Redistricting Roundup: Maps look destined for court system in Mississippi as Senate and House reach stalemate (again)
By Geoff Pallay
With two weeks left in March, 39 states have already received their local census data. With eight states slated for next week, the Census Bureau is on pace to complete their legal obligation to get all population figures to states before April 1.
Meanwhile, the battle continues to rage on in Mississippi over the Senate and House maps. The Senate once again rejected a House bill, which has subsequently led to a lawsuit from the NAACP. The group alleges that the November 2011 elections should be postponed because current census population figures are not being used.
Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant (R) has requested a conference committee to negotiate the discrepancies. He has said he would appoint three senators. However, Speaker of the House William McCoy (D) has indicated that he will not participate and is considering simply sending his maps along to the Department of Justice. Bryant has already named three Republicans to the conference, should it ever meet -- Terry Burton, Billy Hewes, and Chris McDaniel.
This week, one redistricting lawsuit was filed in Maryland at the county level regarding redistricting in Harford County. Overall, lawsuits pertaining to redistricting have been filed in 11 states -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 11|
|Next state deadline?|| New Jersey|
|Maps submitted for vote: 2||(Mississippi House)(Mississippi Senate)|
|States that have completed redistricting||None|
|Who Received their Redistricting Data this week?|
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission continues its heavy schedule of public meetings. The committees within the commission have been holding meetings and considering public comments. Next week, members will be trained on the statewide database -- which contains all of the voting, registration and geographic datasets from California's census results -- and the Voting Rights Act. Since redistricting data was released, nearly all analysis has pointed to a coming shift in districts from the coast to the inland portions of the state. Politically, the central portions of the state historically lean Republican while the coast is more Democratic.
Weeks after its introduction in the House, HB 1276 is kicking up more of a storm with each passing day. On its surface, the Republican-sponsored bill seeks to reverse a Democratic change to how communities of interest are designated in redistricting. Democrats, collectively dismayed at the bill, maintain their act, passed late last session when they still held the majority, was a necessary reversal of GOP initiated bills. At its heart, HB 1276 would ban consideration of 'non-neutral' factors in redistricting, such as political affiliation and voting activity. Secondarily, it would treat the 3rd and 4th Congressional district, sprawling rural seats, as communities of interest.
Since lawsuits were first filed in Florida regarding the redistricting ballot amendments passed in 2010, there have been few developments. This past week, the state received its local population data. In the past decade, four of the five most populated cities experienced growth of more than 10 percent. Only St. Petersburg had a population decline, losing 1.4 percent of its population (from 248,232 to 244,769). Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott's (R) spokesman said the data changes nothing with respect to the withdrawal of pre-clearance for the two redistricting amendments.
While 37 House representatives remain outside of the state, Republican leaders have started moving on the redistricting process. Public input hearings will be held throughout the state next week. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D) said Republicans are excluding Democrats from the process. State Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R) responded that Republicans are welcoming as much input as possible in the process.
The Massachusetts redistricting process officially got underway this week. The committee was appointed and the committee held its first meeting on March 16. At the meeting, a new website was unveiled and several public forums were announced. The 28 member-committee is composed of seven senators and 21 representatives. There are 23 Democrats and five total Republicans.
Minnesota received its local redistricting data this week. Contrary to more conservative predictions, all 6 of the state's Congressional districts, as well as nearly every state district, are expected to change. Several suburban counties grew by nearly 40 percent. As congressional redistricting proceeds, Michelle Bachmann's rapidly growing House district will need to cede population to neighboring districts. The Minnesota GOP may attempt to use extra conservative precincts from Bachmann's district to shore up freshman Republican Chip Cravaack's left-leaning district.
|This week in redistricting|
The New York State Senate passed a bill that would add a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission. The senators involved have said this fulfills their redistricting pledge, while opponents, like former New York City mayor Ed Koch, continue to argue that because this year's redistricting is unchanged, that the bill is a moot point. Fifty-three current state senators signed a pledge before the 2010 elections, promising to reform redistricting.
Among states that lost a Congressional seat, Missouri's contraction may be especially painful. Somewhere in the state, one of the nine members in the House delegation is going to lose their incumbency in the 2012 races. St. Louis, a city spiraling downward, now less populated than it was in 1870, could well be the target of district downsizing. The city has three Congressional seats right now, along with three Congressmen insisting that Missouri's continued heft in Washington demands keeping all three. To make that happen, larger parts of the suburbs would need to be combined with St. Louis districts, something suburban residents have made clear they do not want. On top of that, the burgeoning Columbia area is pushing, not without some hope of success, to get its own district. Governor Jay Nixon (D) will shortly appoint the state's redistricting commissions -- one, comprised of 5 Democratic and 5 Republican senators, will redraw the state's Senate districts, another, comprised of 9 Democratic and 9 Republican representatives, will redraw Missouri's House districts. These commissions will have six months to redraw maps, or else a panel of judges will implement maps.
The redistricting commission held its final public meeting on March 16. The commission will now have until April 4 in order to produce a final map. During the last minute, minority groups continued to stress the importance of increasing their total representation in the state legislature. Alan Rosenthal, the commission's 11th member, said he hopes to broker a compromise map between Democrats and Republicans -- but he will choose his preference if no unified map can be created.
According to media reports, the Virginia Congressional delegation has submitted their own maps to the Virginia State Legislature. The maps supposedly preserve every incumbent and at the same time strengthens their existing district. The League of Women Voters has argued that this self-serving action is not in the best interests of voters. Meanwhile 13 colleges have submitted 68 maps as suggestions for fair ways to re-draw the districts.