Redistricting Roundup: Virginia legislature sends maps to governor's desk, inching closer to an on-time completion of the process

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April 15, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

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 was 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.

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."[1]

-- Alex Camarda, director of public policy and advocacy for Citizens Union, commenting on why the redistricting process is flawed.

State news

Alaska

On Wednesday, the Alaska Redistricting Board released its preliminary maps. Two distinct plans -- as well as several regional alternatives -- will now be subject to public evaluation. Public hearings have been setup next week to acquire feedback. Ultimately, the final maps are due by June 13, with a litigation deadline of 30 days after that.

Arkansas

Lawmakers in Arkansas completed the task of re-drawing their Congressional map. After many compromises, the highly contentious process ultimately concluded 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 debate centered around whether to move Fayetteville from the 3rd to the 4th Congressional District. Ultimately, the city remained in the 3rd District.

One snafu took place early this week when a blogger discovered that two precincts had been omitted from the final map. The typo was clarified and amended -- but the procedural error forced the legislature to stay one extra day to vote again on the map. This was essentially a $20,700 error -- the cost of keeping the session going a single extra day.

California

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 of gathering public opinion on how new maps should look. Thus far, the state's process has been far from controversial, as partisan interests 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 Republicans in the state who allege that the hired companies lean too far left. However, Republican commission members maintain that the final maps will not be influenced by partisan interests.

Colorado

Today is the deadline for the legislatively-appointed commission members to be appointed in Colorado. The 11-member commission is comprised of members selected in the following manner:

Once the 4 legislative appointees are named, the governor has 10 days to name 3 members. The Colorado Supreme Court has until May 5 to name the final 4 members.

If redistricting commission is not created by May 11, lawmakers will be forced to return for a special session.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 14
Next state deadline? Indiana
April 29
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, LA)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 2 (NJ, LA)

Delaware

The Senate unanimously passed a bill that would open all redistricting proceedings and internal communication to the Freedom of Information Act. Currently, the process is done behind closed doors. The measure -- viewed as a positive step toward transparency -- still requires House and gubernatorial approval.

Georgia

On Wednesday, the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee held its first meeting to discuss Georgia redistricting. Meanwhile, the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office is scheduled to begin its map-drawing process today. The legislature is expected to return on August 15 to vote on maps.

Indiana

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. 21 of the 30 house districts that lost population are currently controlled by Democrats. However, with an existing 37-13 Republican majority in the Senate, 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 as well as 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.

Democrats have tried to slow the process down. However, the introduction of maps was delayed by the 36-day Democratic-boycott.

Republican-sponsored plans:

  • The congressional plan can be found here.
  • The senate plan can be found here.
  • The house plan can be found here.

Democratic-sponsored plans:

  • The congressional plan can be found here.
  • The senate plan can be found here.
  • The house plan can be found here.
This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Faced with an absolute deadline of 6 p.m. April 13, 2011 to adjourn the redistricting session and under pressure from the Governor and the majority of the Congressional delegation to set Congressional map making aside until 2012, the Louisiana legislature pulled off a remarkable feat given the tone of the redistricting meetings so far. The House, Senate, and Congressional redistricting bills are now completed and en route to the U.S. Justice Department for approval. The Congressional plan wound up preserving two vertical seats in the north, avoiding a promised gubernatorial veto but provoking outrage from Bayou residents. Additionally, the Legislative Black Caucus, which failed to get as many minority districts as it sought into any of the maps, has promised legal action. A lawsuit is likely to be filed sometime in the near future.

Iowa

The Iowa State Legislature has approved the first round of redistricting maps offered by the Iowa Legislative Services Agency. The plan passed by a 48-1 margin in the State Senate and a 90-7 margin in the Iowa House. All three maps -- Congressional, Senate, and House -- were included in the proposal.

The maps are generally acknowledged to favor congressional Democrats, but GOP leaders supported the plan rather than risk a new round of maps less friendly to state legislative incumbents. The few no votes surrounded the splitting of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City into different congressional districts and the failure of the maps to give distinct representation to some rural and urban interests. The bill now moves to Governor Terry Branstad who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Under the congressional plan, four incumbent representatives were paired in two districts. Rather than compete against an existing incumbent, Dave Loebsack and Tom Latham have announced that they will move to the 2nd and 3rd districts, respectively, to seek re-election.

Mississippi

With the session adjourned and lawmakers back in their districts for the summer campaign season, Mississippi has seen her redistricting efforts once again fall to the courts. A recently named three-judge federal panel will take over the process. Senate President Terry Burton has asked the panel to sever the Senate map, which did pass both chambers and allow Senate candidates to run under those new districts. If he succeeds, Mississippi will only be arguing the House maps before the court.

A second legal action NAACP v. Haley Barbour et al, now has its third judge. The first presiding officer recused himself after a family member filed to run for the legislature and a second judge stepped down after admitting his own lifetime NAACP membership made him a poor choice to hear the case. Whether all this definitely means Mississippi will have back-to-vack elections in 2011 and 2012 is not yet certain, but some key figures, including Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, have stated they would prefer that to functioning under a less than ideal map.

Missouri

On Thursday, the Senate approved legislation by a 22-11 vote to redraw Congressional districts. That plan must go before the House, which had already passed its own version. Earlier in the week, the House map was approved by a 106-53 vote. While the maps are largely similar, there are still minor details that will need to be worked out.

North Carolina

A House bill was introduced that would alter the redistricting process to mirror that of Iowa's. The bill has bipartisan support, and a press conference was held to announce the legislation. However, the bill would not take effect until the next redistricting cycle after the 2020 Census.

Oklahoma

The House Redistricting Committee unanimously approved a Congressional redistricting bill by a 21-0 vote on Thursday. The legislation is not expected to make any extreme alterations to the current map. Oklahoma has five Congressional districts -- the same as after the 2000 census.

South Dakota

Named in mid-March, two legislative panels will handle redistricting for South Dakota. This month, the panel announced that it will hold hearings throughout the summer to address residents' redistricting concerns. Public meetings will be held in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, and on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations, the two areas specifically named in the Voting Rights Act. The legislature plans to complete redistricting by October 24, 2011

Texas

The House Redistricting Committee on Wednesday released the first map proposing new lines for the Texas House of Representatives. Representative Burt Solomons (R), Chairman of the Committee said the map is fair and represents population growth. Latinos, who were responsible for the largest portion of Texas's population growth, got one new district. A total of 16 incumbents would find themselves competing against each other in 2012 after having their districts paired under the new map. As expected due to population growth patterns, rural areas such as East Texas and the Western Panhandle are losing representation to more urban areas such as Dallas and San Antonio.

This first proposed map is far from the final word on the new House districts. Additional maps proposing different boundaries for Texas House districts are expected soon.

West Virginia

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.

Wyoming

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.

See also