Redistricting Roundup: Parties continue accusations of gerrymandering
Edited by Geoff Pallay
The redistricting process in Arizona has been marked by controversy since January 2011, when Republican legislative leaders filed a lawsuit about the nominee list for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. On Monday, the Commission passed a draft Congressional map by a vote of 3-1, with one Republican abstaining and one voting against (see map below with comparison to baseline map).
Arizona is going from eight to nine U.S. House seats, based on population gains. The newly-created 9th Congressional district is expected to lean Democrat, based on early analysis of the draft map.
After it was passed, the draft Congressional map was attacked by GOP leaders on all fronts.
- U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain released a joint statement that called the process political and requested that maps be corrected.
- Governor Jan Brewer (R) criticized the map and said it favors Democrats. Brewer said, "The IRC proposal is simply gerrymandering at its worst."
- U.S. House Representative Trent Franks (R) argued that the "obviously biased map is unacceptable."
According to Stuart Rothenberg, author of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, the Congressional map allows Democrats to "screw" Republicans.
Meanwhile, Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party chairman, accused the GOP of mounting a coordinated attack on the redistricting commission. Cherny said there are currently four safe GOP districts, two safe Democratic districts, and two competitive districts. He said the new map would still have four safe GOP seats, two safe Democratic seats, and will now have three competitive districts.
The plan appears to place two Republican Congressmen -- David Schweikert and Ben Quayle -- in one district where they would face each other in a primary.
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the breakdown of the nine districts is:
Members of the public now have 30 days to comment on the draft Congressional map. On October 13, the commission will return to Flagstaff to gather input from citizens. As the controversy builds over the Congressional map, commissioners now turn their attention to drawing the state's 30 legislative districts.
|Arizona Congressional Redistricting Draft|
Legislative redistricting hearings started this week. A total of 21 hearings will be held. One early idea from citizens was decreasing the number of state legislators. Alabama does not hold legislative elections until 2014. Legislators are still hoping to complete the process during the 2012 session.
|Quote of the Week|
"It is a map with significant partisan implications. It really helps Democrats and screws Republicans. . . . This was just a wholesale redrawing of the state, and I think Democrats have to feel really good about that."
As Florida’s redistricting process moves forward, the Senate Redistricting Committee has settled on its approach to panhandle redistricting. The plan, which has bi-partisan support, is to split several panhandle counties north-south with horizontal district lines. Lawmakers debated the move in light of the "Fair Districts" amendments, deciding between county preservation and keeping local interests together. Proponents argue that the plan keeps rural and urban interest separate, giving these interests their own representatives. Others worry that dividing too many counties may violate the provisions of the amendments. The committee used a citizen-drawn map, the "The Kelley Plan," as a starting point for the region.
Yesterday, Georgia officials filed the state’s redistricting plans with the federal government for approval under the Voting Rights Act. The VRA permits states to pursue approval with either the Department of Justice or the US District Court for DC. Georgia officials opted to pursue both options with the intent of dropping the legal action if the DOJ approves the plans. North Carolina and Texas are among the other states also taking this approach.
The leaders of Kentucky’s legislative chambers have finally begun discussing the state’s redistricting timeline. However, house and senate leadership appear to be at odds over the proposed start date. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) argues that a special session should be held this year prior to the start of the 2012 regular session. He contends that starting in January could overshadow other important issues and disrupt the elections process in the event of a delay. Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers (R) argues that at $63,000 per day, a special session is not worth the cost. He further argues that the last redistricting session went smoothly without a special session or serious delays.
Late on Monday the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee released its recommended congressional redistricting map. Republicans immediately criticized the map for being gerrymandered and separating like-minded communities while joining areas with few commonalities. Democrats currently hold a 6-2 advantage in the Maryland U.S. House delegation and all signs point to them trying to turn that advantage into 7-1. The proposed map targets Republican 6th District Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who has served since 1992, adding Democratic voters to his district.
