Redistricting Roundup: Primary dates appear on the move again

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February 17, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week's Roundup

Continued legal turmoil over redistricting this week confirmed what many already suspected; Texas will not be able hold its primaries on April 3rd. The embattled parties in Texas’ federal redistricting case failed once again this week to reach agreements over interim congressional and state house maps. After the parties couldn’t produce consensus maps by last week’s court-set deadline, the San Antonio judges gave the two sides until Wednesday to bring them an agreement – in a last ditch effort to preserve April 3 primary. But Wednesday passed without interim maps for the state house or congress, solidifying fears that the pattern of stagnation and delay would continue. A new primary date hasn't yet been set, but May 29th has emerged as the most likely date.

Moving the primary for a third time creates even more confusion and exhaustion for everyone involved – from voters who have a hard enough time figuring out their districts during normal election cycles, to candidates who are unsure what district they should be campaigning for, to election officials who are plagued with retooling a massive administrative operation on the turn of a dime. Furthermore, a May 29 primary could mean that Republicans will have already chosen their presidential nominee before Texas is able to participate – rendering the state’s’ very influential 155 delegates voiceless.

While it was a largely disappointing week for Texas redistricting, an agreement over the state Senate map emerged as a positive sign of progress. Consensus was reached after Republicans agreed to leave Democratic Senator Wendy Davis’s district largely intact.

State news

Arkansas

A hearing has been scheduled for May 7 regarding a lawsuit over the new Arkansas State Senate map. Current senator Jack Crumbly (D) filed the suit, alleging that his district is discriminatory against African-Americans. The filing deadline for state legislative candidates is March 1.

Poetry of the Week
"Roses are red/while others are pink/can we have primaries/oh, what do you think?"[1]

-- Harold Cook, political consultant in Texas. Across the state there has been a fever of poem-writing amidst the chaos of redistricting maps and primary dates.

California

Last Friday, February 10, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Republicans over the new congressional district map. The suits dismissal means that commission-drawn maps will be used in the 2012 elections.

Connecticut

Last Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court accepted a map of the state’s new congressional districts drawn by court-appointed special master Nathaniel Persily. The map makes only minor changes to the existing districts and closely resembles a plan put forth by Democrats. Republicans argued in court that the map was a continuation of past gerrymandering, but ultimately saw that charge rejected.

The map was a long time coming. It began with the legislative reapportionment committee, who failed to produce a map by their deadline of September 15. The committee members were then appointed to a commission with a ninth member added as a tie-breaking vote. The commission failed to meet their November 30 deadline and, after seeking and receiving an extension until December 21, failed to meet that deadline as well. The court then appointed Persily as special master to finish the job. He will receive $36,400 for his work.

Florida

On Thursday, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) signed Florida's congressional redistricting maps into law. A coalition of community and voting groups are expected to challenge the maps. Meanwhile, a bill has been proposed shielding legislators from subpoena in cases like a redistricting challenge. It would protect lawmakers and their staff "in connection with any action taken or function performed in a legislative capacity." Opponents say the law is meant to hide the partisan motives behind the redistricting bill, but lawmakers say it is merely an attempt to clarify common law on when legislators may be compelled to testify. In other news, Congressman Allen West (R) plans to run in District 18 rather than District 22--West's district was weakened by the new redistricting plan. Also, per state law, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has formally requested a state Supreme Court review of the state's legislative redistricting plans.

Hawaii

After seeing its first plans struck down by the Hawaii Supreme Court, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission has drafted new redistricting maps for the state. The maps exclude another 100,000 non-residents. The plan pairs 10 incumbents in the House and moves a Senate seat from Oahu to the Big Island. The drafts now face a public comment period. Final plans will be approved by February 27.

  • Drafts of the new plans can be found here.

Maryland

With Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) map of legislative districts set to become law on February 25, House legislators have put forth five alternative plans, but none of them have been scheduled for committee hearings. Del. Susan Krebs (R), who submitted one of the alternatives, said all of plans at least deserve the courtesy of a hearing. However, a spokesman for Speaker Michael Busch (D) said that without consensus on an alternative plan, hearings were unlikely and the chamber's time could be better spent. While both sides have criticized the plan, they are mostly focused on other issues at this point, such as same-sex marriage and the budget. No alternative plans were presented in the Senate, but both chambers have filed bills that would change the redistricting process in the future. In Maryland, the governor is responsible for legislative redistricting and appoints an advisory commission to assist in the task. The governor submits a plan to the General Assembly, who can then either adopt it or an alternative plan if they so chose. However, if no alternative is adopted within 45 days, the governor’s plan becomes law.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 35 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 13
Maps submitted for vote: 126 out of 142 (88.7%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), CT (3), DE (2), FL (3), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), KS (2), KY (3), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (3), NC (3), NE (2), NH (1), NJ (3), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (3), RI (3), SC (3), SD (2), TN (3), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), VT (2), WA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 38 (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NM,NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 37 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI,SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WA, 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)

Missouri

On Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in the legal challenge of the state's congressional districts. The case was appealed after a lower court found the new map constitutional. The lower court had initially dismissed the case, but was ordered by the Supreme Court to consider the case on the merits. Meanwhile, a county circuit judge has upheld Missouri's state House districts. This case too is expected to be appealed. In light of these legal challenges, the Missouri State Senate has voted to delay the beginning of the filing period for state candidates from February 28 until March 27. The bill now moves to the House.

