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Redistricting Roundup: Deadlines looming for many states in redistricting process

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April 1, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

Fayetteville to the 4th New.jpg   AR Congressional.JPG
Figure 1           Figure 2

Figure 1 is the "Fayetteville to the 4th" map as passed
by the State House. Figure 2 is the current
Congressional map as passed after the 2000 census.

Controversy has surrounded the Arkansas Congressional redistricting process. The Arkansas State Legislature is tasked with re-drawing U.S. House districts (they do not oversee state legislative districts).

The deadline for the legislature is today, April 1, which is also the conclusion of the 2011 session. The State House passed a map (See Figure 1) on March 31, sending it to the State Senate. However, the Senate is not expected to pass the measure today.

Instead, the expectation is that legislators will amend the Sine Dine resolution to allow them to return after April 27 and re-open negotiations over the legislation. Republicans have accused the Democratic-sponsored map of gerrymandering in favor of Democrats. The map is controversial for a "finger-shaped" 4th Congressional district that moves the city of Fayetteville from the 3rd Congressional District to the 4th. Figure 1 portrays the current district breakdown.

Lawsuits

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

This week, lawsuits were filed in Maine and Georgia. Overall, lawsuits pertaining to redistricting have been filed in 12 states -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.

State news

Alaska

Two citizen organizations relating to redistricting were released this week. Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting (AFER) and Alaskans for Fair Redistricting (AFFR) each sent their version of legislative maps to the redistricting board for consideration. The AFER was formed by the Alaska Republican Party and interested businesses. The AFFR is a left-leaning coalition including unions and Native corporations.

Florida

Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature submitted Amendment 5 and Amendment 6 to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-clearance. However, along with their 1-page pre-clearance application, they submitted 11 pages of how they interpret the amendments. Critics, including the authors of the amendments, are questioning the submission, saying it "contains a number of statements that are clearly intended to undermine the intent" of the changes.

Georgia

The Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit on March 28 in Georgia pertaining to the formation of five specific cities in DeKalb and Fulton counties. The suit demands that the five cities -- which were alleged to create "super-majority white" municipalities -- should be dissolved for diluting minority voters and violating the Voting Rights Act. The five cities are Sandy Springs, Milton, Johns Creek, Chattahoochee Hills and Dunwoody.

Illinois

Quote of the Week
"When I opened it up this morning and looked at it, I said this looks like someone on drugs did this with an Etch A Sketch."[1]

-- Brown Burton, Roanoke County resident on his impression of the proposed Senate map.

Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D) announced the formation of the House Redistricting Committee as well as a new redistricting website. The site includes a timeline, details on the 15 public hearings that have been announced, and access to census data. Thus far only Democrats have been named to the committee.

Indiana

Protesting Democrats returned to the Hoosier state this week and immediately began working on redistricting. The Democratic Caucus launched a redistricting website that is intended to promote compact districts that preserve communities of interest and protect minorities. The site will also solicit public input and promote the formation of an independent commission. Additionally, the Democratic Caucus released proposed maps for the Senate and Congressional delegation.

Iowa

The first three maps have been introduced. Pairs two sets of incumbents together. Leaves one district open and one by himself. Likelihood is the maps will not pass. Should be interesting to see how it shakes down. If this map doesn't pass the legislature then new maps must be introduced in 35 days. Ultimate deadline is September 1, 2011.

Louisiana

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 12
Next state deadline? New Jersey
April 3
Maps submitted for vote: 6 MS (2), LA (3), AR (1)
States that have completed redistricting None

Louisiana made progress this week on its new maps, with both the House and Senate clearing maps of their own seats and sending them to the opposite chamber. House lawmakers also passed a plan for the state board of education and for the utility regulations board. However, the still unresolved Congressional map continues to overshadow everything.

Regional, racial, and partisan tensions are flaring, and that's just within the legislature. Citizens have complained that their interests and wishes are being ignored in a mad rush for incumbent protection to continue. Politicians with power bases in the north want to preserve those seats, at the expense of having to chop off the state's south quite a bit. Those who represent areas nearer to the shore are championing for massively redrawn northern seats that would allow greater leverage for keeping culturally and economically homogeneous areas in single seats.