In order to achieve this, black voters were shifted, decreasing their percentage in the 4th, 5th and 7th Districts. Democratic members of the Legislative Black Caucus, along with Montgomery County Democrats, criticized the map for diluting the minority-majority 4th District - currently represented by Donna Edwards, the state’s only black congresswoman. The newly formed Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee has threatened to file suit against the state if the current plan is enacted, alleging racial gerrymandering. A spokesman for the PAC said the group is working with the GOP to create a third African-American majority district.
The public has been given seven days to comment on the proposal prior to its introduction in the legislature, expected to take place with a special session beginning October 17. Once submitted by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), the General Assembly has 45 days to amend the proposal or it becomes law.
A coalition of advocacy groups that have been actively calling for a fair map-drawing process once again voiced their opinions in Massachusetts this week. This time, the groups urged state lawmakers to create at least eight new majority-minority legislative districts, and maintain at least one majority-minority Congressional district.
Rumors are that a state House plan could emerge as soon as next week. Candidates must establish residency before November 2011 in order to run in 2012 elections for state house. State representative Ellen Story (D) said she thinks a number of candidates will have to move based on population shifts and the new map. The deadline is not as relevant to Senate candidates, who only need to live within their district by Election Day -- unlike the one-year in advance rule for state house candidates.
The Maine Supreme Court set a deadline of October 12 for any lawsuit regarding the recently passed Congressional map. If no suit is filed, the map will become official for the two U.S. House districts in Maine.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 26|
|Next state deadline?|| South Dakota|
October 24, 2011
|Maps submitted for vote: 81 out of 142 (57.0%)**||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (1), CA (3), CO (2), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), ME (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||20 (AR, LA, IA, MO, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX, OR, SC, MI, WI, CA, GA, WV, ME, HI)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||18 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA, AR, WI, CA, GA, WV, HI)|
|**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)|
Michigan's Legislative Black Caucus has announced plans to challenge the state's redistricting plans, calling the plans discriminatory. The suit will be filed in federal court in October. Meanwhile, it seems that Grosse Pointe Woods is moving away from its earlier interest in challenging the plan. The city's attorney determined that a lawsuit would be unlikely to succeed and that legal funds could be better spent elsewhere.
Minnesota’s special judicial redistricting panel has scheduled oral arguments in the case for January 4, 2012. Parties in the case must submit their motions to adopt plans by November 19. The panel’s decision in the case is not expected until February. Meanwhile, House Redistricting Chair Sarah Anderson (R) renewed calls for a legislative compromise on redistricting plans. While the legislature technically has time to complete a plan, a compromise has been seen as unlikely. The legislature is controlled by Republicans while Governor Mark Dayton is a Democrat. The two parties have been unable to reach any compromise over the maps as Dayton vetoed the plans passed by the legislature.
Candidates must file by June 5, 2012 for the state legislative and Congressional primary on August 14, 2012. All 67 senate seats and 134 house seats are up for election in 2012. Thus, any maps must be completed to allow sufficient time for new maps to be implemented.
The redistricting committee will hold 10 public hearings throughout October to obtain input on the state house and congressional districts. Paul Mirski, chair of the House special committee on redistricting, said the meetings will begin on October 13. The meetings are:
A 2006 ballot initiative will allow New Hampshire lawmakers to divide several towns into individual legislative districts. This process would eliminate multi-member, at-large elections for those municipalities. The New Hampshire House of Representatives -- with 400 members -- has some districts with as many as 13 representatives.
Governor Susana Martinez (R) has indicated that she is on the verge of vetoing the state legislative maps sent to her desk by the Democratic state legislature. Martinez has until October 14 to make a decision.
Meanwhile, on Monday the legislature authorized the hiring of lawyers to defend the maps in court. GOP leaders were advocating for two sets of lawyers -- one for the Democrats, who passed the maps, and another for Republicans, who largely opposed them. The three lawyers hired were the same group of individuals who defended the legislature after lawsuits following the 2001 redistricting process. They will receive $260/hour for their work.
Lawyers for both sides of the lawsuits were asked to submit arguments to the court by October 10.
