Tag Archive | "Kansas"

Kansas Senate confirms Lana Gordon as Labor Secretary

February 19, 2013

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February 14, 2013

Kansas Secretary of Labor Lana Gordon

By Greg Janetka

TOPEKA, Kansas: The Kansas State Senate unanimously confirmed Lana Gordon as the state’s Secretary of Labor on February 7. Gordon had been serving as interim secretary since September 2012 when Gov. Sam Brownback (R) asked Karin Brownlee to step down for undisclosed reasons.[1][2][3]

Brownlee said she did not leave the position voluntarily and did not sign a letter of resignation. “I think the governor and I measure performance in different ways. It’s hard to understand,” she stated.[4]

Gordon is a former Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives. She represented District 52 from 2001 until her appointment to the department of labor by Gov. Brownback on September 20, 2012.[2]

Kansas Secretary of State Kobach to continue push against illegal immigration in 2013

November 30, 2012

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By Greg Janetka

TOPEKA, KansasKansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has been called an “American hero,” as well as “America’s Deporter-in-Chief,” an “anti-immigration hawk,” and a “nativist” lawyer for his ubiquitous role in the nation-sweeping campaign for immigration reform.[1] This included an on-again, off-again advisory role with Mitt Romney‘s campaign, which has been credited by some with killing the presidential hopeful’s chances to win over Latino voters.[2]Despite criticism from both sides of the aisle, including an ongoing recall attempt, Kobach shows no signs of backing down on his hardline stance.[3]

Recently, strict immigration measures stalled in the Kansas Legislature as it drew little interest from neither President of the Senate Steve Morris (R) orSpeaker of the House Mike O’Neal (R). Next year, however, looks to be different as Morris was defeated in his primary this year and O’Neal is retiring from the House. With the GOP solidly holding both chambers of the legislature, the party’s goal in the 2012 elections was not simply to elect Republicans, but to elect the most conservative of Republicans. Kobach now believes he has the votes to push through some of the measures he has advocated for in the past.[4]

Not all Republicans have stood with Kobach, however. For his part, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has said the legislature should leave it to the federal government, calling illegal immigration “primarily a federal issue.” Meanwhile, in a practicality-over-politics move, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman applied for a wavier from the federal government this year that would allow an arrangement where illegal immigrants could work for willing employers. The request was in response to a shortage of hired hands to work ranches and farms.[5]

While Rodman was backed by both conservative farm advocates and liberal social groups, Kobach stood in direct opposition, stating, “I hate to answer with the old adage about comparing apples and oranges, but to a certain extent, the crops rotting in the field argument is comparing – maybe not apples to oranges, but oranges to soybeans.”[6]

Ballotpedia’s 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Kansas Congressional Seats

November 02, 2012

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November 1, 2012

By Ballotpedia’s Congressional team

Kansas’ Congressional Elections in 2012
U.S. Senate Election? U.S. House seats Possible competitive races?
No 4 0

TOPEKA: Kansas: Kansas has four U.S. House seats on the ballot in 2012. Three of the four U.S. House incumbents face at least one challenger in the general election. Tim Huelskamp, the Republican incumbent of the 1st congressional district, is facing no opposition.

All four Congressional seats are currently held by the Republican Party.

In Kansas, most polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Central Time as Kansas mandates in its state laws that the polls must be open a minimum of twelve (12) hours. Counties may open the polls earlier and close them later.[1]

Kansas is divided between Central and Mountain time zones.

