Redistricting Roundup: Only weeks remain in 2011, with many maps unfinished

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December 9, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

Following the release of draft maps last week, the Florida Senate Redistricting Committee has voted to introduce its US House and State Senate redistricting plans. Further committee consideration is expected ahead of a January 17 floor vote. The committee gathered public feedback on the draft plans via the Internet -- accumulating around 500 responses. Although the plan has received praise for recognizing the growth of Hispanic communities, criticisms have been leveled at redistricting for US House District 3, Polk County, and other areas around the state.

Meanwhile, the House Redistricting Committee released a range of draft maps for both the US House and Florida House. In total, seven congressional and five House plans were released. Although the plans increase the number of Democratic-majority districts, the plans also appear to shore up existing GOP districts. Florida gained two seats this year from the 2010 Census. A total of 27 members will be elected to the U.S. House from Florida in the 2012 elections.

  • An interactive map showing the committees’ proposals can be found here.

State news

Arizona

Legislative leaders testified in front of the redistricting commission this week. Andy Biggs (R), Arizona State Senate Majority Leader criticized the draft maps and requested that new maps be drawn from scratch. Meanwhile, Arizona House of Representatives Minority Leader Chad Campbell praised the commission and commended it on its work.

Commission Chair Colleen Mathis said she would like to submit finalized maps to the Department of Justice before Christmas. Candidates running for election in 2012 must file by May 30 for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state legislative races.

California

The group that filed a referendum to withdraw the new California State Senate map filed a motion on December 2, 2011 to request that the court immediately put a hold on using the newly drawn district map. Instead, the group requested one of three options be used for 2012 elections: have a special master draw the map, use old districts, or use the new California State Assembly map and create Senate districts that combine two Assembly districts each.

Colorado

On December 5, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that selected a new congressional map proposed by Democrats. Finishing the legal battle that began back in May, the court dismissed the argument by Republicans that the map divided too many counties into multiple districts. A written opinion has not yet been issued.

The new map puts Aurora into its own congressional district, splits Douglas County, and adds Larimer County to the Boulder district. As a result, Colorado is expected to have at least three competitive races in 2012. Included among these is incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R), who was moved out of a safely Republican district into one that is now considered to be a swing district. Republicans currently hold a 4-3 majority in the state’s congressional delegation.

Quote of the Week
"People are sick of partisan games."[1]

-- Chad Campbell (D), Arizona House of Representatives Minority Leader speaking to the redistricting commission.

Connecticut

Following its failure to meet the November 30 deadline to produce a new congressional map, the Connecticut Redistricting Commission asked for an extension to December 21 in order to complete its work. On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court granted the request. If the commission fails to meet the new deadline the court will draw the congressional map for the first time in state history. Republicans and Democrats remain sharply divided, with Democrats advocating a map that makes as few changes as possible to account for population shifts, while Republicans offered up a map that would get rid of oddly shaped districts and make the 4th and 5th Districts more competitive.

Georgia

Georgia's Legislative Black Caucus and a coalition of other organizations have asked the US District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the state's redistricting plans. Under the Voting Rights Act, state's which require DOJ approval for redistricting plans may alternatively seek that approval in the DC District Court. Georgia submitted its plans using both avenues. However, in its District Court case, Georgia also asked to be released from the VRA's pre-approval requirements. Opponents of the new redistricting plans argue that they dilute the power of black voters by packing them into minority-majority districts.

Idaho

A second lawsuit targeting the newly approved legislative districts was filed this week by seven Northern Idaho counties who say the current plan, L-87, hurts the seven counties and creates oddly shaped districts. Attorney Christ Troupis filed the suit on behalf of Boundary, Bonner, Benewah, Shoshone, Clearwater, Idaho, and Lewis counties. It asks the court to adopt either the North Idaho portion of L-82, a plan drawn up by the first commission, or L-76, which divides only five counties. Affidavits by Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney (R) and Lou Espositio, a member of the first redistricting commission, criticize the second commission, with Denney saying he believes the state Supreme Court was wrong to order a second commission.

