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Redistricting Roundup: Deadlines looming for many states in redistricting process
By Geoff Pallay
|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.
Throughout 2011, 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 to adopt maps is today, April 1, which is also the conclusion of the 2011 legislative 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 the General Assembly will amend the Sine Dine adjournment resolution to allow lawmakers to return after April 27 and re-open redistricting negotiations. 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.
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.
Two citizen organizations relating to redistricting submitted maps 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.
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.
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.
|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."
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.
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.
The first, and perhaps final, Congressional redistricting plan for Iowa was released on March 31. The plan puts US Representatives Tom Latham (R) and Steve King (R) together in District 4 and puts Reps. Bruce Braley (D) and Dave Loebsack (D) together in the fourth district. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) remained alone in District 3, leaving District 2 open. The state plan involves matchups between seven state senators. Notably, the plan pairs Senate President Jack Kibbie (D) with incumbent Republican David Johnson (R). In the house, the plan pairs a Republican and a Democratic incumbent, 3 districts pair Democratic incumbents and 9 pair Republican incumbents. The plan also makes 14 of the state's 100 districts open with no incumbent.
Overall, the Congressional plan is seen as favorable to Democrats. While the map pairs incumbents from both parties, Loebsack lives only 20 miles from District 2 and Johnson County, the Democratic stronghold of his current district. Comments from the congressional delegation can be found here.
Ultimately, the plan is not predicted to pass, and the state will have 35 days to produce a new set of maps. In the last redistricting cycle, 2001, the second set of maps was ultimately approved. Three consecutive plans may be rejected before the decision is referred to the Iowa Supreme Court.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 12|
|Next state deadline?|| New Jersey|
|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 passing 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 the entire process.
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 to protect incumbents. Politicians with power bases in the north want to preserve those seats, at the expense of having to chop off the state's Southern districts significantly. 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.
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 dilution for southern Mainers. 2010 population counts show the 1st District having 668,515 residents and the 2nd 659,846, a difference of 8,669.
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.
As the last official legislative day for Mississippi to draw maps and receive Justice Department clearance draws to a close, the likelihood that the state's redistricting process will become entangled in the court increases. 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. The lawsuit names 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.
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. Rep. 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.
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 maps supposedly leaked from the commission. 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 the 2011 general election.
|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.
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.
Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) proposed a constitutional amendment that would place a bipartisan commission in charge of state redistricting. However, on Thursday, the proposed amendment was defeated by a 69-25 margin in the North Dakota House of Representatives. Even if the measure had passed, it would not have taken effect until the next redistricting cycle.
On March 29, both chambers released preliminary redistricting maps. The maps, drawn by their respective chambers, reflect the interests of the majority parties. In the senate, Democrats drew maps which consolidated two Republican districts in Virginia Beach and favored Democratic incumbents on the Peninsula. In the House of Delegates, Republicans eliminated a Democratic district in Norfolk and diluted local Democratic districts while strengthening Republican districts on the Peninsula. Notably the house plan moves democratic districts into Northern Virginia and displaces several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D). Both maps have been sharply criticized by minority leadership. The entire Virginia Legislature will return on April 4 to debate the new maps.