Redistricting Roundup: Stormy tension continues as bipartisan continuity drying up

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August 26, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

On Sunday, Georgia Republican leadership released their proposed Congressional redistricting map. Due to population growth, Georgia garnered a 14th Congressional district following the 2010 census. The new district, according to the plan, will be located in the northwestern part of the state.

US Rep. Tom Graves (R) was drawn into the new district, leaving his current 9th District seat open in 2012. The new 9th District will lean Republican. In addition, the plan displaces US Rep. John Barrow (D) from his Savannah-based district, but Barrow (who has been displaced before) plans to move in order to remain in the 12th District. US Rep. Sanford Bishop's (D) district will become a majority-minority district. Also, US Rep. Phil Gingrey's (R) 11th District will pick up part of Atlanta. Overall, the plan is expected to bolster the Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation.

Opponents of the plan have reacted strongly. US Rep. John Lewis called the plan "an affront to the spirit and the letter of the Voting Rights Act," referring to the chunk of Atlanta moved to District 11. Barrow, displaced under the plan, argued that "the folks in Atlanta have put politics above the interests of the people I represent." Kelli Persons, Program Manager for the Georgia League of Women Voters, contends that legislators largely disregarded the public input given at redistricting meetings.

Yesterday the Georgia House of Representatives approved the Republican redistricting proposal (HB 20EX), 110-60 along party lines. The plan was amended to keep a bigger portion of Fayette County within the 3rd District. As a consequence, portions of Henry and Muscogee Counties were shifted out of the 3rd. The 1st District also gained Moody Air Force Base, resulting in shifts in the 9th and 12th Districts. The plan now moves to the State Senate, where it is expected to be approved without amendment.

Earlier this week, Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed into law the Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives plans that were passed by the legislature last week.

 Georgia Redistricting: Republican Congressional Plan[1] 

State news


The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is seeking to join the lawsuit over state redistricting. However, unlike the three groups challenging the plans, Ketchikan is attempting to join the state in defending the new maps. Ketchikan Borough attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen argues that if the court agrees with the City of Petersburg's complaints, it could force the state to divide Ketchikan among multiple districts.


Yesterday the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the federal government, challenging portions of the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Tom Horne said the state is subject to a "tortuous" approval process conducted by the Department of Justice. Horne said that Arizona has demonstrated that the state is fair to racial minority voters and should no longer be subject to preclearance. The lawsuit requests a hearing before a three-judge panel. According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ will defend the Voting Rights Act. Other Arizona redistricting news from this week:

  • The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission decided to track all communication between Strategic Telemetry and any person outside of the commission. Commissioner Scott Freeman said the move was meant to "allay some public concerns" with respect to the consultant's previous ties to Democratic campaign efforts. Meanwhile, Democratic commissioners expressed a desire to exempt bloggers and members of the media from the new rules.
  • The Prescott City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Independent Redistricting Commission to relay the council's disapproval with early legislative maps. Draft options would divide Yavapai County into four districts. According to the letter, this would weaken the county's core values.


The GOP-backed referendum to reverse the Senate maps will officially kick off next week. Once it begins, the drive has 90 days to acquire at least 504,760 valid signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Former Governor Pete Wilson joined the GOP effort that maintains the new map will lead to an increase in taxes for Californians.

Meanwhile, more stories emerge as elected officials plan and strategize for 2012 elections. An account in Politico reports that the new Congressional map will force as many as 1/3 of the current Congressional incumbents to face one another in the 2012 U.S. House election.

Quote of the Week

"I just hope they get it done...I think the longer it goes, the more difficult it is for us to introduce ourselves to who are going to be a new bloc of voters. I want to be doing that as soon as possible."[2]
-- US Rep. Robert J. Wittman (R-VA) on the delays in Virginia's Congressional redistricting process


Democrats and Republicans both filed their plans for new Congressional maps in court on Monday. Republicans stressed continuity, saying their map, which they are calling "Minimum Disruption," makes the least amount of changes possible. The Democrats’ proposal, on the other hand, pushes for competitive districts, sometimes even to the detriment of Democratic incumbents. President of the Senate Brandon Shaffer (D) announced his run for the 4th Congressional District last month. Under the Democratic proposal, Shaffer's hometown would be moved into the 2nd District, currently represented by fellow Democrat Jared Polis.