See also: State Poll Opening and Closing Times (2012)

The Center for Voting and Democracy (Fairvote) projects that Democrats will win zero districts while Republicans will win all four. It is unlikely that any of the races will be competitive.[2]

Here is a complete list of U.S. House candidates appearing on the general election ballot in Kansas:

New task force created by Kansas governor seeks to increase efficiency of school spending

October 09, 2012

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October 8, 2012

Kansas

By Greg Janetka

TOPEKA, Kansas: The School Efficiency Task Force, recently created and appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R), officially got under way today as they seek ways to put more state funding directly into classrooms.[1] Today’s schedule includes two and a half hours for a presentation from the Kansas Policy Institute, a free-market advocacy group, and hour and a half long presentations from representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas State Department of Education.[2]

Brownback announced the creation of the task force on September 28 with the goal of meeting the state law that requires at least 65 percent of state funds for school districts be spent in the classroom or on instruction. According to the Governor’s office, only 15 of the state’s 286 school districts currently meet that goal.[3]

However, there has been disagreement over key points. Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley stated, “There’s two fallacies to that statement. First, there’s no state law requiring 65 percent, it’s a policy goal. Secondly, every single school district — all 286 school districts in Kansas — invest at least 65 percent into the classroom.”[4] Additionally, Democrats have criticized the governor for failing to appoint anyone to the panel who actually works in a school while packing it with CPAs.[5]

Sunshine Review Applauds Shawnee, Kansas

September 10, 2012

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Alexandria, VA – Michael Barnhart, President of Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit, pro-transparency organization released the following statement regarding how Shawnee, Kansas improved their transparency grade.

“Sunshine Review applauds Shawnee, Kansas for improving their transparency score from a ‘B‘ to an ‘A+.’ By enhancing their website and increasing access to information, Shawnee is proactively championing government openness and transparency.

Taxpayers in Shawnee should be proud that their government learned from Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist and made rapid improvements to allow more light into their government. We urge all of Kansas’ city and county governments to put the necessary resources into increasing their transparency like Shawnee has done.”

Kansas district attorney investigates Governor, legislators for priviate meetings

August 30, 2012

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August 30, 2012

By Greg Janetka

TOPEKA, Kansas: Following an investigation into private diners Gov. Sam Brownback (R) held for state legislators at his official residence, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor scolded lawmakers for being reckless and uninformed regarding the state’s open meetings law, but said he could only prove technical violations occurred.[1]

The seven meetings in question took place in January between Brownback and more than 90 legislators, almost all of whom are Republicans. The Kansas Open Meetings Act generally prohibits meetings where government business is discussed, unless public notice or access to the meetings is allowed. In his report, however, Taylor notes that government bodies are only required to give notice of meetings to people and organizations who request it in advance and that citizens who do not ask to be notified are unable to file complaints after the fact.[2]

Taylor is not pursuing the matter any further, but rather recommended that legislators be better informed about the open meetings law and work to develop future legislative guidelines. “We’re not saying ignorance is an excuse this time. What we are saying is that technical violations occurred,” he said.[3]

2012 elections preview: Kansas voters to select winners in congressional, legislative primaries

August 06, 2012

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By Ballotpedia’s Congressional and State legislative teams

The primary season continues with elections in Kansas tomorrow.

Here’s what to watch for in Kansas, where polling places will be open from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM Central Time .[1]

Contested Primaries in Kansas — August 7, 2012
U.S. House
(4 seats)
State Legislature
(165 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 2 (50%) 16 (9.70%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 0 (0%) 83 (50.30%)

Congress

United States House of Representatives elections in Kansas, 2012

Heading into the election, the Republican Party holds all four of the Congressional seats from Kansas.

Kansas has a total of 4 seats on the ballot in 2012. A total of 9 candidates have filed to run, made up of 5 Democratic challengers, 0 Republican challengers, and 4 incumbents. Including states with primaries tomorrow, a total of 353 U.S. House seats have held primaries. Thus far, 57.79% of possible primaries have been contested. Kansas‘s contested figure of 25% (2 out of 8 possible party primaries) is less competitive than the national average.

