Redistricting Roundup: Map-makers can't please everybody

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August 19, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved new Congressional and state legislative redistricting maps yesterday, marking a ceremonial close to the long-awaited new process for drawing new districts.

From the 14-member commission, a minimum of 9 'yes' votes were required, including at least 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 3 Independents. The final votes were 13-1 on the Senate and Assembly maps and 12-2 on the Congressional map. Republican Michael Ward voted no to both maps while Jodie Filkins Webber joined Ward in dissenting on the Congressional map.

On Tuesday, activists filed a form (dead link) with the Attorney General’s office to request a title and summary for referendum to withdraw the State senate map.

The coalition called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting submitted the referendum papers. The coalition is run by Dave Gilliard with the support of the California Republican Party and the Senate Republican Caucus. If at least 504,760 signatures are collected and verified, the measure will be placed on the 2012 ballot. The Senate map as passed by the Commission would then be suspended, and a new temporary map would be drawn by the California Supreme Court for use in the 2012 state senate elections. Critics of the referendum allege the move is purely political and based on Republican fears that Democrats will obtain a ⅔ majority in the Senate and therefore have the required votes to pass tax increases.

Meanwhile, Republicans are not the only critics of the final map. The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) issued a statement saying that the group is disappointed in the final product. The National Association of Latino Elected Appointed Officials (NALEO) also expressed concern that the new maps would dilute the Hispanic vote.

The finalized maps can be viewed here.

State news

Arizona

Last week, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission released two initial draft maps for Congressional and Legislative districts. On Thursday, the AIRC chose option 2 as a starting point. This version focuses on a more rural-based approach to the map. Proponents of option 2 said it was preferred in part because at random it created more compact districts. The commission vote was 4-1, with commissioner Jose Herrera dissenting over concerns about the congressional districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Earlier this week, the AIRC met with former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The retired judge praised the system Arizona uses and encouraged fair redistricting.

 Redistricting Draft Maps, released August 2011 

Colorado

As the redistricting lawsuit over a Congressional map stalemate moves forward, Judge Robert Hyatt has ordered both major parties to submit their redistricting proposals by August 22. Groups that joined the lawsuit later have until September 2. The Republican and Democratic lawsuits have been consolidated into a single case that will settle the state’s new Congressional districts. It seems likely that Republicans will present a modest revision of state districts. Democrats, on the other hand, may suggest more extensive revisions. The trial is set for October 17, 2011.

Quote of the Week
"I don't want to call you a bald-faced liar, but I did not tell you I wanted to give up Chattahoochee Hills... I know it's not going to change anything, but I want it on the record that this senator got shafted."[1]

-- Senator Donzella James (D) arguing with Senator Mitch Seabaugh (R) about details of her district.

Georgia

In a blink of an eye, the legislative redistricting maps in Georgia have each passed their respective chamber.

On Friday, August 12, Georgia Republicans released their legislative redistricting plans, redrawing the state's 180 House and 56 Senate districts. This past Tuesday, legislative redistricting plans cleared the House and Senate redistricting committees. Both passed along party lines. Democrats submitted a substitute proposal intended to pair fewer incumbents, but it was rejected.

Yesterday, the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Senate approved their respective redistricting plans. According to state Democrats, the maps were designed to the give the Republicans a super-majority. This would allow them to pass constitutional amendments without bi-partisan support. Senate bill sponsor Mitch Seabaugh (R) disputed the charges, saying that it was not his goal to create a Republican super-majority. Seabaugh added that the maps will "undo the shame" placed on the Georgia after the Democrats 2001 redistricting efforts. While the GOP currently holds comfortable majorities in both chambers, during the 2001 redistricting process the Democratic Party was in the majority in Georgia government.

