Redistricting Roundup: A holiday gift for candidates as states approve new maps before end of the year

December 23, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week’s Roundup

Texas redistricting remains mired in turmoil and uncertainty two weeks after the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked Texas’ court-drawn interim maps pending a full hearing in January. With the 2012 elections knocking on their doors, Texas officials scrambled to come up with solutions for signature filing deadlines, primary dates, and other time sensitive election items. After a week of debate over whether to have a single or split primary election, Republicans and Democrats came to a consensus, and last Friday the San Antonio court announced that Texas would have a single primary election on April 3, 2012.

Any sense of stability that came with the announcement of an agreed upon primary date was disrupted this week as local government groups protested the April 3rd primary plan on practical grounds. On Wednesday, a sizable group of county government groups filed a motion with the San Antonio court expressing concern over seemingly impossible timetable imposed on local governments under the current primary scheme. County commissions are required to have precinct boundaries updated and finalized by January 31. Moreover, updating precinct boundaries will trigger a cascade of subsequent steps, like updating voter registration files and sending out new voter registration certificates, which aren’t feasible by the February 15th deadline for these actions. The counties argue that each of these steps takes 3-4 weeks at a minimum and that they could be looking at having to do it in a fraction of that time. The Supreme Court is set to begin hearings on the interim maps January 9th with a decision to follow some time after.

Yesterday, the Texas Municipal League also spoke up on behalf of local governments, asking the court to be mindful of the practical realities that city and county governments have to operate under. Specifically, the Municipal League called the court’s attention to local government elections scheduled for May 12. The League’s filing requests that if the primary has to be moved again, for it not to be rescheduled between May 3 and May 21 so municipalities can utilize electronic voting machines.

The San Antonio federal court responded to the concerns raised by county governments yesterday, asking officials on all sides to get together and file an advisory with the court by December 28th.

Meanwhile, earlier this week was the initial signature filing deadline in Texas for candidates declaring to run for office. However, the deadline is in name only, as the state has announced that once a map is chosen by the courts, the filing period will be re-opened again. It is unclear how many candidates have simply chosen to wait or if a majority of them have indeed already filed.

State news

Alaska

After a legal defeat last week, the City of Petersburg has decided against appealing the decision. Meanwhile, a group of Fairbanks residents, the only plaintiffs remaining, continued their fight against the state’s legislative districts. The residents contend that the state failed to consider differences within the Native Alaskan community that impact the calculation of how many VRA districs the state should have. The Fairbanks residents argue for four VRA districts instead of the new map’s five. Attorneys for the state disagree, arguing that these differences are not relevant to the calculation.

Arizona

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission approved congressional and legislative maps this week by a vote of 3-2. The new congressional map creates four Republican-leaning districts, two Democratic-leaning districts and three competitive districts. The state legislative map contains 16 districts deemed safe for Republicans, 10 that are safe for Democrats and four that are considered competitive. The two Republican commissioners voted against the new maps. The maps must now be approved by the Department of Justice.

Redistricting Maps, approved December 2011

This is the tentatively approved congressional map.

This is the tentatively approved state legislative map.

California

Earlier this week, an article was published by Pro Publica, chronicling alleged Democratic involvement and “manipulation” in the 14-member independent commission’s redrawing of the new maps. Democratic Party officials have criticized the article while Republicans are supporting it. Other analysts say that the article simply points out how Democratic Party officials played “politics” better than their Republican counterparts. The primary point of the story: House Democrats met in secret and setup an elaborate effort to fool the bipartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission into drawing a plan that helps their incumbents. The full article can be seen here.

Connecticut

For the first time in history, the job of redrawing the state’s congressional districts falls to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The task became the court’s responsibility after the redistricting commission failed to agree to a plan by Wednesday’s deadline. The commission originally had a deadline of November 30, but was granted an extension. Democrats, who currently hold all five congressional seats, sought as few changes as possible in the new map, while Republicans pushed to redraw the oddly shaped 5th District and move Bridgeport from the 4th District to the 3rd. GOP House Leader Lawrence Cafero accused the Democrats of playing politics and seeking to retain the same districts in order hold onto all of their seats. Democrats, likewise, called the Bridgeport move “purely political.”

