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Redistricting Roundup: New maps sent to McDonnell in Virginia while controversy continues in Colorado

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April 29, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

A compromise has been reached in Virginia as the Virginia General Assembly responded to Governor Bob McDonnell's (R) veto of the initial redistricting maps.

On Thursday, April 27, the Virginia State Senate voted 32-5 to send a revised map to the Governor. The House concurred by a 63-7 vote. McDonnell has indicated he will sign the legislation as soon as possible.

Only weeks after State Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D) said not even one comma would be changed on the maps, several concessions were made to meet the governor's demands. Among the changes:

  • Virginia Beach has two districts instead of one.
  • Prince William County is split into one fewer district.
  • The College of William & Mary is split from the district of House Minority Leader Thomas Norment. Norment also works at the university.

Both Democrats and Republicans indicated that they had make concessions in the compromise map. Barring a legal battle with the Department of Justice, Virginia's legislative elections should be able to continue as scheduled this year. The first step in that process is a June 15, 2011 signature filing deadline.

Quote of the Week
"I will be fine. I will run for re-election and I will win decisively."[1]

-- William Lacy Clay, Democratic Congressman from the 1st District in Missouri

State news


Legislators announced this week that Congressional and school board redistricting will be dealt with during the 2011 regular session, rather than holding a special session, which they say would be costly. They plan on holding a series of public hearings over a two-week period in May to get input from citizens.


The Redistricting Commission continues to hold public input meetings across the state about California. Recently at meetings in Santa Barbara and Long Beach, residents spoke out against splitting counties if there is sufficient population to host its own district. Other residents testified that it would be most beneficial if current districts were altered minimally in order to maintain incumbent recognition for voters. The commission is continuing its road trip around the state to gather input from concerned citizens.


The wheels are coming off at the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, where the two parties appear to be no longer actively negotiating. Saying that Speaker Frank McNulty's (R) behavior has undercut House Chair David Balmer's (R) authority to negotiate on maps, Democrats have stepped back from the table. The state's rural residents are still in an uproar over any maps that would make it possible for Denver-based Congressmen to represent them in Washington. An emerging sentiment on the Western Slope is in favor of remaining intact - not being split in two as the Democratic "City Integrity" plans would do. More recent Democratic maps didn't smooth over those problems when they still suggested grouping Grand Junction and Boulder -- cities at opposite ends of the political spectrum -- in one seat. Colorado's legislative session ends in two weeks and barring a miraculous resolution or at least enough progress to justify a costly summer session, the entire matter could be headed for the courts yet again.


The four-week long public comment period on redistricting ends today. Legislators are expected to have a proposed plan ready by May 12. This week saw the formation of a citizen task force on redistricting. Groups involved include the League of Women Voters and the First State League of United Latin American Citizens. They are encouraging legislators to keep communities of interest together, focusing on whole towns, as well as ethnic and racial groups.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 15
Next state deadline? Oklahoma
May 25, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 21 MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3), OK (3), TX (1)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 2 (AR, LA), (IA)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 3 (NJ, LA), (IA)


The House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee and Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee are putting together a list of cities across the state that will host public hearings. A special session on redistricting is expected around August 15. Among their tasks will be the creation of a new Congressional district.


The redistricting process in Indiana inched closer to completion as the Indiana General Assembly sent legislative and Congressional maps to Governor Mitch Daniels' desk. The new districts are expected to heavily favor Republicans. The GOP defended the districts as being more compact than in the current maps.


A lawsuit seeking to push the timetable on redistricting forward has been put on the fast track by judges. Maine law requires the state to wait until 2013 to redraw Congressional maps, even though the necessary Census data are available. The three-judge panel tasked with the case announced on April 27 that parties have three weeks to submit written briefs. Oral arguments are expected the second week of June, just before the Legislature recesses on June 15.


Senator Scott Brown announced his public support for the creation of a majority-minority district in Boston. Currently, the Congressional Delegation is 100 percent Caucasian. Brown wrote a letter to senator Stanley Rosenberg and representative Michael Moran (Massachusetts), the Democratic leaders of the legislature's redistricting process.

Meanwhile, speculation continues as to which of the 10 incumbents will be faced with the most difficult re-election by being thrust into another incumbent's district. Western Massachusetts continues to push for keeping two Congressional Districts -- currently represented by John Olver and Richard Neal. The Joint Redistricting Committee is in the middle of hosting 13 meetings across the state. The final scheduled meeting is June 27.