All four of Kansas’ incumbents are running unopposed in their primaries tomorrow. Tim Huelskamp is running unopposed for re-election in both the Republican primary and the general election, as no Republican or Democratic candidates filed to run against him in the 1st district. Incumbent Kevin Yoder is running unopposed in the 3rd district, but will face competition from Libertarian candidate Joel Balam in the general election. Incumbent Lynn Jenkins is running unopposed in the 2nd district Republican primary and Mike Pompeo is running unopposed in the Republican primary in the 4th district.

There are no contested Republican primaries, because all four incumbents are running on the Republican ticket unopposed.

The only two Democratic primaries that are contested are also the only the districts with any Democratic candidates running. In the 2nd district, candidates Scott Barnhart, Tobias Schlingensiepen, and Robert V. Eye are running for the nomination. The winner will face incumbent Lynn Jenkins (R) and Libertarian candidate Dennis Hawver in the general election. Candidates Esau A. Freeman and Robert Leon Tillman are running against each other for the nomination in the 4th district, and the winner will face incumbent Mike Pompeo (R) and Libertarian candidate Thomas Jefferson in the general election.

Thomas Jefferson, formerly known as Jack Talbert, is a Libertarian candidate who officially changed his name on July 23, 2012 as part of what he refers to as the Thomas Jefferson Project.[2][3][4]

Members of the U.S. House from Kansas — Partisan Breakdown
Party As of August 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 0 Pending
Republican Party 4 Pending
Total 4 4

State legislature

Kansas State Senate elections, 2012 and Kansas House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 165 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 — 40 Senate seats and 125 House seats.

There are 16 (9.70%) contested Democratic primaries and 83 (50.30%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there will be 99 races tomorrow with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 30.00% figure of total contested primaries in Kansas is higher than the current national contested average of 19.38%.

The main reason for the high number of contested Republican primaries has to do with a divided GOP – conservative members of the party, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, stand on one side, while more moderate Republicans, backed by former Gov. Bill Graves (R), are on the other. Thus, the primary election has become the main event in many of these districts as the general election will be a mere formality. It is not a question which party will control the legislative chambers, but which faction of the Republican Party.[5]

PACS affiliated with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity have stood with Brownback and have specifically targeted certain moderate Republicans for defeat while backing their challengers.[6] This led to the formation of a new PAC supporting moderates, the Kansas Jobs PAC. Controlled by Republican President of the Senate Steve Morris, the Jobs PAC has drawn large donations from a diverse number of groups, including Morris’ Senate Republican Leadership Committee as well as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Kansas National Education Association, and other labor groups.[7]

No one seems to know how things are going to play out, in no small part due to new district lines. While the Legislature is responsible for redistricting, lawmakers were unable to agree on new maps, sending the task to the courts. It was the first time ever that Kansas’ maps had to be drawn by a court and they didn’t take up the job lightly. As Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University, explained “I think the court tried to make it as chaotic as possible and tried to maximize turnover for no other reason than to teach the Legislature a lesson: Don’t do this again.”[8][9]

Senate

Notable races in the Senate include:

Republican Party District 15: One of many incumbent v. incumbent battles, District 15 incumbent Jeff King will face District 14 incumbent Dwayne Umbarger. A freshman, King was first elected to the Senate in 2011, while Umbarger has served in the chamber for the past 15 years. Umbarger has been targeted by conservative groups for his more moderate views.[10]
Republican Party District 25: Incumbent Jean Schodorf faces a challenge from newcomer Michael O’Donnell. Schodorf has been targeted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC, as well as others, for not being conservative enough. O’Donnell, who is 27, currently serves on the Wichita City Council, which he was elected to in April 2011.[11]
Republican Party District 31: Incumbent Carolyn McGinn is seeking to stave off a challenge by newcomer Gary Mason, the owner and operator of iSi Environmental. McGinn is another incumbent who is been targeted for being too moderate. As of late July, over 250 voters in the county have switched their party affiliation from Democrat or undeclared to Republican. There is no Democrat in the race.[12]
Republican Party District 39: Incumbent Stephen R. Morris was first elected to the Senate in 1993 and has served as President of the Senate since 2004. He is facing a challenge from current state Rep. Larry Powell, who has served in that chamber since 2001. Morris has been targeted by conservatives for defeat. According to fundraising reports filed on July 30, Morris has greatly out raised his opponent, bringing in nearly $89,000 since January 1 and spending over $148,000 on his campaign. Powell, on the other hand, has raised around $29,000 and spent $21,000.[13]

