State Legislative Tracker: Redistricting dominates legislative action

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October 10, 2011

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features a spotlight on the recent political turmoil caused by the ongoing process of redistricting in Maryland and Utah. Both states are holding special sessions to re-draw political maps.

Sessions

So far this year, 44 out of 50 state legislatures have officially adjourned their regular session. However, several special sessions remain on tap for the rest of the year.[1] This week, no states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of October 10, 2011

Regular sessions

The following 6 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

** Pennsylvania (Senate) is in recess until October 17, and Wisconsin is in recess until October 18. New Hampshire (House) is in recess until October 12. On that date the House plans to come back for one special session day.[2]
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

While most state legislatures are not currently in session, a good number of legislators remain active this fall with redistricting hearings and meetings. Meanwhile, although most states have concluded 2011 business, some states are already seeing 2012 action beginning. For example, today was the first day that senators could file new legislation in New Hampshire for the 2012 session.[3]

Special sessions

Special sessions have been and are expected to be a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts.

So far this year, there have been 30 special sessions in 21 states.

State Legislative Tracker: A glance at state legislatures
Number of special elections this year 84
Number of special sessions this year 30
Number of states that held special sessions this year 21
Number of seats up for general election this year 578

The following states also have special sessions scheduled:

In recess

As of October 10, 18 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • Alaska - Mid-term recess April 18 through January 16, 2012[8]
  • California - Mid-term recess September 9 through January 4, 2012.[9]
  • Delaware - July 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012[8]
  • Georgia - Mid-term recess April 15 through January 8, 2012[8]
  • Hawaii - Mid-term recess May 6 through January 7, 2012[8]

  • Illinois - June 23 through October 24, 2011 (est.)[8]
  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012[8]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012[8]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012[8]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012[8]

  • Tennessee - Mid-term recess May 22 through January 9, 2012[8]
  • Vermont - Mid-term recess May 7 through January 3, 2012[8]
  • Washington - Mid-term recess April 23 through January 8, 2012[8]

Sessions spotlight

This past week contentious redistricting took center stage in Maryland and Utah.

Maryland

Late on October 3 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 speculation point to them trying to turn that advantage into 7-1. The proposed map targets Republican 6th District Rep. Roscoe Bartlett -- who has served in the House since 1992 -- by adding Democratic voters to his district.

In order to achieve this, African-American 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 majority-minority 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.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is expected to convene a special session on October 17 to introduce the proposal in the General Assembly. Once submitted, the legislature has 45 days to amend the proposal or it becomes law.

Utah

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 to 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 the committee's proposed plans had a "98% chance" of passage.[10] 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.

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.

Elections

See also: State legislative elections, 2011
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A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

In this year's 2011 election cycle, one legislative primary remains in Louisiana on October 22, 2011. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011, Mississippi held statewide primaries on August 2, and Virginia held primaries on August 23.

The signature filing deadline for candidates in Louisiana was Tuesday, September 8. A total of 39 state senate and 105 state house seats will be up for election in 2011. Louisiana uses a blanket primary system. Because Louisiana uses a blanket primary system, a candidate can be declared the overall winner of the seat by garnering 50 percent +1 of the vote in the primary on October 22, 2011. However, if no candidate reaches this threshold, then a general election will take place on November 19, 2011.

Additionally, there are seven states holding special elections on November 8, 2011.

  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2011

Oklahoma will be holding a special election tomorrow. State senator Jim Reynolds (R) resigned his seat, effective July 1, after being elected Cleveland County treasurer. A special election primary was held August 9. The candidates running tomorrow are:[11]

Democratic Party Democratic Primary Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Primary Candidates:
General election candidates:
Democratic Party Kenneth Meador
Republican Party Greg Childers

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • October 18: Georgia House District 43
  • October 18: Massachusetts House District 3rd Berkshire
  • October 18: Minnesota Senate Districts 46, 61
  • November 8: Georgia House Districts 10, 25 & Senate District 50
  • November 8: Iowa Senate District 18
  • November 8: Mississippi Senate District 8
  • November 8: Missouri House District 15, 39, 41, 83
  • November 8: Tennessee Senate District 6
  • November 8: Texas House District 14
  • November 8: Wisconsin Assembly District 95

References