Edited by Geoff Pallay
Texas officials have been in an uproar this week over the interim maps drawn by the San Antonio federal court responsible for the state’s consolidated redistricting case. Over the past two weeks the court has implemented newly drawn maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and Texas’ congressional delegation. The San Antonio court was forced to draw interim maps in order for the 2012 elections to proceed without further delay after a DC-based court rejected Texas’ maps on grounds they violated theVoting Rights Act.
The maps increase minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been highly critical of the court’s maps, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans this week by requesting emergency stays from the United State Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on Monday asking the nation’s highest court to halt implementation of the interim State House and State Senate plans. He filed a similar request for Texas’ congressional map yesterday.
As it currently stands, the signature filing deadline is December 15 for all state legislative and congressional candidates running for election in 2012.
The state has made clear that it is going to fight the federally drawn maps with everything at its disposal. It could be quite some time before the fate of redistricting in Texas is known.
Although there were many rumors over the past few weeks that legislators and Governor Jan Brewer would attempt to once again gut theIndependent Redistricting Commission, it appears now likely that the commission will move forward unimpeded. Among the developments in recent weeks:
- Brewer requested a delay in the reinstatement of Mathis, but this was denied by the state Supreme Court.
- Brewer had discussed a possible attempt to repeal Proposition 106. But she declined to call a special session to place the repeal on the 2012 ballot.
- The commission is lining up times for current legislators to testify regarding proposed maps.
- Commissioner Richard Stertz would like to see much of the Congressional map drawn from scratch.
- Meanwhile, Republican leaders proposed this week that the commission ultimately be expanded from five to nine members for the 2020 redistricting. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents would each have three members. Legislators propose that a supermajority would then be required to implement the map.
Whether Arizona is able to stick to its election schedule remains to be seen. The state is scheduled to have a filing deadline of May 30, 2012 and a primary on August 28, 2012.
Last week the Secretary of State of California deemed that there were enough signatures turned in by the effort to overturn new California State Senate maps that it could advance to the next stage — signature verification.
A total of $2.5 million was donated to the campaign to collect signatures, with more than 700,000 reported signatures turned in to the state. The process could take until mid-March 2012 to complete, which would be after the February 23 filing deadline for 2012 candidates.
Meanwhile, last week a group of Republicans led by former Governor George Radanovich filed a suit in federal court arguing that the congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution. A similar suit was thrown out by a state court earlier this year. The lawsuit centers on the districts of three Democratic incumbents: Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, and Laura Richardson.
The Colorado Reapportionment Commission started back up on Monday to rework its proposals for state legislative districts that were rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court on November 15. Wasting little time, the commission approved Democratic-drawn proposals for new House and Senate districts the next day. Republicans criticized the new proposals for forcing a number of GOP incumbents into the same districts, while Democrats said it was an unfortunate outcome of trying to minimize county splits. According to emails from Jeremiah Barry, the non-partisan staff director of the commission, it appears that Democrats had an additional four days to submit maps. Commission chair Mario Carrera said no special treatment was given to Democrats, while Mario Nicolais, a Republican member of the commission, said it may have just been a miscommunication, but that Democrats took advantage of it.
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in the Republican appeal of the District Court’s approval of a new congressional map. The map in question was favored by Democrats, who sought to make competitive districts while Republicans pushed for a map with as few changes as possible.
The Connecticut Reapportionment Commission was under pressure this week to meet the November 30 deadline for new state legislative and congressional district maps. The original reapportionment committee failed to meet its initial deadline of September 15, which led to the reformed reapportionment commission with a ninth member added as a tie-breaker.
The commission was able to agree to a new House map on Monday and managed to approve a Senate map on Wednesday, prior to the midnight deadline. Congressional districts, however, remained a sticking point, leading the commission to apply for a 30-day extension. The courts could choose to grant the extension or draw the map themselves. After finishing the new legislative maps, Speaker of the HouseChris Donovan (D) resigned his seat on the commission, handing his position to House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey (D). Donovan, who is running for a congressional seat next year, said his presence had become a political issue.
The Florida Senate’s Redistricting Committee released its drafts of new congressional and sentatorial districts. Both plans appear to largely preserves the status quo for existing incumbents. Under the US House plan, Florida’s two new districts are positioned in Central Florida. These districts were drawn as Hispanic majority districts, pulling Democrat-friendly Hispanics from existing districts. The end result, it appears, is that existing Republican districts have been shielded from rapid growth in the Hispanic community. A similar assessment seems to hold for the State Senate districts. Democrats argue that maps simply ignore the Fair Districts Amendments. The House is expected to release its proposals next week.