House

Notable races in the House include:

Republican Party District 73: Incumbent Clark Shultz has served in the House since 1997. In 2010 he was re-elected without any opposition in the primary or general election – this time he has both. Opposing Shultz in the primary is newcomer Nicholas Lee Reinecker. In order to stay in the 73rd District, Shultz registered the residential address of an apartment leased for his daughter.[14]
Democratic Party (United States) District 102: In perhaps the most noteworthy Democratic primary, long time incumbent Jan Pauls faces a challenge from Erich Bishop. Although a Democrat, Pauls has often taken far right stands on social issues, such as gay rights. In 2011, she fought against the removal of an anti-sodomy law. Bishop, on the other hand, is a 28-year old openly gay man who grew up with a father who was at the time a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and is much more liberal on social issues.[15]
Republican Party District 125: Another longtime incumbent, Carl Holmes has served in the House since 1985 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2010 without any opposition. His challenge comes from Reid Petty, who currently serves on the USD No. 480 School Board and is Chairman of the Seward County Republican Party.[16]
Kansas State Senate
Party As of August 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 8 Pending
Republican Party 32 Pending
Total 40 40
Kansas House of Representatives
Party As of August 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 33 Pending
Republican Party 92 Pending
Total 125 125

Sunshine Review Applauds Bel Aire, KS

July 24, 2012

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Michael Barnhart, President of Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit, pro-transparency organization released the following statement regarding how Bel Aire, Kansas improved their transparency grade.

“Sunshine Review applauds Bel Aire, Kansas for improving their transparency score from a ‘F‘ to an ‘A-’ in only a month. By enhancing their website and increasing access to information, Bel Aire is proactively championing government openness and transparency.

Taxpayers in Bel Aire should be proud that their government learned from Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist and made rapid improvements to allow more light into their government. We urge all of Kansas’s city and county governments to put the necessary resources into increasing their transparency like Bel Aire has done.”

In December 2011, Sunshine Review announced that the Kansas state website earned a “B” grade, accounting for half of Kansas’ overall grade. Sunshine Review also analyzed the websites of the five largest counties, which averaged a “B.” The five largest cities earned a “B+” and the ten largest school districts averaged a “C+.” Sunshine Review’s state rankings are based on content available on government websites against what should be provided. The checklist seeks information on items such as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes.

Sunshine Review is a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. Sunshine Review collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout America in the cause of an informed citizenry and a transparent government.

Redistricting Roundup: Chaos still reigns in several states

March 30, 2012

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Edited by Geoff Pallay


Note: Today’s roundup, March 30, will be the final edition of the Redistricting Roundup. Ballotpedia staff will still cover redistricting news, with updates being added to the State Legislative Tracker, which is published on Monday afternoons.


Other states featured in this week’s Roundup

Here at Ballotpedia, when we first began publishing the Redistricting Roundup, we planned to close it down at the end of March 2012. We are sticking to that schedule, as today will be the final edition of the Friday afternoon publication. After 59 editions of the Friday-afternoon Redistricting Roundup, today’s 60th version will be the final Friday release. Ballotpedia staff will continue to provide redistricting updates — but those will be contained within the State Legislative Tracker which is published on Monday afternoons.

But who knew that in March 2012, some states would still be engrossed in chatoic map-drawing, a mere 12 months after every single state had received its 2010 Census data.

