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Redistricting Roundup: Two states alter 2012 primary dates

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December 16, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

It may be December, but critical action continues to take place in redistricting even as the end-of-the-year holidays approach. This week, two states saw massive changes to their 2012 election schedules, as Ohio and Texas moved their primary dates.

Ohio

On Wednesday, Ohio legislators reached a compromise on the state's controversial congressional redistricting plan. The compromise, proposed by Republicans last month, gained traction after concerns grew about the viability of the referendum effort against the earlier map. In addition, the compromise eliminates a second primary for congressional candidates, saving the state about $15 million. The compromise bill was geared toward Black Democrats--the plan re-unifies several urban areas. In order to take effect before revised candidate filing deadlines, the bill had to be passed as an emergency measure by a supermajority vote. This not only allows the bill to take effect immediately, but shields the map from a veto referendum.

Despite tepid praise for the revisions to urban areas, House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D) acknowledged that revisions will not increase the number of districts that favor Democrats--12 of the 16 seats still lean Republican. The changes do seem to favor US Rep. Marcia Kaptur (D) in her likely primary battle with Dennis Kucinich (D).

Meanwhile, emails revealed in a public records request suggest that the congressional map was drawn to protect Republican incumbents. The emails show that top aides to the National Republican Congressional Committee and House Speaker John Boehner (R) shaped the map-making process. For example, an Ohio manufacturer and donor to Rep. Jim Renacci (R) was moved to Renacci's new district at the request of Boehner's aide. The emails also reveal that the map-drawing was moved to a rented hotel room for three months to give the process greater privacy. The emails were obtained by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting.

Texas

The US Supreme Court threw Texas redistricting and elections into limbo last Friday when it temporarily blocked the recently implemented interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court. The nation's high court is set to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the maps on January 9, 2012 - just under one month away. The move has thrown the 2012 elections in a state of confusion. Without legal districts for candidates to run in, election dates and filing deadlines were in question. On Wednesday, the San Antonio court moved the signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in the 2012 election from December 15th to December 19th 2011. This is the second time the court has had to change the filing deadline because of redistricting legal issues - the original was December 12th.

The court held hearings Tuesday to consider proposed plans for new primary election dates. Two camps emerged, with those calling for two separate primaries on one side and those requesting a single primary at a later date on the other. Democrats and minority groups were united in their support for a single primary. Republicans were split over the matter, with one contingent arguing for a single primary and another arguing for two elections. The San Antonio court announced this morning that an agreement had been reached to go with a single primary election, which will be held on April 3, 2012. The new primary runoff date is set for June 5, 2012. The new deadline and primary dates will affect U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, and State House elections.

State news

Alaska

Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court has ruled against the city of Petersburg's redistricting challenge. The city argued that the 32nd District did not meet the compactness requirements of the Alaska Constitution. However, the Redistricting Board ultimately prevailed, arguing that the district's shape was required to accommodate a minority influence district for native Alaskans. An appeal to the State Supreme Court is possible.

Quote of the Week
"Most of the congressional redistricting maps that have been proposed appear to be a blatant attempt to save Congressman David Cicilline"[1]

-- Michael Napolitano, spokesman for Republican candidate John Loughlin for U.S. House. Republicans criticized the proposed congressional map this week.

Colorado

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court approved Democrat-drawn legislative maps that Republicans have criticized as "politically vindictive." The 11-member Reapportionment Commission originally approved plans on September 19, but saw them rejected by the Court on November 15 for splitting too many counties. The Commission went back to work, resubmitting the new plans on November 29.

Under the new maps, there are seven instances where Republican incumbents have been drawn into the same district. Most notable among these are House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman. Democrats pointed out that incumbents in their party may also have to face one another in 2012, but that only occurs in three instances. A total of 38 out of the 100 legislative seats are considered to be competitive, with 24 in the House and 14 in the Senate. 60 seats are considered to be safe - 35 for Republicans and 25 for Democrats. A total of 15 state legislators in Colorado will be ineligible to run for re-election in 2012 because of term limits -- six in the Senate and nine in the House.

Illinois

This week, Republicans lost their bid to have the new Illinois congressional districts declared illegal. Yesterday, a federal court panel hearing the case said they agreed with the complaint that the map was clearly a political move designed to increase Democratic congressional seats, but said Republicans failed to give a standard by which such claims could be weighed. The court also rejected the argument that the map diluted Latino voting strength, stating Republicans failed to present enough evidence that the legislature intentionally sought to discriminate against Latinos. Last week, a Republican suit seeking to invalidate the new state legislative districts was also thrown out by a federal panel.

With the suit resolved, candidate filing for congressional races will begin as planned on December 23 and go through December 27. The original deadline had been December 5, but had to be moved back due to the then-pending lawsuit.

Mississippi

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 31
Next state deadline? Washington
January 1, 2012
Maps submitted for vote: 103 out of 142 (72.5%)** 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 (3), SC (3), SD (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 27 (AL, AR, CA, CO, 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 32 (AK, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, 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)

Mississippi inched closer to having a congressional map this week, as no objections were filed prior to this week's deadline to contest the court-drawn districts. With a signature filing deadline of January 13, 2012, judges are facing a tight timeframe to get a new map implemented. Some legislators have filed suit with a map of their own, proposing it get implemented. The current disagreement centers around the counties in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts.

