Redistricting Roundup: Virginia legislature sends maps to governor's desk, inching closer to an on-time completion of the process
By Geoff Pallay
|Quote of the Week|
"I call this the Charlie Sheen version of redistricting. It's basically all about winning. It's winning for the incumbents who are already in power and winning for the parties in power - the Democrats in Assembly and the Republicans in the Senate. They draw these lines with that sole concern in mind."
Lawmakers in Arkansas completed their task of re-drawing the Congressional map. The highly contentious process ultimately concluded after much compromise when Governor Mike Beebe (D) signed the bill for the new map on Thursday. The map is generally viewed as maintaining the status quo, with critics pointing to the highly warped shapes of the 4 Congressional districts. The center of the debate was around whether to move Fayetteville from the 3rd to the 4th Congressional District. Ultimately, the city remains in the 3rd District.
California, embarking on a highly revamped redistricting process this year, has begun hosting public input hearings across the state. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will hold 67 meetings between now and July 2011, with the goal to garner public opinion on how new maps should look. Thus far, the state's process has been far from controversial, as partisan sides have already begun to cry foul. The commission hired a map-drawing consultant, as well as a legal firm to facilitate compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The hirings were criticized predominantly by some Republicans in the state, alleging that the commission is leaning too far left. However, Republican commission members maintained that the final maps will not be influenced by partisan interests.
Indiana Republican's proposed several new redistricting maps on Monday, detailing changes to the state's congressional and legislative districts. The maps, created by the Republican-controlled legislature, will likely benefit GOP incumbents and weaken Democratic opposition. Most notably, the map places Congressional District 2 in Republican hands. Joe Donnelly (D), who currently represents the district, is considering a run for the US Senate or the governorship, but also notes that his new district would have voted 49% in favor of President Obama and is still open to Democrats. In addition, the map strengthens Republican Congressmen Larry Bucshon and Todd Young in Districts 8 and 9, respectively. Senate President David Long (R) stated that he expects the districts to stay competitive and argued that the maps are more compact than the current maps drawn by Democrats in 2001. However, opponents of the maps argue that the political motivations of the plan are clear.
On the state level, the plan also seems to benefit Republican interests across the state. In the House, eight of the new districts would have no incumbent while 10 would be home to two incumbents. Of these 10, three pair Republicans, three pair Democrats, and four pair Republicans and Democrats. While some of these changes may be politically motivated, demographic changes have also favored Republicans. Twenty-one of the 30 house districts that lost population are currently controlled by Democrats. With an existing 37-13 Republican majority in the Senate, political changes were less dramatic. No senate incumbents were paired together. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) stated that maps were created with an aim to eliminate gerrymandering and create compact districts. Critics, however, charge that maps should strive for compact districts and increased competition. According to state Democrats, the proposal would reduce the number of competitive districts from 24 to 14 and make most districts without an incumbent strongly Republican.
- The congressional plan can be found here.
- The senate plan can be found here.
- The house plan can be found here.
- An alternative Democratic proposal can be found here.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed: 14|
|Next state deadline?|| Indiana|
|Maps submitted for vote: 14||MS (2), LA (3), AR (1), VA (2), IA (3), NJ (2), MO (1)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||2 (AR,IA)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||2 (NJ,IA)|
|This week in redistricting|
This week Virginia sent legislative maps the Governor's desk and took key steps in passing the state's congressional plan. On Monday, the Virginia House of Delegates concurred with the legislative redistricting plan passed by the senate on April 7. According to an agreement between legislative leadership, each chamber drew its own maps which reflect the partisan interests of their respective chamber. Backlash against the partisan nature of the plan has been swift.
Douglas Smith, of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, reports that the new districts are even worse than the maps created after the 2000 Census. Notably, there is a higher frequency of split counties, separated common-sense communities, and less compact districts. This view was corroborated in a policy report by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. In addition to these criticisms, Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart and local NAACP chapter President Ralph Smith held a joint press conference to attack the State Senate's plan. The county will be divided among six distinct districts, despite having sufficient population for two individual, distinct districts. Smith and Stewart charge that this redistricting plan dilutes Prince William's influence in the Capitol and dilutes the clout of minority voters. However, Senate Democrats rejected these allegations, arguing that the maps preserve minority voting power by preserving existing majority-minority districts and creating three new ones in Northern Virginia. In addition, the caucus argued that having a vote in six different districts actually amplifies the county's influence.
On Tuesday, the Virginia House of Delegates passed its proposed congressional maps by a 71-23 margin. House Republicans, who hold a 59-39 advantage in the chamber, backed the plan. The incumbent-friendly map also garnered the support of the state's congressional delegation, including both its Republican and Democratic members. Senate Democrats, however, passed an amended version out of committee which attempts to create a second, minority-heavy district. Before the Senate took a final vote, legislators agreed to break from the process and return prior to the end of the month.
Governor Bob McDonnell (R), who must approve the both plans, created the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission earlier in the year to be a bi-partisan influence on the process. While the commission's advice went largely ignored, it remains to be seen whether McDonnell's disposition towards less partisan maps will compel him to reject the current plan and further extend the redistricting process. However, with primary elections scheduled for August 23, 2011, -- and a [[|signature filing deadline for candidates of June 15, 2011 -- Virginia is on a short timeline to complete the process and settle on new maps.
The state's newly formed Redistricting Task Force will hold several informational meetings around the state. So far, exact times and locations have been set for only two of the meetings. The first will be held on Wednesday, May 4 from 7-8:30pm in the Berkeley County Court House. The second will be held on Wednesday, May 11 from 7-8:30pm in the Ohio County Courthouse. Details on the remaining meetings can be found here.
Public meetings to gather input on redistricting have been announced by the legislature. Six meetings from May-August will take place across Wyoming. The committee also adopted principles for the process. No maps are likely to emerge until August at the earliest.