The suit also criticizes the lawsuit brought by the state's four other counties. Led by Twin Falls County, the suit was filed on November 16, arguing the new map unconstitutionally divides 11 counties. Under the new map Twin Falls County is split into three districts, something they say puts voters at a disadvantage. The Idaho Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in that case on January 5, 2012. Canyon and Ada county clerks have filed to appear as an amicus curiae so they can explain how a delayed decision could affect the May 15 primary elections. The state has a February 27 filing deadline for candidates running in 2012.

Illinois

A Republican suit challenging new state legislative districts was thrown out by a panel of federal judges on Wednesday, dismissing charges of racial gerrymandering and dilution of Latino voting strength. Republicans said they are deciding whether or not to appeal. The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in the state’s 2012 legislative elections was December 5. A Republican suit challenging the new congressional districts is still pending following a trial last month. It is unclear when a ruling will be issued, but if it is not resolved by December 21, the filing deadline for congressional candidates will have to be moved back a second time.

Michigan

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 31
Next state deadline? Washington
January 1, 2012
Maps submitted for vote: 102 out of 142 (71.8%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (2), SC (3), SD (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 26 (AL, AR, CA, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MO, NE, NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 30 (AK, AR, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NV, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WV, WI)
**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)

A number of advocacy groups have joined forces to challenge Michigan's redrawn State House districts. In a lawsuit filed on December 8, the groups argues that the new maps will result in a 50% reduction in the number of minority representatives by weakening minority districts and pairing incumbents. Much of the criticism is focused on the Detroit area. A spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder (R), named in the lawsuit, defended the plans calling them legal and fair.

Missouri

Less than a week after the judicial redistricting panel approved new legislative districts, there is speculation that the new lines may be challenged. Critics point to several county splits that they contend were not required by county population figures. The Missouri Constitution mandates that "no county lines shall be crossed except when necessary to add sufficient population to a multi-district county or city." Although the rationale for the panels actions is not known, it is possible that the splits were designed to compensate for new minority-districts -- an action permitted under the Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, a judge handling two challenges to the Missouri's congressional districts is expected to dismiss both cases in the coming days. If the cases are dismissed, an attorney for the plaintiffs has promised an immediate appeal to the state Supreme Court. Attorneys for the state argued that despite charges of gerrymandering plaintiffs had failed to show that new districts violated compactness requirements.

Nevada

This week the deadline arrived for challenges to be filed against new redistricting maps. No lawsuits were filed by the 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday, meaning the new legislative and congressional districts will go into effect.

New Mexico

A trial regarding the new congressional map for the three districts in New Mexico started and concluded this week. District Judge James Hall said he hopes to make a decision before December 21. Hall heard testimony that predominantly centered on whether a majority-minority Hispanic district should be created in the southern portion of the state. Heading into the 2012 U.S. House elections, Democrats control two of the three districts. Candidates must file for the election by February 14, 2012.

Next week, the trial will begin regarding State House maps.

North Carolina

The two challenges to North Carolina's new district lines have been consolidated into a single case to be heard by a special three-judge panel. After a dispute over the timeline with attorneys for the state, the court has approved an expedited timeline under which the case should decided by mid-February. Attorney's for the state argued that the panel should not make a hasty decision. The consolidated lawsuit argues that the new plans marginalize minority voters by packing them into meandering minority-minority districts. The state cites DOJ approval of the maps as proof of their legality.

Ohio

With a potential referendum against the state's congressional redistricting plan, Ohio lawmakers pushed the presidential and congressional primary back to June of 2012, leaving primaries for the State legislature and US Senate in March. However, state Republicans are now hoping consolidate the primaries in May of 2012. The consolidation plan had been included in an election overhaul bill, but a separate referendum will likely put that bill on hold. For the bill to take effect in time, lawmakers will require emergency approval by a supermajority vote.