Every 10 years, the Minnesota legislature adopts a set of principles to guide redistricting. With only weeks remaining in the session, no set of principles has yet been adopted. On Monday, Governor Mark Dayton (D) sent a letter to House Redistricting Committee Chair Sarah Anderson (R), urging the legislature to adopt bipartisan guidelines for redistricting. Dayton criticized the Republican's proposed principles as inadequate since they only mandate that senate districts be formed from House districts and that districts should be compact and contiguous. Dayton, however, would like to see broader principles introduced, including achieving minimal deviations, protecting racial and language minorities, preserving communities of interest, and avoiding incumbent favoritism. In addition to these guidelines, legislative Democrats have introduced their own proposal which seeks to promote increased competition. While Dayton's Democratic party is a minority in both chambers, the Governor has veto power over any map produced.

  • Republican's proposed redistricting principles: HF1546, HF1547,
  • Democrat's proposed redistricting principles: HF0406


This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Rudy and Norma Neal have lived in the same home in Arkansas for 64 years. For 64 years they have been in the 3rd Congressional District. Though happily married, they sleep in separate bedrooms because of Rudy's incessant snoring.

But now, as a result of redistricting, they have been divided into separate Congressional Districts. Rudy is represented by Mike Ross (D) in the 3rd District while Norma is now a constituent of Steve Womack's (R) 4th District.

The couple is now divided forever. Or, at least until the next redistricting process in 10 years.

The Senate and House have agreed on a compromise Congressional map and sent it to Governor Jay Nixon (D) for approval. Nixon is expected to veto the map, which would prompt the legislature to either obtain 2/3 vote to override or force a new map to be constructed. John Diehl (R), chair of the House redistricting committee, has implied he expects to have enough votes to override a veto. Senate Republicans have a comfortable majority and should easily maintain the 2/3 vote necessary. There are 106 Republicans in the House with 109 votes needed to override.


The nonpartisan and unicameral state of Nebraska has begun its legislative redistricting, as new maps were discussed in committee on Thursday. Scott Lautenbaugh and John Nelson of Omaha introduced a proposal that would combine two existing districts into one majority-minority Hispanic district. Three Democratic senators objected to the proposal, saying that it weakens minority voters influence. While the legislature is officially nonpartisan, Republicans are considered to have the most power. The committee is expected to vote on Monday on a plan to send to the full chamber.


This week saw the release of the first legislative maps in the Silver State. Majority Democrats suggested 'nesting' districts, such that two Assembly seats fit within one Senate seat and all boundaries align. Both parties also agreed on shifting seats to the more populated south. The GOP minority, however, pushed to keep the number of seats favorable to one party roughly where it is now, while Dems sought to bolster their advantage.

John Ensign's not entirely unexpected resignation also livened up the debate. Governor Sandoval's elevation of a sitting Congressman to the now-vacant Senate seat means a special election this year and an open seat next fall for the 2nd Congressional District. Along with an entirely new Congressional district to consider, it promises a bumpy election season and casting a spotlight on Nevada as a testing ground for 2012.

North Carolina

Echoing complaints that have been heard recently in other states, several citizens at a public hearing of the North Carolina Senate Redistricting Committee criticized leaders for not having any proposed maps or plans for the public to comment on. Republicans have previously said the meetings were held before maps were drawn in order to get input as soon as possible. The last meeting is scheduled for May 9, with the committee's proposal expected by the end of May.


The Congressional redistricting process in Oklahoma has thus far proceeded without a hitch. A map passed the House unanimously. However, legislative maps could create more controversial situations. Oklahoma is one of 15 state legislatures with term limits. The Senators serve 4-year terms. If a senator elected in 2008 has a district that gets changed drastically, it is possible that no re-election will be held until 2014 -- which would provide that senator a 6-year term. Thus far, only shell bills have been introduced.


After sixteen hours of debate yesterday morning, the Texas House of Representatives came to a tentative decision on a new map of its 150 political districts. Republican Rep. Burt Solomons, Chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, headed the contentious discussions. Various groups proposed amendments, mostly to further the political interests of specific minority groups. Hispanic, African American, and Asian groups all protested that the plan protected Republican interests at the expense of minority constituents. Ultimately the map, which favors the Republican supermajority, was passed in a 92-52 vote. Ten Republicans voted against the map and three Democrats voted in favor. But the battle is far from over. Given the heated controversy surrounding the passage of the map, it is highly likely it will be challenged in court.


The special committee in charge of redistricting has voted to maintain the current breakdown of 30 senators and 60 representatives. The population deviation for districts will continue to be 10 percent. A budget appropriation of $100,000 has been given to the joint committee.

See also