Redistricting Roundup: Citizen activist organizations work to reform redistricting
By Geoff Pallay
Earlier this year, we discussed the push in some states to take power over redistricting away from state legislatures and instead hand authority to independent commissions.
Across the country, citizen activist organizations have formed to try and push their elected officials for redistricting reform. At least 15 different organizations and coalitions have been created by concerned citizens looking to try and play a part in this year's redistricting. Some of those organizations are:
- North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform: A coalition of nonprofit organizations, the group is advocating for a constitutional amendment in 2012 that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Currently, the legislature controls redistricting in North Carolina.
- Represent Me Utah: This citizen activist group held a recent protest at the statehouse in Utah, demanding a halt to gerrymandering. The group has five principles it would like to see followed when drawing districts, including an early release of the plan to the public and avoiding splitting communities unnecessarily.
- Fair Districts Now: While advocating for redistricting reform in Florida, this group supported and helped get two amendments (5 and 6) passed in 2010, aimed at making a fairer process. The ballots are meant to prohibit favoritism of incumbents from playing a part in redistricting.
- Draw the Line Midwest: Led by the Midwest Democracy Network, this is a coalition of 25 organizations in six states that are pushing to depoliticize redistricting. There are also additional partners in each state. Draw the Line Midwest is active in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The primary mission is to make redistricting more transparent while ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Some organizations -- like the New Jersey Legislative Redistricting Coalition -- went as far as proposing their own maps for consideration. Whether these reform organizations will have a say in new districts, will ultimately be up to the powers in charge of the process.
|Quote of the Week|
The redistricting commission hired an executive director, Ray Bladine. A former deputy city manager in Phoenix, Bladine will help guide the 5-member commission through the redistricting process.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 15|
|Next state deadline?|| Indiana|
|Maps submitted for vote: 17||MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1), IN (3)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||2 (AR, LA), (IA)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||3 (NJ, LA), (IA)|
|This Week's Redistricting Highlight|
On April 21, 2011, the Bayshore Tea Party filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new state legislative districts. The suit is joined by 38 other plaintiffs from 21 counties. The predominant allegation is that southern districts are generally larger than legislative districts in the northern part of New Jersey. Also, the splitting of Newark and Jersey City from three districts to two is detailed in the suit as being unconstitutional.
The Texas House Redistricting Committee approved a revised plan on Tuesday that would add two Hispanic-dominated districts in the Texas House. The revision to the map released last week comes in response to calls for more representation from Hispanic legislators and advocacy groups, such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Hispanics are responsible for the largest share of the population growth that yielded Texas four new Congressional seats. Hispanic advocates want to ensure the maps produced through the current redistricting process proportionately reflect these demographic realities. While appreciating the nod to Hispanics in the revised map, advocates say the revisions don't go far enough and they intend to continue pushing for more Hispanic districts.