Democrats accused Republicans of attempting to simply retain the status quo, hurting voters in the process, while Republicans say Democrats are opposing the very maps they submitted 10 years ago because the math has changed in favor of the GOP. The process moved to the courts when the legislature adjourned in May without a Congressional plan. Federal Justice William Hood will begin hearing arguments in the case in mid-October, with a ruling deadline of December 14. Groups that joined the lawsuit have until September 2 to submit proposed maps to the court.


The Idaho Commission on Reapportionment is quickly running out of time without an agreed-upon plan in sight. The Commission, which began its work in June, has until September 6 to adopt a map. If four of the six members cannot settle on new district lines, it is likely that Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (R) could file suit against the commission, charging them with violating the state Constitution.

Last week the commission, deadlocked over statutory vs. constitutional provisions, adjourned until August 30. Republicans want to follow a 2009 law mandating legislative districts only include multiple counties if those counties are linked by state highways. Democrats argue the law is unconstitutional, undercutting a constitutional mandate to avoid splitting counties.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 21
Next state deadline? Idaho
September 6, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 66 out of 142 (46.5%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), CA (3), DE (2), GA (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NV (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 14 (AR, LA, IA, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX), OR),SC), MI), WI), CA)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 14 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA), (AR, (WI, (CA), (GA)
**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)


This summer, members of the reapportionment committees have held several meetings in cities around Kansas, gathering input for new political maps. Having completed their first run of meetings, the committees have scheduled eight additional meetings in September and October. The full schedule can be found here.


Democratic and Republican officials continued negotiations this week on a possible compromise for the new Congressional map. A busy week of events unfolded as the commission prepares for a possible Monday vote.

  • On August 22, independent voter Mike Turcotte filed a lawsuit, alleging that the political parties have too much control over the map-drawing process. The suit indicates that the ratio of unenrolled voters to political parties on the redistricting commission is unequal to that of the voter registration in Maine, thereby violating "equal representation." The commission is made up of 15 members -- 14 of which are registered Democratic or Republican. Dan Billings, chief legal counsel for Governor Paul LePage (R) said the suit will "go away quickly." Billings is also a member of the 15-person reapportionment panel.
  • On Tuesday, a public hearing was held to gather citizen input on the proposed maps. More than 40 people spoke at the hearing. The majority of those individuals spoke out in support of the Democratic plan, which leaves the current map largely intact besides correcting for population.
  • On Wednesday, the GOP withdrew an alternative map that was meant to address Democratic concerns. Each party then blamed the other for the ongoing tension. The alternative was rumored to leave current Congressional representative Pingree in the 1st District.
  • On Thursday, partisan leaders -- Democratic Senators Seth Goodall (D) and Debra Plowman (R) -- vowed to continue working together toward a map that the legislature can support.


On Wednesday, a coalition of minority groups led by the NAACP asked Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to release proposed Congressional redistricting plans 30 days prior to the special legislative session slated to commence on October 17. While O'Malley has scheduled 12 public hearings across the state, the NAACP said those settings only allow the public to provide general comments, not specific ones. More time is needed, they say, to ensure the lines are not drawn in such a way that they would dilute the minority vote. The groups also asked the governor to release legislative redistricting plans 60 days prior to the beginning of the regular session in January.


Following Michigan Congressional redistricting, it now appears that US Reps Hansen Clarke (D-13) and John Conyers (D-14) have decided to trade districts in their bids for re-election. Although both districts are strongly Democratic, Conyers, an African-American, will now run in the more heavily African-American 13th District. In other news, the City of Grosse Pointe Park is expected to file a lawsuit challenging the state's legislative maps. The city was divided between two State House districts under the maps. Gross Pointe filed, and won, a similar suit 20 years ago.