After two map options were rejected last week, the Kansas House of Representatives has approved a congressional redistricting plan. Passed 81-43 on March 27, the plan would move half of Topeka (currently in District 2) to District 1, bolstering rural District 1′s flagging population growth. However, the Senate’s reapportionment chair, Tim Owens (R), called the plan “absurd” and predicted that the plan would founder in his chamber. House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) responded by threatening to reject and redraw the Senate’s chamber map if their congressional plan is not approved.

The conflict is part of an ongoing struggle between moderate Republicans in the Senate and conservatives in the House. In addition, regional conflicts over the location Kansas City, Manhattan/KSU, and a new federal biosecurity facility have further complicated matters. Ordinarily, each chamber defers to the other on its chamber maps and together draw a consensus congressional plan.

State news

Alaska

On March 14, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the redistricting board must redraw its first map with a priority on following the Alaska Constitution. Only when a constitutional map had been drafted could the board adjust it for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. On Tuesday, March 27, the board approved a preliminary plan in compliance with the state constitution. On Thursday, March 29, the board approved adjustments to the Fairbanks area to satisfy the VRA. The board aims to have all the necessary adjustments made by tomorrow. Most notably, Thursday’s tweaks restore a Senate seat to Fairbanks.

Arizona

On Tuesday, Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation to provide an additional $700,000 to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. While the commission did ask for $1.1 million, executive director Ray Bladine said the approved sum is enough to avoid a possible lawsuit for more funding.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 37 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 17
Maps submitted for vote: 135 out of 142 (95.1%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: AL (2), KS (1), ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 41/43 (Maps unfinished: KS, NH)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 45/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, KS, ME, MS, MT)
**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)

Florida

On Tuesday, March 27, the Florida House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s chamber redistricting map. The House did not amend the map, instead deferring to a plan approved by the Senate on March 22. The map now moves to the Florida Supreme Court for review — the Governor need not approve the plan.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich continues to oppose the plan, arguing that it violates the 2010 “Fair Districts” amendment. The revisions suggest that the revised plan may be slightly more friendly to Democratic candidates.

  • The overturned plan can be found here.
  • The revised plan can be found here.

In other news, a trial involving several challenges against the state’s congressional map will begin on April 16.

Maryland

A referendum petition to overturn Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan passed in October may appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot. Maryland Delegate Justin Ready (R – Caroll County), who is spearheading the move, announced on Tuesday that the referendum would continue forward with collecting signatures. In order to qualify for the ballot supporters are required to collect a minimum of 55,736 valid signatures by June 30.

Under the new map, the number of Carroll County delegates is reduced from four to three as the 4th district, which was previously only in Carroll County, now includes part of Howard County as well.

Missouri

Earlier this week, just before the candidate filing deadline, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state house districts that were drawn by a special commission. That map was originally challenged via a lawsuit.

Montana

The Montana Redistricting Commission has begun gathering public input on new state legislative maps. The commission is touring the state to hear input from citizens. A new map will not be implemented until the 2014 elections, as is typical under Montana’s map-drawing calendar. Hence, the commissioners are on schedule in its process.

New Hampshire

This Week’s Redistricting Highlight

Rhode Island Republican State Committee Chairman Mark Zaccaria acknowledged that the GOP will most likely not be able to have their pending redistricting lawsuit decided in time to change the map prior to the elections, but that they are determined to take it to trial anyway. The lawsuit, filed three weeks ago, claims that the new House lines were drawn for political reasons in order to help Democrats in the state, specifically freshman Rep. Cale Keable. The argument focuses on 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).The deadline for candidates wishing to run in Rhode Island’s legislative races is June 27.

Gov. John Lynch (D) signed the new Senate map into law last Friday, but vetoed the plan for the House, saying it violates the constitutional principle of equal and local representation, is inconsistent, and changes boundaries unnecessarily.

Under a successful 2006 ballot initiative, any town of 3,000 citizens or more is guaranteed a resident member in the House of Representatives and, according to Lynch, 62 towns and wards that deserved their own seats did not receive one. The proposal for new House districts was passed in the House by a veto-proof majority, but was one vote short of that mark in the Senate.

