's redistricting commission has announced its first public meeting, to be held February 10-13. In other news, the commission had a rough start to February, as news came out that an email distribution list was released that included about 700 email addresses of people who had signed up to receive information about the commission. The error was blamed on a substitute employee.

Georgia

Republican leaders this week created a new office charged with handling the redistricting process. The Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office will receive guidance from GOP counsel Ann Lewis. Staff for the office will reportedly be coming from the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which previously had been responsible for assisting the legislature with redistricting. House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams -- along with several other Democrats -- expressed surprise with the structural change, saying they were not made aware of the new office's creation until it had already occurred.

New Jersey

Along with receiving its population data, New Jersey redistricting leaders have agreed on adding an 11th member to the redistricting commission. Alan Rosenthal will likely soon be appointed by State Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner. During the first two public meetings -- held on January 29 -- commission members debated when the 11th member should be added to the commission.

There are additional public hearings scheduled for February 9 in Newark and February 13 in Jersey City. New Jersey's deadline for redistricting is March 7, one month after the census data was received.

South Dakota and Utah

South Dakota and Utah, two states with Republican trifectas in state government, have Constitutions that assign responsibility for handling the diecennial procedure to the legislature. However, the lopsided GOP majorities have caused minority Democrats to sponsor bills hoping to change that by removing authority for redrawing political maps to independent commissions of citizen appointees. A bill introduced in last year's Utah legislative session was swiftly killed in committee while South Dakota lawmakers, facing a similar piece of legislation, have indicated they will look to table the bill.

In both states, the battle lines are the same. Republicans, representing the majority, insist that taking redistricting authority away from the legislature would require changing the state's Constitution. Democrats contend that they play little meaningful role in redistricting as it is. South Dakota's path is uncertain; in addition to the likely fate of legislative attempts to create an independent commission, a 2010 study of Iowa's redistricting model ended with a recommendation that South Dakota not adopt such a plan. Meanwhile, while there is no active legislation filed in Utah, there has substantial citizen support for reform. A Mason-Dixon Poll, published in the Salt Lake Tribune, found 73% of the Utahans would like to a see committee of non-legislators in charge of redistricting.

Texas

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (R) announced the makeup of Senate committees on Friday January 28th, 2011, including the Select Committee on Redistricting. Kel Seliger (R) will chair the committee and Mario Gallegos (D) will serve as vice-chair. Tarrant County officials have publicly announced concern over not being represented on the Redistricting Committee. Tarrant, home to the city of Fort Worth, is the third-largest county in Texas.

The Senate Redistricting Committee will hold it's first hearing on February 16, 2011.

Virginia

In addition to receiving its local population redistricting data, Virginia's newly-created advisory commission held its first meeting. The group will likely have its recommendations together by April 1 for the Senate and House. This is the first time Virginia will have a split legislature during redistricting. Virginia, which holds state legislative elections in 2011, has moved its primary date to August 23, 2011, to allow for the redistricting process to run its course.

See also