Citing the public hearings held across the state, proponents called the process fair and open. However, opponents contend that the GOP has abused the Voting Rights Act to favor Republican candidates. A legal battle over the plans is not unlikely given the multi-year struggle over the 2001 maps. The plans now proceed to opposite chambers for concurrence.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 21
Next state deadline? Connecticut
September 15, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 64 out of 142 (43.7%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), DE (2), GA (2), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NV (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 14 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX), OR),SC), MI), WI), CA)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 13 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA), (AR, (WI, (CA)
**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)

Hawaii

In late June, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission made the controversial decision to include non-resident military and student populations in redistricting calculations. Despite threats of a lawsuit over the decision, school and military data might not be detailed enough for commissioners to reverse the decision and separate out non-residents. So far, several significant disparities have been discovered between military/student figures and census data. In response, Commission Chair Victoria Marks said they would continue to work with the military to try and resolve the situation. Commissioner Terry Thomason called it a "terrible dilemma."

Idaho

On Wednesday, the Idaho Commission on Reapportionment adjourned until August 30, 2011. The commission cited progress on the maps despite the continuing disagreement over a state law that requires certain districts to have connecting roads. The law mandates that legislative districts can only include multiple counties if those counties are linked by state highways. Democrats argue that this would needlessly split counties, but Republicans contend that following the law would result in a sound map that protects voters.

  • The latest Republican plan, LD47, can be found here.
  • The latest Democratic plan, LD46, can be found here.
  • All legislative plans, including earlier drafts, can be found here.

Illinois

The League of Women Voters of Illinois filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on August 16, alleging the new legislative and congressional maps were not drawn fairly. President Jan Dorner said the maps should be drawn for the voters, not the parties. The suit argues that Democrats violated the First Amendment by using partisan voting information to redraw district boundaries.

Maine

Figure 1: Democratic and Republican groups each proposed a draft version of a new Congressional map for Maine. The maps were released in mid-August 2011.

Democratic and Republican legislators unveiled maps (see figure 1 to the right) during a meeting earlier this week. The Democratic plan had very small differences from the current map. However, the Republican proposal moves several counties around and notably, would move current Congresswoman Chellie Pingree out of the 1st Congressional district. Both plans accomplish the task of making the districts' populations essentially the same. At a redistricting meeting on August 15, 2011 -- where the maps were unveiled -- Democratic and Republican legislators got into a heated debate over the proposals. State senator Seth Goodall (D) and State representative Kenneth Fredette (R) exchanged words over the relocation of Pingree from the 1st District.

Democratic officials Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud -- Maine's two US Representatives in 2011 -- both spoke out strongly against the Republican proposal for redistricting.

It is widely but incorrectly reported that under the Maine Constitution, the Maine Legislature must vote by two-thirds majority to adopt any redistricting plan. The Maine Constitution applies only to state redistricting. Federal redistricting plans (for Maine's two members of the House of Representatives) can be approved by simple majority, because the Maine Constitution does not apply to Federal matters.

Maine is under a Federal court order, imposed earlier in 2011, to complete Federal redistricting by September 30, 2011. The Governor and majorities in both state legislative houses are Republican. The GOP appears positioned to redistrict Maine to significantly improve the chance that Maine will return one Democrat and one Republican, instead of two Democrats, to the U. S. House. Also, Maine, like Nebraska, allocates its electoral votes in Presidential elections by House district. Any GOP plan that improves the chance of returning a Republican Representative would also improve the chance that the four electoral votes of Maine, usually considered a "blue state," would split three to one in a competitive Presidential election.

Michigan

According to reports, a legal challenge of Michigan's new Congressional map is likely. Much of the controversy surrounds District 14, home to longtime-Representative John Conyers (D). The plan would redraw Conyer's district to exclude 80% of his former territory, joining the remainder with Republican-leaning areas. The 14th Congressional District Democratic Organization issued a statement opposing the law, and US Representatives Gary Peters (D) and Sander Levin (D) have voiced support for a lawsuit.

Missouri

The House and Senate bi-partisan redistricting commissions have failed to agree on a new plan for Missouri's legislative districts. The deadline for selecting a plan passed on Thursday. The House commission held its last meeting on Friday, August 12, determining that a compromise was impossible prior to the deadline. Similarly, the Senate deadlocked this past Tuesday, abandoning efforts to complete maps. The task will now pass to a special commission of state appellate court judges.

