Redistricting Roundup: Courts reject another redistricting map

March 13, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Other states featured in this week’s Roundup

Florida has become the 15th state in the nation to have its redistricting maps altered by judicial action. Today, the Florida Supreme Court issued a 234-page decision rejecting the state’s new Senate maps–approved by lawmakers on February 9. The decision also upheld the new state House districts and provided extensive interpretation of the state’s 2010 redistricting reform amendment.

While details are still emerging, the Court found eight districts unconstitutional and also ruled that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others. The Florida Constitution requires the Court to review legislative redistricting plans. If the Court finds a plan unconstitutional, the Governor must call a new session within five days to correct the district lines — this session may last no longer than 15 days. The revised plan is again submitted to the court for evaluation.

A number of official responses to the decision have already been issued. House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford (R) issues a statement praising his colleagues and commending the court’s affirmation of the House map. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich (D) said the ruling validated her warnings about the fairness of the Senate maps.

  • The full redistricting ruling can be found here.

State news

Arizona

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has said it will run out of money by March 16 if state officials do not appropriate additional funding. A bill passed by the Arizona State Senate will send an additional $1 to the commission. Senate GOP leaders have been opposed to the commission’s maps. In fact, on March 1, senators approved a measure that would eliminate the commission and return the power of drawing maps to the legislature. If the commission shuts down before the fiscal year ends, then there is a chance that it could delay the implementation of maps for the 2012 elections. Commission members have said they may need to take the funding issue to the courts.

California

On February 24, 2012, the California Secretary of State‘s office announced that the measure to repeal the new California State Senate map had qualified for the November 2012 ballot. The commission-drawn map will still be used in the 2012 elections.

Hawaii

Yesterday, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission approved new legislative districts for the state. The first set of legislative maps approved by the Commission were invalidated by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The Commission released draft maps on February 15. However, two further rounds of revisions were made to those drafts, one reunifying communities on Oahu and another addressing concerns that the plan favored House leadership. Opponents of the plan (who prompted the second round of revisions) were not entirely satisfied and hinted at the possibility of more legal action.

  • Hawaii’s new legislative redistricting maps can be found here.
Quote of the Week

“As expected, this ruling confirms that the Senate map violates the people’s wishes to end extreme partisan gerrymandering. I applaud the court for recognizing the need to implement the will of Florida’s voters.”

– Florida State Rep. Perry Thurston (D) commenting on the rejection of the state’s Senate redistricting plan.[1]

Kansas

Last Friday, Kansas lawmakers submitted a slew of proposed congressional maps to the House Redistricting Committee. In total, 18 have been submitted. The Kansas State Senate already approved a bi-partisan congressional map on February 9, 2012. However, conservatives in the House worry that the plan favors Democrats. Most of the plans submitted divide either Topeka or Kansas City and reunify Lawrence. A meeting to narrow down the proposals was held on Monday, March 5. The committee plans to adopt one of the proposals outright, rather than working from scratch.

Kansas has yet to complete and approve its legislative maps.

  • Congressional proposals and drafts can be found here.

Missouri

Last Friday, a federal lawsuit was filed challenging Missouri’s tentative Senate redistricting maps. The maps in question are a revision of earlier maps already struck down by state courts. The lawsuit argues that the revised maps discriminate against rural areas by placing too many voters in several rural districts, thus reducing the number of districts alloted to rural Missouri.

The lawsuit also contends that changes to district numbering will disenfranchise voters by making them wait longer to vote in the state’s staggered Senate elections. Only half of Missouri’s senators are up for election at each biennial election–odd numbers in 2012, evens in 2014. As a result, some voters who have already waited four years to elect senators may be forced to wait another two if they’re moved from an odd-numbered to an even-numbered district.

The bipartisan redistricting commission heard testimony on the preliminary maps on Thursday, March 8. One of the lawyers for the lawsuit was present to testify. In addition, several senators–includingJane Cunningham (R), Jim Lembke (R), and Eric Schmitt (R)–have expressed opposition to the plan. A final vote on the maps is scheduled for Monday, March 12.

Meanwhile, the Missouri State Senate has approved a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment to subject the redistricting commissions to the state’s open meetings laws. House approval is still required.

