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Redistricting Roundup: New Jersey adds 11th commission member, Mississippi House introduces new map
By Geoff Pallay
In what had been a foregone conclusion, the New Jersey Redistricting Commission officially came to a stalemate yesterday, prompting the appointment of an 11th member to serve as tiebreaker.
Alan Rosenthal has been the tie-breaking member of the commission in each of the past two redistricting processes -- 1991 and 2001. Rosenthal is a public policy professor at Rutgers University.
|Who Received their Redistricting Data this week?|
The contentious issue between Democrats and Republicans has been the placement of minorities in districts. The Hispanic population of New Jersey is now 18 percent -- second only to Whites and larger than the African-American population of 13.5 percent. However, of the 120 state legislators, only 7 are Latino. Some argue that if Hispanic voting blocs are spread amongst many districts, there is a higher chance that more Hispanics will be elected--even though their votes are diluted. This has been the plan promoted by Democrats. On the other hand, Republicans have pushed to concentrate more Hispanics is fewer districts -- typically known as "packing" -- which would theoretically ensure that a smaller, but more reliable number of Latinos win election.
The inability to have finalized maps before March 3 means that the new deadline for the state is April 3. This would leave only one week for candidates to decide if they are running for office, as the signature filing deadline in New Jersey is April 10, 2011. Candidates are required to obtain 100 certified signatures -- no fee is required to run for office.
|Total Lawsuits filed: 9|
|Next state deadline?|| New Jersey|
|Maps submitted for vote: 1||(Mississippi House)|
|States that have completed redistricting||None|
This week, the NAACP filed a lawsuit in Mississippi regarding redistricting. Overall, lawsuits pertaining to redistricting have been filed in nine states -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana,Minnesota, Mississippi,Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.
Alabama received its local population data on February 23. Lieutenant Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey (R) announced on March 3 her 11 appointments to the joint legislative committee in charge of redistricting. Of the 11 senators appointed, 9 are Republicans and 2 are Democrats. The Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard (R) will choose the final 11 members from the House next week. In the 2010 elections, the Senate and House both switched from Democratic to Republican.
The fifth and final member of Arizona Redistricting Commission has been chosen, allowing the process to officially get underway. Colleen Mathis was appointed by the four other commissioners to serve as chair and Independent commissioner.
On March 1, Delaware received its local population figures. House Minority Leader Gregory Lavelle (R) has said that Republicans are working on legislation that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Senator Patricia Blevins (D) said she supports the concept but does not believe there is enough support to implement the idea for this year's reapportionment. The Delaware General Assembly is in charge of redistricting and must complete the process of redrawing 21 Senate and 41 House seats before June 30, 2011.
After drafting the map to redraw the boundaries of 122 state House seats behind closed doors, where only those members seated on the redistricting committee could see the proposal for the entire state, the entire House finally got a look yesterday afternoon. Once the map passed out of Committee, it was posted on the chamber's floor, where officials and lobbyists alike crowded around. The House is expected to vote this afternoon on the plan. The bill is sponsored by Thomas Reynolds, II The Senate, similarly drafting its maps in secrecy, is expected to release its proposed districts on Monday, with Senators potentially voting on it the same day.
Additionally, Mississippi is also facing a lawsuit brought by the NAACP in the name of a dozen counties across the state. The petition seeks to have the signature filing deadline for local candidates pushed back to June 1, 2011 so as to allow hopefuls to see the districts they would actually be running in.
The fight over implementing an independent redistricting commission in New York has turned into a partisan quarrel between the Republican Senate majority and Democrats in the Senate and Assembly. The predominant battle is taking place between Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Deputy Minority Leader Neil Breslin. Breslin attempted to force the bill out of the Rules Committee, while Skelos rejected the motion. Republican leaders have said they favor a constitutional amendment to establish the independent redistricting commission, rather than legislation.
|This week in redistricting|
Supported by the state of Louisiana, a parish is officially challenging the U.S. Census Bureau's population data. St. Landry Parish officials say the numbers delivered by the Census are too low and are asking for a recount. Historically, such endeavors have had bleak outlooks of reversal. St. Landry officials report an alarmingly low 65% response rate for Census forms. Low population estimates can reduce federal funding as well as diminish the number of state legislators from that parish.
However, going the constitutional amendment route would not affect the redistricting this year.
Additionally, former mayor Ed Koch held a press conference in New York on February 28 where he said he will record robo-calls criticizing senators who are reneging on their pledge to implement reform. As of March 1, out of the 54 senators who signed the pledge, 27 are supporting a bill for independent redistricting.
The South Carolina redistricting subcommittee was established within the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are four Republicans and three Democrats on the subcommittee. Additionally, eight tentative public hearings have been scheduled across the state, taking place between March 28-April 7. South Carolina will be adding one Congressional district as a result of reapportionment.
On March 8, Vermont's redistricting committee will have its first look at local population data to see how it translates into current districts. The new target size is 20,858 for Senate districts and 4,172 for House districts. A seven-member advisory board provides recommendations to the Senate and House. The Senate is expected to have a finalized plan by July 1 while the House hopes to finish by August 15.