While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has repeatedly stated he would veto any new district lines drawn by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), he indicated for the first time last Friday that a compromise may be possible. Reinforcing his position to not accept gerrymandered districts, Cuomo said sending redistricting to the courts could result in chaos and that he believed conversations to reach a compromise were ongoing.
Meanwhile, the court case over how prisoners are counted went forward this week as both sides presented their arguments before New York Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine. The suit began in April when a number of Senate Republicans filed suit against LATFOR and the state Department of Correctional Services for plans to count prisoners at their previous residence, rather than in the district where they are incarcerated.
Lawyers for the Senate Republicans stated that the law violates the constitution because it creates two census counts, while lawyers for the defense argued the Census allows state and local governments to define where prisoners are counted. Devine has 60 days to rule on the case.
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
Due to low population growth over the past decade, Pennsylvania has to reduce its congressional delegation by one. As Republicans control the governorship, along with the state house and senate, it looks likely that Democrats will lose a congressional seat. During the last round of redistricting in 2001, Pennsylvania lost two congressional seats, which resulted in the creation of the 6th District, currently held by a Republican.
While no plans have surfaced as of yet, a likely scenario includes the merging of two Democratic districts into one. The new maps will have to be approved by the full legislature and then by the governor. Barring any successful legal challenges, the new districts would be in place for the May 2012 primary.
After public hearings are held in October, the redistricting commission will meet five times in November to propose new maps. Those dates are November 2, 16, 21, 22, and 28. Once those meetings are complete and a draft map is prepared, another round of public hearings will be held to gather input from citizens
The San Antonio federal court hearing Texas's consolidated redistricting case announced last Friday its plans for pre-emptively drawing interim State House and Congressional maps. A similar order was filed on Monday putting in place the court's plans to draw interim maps for the state senate. The maps are to be used in place of the state's own maps which are awaiting Voting Rights Act preclearance in a DC court. Last Thursday, September 29, the court issued an order legally barring Texas from implementing its redistricting plans until a decision had been reached.
The delay in the DC court's decision has put Texas's 2012 election deadlines in question. Candidates running for State Senate and State House elections in 2012 are required to file for candidacy by December 12, 2011.
Hearings on the court's interim maps begin on October 31st.
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R) said last month that the state will put an "unprecedented" amount of redistricting information on a state website, which will help create a more efficient process and engage the general public. The public has until November 1 to submit a map to the Office of Legal Services.
Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters has followed trends from other states and launched a statewide contest that ends on October 24. The contest, called "TN Redistricting: Map It Out!" will offer $4,000 in prizes.
On Tuesday, October 4, the Utah House and Utah Senate deadlocked over the state's new congressional districts. On October 3, the senate passed the maps recommended by the Joint Redistricting Committee. However, house Republicans attempted to make significant revisions to the plan. Senate Republicans have since thrown their support behind a compromise plan drafted by Democratic senator Ben McAdams. The house GOP is pushing an alternative plan drafted by Rep. Don Ipson (R). Democrats have voiced support for the McAdams plan, agreeing not sue if it is adopted. Citing a need for more time, the legislature has recessed until October 17. Prior to the special session, Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) said that committee's proposed plans had a "98% chance" of passage. The plans could also be stalled by a gubernatorial veto, Waddoups noted that Governor Gary Herbert (R) is not favorable to the committee's doughnut-hole approach.
In other news, lawmakers did manage to pass the committee’s redistricting plan for the Utah State Senate. The plan received broad support in both chambers and has proved less controversial than the State House and Congressional recommendations.
The House Government Operations Committee has decided to use the state’s existing districts as a baseline as it redraws the state’s house districts. The move marginalizes the maps recommended by the Legislative Apportionment Board. However, the legislature does plan on using the board’s maps as reference. Some lawmakers were concerned because the board’s maps drew a number of incumbent lawmakers together in the same district.
So far, four advance notices of legal action have been filed over redistricting in West Virginia and other lawsuits are still being considered. Lawsuits are planned by attorney Thorton Cooper of Kanawha County as well as by county officials in Monroe, Putnam, and Mason counties. Stephen Skinner, an attorney from Jefferson County, is also considering a lawsuit over the plans.