The court has the choice to redraw the map itself, seek an outside source for the task, appoint a special master to do it, or order the redistricting committee back to work. It has a deadline of February 15, 2012 for a final plan.

Quote of the Week

“This is the best map we could put together to reflect the composition of the state.”[1]– Linda McNulty, Democratic Commissioner

Georgia

Department of Justice pre-approval for Georgia’s new districts boundaries is expected today. The state has also sought approval of the plan in DC District Court. The state will drop the case if the maps are pre-approved.

Maryland

A three-judge panel heard arguments on Tuesday in a case challenging the newly approved congressional districts. The case, filed by nine citizens on November 10, charges the state with civil rights violations as a result of the new map, which, they say, includes political and racial gerrymandering. The state Republican Party threw its support behind the suit, stating that redistricting should not be done on partisanship or incumbent preference.

While the court has said an opinion would be made by the end of January, the Attorney General’s office filed pleadings asking the court to issue an opinion by the end of this week. Maryland’s primary is April 3, 2012, with the deadline for congressional candidates falling on January 11. Under federal law, overseas ballots must be sent out by February 17. A delayed ruling could jeopardize the state’s scheduled primary date. Judge Roger Titus said the court has the ability to order a new primary date if necessary, or order local primaries be held separate from those for Congress and the president.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee released a proposed map of new legislative districts on December 16. The plan increases the number of majority black districts from 10 to 12 and asks the governor to consider creating a Hispanic-majority district in Montgomery County. Officials held a public hearing on the map on December 22. Governor Martin O’Malley (D) will submit the final version of the plan to the General Assembly in January. The state does not have legislative elections in 2012.

Republicans initially criticized the plan for being divisive and highly partisan, but went on to question the integrity of the entire plan after it was discovered that Richard Stewart, one of five members of the Redistricting Advisory Committee, pleaded guilty last week to failing to pay nearly $4 million in taxes connected with a business he owns. The governor said Stewart never informed him of his legal troubles and would have no further role in the redistricting process.

Mississippi

On Tuesday, federal judges released a plan to re-draw the four congressional districts. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the plan will allow the state to hold 2012 elections without obtaining pre-clearance from the Justice Department. The new map reduces the number of split counties from eight to four. The map is predominantly unchanged from the one used during the last decade.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 31
Next state deadline? Washington
January 1, 2012
Maps submitted for vote: 104 out of 142 (73.2%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (3), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (3), SC (3), SD (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 30 (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, UT, WV, WI, )
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 33 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, 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)

Michigan

Minority and labor groups challenging Michigan’s State House districts received encouraging news this week. The US Department of Justice plans to investigate Michigan’s legislative redistricting efforts. The decision comes after a December 21 meeting with attorneys for the plaintiffs.

Missouri

After sharply criticizing the legislative districts drawn by a panel of judges, Missouri lawmakers representing both parties have requested records from the judicial process under the state’s open records law. It’s not clear if the judicial panel is subject to the law, and at least one legislator has called for a constitutional amendment to guarantee that future panels are bound by the law.

New Hampshire

On Tuesday, the Special Committee on Redistricting voted 12-5 to adopt the House Republican Leadership Plan for new House districts. They also passed an order that the plan be implemented by the Secretary of State without going to Governor John Lynch (D) first. The proposed bill now goes to the House of Representatives and then to the Senate. The plan has been criticized for linking some city wards with towns and for not giving some towns their own representative even though they meet the population criteria.