On Wednesday, the House voted 246-112 to override Lynch’s veto. The item was not on the calendar, however, and House Speaker William O’Brien’s (R) move to put it up for a vote was a controversial one. It began when O’Brien called for a recess in order to hold a private Republican caucus, forcing Democrats and onlookers to leave the chamber. When reconvened, the motion was put forward, angering Democrats. They attempted to delay the motion and tried to called a recess in order to have their own private caucus, but O’Brien denied the request. The Senate took up the matter that night, voting to override the veto 17-7.

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Collin Gately said there is no question that a lawsuit will be filed and that the party is currently reviewing their options. Community and advocacy groups are also expected to join legal challenges.

New York

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed off on new state legislative districts on March 15, the maps still need to go through a number of legal challenges before becoming law. Last week the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York appointed Nathaniel Persily, who previously provided assistance to the court to draw up a new congressional map, to determine when the court would have to intervene to ensure state legislative districts are finalized in time for candidates to file.

The legislature’s plan is currently undergoing the pre-clearance process by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if it is in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the Senate map is the subject of a lawsuit brought by Sen. Martin Dilan (D) and others who claim the addition of a 63rd seat in the chamber is unconstitutional. State Supreme Court Judge Richard F. Braun previously ruled that the court had no ability to review the proposal as it had not been voted on or signed into law and was only a recommendation, but now that it was signed the case is proceeding with oral arguments scheduled for April 6.

If the map fails to get pre-clearance or the 63rd seat is found to be unconstitutional, the U.S. District Court may intervene in order to draw the maps, something they have made clear they are reluctant to to do.

Wisconsin

Following a long court battle, Wisconsin’s new districts for the next decade are all set, with the exception of Assembly Districts 8 and 9. Last week a three-judge federal panel upheld 130 of the state’s 132 districts, but ordered two in the Milwaukee area be redrawn because they weakened Latino voting power and violated the Voting Rights Act. The court initially ordered the legislature to take up the task, but on Tuesday took the job away from the sharply divided lawmakers, who they said were unable to make even the “precious few” changes necessary to bring the map into compliance. In doing so the court ordered the state and plaintiffs in the case to try to reach an agreement by April 2. If unable to do so, they were instructed to submit their own recommendations to the court by April 3.

Wyoming

A group of Wyoming residents said they will file a lawsuit regarding the recently passed state legislative redistricting plan. The residents claim the map fails the two-pronged approach regarding protecting one-person, one vote, as well as splitting more county lines than is necessary. The suit will be filed with the State Supreme Court.

Redistricting Roundup: Court rules another map needs revision

March 26, 2012

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Edited by Geoff Pallay


Note: Next week’s roundup, March 30, will be the final edition of the Redistricting Roundup. Ballotpedia staff will still cover redistricting news, with updates being added to the State Legislative Tracker, which is published on Monday afternoons.


Other states featured in this week’s Roundup

Acting with a sense of urgency, a three-judge federal panel approved new congressional districts for New York on Monday–the day before candidates could begin collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot. The map is nearly identical to the one proposed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, who was appointed to act as special redistricting master. The panel noted that Mann was able to provide the court with a map in two weeks’ time – something the legislature has unable to do for over a year.

The new map reduces the number of congressional seats from 29 to 27, eliminating the mid-Hudson Valley seat held by retiring Democrat Maurice Hinchey and the Queens district held by Republican Bob Turner. Turner, in response, is now running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand (D). According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, six of the seven GOP-held U.S. House seats will be less safe for incumbents, while at least four Democratic incumbents will face less friendly districts.

New legislative districts were approved by the legislature last week and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The districts still need to be approved by the Justice Department to ensure that they comply with the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, a court case brought by Democrats against the addition of a 63rd seat in the Senate is pending. They argue that the new seat is nothing but an attempt by the GOP to retain their majority in the chamber, while Republicans argue it is required by the state Constitution.