Missouri

Last week, a circuit court judge dismissed a Democratic lawsuit against Missouri's congressional map. This week, attorneys for the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. Another challenge, filed by Kansas City Republicans, was also dismissed but has not been appealed.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Mike Talboy (D) called for revisions to the state's court-drawn House plan. Approved on November 30, the House plan has taken criticism for splitting several counties. The Senate plan, which raised similar concerns, was revised last Friday by the judicial panel. The Missouri Constitution allows county-splits only when necessary to supplement districts in multi-district counties. The commission acknowledged that this provision weighed on its decision to revise the Senate map but did not concede that the restriction applies to court-drawn maps.

New Hampshire

The House Special Committee on Redistricting released its plan for new House districts on Wednesday. Republican committee chair Paul Mirski said several lawmakers submitted their own plans, many suggestions of which were included in the final proposal. David Pierce, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the plan does not do enough to follow a 2006 constitutional amendment passed by voters that gives small towns or wards their own representative if their population is within a reasonable deviation from the ideal. Mirski insisted that they did everything they could to conform to the amendment while also complying with federal "one person, one vote" requirements.

A bipartisan group of legislators went to a meeting of the redistricting committee yesterday, urging them to rework the map so as not to merge parts of cities with neighboring towns. Under the current plan, 55 towns that meet the 3,291 population requirement to have their own district are not allotted one. The plan is set for a full committee vote on December 20. Legislators are also planning to submit a House Concurrent Order that would send the plan straight to the Secretary of State, bypassing a possible veto from Governor John Lynch (D). The New Hampshire House has a total of 400 state representatives -- it is the fourth-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world.

New Jersey

The bipartisan commission charged with re-drawing New Jersey's congressional map will meet next week to review proposals from Democrats and Republicans. The commission hopes to complete its process before Christmas. Because the state has lost one seat in the U.S. House, two incumbents will need to be drawn into one district. Some potential matchups pit Steve Rothman (D) against Scott Garrett (R) or Leonard Lance (R) against Rush Holt (D).

New York

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe said on Monday that, due to the failure of the legislature, he will choose a date for New York’s primary in 2012. The ruling will come in January, allowing all parties one week to submit additional arguments and the following week for responses to the submissions. New York's primaries are currently set for September 11, 2012, with a signature filing deadline of July 12.

New districts, which are no closer to completion, must be agreed upon prior to the elections. Moving up the primary date would also push up the deadline for new maps. Numerous proposals to move the primary were floated by legislators this year, but the two sides refused to compromise - Republicans are pushing for a primary date in August, while Democrats want a primary in late June. The change is necessary in order to comply with the federal MOVE Act.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
The Rhode Island state redistricting commission was immediately met with criticism from U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D) and local Republicans after the unveiling of a newly proposed Congressional map on Monday. Aides for the congressman said the map shifts nearly 100,000 residents between the two districts, while only about 7,200 need to be moved. The move is centered in Providence, about 71 percent of which would be in the newly drawn 1st District, up from about 40 percent. This change would make the 1st more heavily Democratic, helping freshman incumbent David Cicilline's bid for re-election. In response to the criticism, a proposal that moves about 30,000 fewer voters was released on Thursday. The commission was expected to vote on the proposals December 19, but that may now be pushed back.

New House and Senate proposals were also released Monday. Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D) criticized the House map for changes to her district which she said appeared to be political in nature.

Pennsylvania

By a 4-1 vote the Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved new Senate and House maps on Monday. No further action is required to implement the districts for 2012, but there is a 30-day period to file appeals with the state Supreme Court. Under the plan, one district in the Senate and five in the House are moved from the western part of the state to the east. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D) said Democrats have not yet decided whether they will appeal.

After a number of delays, Republicans unveiled their newly drawn congressional map on Tuesday. The map draws Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into the same district while putting six Republicans into safer districts.

The Senate State Government Committee approved the bill 6-5 along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Mike Folmer (R), who said he believed the map was specifically drawn to dilute Democratic votes and was the perfect example of why redistricting reform is needed. The Senate voted to approve the new map by a 26-24 vote on Wednesday, sending the legislation to the House, which is expected to approve it next week.

South Carolina

Earlier this week, the attorney representing Republican lawmakers in a lawsuit over the new South Carolina congressional map filed paperwork requesting that the federal judge be removed from the case. Billy Wilkins, in his complaint, alleged that Judge Mark Gergel represented the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit over redistricting last decade. Yesterday, Gergel recused himself from the case, in part because of his work for former Governor of South Carolina Jim Hodges (D). Gergel is being replaced by Judge Patrick Duffy.

Utah

Following Utah's redistricting process, Republicans and Democrats began digging for dirt on their political rivals. Both parties filed a Government Records Access and Management Act request, seeking communications regarding the redistricting process. Although Democrats are still fighting over fees associated with the request, Republicans have obtained over 1,000 pages of information. This information, say Republicans, reveals that Democratic lawmakers worked behind the scenes to determine the political impact of redistricting proposals. The GOP called the actions hypocritical given Democratic calls for greater transparency. Democrats, however, argue that their actions were primarily defensive and sought to combat shady tactics on the part of state Republicans.

Washington

Following a breakthrough this week, the Washington State Redistricting Commission is expected to release their proposed plans for new legislative districts at a meeting today. Commissioners Slade Gorton (R) and Tim Ceis (D) announced on Tuesday that they came to an agreement on their portion of Western Washington districts. Tom Huff (R) and Dean Foster (D) also reached consensus on their portion of the plan. The four commissioners decided last month to split into bipartisan teams in order to overcome an impasse that slowed down their work.

See also