New Mexico

Last Friday, February 10, the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected a court-drawn state House map. The new configurations were drawn by retired judge James Hall, who had been appointed by the Supreme Court to begin with. On Monday, February 13, Republicans filed a formal complaint in federal court stemming from the Supreme Court's ruling. The complaint calls for a three-judge panel to overturn the state court's decision.

  • See here for the full complaint filed by Republicans
  • See here for the Supreme Court's ruling

Yesterday, three federal judges were named to oversee the lawsuit. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals appointed appellate judges Harris Hartz Bruce Black, and William Johnson to hear the case. No date has been announced for the hearing. Currently, the filing deadline for state legislative candidates is scheduled for March 20 -- however, that date may be in doubt if no new map is completed in time.

New York

New York’s new congressional districts - and possibly legislative districts as well - may end up being drawn by a court-appointed special master. Plaintiffs in the case of Favors v Cuomo sent a letter to Judge Dora Irizarry last Friday, asking for the quick appointment of a three-judge panel to hear the case as the petitioning period for congressional candidates starts on March 20 and time is running short. The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) has yet to produce a proposal for new district lines. The case was brought last November by a group of civic leaders who are asking for a special master to take over redistricting as the legislature has shown itself incapable of the job. In early December, a group of defendants, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R), filed a motion to dismiss the case, but it was rejected.

On February 13, Irizarry ordered a panel appointed, giving it authority to appoint a special master to draw congressional districts if the legislative stalemate continues. The panel was appointed by the Chief Judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the next day. They will review the lawsuit and decide from there how to proceed. The lines ended up in federal court during the last two rounds of redistricting in 1992 and 2002. Skelos said the move is unnecessary and he is hoping to pass new lines into law by March 1.

This Week's Redistricting Highlight

On February 10, the Kentucky State Legislature approved a congressional redistricting compromise. The plan passed 29-7 in the Senate and 58-26 in the House. Governor Steve Beshear (D) signed the plan on the same day. These events come just one day after a lawsuit was filed asking the courts to take over the congressional redistricting process.

In other news, the state has officially appealed a Franklin Circuit Court decision which invalidated Kentucky's new legislative redistricting plan. The appeal has been fast tracked by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Also, Rep. Mike Nemes has introduced a bill (HB 407) to create a non-partisan redistricting panel.

Virginia

Last Friday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit that was asking the court to invalidate Virginia's congressional map and draw a new one. The lawsuit was based on the failure of the legislature to pass the plan by 2011--the year indicated for the task by the Virginia Constitution. The court did not elaborate on its decision. A similar case is still pending in state court.

Vermont

As the legislature continues its consideration of redistricting plans, Vermont residents had the opportunity to comment on several Senate plans on Wednesday. One the draft plans that has been most controversial moves Charlotte from the Chittenden County Senate district to the district in Addison County. A final vote on legislative plans will likely occur in April.

West Virginia

On February 13, the West Virginia Supreme Court released it full opinion upholding the state's redistricting maps. The decision was handed down in late November. The majority opinion argues that the court may only assess whether the maps satisfy constitutional requirements, not whether those maps are the best way of satisfying the requirements.

  • The full opinion can be found here.

Wisconsin

A federal three-judge panel came down hard on Republican lawmakers who sought to keep documents related to redistricting private under the rights of attorney-client privilege. In a lawsuit filed last year, a three-judge panel ruled that Republicans had to release nearly all of the information that had been requested by plaintiffs. This led to a stir earlier this month when documents came out showing all Republican legislators, with the exception of two senators and two representatives, signed legal agreements not to discuss the maps while they were in progress. A memo of talking points was also released that instructed Republican legislators to ignore public comments about the map wherever they differed from private discussions.

Despite the order, Republicans continued to seek to keep 84 documents, mostly emails, confidential. Immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, who also sued Republicans over the maps, said the earlier order was clear and the documents must be released. The group contends that open meeting laws and the state Constitution were violated by Republicans when they drafted their maps in secrecy. On Thursday the three-judge panel agree the documents could not be kept secret and forced Republicans to release them, saying it was “an all but shameful attempt” to keep redistricting out of the public eye. Most of the documents are communications between GOP-hired attorneys and legislative staffers working on the map. They indicate that a large amount of the public testimony given in favor of the maps was choreographed by Republicans.

A public hearing was held at the Capitol this week, urging the Legislature to adopt the Redistricting Reform Act, which is based on Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process.

Wyoming

On Tuesday, the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee approved an amendment to the proposed redistricting plan that protects Sen. Curt Meier (R) by extending District 10 northward to encompass his residence. The bill faces a final vote today.

See also