US Rep. Russ Carnahan (D), whose district was eliminated by Congressional redistricting, has declared that he will run for re-election somewhere in the state. Although his options are limited, his incumbent status may allow him to win in the Republican-leaning 2nd District. He could also challenge Democrat Lacy Clay in the 1st District. However, on a Democratic conference call, Carnahan hinted that he may challenge the new redistricting plan in court. Carnahan suggested that a challenge could come later this year.


While the Legislative Reapportionment Commission got its work officially under way last week, members of the House of Representatives continue to debate proposed legislation that could alter the redistricting process for years to come. No less than three proposals to shrink the size of the legislature have been introduced. Speaker of the House Sam Smith presented his plan to the House State Government Committee on August 9. Reducing the House from its current 203 members down to 153 would serve to foster understanding, communication, and consensus, he said.

A competing proposal by Rep. Mike Reese (R) would reduce the House to 151 members and also cut the Senate down to 40 members. A third proposal, by Rep. Rob Kauffman (R) would reduce the House by 10 members every decade during redistricting for the next 50 years. At 203, the Pennsylvania House has the second highest number of representatives in the nation behind New Hampshire. Currently, each House member in Pennsylvania represents approximately 62,573 constituents, with the national average at 59,626. Under Smith’s plan that would jump up to around 84,000.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
On Wednesday, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting announced the winners of its legislative redistricting competition. First place went to Mike Fortner, a state representative from Illinois. Second place went to Tim Clarke, an attorney from Avon Lake. The winning maps will be submitted to the Ohio Apportionment Board. The group's Congressional redistricting competition is still ongoing. Fortner said he considers redistricting a hobby, which prompted his decision to enter the competition.
  • The winning maps can be found here.

Rhode Island

On Thursday, the Special Commission on Reapportionment for the General Assembly was named. The commission is made up of 18 members. They are appointed in the following manner:

The commission must complete its work by January 15, 2012. The members of the commission in 2011-2012 are as follows:[3]

Democratic Party Democrats (8)

Republican Party Republicans (4)

Members of the public

  • Felix Appolonia
  • Ray Rickman
  • Delia Rodriquez-Masjoan
  • Francis Flanagan
  • Matthew Gunnip
  • Arthur Strother Sr.

West Virginia

On Sunday, August 21, the West Virginia State Legislature approved revisions to the vetoed House of Delegates redistricting plans.

Republicans -- the minority in the chamber -- attempted a number of amendments, from creating 100 single-member district to giving Mason County its own delegate, but all their amendments were rejected. House Republicans also called for a public hearing on the revisions, but this suggestion was also rejected. Ultimately, the revised bill made tweaks to almost half of the chamber's districts, including shifting a seat between districts in Raleigh County. Despite the changes, many local interests remain upset. On August 20, the House passed the revised plan 55-38, while the Senate passed the bill the following day 15-14. Notably, Senate Republicans also tried to revise Mason County, arguing that the county had been promised its own delegate. The bill, House Bill 201, now moves to acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

Some groups are calling for a second veto of the map. No word yet on whether Tomblin will sign the map or delay the process once more with a veto.

  • The revised map can be found here.

On Tuesday, Putnam County Commissioners voted 2-1 to challenge the state's legislative redistricting plan. Although the county could accommodate three of its own house districts, the new plan divides Putnam between five districts with only one wholly contained within its boundaries. Mason County, which could justify a single delegate district, will remain divided between two districts under the new plan. A Mason resident has not been elected to the house in recent memory. County officials have stated that they are considering joining the Putnam suit.

In addition, Republicans have filed a second FOIA request over West Virginia redistricting. Republicans contend that the request is intended to discover whether lawmakers and state officials manipulated the redistricting process "for partisan or personal advantage."

See also