New York

Common Cause New York released proposed maps for what they call “fair, non-politicized” congressional and state legislative districts on Monday. The congressional plan creates at least four districts where incumbents would have to potentially face one another. The plan spreads the current 23rd and 24th districts among four other potential districts, setting up a face off between incumbent Republicans Richard Hanna and Ann Marie Buerkle. The new 19th district would set up a race between incumbents Maurice Hinchey (D) and Chris Gibson (R). Other matchups include Nita Lowey (D) and Nan Hayworth (R), as well as Eliot Engel (D) and Jose E. Serrano (D).

It is unclear when the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment will release its maps. A meeting of the group was cancelled earlier this month and another has not been scheduled. Assemblyman and LATFOR member John McEneny (D) said they have been anticipating the Common Cause maps and will look at incorporating parts of them into the group’s plan. At least some headway was made yesterday, as McEneny announced a deal struck by legislators to count 46,043 of the state’s 58,000 prisoners in their home neighborhoods, rather than in the district where they are imprisoned. The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed 56 percent of New Yorkers support the creation of an independent commission to redraw the lines.

North Carolina

On Monday, December 19, a court hearing the challenges to North Carolina’s redistricting maps declined to fast-track the case, siding with attorneys for the state. One of the judges for the case called the expedited timetable “extraordinary.” The plaintiffs, state Democrats and minority groups, worry that delay will force the state to use the new maps in 2012. The state’s attorneys argued that the plaintiff’s legal arguments were a veiled attempt to achieve partisan aims. Whether or not the new maps are used, observers expect the state’s primary to be delayed if the case goes to trial. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 12.

Oklahoma

After repeated attempts to invalidate Oklahoma’s new legislative districts, term-limited Senator Jim Wilson (D) turned to the initiative process to invalidate the maps. Unfortunately for Wilson, his plan to invalidate the maps and institute a bipartisan process now appears unlikely to garner sufficient signatures. Wilson said a late start contributed to the stunted signature collection.

Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 136-61 to approve a Republican proposal for new congressional districts. The Senate passed the plan by a vote of 26-24 last week. Population losses require the state to drop a seat in the U.S. House. The new map creates at least one potential incumbent matchup, drawing current Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into the new 12th district. Altmire said he plans to run in 2012, while Critz has not yet commented on the matter.

Democrats criticized Republicans for rushing their plan through the legislature. It wasn’t released to the public until December 13, saw little debate, and was enacted without any public hearings or public comment period. Democrats introduced their own map as an amendment, but it failed. Governor Tom Corbett (R) signed the plan into law yesterday.

This Week’s Redistricting Highlight

Earlier today the New Jersey congressional redistricting commission signaled its decision on a new map, redrawing the new districts to reduce the total seats from 13 to 12. Early reports are that the current incumbent who lost out the most is Steve Rothman (D). The new map places Rothman in a district with Republican incumbent Scott Garrett — with the GOP holding a partisan advantage in the district.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Reapportionment Commission voted to approve new congressional and legislative maps on Monday. The House and Senate maps passed unanimously, while the congressional map was approved 11-6. The divided congressional vote stems from a dispute over moving Republican neighborhoods out of U.S. Rep. David Cicilline’s (D) district and into Rep. Jim Langevin’s. Republicans, and Langevin, criticized the map for moving more residents than was necessary in order to help Cicilline’s bid for re-election.

The commission will submit a report to the General Assembly in January. From there, the House and Senate will address the new maps as legislation using the normal legislative process. Once passed by both chambers the plans must be signed by the governor.

West Virginia

A federal case over West Virginia’s congressional districts continued this week, as both sides filed briefs in the case. The Jefferson County Commission is responsible for the suit and argues that the new 2nd District violates compactness requirements and contains too many residents. Attorneys for the state argue that the plan, known as the “Mason County flip” because it only moved Mason County, was able to preserve county lines and avoid incumbent matchups without significant changes. Notably, Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D) opposes the legislative maps and agrees with the plaintiffs that they dilute the Eastern Panhandle. Oral arguments in the case will be heard on December 27.

One Response to “Redistricting Roundup: A holiday gift for candidates as states approve new maps before end of the year”