Meanwhile, it is appearing more likely that New York will have two different primary dates for state legislative and congressional primaries. A judge has moved the congressional primary to June 26. While the Democrat-controlled Assembly favors moving the legislative primary to June 26 as well, the Republican-controlled Senate prefers to keep the primary on September 11, so as not to disrupt the legislative calendar.

State news

Alaska

After the Alaska Supreme Court remanded the redistricting challenge to the superior court, Judge McConahy set an April 2 deadline for submitting new plans and an April 13 deadline for review and adoption by the Board. Opponents were also invited to file their own map submissions by April 2 or file objections to the adopted plan by April 23. The board was given until April 27 to respond to any objections. McConahy set a May 7 court date for revisiting the plans.

Although the Alaska Redistricting Board had already scheduled meetings to make the necessary revisions, it questioned McConahy’s authority to establish the timeline. On March 16, attorneys for the Board asked McConahy vacate the order establishing the deadlines. On March 21, McConahy agreed to vacate the order. The board now plans to complete the revised map by June 1–Alaska’s filing deadline for legislative candidates. The board will hold a series of meetings each day next week to begin work on the new map. Citizens unable to attend the meetings in person may participate via streaming video or teleconference.

  • Dates and other information on the meetings can be found here.

Arizona

On Wednesday, the Arizona State Senate approved an additional $700,000 appropriation to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The Senate voted 18-9 to approve the measure which had been sent to its chamber by the House. The commission had sought an extra $1.1 million.

Meanwhile, House speaker Andy Tobin (R) is considering whether the Legislature will sue to attempt to block the legislative and congressional redistricting maps.

Quote of the Week

“I think it’s one step in a long process. We’re in court, and this whole process may have to repeat itself if we win the lawsuit over the 63rd seat. People shouldn’t take these lines to the bank just yet.”[1]Mike Gianaris (D), New York State Senator commenting on the new state senate map.

Florida

Yesterday, the Florida State Senate passed a revised chamber map, seeking to comply with changes mandated by the Florida Supreme Court. On March 10, the state’s High Court rejected the original maps, finding eight districts unconstitutional and ruling that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others. Ultimately, 24 districts were modified to accommodate the changes to the eight rejected by the court. The revised numbers were picked using Bingo machines.

Despite these modifications, Democratic leaders maintain that the revised maps still violate the 2010 “Fair Districts amendment by favoring incumbents. The plan was approved 31-6 with five Democratic senators supporting the plan. The House is expected to pass the plan.

  • The overturned plan can be found here.
  • The revised plan can be found here.

Meanwhile, court challenges are pending against Florida’s new congressional districts. Last Friday, a state circuit court judge said he will likely begin hearing the challenges next month. The challenges were filed by a collection of voter groups and the Florida Democratic Party. Florida’s petition filing deadline is in May and the candidate qualifying deadline is in June.

Kansas

This week, the Kansas House of Representatives rejected two competing redistricting plans, sending lawmakers back to the drawing board. The committee map, approved on March 14, floundered in the House until it was replaced by Rep. Tom Arpke (R). The replacement map passed 70-51 in a preliminary vote on Tuesday. However, House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R), an advocate of the original map, sharply criticized the map and the House promptly voted it down on Wednesday, 48-76. It now appears that neither map is destined for passage. Another, Senate-drawn congressional map appears doomed as well.

As House lawmakers begin drafting a consensus map, it appears likely that parts of Shawnee County will be used to bolster the 1st Congressional District. The now-dead committee bill moved a portion of Wyandotte County–home to Democratic-leaning Kansas City–into the conservative 1st Congressional District of Kansas. The Senate chose a bipartisan map that kept Wyandotte in the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, drawing population for District 1 from Riley County.