Rhode Island

Calls for an independent commission have increased as politics continue to creep into the redistricting process. Representative Joseph Trillo (D) previously told Kimball Brace, the consultant advising the state on new legislative maps, that no two incumbents should be forced into the same district. At a public hearing Trillo was overtly upset at an initial map that drew him into a district with another incumbent, arguing that his business address had been used rather than his home address.

The drawing of the 1st Congressional District, which needs to pick up 7,000 people from the 2nd District, has been garnering the most attention. In one proposal, prospective Republican challengers John Loughlin and Brendan Doherty would be drawn out of the district. Another would move potential Democratic challenger Anthony Gemma out, while a third plan would put the whole of Providence into the 1st District, making it more heavily Democratic. The Reapportionment Commission has a deadline of January 15 to adopt a plan but is aiming to agree to one before Christmas.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
A Republican lawsuit targeting plans to count prisoners at their last known address rather than in the district where they are imprisoned was thrown out by New York Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine on December 2. Devine stated that there is no evidence to indicate inmates have permanency or any intention to remain in their prison’s district.

Most of New York's prisons are in upstate Republican districts, while most prisoners are from Democratic New York City-area districts. Republican state Senators Patricia Ritchie and Joseph Griffo served as plaintiffs. With the law upheld, Ritiche’s district will lose 3,231 residents while Griffo will lose 1,842. Republicans are considering an appeal.

Wisconsin

A number of redistricting-related cases continue to make their way through the court system in Wisconsin. In November, Republicans filed two identical lawsuits -- one in the state Supreme Court and one in Waukesha County -- seeking to require any recall elections taking place in 2012 occur in the newly drawn districts rather than the old districts where the legislators were originally elected.

Last Friday, Republicans asked to to withdraw the Supreme Court suit, a move Democrats immediately tried to block, saying the court should keep the case and dismiss it outright at a later date. The GOP request came after it became known that Justice David Prosser, sidelined with an illness, would not take part in the case. That same day, Republicans amended their complaint in the second case, requesting that a single Waukesha County judge hear the case, rather than the three-judge panel they originally requested. On Monday they announced they were switching lawyers in the case, from the law firm of Michael, Best and Friedrich, to attorney Michael Dean. Michael, Best and Friedrich was the same firm used by Republicans during the redistricting process. Democrats are currently attempting to recall four state senators. Recall petitions are due on January 17, giving the court little time to make a ruling.

Meanwhile, a case filed back in June by a group of citizens seeking to invalidate the newly drawn maps, continued to move forward. The three-judge panel hearing the case ruled yesterday that a consultant and a Senate aide who helped in drafting the maps had to give depositions and turn over documents to Democrats, with more depositions expected. The Republican-led legislature initially attempted to block the subpoenas. The decision by the court stated that any future attempts made in bad faith to block subpoenas will result in the awarding of attorney fees to the Democrats in the case.

West Virginia

Due to dramatic changes in the county's legislative districts, Raleigh County, West Virginia could be hit with a bill in excess of $460,000 for implementing the alterations. The county must setup 24 new precincts and purchase 120 voting machines each costing $3,500. County officials are seeking money from the state to help defray the costs. Raleigh has been disproportionately affected by the plan--the next biggest county bill is around $50,000.

In addition, a US District Court hearing a challenge to the state's congressional districts has scheduled arguments in the case for December 27, 2011. The opponents of the plan argue that the population disparity among the districts is too great and that the shape of districts is not sufficiently compact.

Wyoming

On December 6, Wyoming's legislative redistricting committee adopted a plan for redrawing the state's House and Senate districts. The plan , which is not yet final, will be revisited in January ahead of a February legislative session where the plan will be submitted to legislators. The plan raises important constitutional questions for the state. Wyoming's senators are elected on staggered terms. Under the plan, two senators with different election schedules are drawn into the same district. Ultimately, the committee may force all 30 senators to run for re-election. Opponents of the plan object to splits in Goshen County and the Star Valley. Growth in Sublette and Campbell Counties drove many of the changes across the state.

See also