Meanwhile, Governor Bobby Jindal (R), in the midst of a re-election campaign, has largely stepped away from his pledge to stay out of redistricting unless asked. He has publicly commented on plans, expressing preferences for some maps, and delegated his top staffers to conduct closed door meetings with legislative Republicans.

Maine

When local population data in Maine was released, it was revealed that the largest growth took place in the southern part of the state near the New Hampshire border. Legally, the Maine State Legislature is required to conduct redistricting during the year that ends in "3" after a census -- this decade, in 2013. This week, two citizens from the southern portion of the state filed a lawsuit that seeks to force legislators to conduct redistricting in 2011. Central to the complaint is information in the Census indicating Maine's two Congressional districts, which will remain as they are for the 2012 election as things stand, are out of balance and could lead to vote dilation for southern Mainers. 2010 population counts show the 1st District having 668,515 residents and the 2nd 659,846, a difference of 8,669.

Michigan

Legislation has been introduced in the Michigan State Legislature that would create a bipartisan commission to handle redistricting. Two bills were introduced by Senator Steven Bieda (D), which were then referred to the Government Operations and Reform Committee. Bieda serves as the Minority Vice Chair on the Senate redistricting committee.

Mississippi

As the last official legislative day for Mississippi to draw map and receive Justice Department clearance draws to a close, the likelihood that the state's redistricting process will become entangled in the court grows. Another unpalatable prospect looms as well – that of holding back-to-back one-year elections in 2011 and again in 2012. Not only would that be a humiliating return to the messy aftermath of the 1990 Census, it would require money the state can ill-afford to spend. Speaker of the House William McCoy (D) continues to refuse to conference with the Senate on resolving his chamber's maps and insists he can find a legal avenue to bypass the Senate entirely and send his preferred map directly to the Justice Department. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats joined their House colleagues on an NAACP lawsuit naming most of the top Republicans in the state in a complaint over the racial aspects of redistricting. The federal judge originally assigned to hear the case -- Daniel Jordan recused himself this week after a family member began a race for the state legislature. The new judge -- Carlton W. Reeves -- is a recent appointee to the federal bench. Reeves is already under pressure to step aside as well because he served as the lead attorney for the Mississippi Democrats in the 2000 redistricting process.

Missouri

Early versions of the proposed Congressional redistricting map have been released in Missouri. As was expected, the seat to be cut is coming from the St. Louis metropolitan area, which would be left with two U.S. House seats. Russ Carnahan appears to be the odd man out -- a scenario that was widely anticipated in the state. St. Louis officials have resisted the removal of one of its three U.S. House seats. Local census data revealed that the majority of population growth took place in the rural and suburban parts of the state. Districts 1 and 3 -- both in St. Louis -- required the greatest number of additional residents in order to reach the ideal population size of 748,615.

New Jersey

It's come down to the wire for New Jersey in its process of re-drawing state legislative districts. The redistricting commission is expected to vote Sunday at Noon on a final state legislative map. This week speculation surrounded supposed leaked maps from both political parties. In each version that was reportedly introduced, several incumbents would be pitted against one another. Once a final map is decided upon, candidates will have 8 days until the filing deadline on April 11 for 2011 general elections.

This week in redistricting
Shades of Forrest Gump reign large in Pennsylvania. Reform-minded Pennsylvanians have taken a new approach to informing the citizenry about redistricting. Today marked the start of a 1,000-mile run across the state to highlight the need for reform in the redistricting process.

North Carolina

On March 31, Charlie Smith Dannelly (D) resigned from the Senate redistricting committee, citing scheduling conflicts. During a committee meeting on March 30, Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt (D) requested that two committee members be swapped in favor of Dan Clodfelter (D) and Dan Blue (D) -- who both have experience with redistricting. Bob Rucho (R), chair of the committee, rejected the proposal. Public hearings will be held beginning in April.

North Dakota

Legislature rejected a proposed independent commission.

Virginia

Proposed maps in the legislature. Senate and House made their own maps. Looking pretty gerrymandered. R's in House kick minority leader out of his district. Dems in Senate packed four Senate R's into 2 districts. Preliminary maps. Minority parties in both chambers are furious. Residents have been up in arms.

See also