Meanwhile, a Kansas State Senate panel approved a chamber map on Monday, protecting three incumbent Republicans from conservative challengers. The changes would protect Carolyn McGinn, Tim Owens, and Jean Schodorf.

Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 37 See full list here
Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 17
Maps submitted for vote: 135 out of 142 (95.1%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: AL (2), KS (1), ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 41/43 (Maps unfinished: KS, NH)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 43/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, KS, ME, MS, MT, NH, NY)
**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)

Maryland

Maryland’s redistricting process was marked by rampant criticism and several lawsuits, but in the end, congressional and legislative maps were passed without great incident. Some of the greatest anger came toward the legislative maps, which became law without having hearings in the General Assembly. Lawmakers put forth a number of alternative plans, but none of them saw hearings either. With new districts in place and anger subsided, a slate of bills have been proposed to reform the next round of redistricting.

Nine bills in total have been heard by committees, but so far no votes have been taken. Most legislators don’t appear optimistic at their chances of passing. Suggested reforms include creating task forces to study redistricting, increasing the time for public comment, and creating a bipartisan commission to draw the districts and remove political considerations from the process.

Mississippi

In 2011, Mississippi lawmakers failed to redraw their legislative boundaries. As a result, the 2011 elections were held using the map from the 2000 Census. Republicans ultimately took control of both the Senate and House. Now, legislators must once again attempt to draw new districts using the 2010 Census. The legislature will be accepting public input through mid-April before embarking on another attempt at completing the constitutionally-mandated redistricting process.

Missouri

The Missouri Supreme Court has missed a scheduled hand-down day as candidates wait for it to rule on challenges to the state’s congressional and state House districts. The court could release the ruling on a special day, but some are concerned that the Court could now miss the state’s March 27 filing deadline.

This Week’s Redistricting Highlight

The Ohio “Voters First” coalition has submitted initial signatures for a state constitutional amendment creating a non-partisan citizens redistricting commission. The 12-member commission would be drawn from around the state, while excluding donors, politicians, and lobbyists. Once petition language is approved, the group will begin collecting the 386,000 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot.

South Carolina

Earlier in March, a three-judge federal panel dismissed a lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination in South Carolina’s new districts. This week, six voters have appealed that ruling up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has not yet decided if it will take up the case.

Tennessee

Last Friday, March 16, Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Republican-drawn Tennessee State Senate redistricting maps. The suit argues that the Tennessee State Senate map unnecessarily splits too many counties. The implemented map splits eight counties while a map drawn by the General Assembly Black Caucus map would split five.

West Virginia

On January 20, the US Supreme Court stayed a federal court ruling requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional redistricting map. The state has until March 27 to file a brief with the Supreme Court or seek an extension on the stay. If the case does not go before the Court, the lower court’s ruling will take effect and the maps will be redrawn. The court will likely make a decision on whether to consider the appeal by this fall.

Wisconsin

Yesterday, a three-judge federal panel upheld Wisconsin’s new congressional and State Senate districts, but ordered two Milwaukee-area Assembly districts to be redrawn for violating the Voting Rights Act. The panel held that the map unfairly diluted Latino voting power and ordered the map back to the legislature, mandating that lawmakers redraw Districts 8 and 9 without affecting any other districts. In the meantime, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has been barred from implementing the new map.

Although the judges upheld the great majority of the districts drawn by Republicans, they harshly criticized the process, calling it “needlessly secret” and stating that every effort was undertaken in order to complete the work out of the public eye. The legislature recently adjourned their 2012 session and it is unclear how they will take up the task, especially since the state Senate is evenly divided following Republican Pam Galloway‘s resignation on March 17.

The court challenge was first filed back in June 2011, prior to the passage of maps. Throughout the process the panel criticized Republicans for unnecessary secrecy, ordering them to release documents numerous times. Among these were agreements signed by nearly all Republican legislators stating they would not discuss the maps while they were in progress. Still, with the ruling, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) called it a win for GOP leaders.