  • The preliminary state Senate proposal can be found here.
Redistricting Facts
Total States withLawsuits filed: 35 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 15
Maps submitted for vote:131 out of 142 (92.3%)** No votes on initial maps in the followingAL (2)KS (1)ME (2),MT (2)NH (2)NY (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 40/43 (Maps unfinished: KSNH,NY)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 43/50 (Maps unfinished: ALKS,MEMSMTNHNY)
**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)

New Hampshire

This week, the New Hampshire Senate’s plan for new chamber districts won House approval by a vote of 253-91. The Senate passed the bill along party lines by a vote of 19-4 on February 1. The plan includes changes to 18 of the chamber’s 24 districts. It now goes to Gov.John Lynch (D) for final approval. The Senate is expected to vote on the House’s plan sometime this month.

Meanwhile, a new map for the state’s two congressional districts remains elusive. The seats are held by Republicans Frank Guinta andCharlie Bass, and while the task of redistricting technically falls to the Legislature, they unofficially leave the decision up to the congressmen. Both men are concerned that making one district safer would endanger the other, and neither want to be put in a more vulnerable position.

New Mexico

On February 29, 2012, Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement over a court-drawn map. Analysis indicates that the map creates a better election environment for the GOP than the map originally passed by the legislature. The state Supreme Court will still need to lift the stay that was holding up elections.

New York

U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, who has been appointed as special redistricting master, held a public hearing on Monday to collect information on the various proposals she received last week. Lawyers for Republican and Democratic leaders both urged Mann to defer to the legislative proposals and to avoid drawing incumbents into the same districts. Mann asked why she should put those considerations before the guidelines set out in the state Constitution, which, she noted, calls for contiguous and compact districts while not mentioning incumbency at all.

The following day, nearly a week before the deadline, Mann released her proposed map. Her plan closely resembles the geographically compact lines proposed by Common Cause and other good-government groups. In order to reduce the number of districts from 29 to 27, it eliminates Maurice Hinchey‘s district, as proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, and gets rid of Bob Turner’s (R) district in Queens. The GOP has objected to the move against Turner’s district, saying it would disenfranchise Russian and Jewish neighborhoods and break up traditional communities.

The legislature has until March 15 to come to an agreement on their own plan, otherwise Mann’s will be put into effect. There are currently ongoing negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and legislative leaders, but a deal has yet to be reached.

Pennsylvania

Following the state Supreme Court’s rejection of new legislative district maps on January 23, Republican leaders spoke of quick action in order to get new maps approved for the 2012 elections. Since then, however, all the public has seen from the Legislative Reapportionment Commission is a series of delays. The first meeting of the commission following the rejection of the maps was on February 22. It was speculated that new maps might be proposed and a vote taken, but the meeting lasted five minutes and saw no vote. The next meeting was scheduled for February 28, but a press release issued the day before announced that it had been rescheduled for March 2 without giving any reason why. Another press release on March 1 announced that the meeting would be delayed once more. Again a reason was not given, and a new date has not yet been set.

In a letter sent Wednesday, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) asked Commission chairman Stephen McEwen to hold a vote next week. McEwen said that is simply not possible as talks have been unproductive and holding a meeting would be useless. He said he hopes a vote will be held the week of March 19.

This Week’s Redistricting Highlight

Republicans filed a lawsuit in Rhode Islandagainst the new state House districts on Thursday. The suit claims that the new lines were drawn for political reasons in order to help Democrats in the state, specifically freshman Rep. Cale Keable. The argument is with Districts 47 and 48, where only around 300 people needed to be moved from district 48 to 47 but 1,500 were moved instead. The suit asks the court to adopt a plan for the state’s northwest corner submitted by House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R). Under that plan, Donald Fox (R), who nearly defeated Keable in 2010, would remain in the 47th District and be able to challenge Keable again.

South Carolina

A trial continued this week for a lawsuit concerning the new state house and congressional districts. The suit accuses Republican leaders of drawing districts to dilute minority representation. Republican lawyers said the maps were drawn to keep communities together and race was not a factor. Judges are expected to make a decision today.

Virginia

The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill conditionally delaying the state primary if the new congressional redistricting plan is notpre-approved by the DOJ by April 3. The primary would move from June 12 to August 7.

West Virginia

Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D) has proposed a bill instructing the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the possibility of creating an independent redistricting commission. The bill is known as SCR 69 — the text and bill history can be found here.Sen. Unger was an opponent of the congressional plan recently overturned by a panel of federal judges.

Wyoming

Last Thursday, the Wyoming State Legislature gave final approval to the state’s legislative districts. A House amendment to the bill preserving the seat of Sen. Curt Meier (R) was retained. On Tuesday, March 6 Governor Matt Mead (R) signed the bill into law.

  • The approved plans can be found here.

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