New Mexico

Governor Susana Martinez (R) has called a special session to begin on September 6, 2011 that will deal with redistricting. Legislators must redraw 3 Congressional, 42 State Senate and 70 State House districts.

Ohio

Petitioners are currently collecting signatures for a veto referendum on a recent election overhaul bill. Among many other provisions, the law moves the 2012 primary date from March to May allowing more time for Congressional redistricting. However, if petitioners succeed in collecting the required number of signatures, the bill will be put on hold until 2012 when voters will be asked to weigh in on the law. That means the primary change will not go into effect and lawmakers may find themselves on a significantly shorter redistricting timeline. If the veto referendum collects enough signatures, legislators may have to quickly pass another bill changing the primary date.

Pennsylvania

On Wednesday, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission unanimously approved the census data and voted to go ahead with the redistricting process. This action officially sets into motion the 90-day period allotted to the Commission to introduce a preliminary map of state legislative districts. Commission members identified 129 precincts where precinct lines and census data may not match up, but they decided to correct the errors as they go rather than wait any longer. After 90 days the public will have a 30-day period in which to comment on the map.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight

Massachusetts is losing one Congressional seat due to population changes. Through the months of public hearings, there has been speculation about which two Congressman would be paired in the same district. With Massachusetts declining from 10 U.S. representatives to nine, and no incumbents hinting at retirement, someone is going to be left standing without a chair when the music stops.

In an interview this week, State Rep. and redistricting chair Michael Moran (D) hinted that it will be Lynch and Keating that are paired off in one district. This is the first instance where a legislator gave an actual guess as to which incumbents would get the short end of the stick.

Texas

Over 400 emails between key Republican political figures in Texas were ordered released by a federal judge last Thursday in a battle over the state's redistricting plans. The emails in question were sent during the period from October 2010 and June 2011 between members of the Texas congressional delegation, the Texas State Legislature, and their respective staffs.

Democrats requested the emails in an effort to accumulate evidence against Republican-drawn redistricting maps. Republicans objected to releasing the emails as evidence, claiming they were constitutionally privileged Congressional communications. The judge rejected Republican claims of constitutional protection and ordered the emails to be unsealed.

The emails show Republican lawmakers and their staffs negotiating and discussing possible scenarios for the districts. One particular email exchange revolved around redrawing San Antonio congressional districts - specifically the makeup of districts currently represented by US Representatives Lamar Smith and Francisco "Quico" Canseco -- both Republican representatives.

Meanwhile, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that State Representative Marc Veasey (D) and State Senator Wendy Davis (D) would be allowed to join Texas's court case seeking Voting Rights Act clearance for the state's redistricting plans through a three-judge federal DC court. Texas Republicans protested the Democratic lawmakers' motion to join the case by claiming they lacked standing to join the federal case. Veasey and Davis join the case with three local Texas residents who argue the Republican-drawn redistricting maps illegally dilute minority voting power.

Following the Democratic legislators' success, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus filed a similar motion with the three-judge panel on Wednesday, asking to join the fight against the maps.

Utah

The Utah legislative redistricting committee met today to review plans submitted during the state’s public input period. The committee recently completed its schedule of 17 public hearings around the state. The committee is expected to adopt a final plan in September. The legislature is expected to take up the plans in October.

West Virginia

The special session for adjusting West Virginia's vetoed House redistricting plans began yesterday. Delegates plan to give the maps final approval tomrrow, and the Senate plans to OK the maps on Sunday. There has been some controversy about whether to re-redraw the seven-member 30th District, but it now appears that the House will focus on correcting technical errors in the bill.

Putnam County, the City of Hurricane, and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce are considering lawsuits over West Virginia redistricting. Putnam County so far seems the most committed to litigation. Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes has said the county will either file or join a lawsuit against the plan. County officials are concerned that the new House of Delegates districts decrease their representation. The city of Hurricane is also considering a lawsuit after it was drawn into a district with southern counties that Hurricane officials contend share little with the city. The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has expressed broader concerns. The group has been a vocal advocate for single members districts and a vocal critic of the House redistricting process. Chamber President Steve Roberts said the chamber is currently investigating the redistricting plans to see if any voters have been inequitably treated.

See also