On November 25, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission filed a brief defending the state’s redrawn political lines against two legal challenges. Filed by State Senator Malama Solomon and several other Democrats, the first lawsuit challenges the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission’s decision to include most of the state’s non-resident population in its redistricting counts — a change of policy that cost the Big Island a new Senate seat. Unlike the first lawsuit which centers on the mere fact that non-residents were included, the second lawsuit argues that the Reapportionment Commission did not try in “good faith” to exclude non-residents. In past redistricting efforts, the state has excluded non-resident military and student populations. However, the Commission argues that it excluded all the non-residents that it could given vague data.
Named as a defendant in the first challenge, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) sided with the plaintiffs and asked the court to order the Commission to start over. The Commission, in turn, asked for the cases to be dismissed and for their attorney fees to be reimbursed by the plaintiffs. The cases are being heard by the Hawaii Supreme Court.
|Total States with Lawsuitsfiled: 31
|Next state deadline?
January 1, 2012
|Maps submitted for vote: 102 out of 142 (71.8%)**
||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 (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (2), SC (3), SD (2), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
|States that have completed Congressional Maps
||26 (AL, AR, CA, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA,MA, ME, MD, MI, MO, NE, NV, NC, OH,OK, OR, SC, TX, UT, WV, WI, )
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps
||30 (AK, AR, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA,IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NC, ND, NV,OH, OK, OR, 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)
As the result of an ongoing Republican lawsuit, on November 22, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow pushed back the filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for U.S. House from November 28-December 5 to December 23–27. The fate of the suit will now be determined by three federal judges. The date for a decision, however, is unknown. If the suit is not resolved by December 21, the deadline will be moved again. Republicans contend that the approved map, drawn by the Democratic majority, does not sufficiently protect the voting rights of Latinos and creates gerrymandered districts for political gain.
On November 29, Kentucky Senate Redistricting Chair Damon Thayer (R) released a redistricting proposal for the state’s congressional districts. The plan is largely based on the existing layout, making minor changes to existing districts. The plan contrasts with the proposal by House Speaker Gregory Stumbo (D) which makes several districts lean more Democratic. While Thayer says his plan makes no attempt to shift the partisan balance of the districts, Republicans already control four of the state’s six congressional seats. Ultimately, both chambers will have to sign off on a compromise plan.
A lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s new congressional map won an initial victory on November 21 when U.S. District Judge Roger Titus ruled the suit could go ahead and should be heard by a three-judge panel. The move was a blow to Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who argued the case should be dismissed. The suit was initially brought by a group of African-American citizens on the grounds that the new districts were racially gerrymandered. The plaintiffs have been joined by the state Republican Party and the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee.
A three-judge panel, two of which were appointed by Republican presidents, is scheduled to hear the case on December 20, with a ruling expected by the end of January. This, however, has the potential to force the State Board of Elections to delay the April 3 primary. In order to meet federal requirements, an election on April 3 would require military absentee ballots be mailed out by February 17, something that would be increasingly difficult the later a decision in the case comes and nearly impossible if the map is thrown out.
A second suit against the new congressional plan was brought by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith on November 22, arguing the map fails to design contiguous and compact voting areas. Smith filed the suit in the Maryland Court of Appeals and in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, hoping for an expedited ruling. Under the approved map Frederick County is divided into two congressional districts – something that has not happened in some 200 years.
Last week, both major parties submitted their proposals for Minnesota’s congressional districts to the judicial redistricting panel. The DFLplan pairs Congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann with Democrat Betty McCollum. The GOP plan splits the Democrat-heavy Iron Range into separate congressional districts. Regardless of partisan posturing, several observers note that state demographics seems to favor the GOP. The decline of rural and urban areas has given rise to rapidly expanding and Republican-leaning suburbs. The judicial panel is expected to settle on new maps by late February.
- Images of the proposals can be found here.
Missouri’s judicial redistricting panel, which took over after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise, has finalized the state’s new legislative redistricting maps. Released on November 30, the plan features significant changes to the state’s House districts. The new maps leaves 55 House districts vacant and 26 districts with more than one incumbent. A total of 34 House Republicans have been paired while only 23 House Democrats were paired. The Senate saw much less change — only two incumbents have been paired. The new districts will take effect for the 2012 elections. Although the plans are likely to stand, concerns about closed-door meetings and divided counties have been raised.
A panel of three federal judges ruled that it will draw the new Congressional map if legislators cannot settle on a compromise before December 4, 2011. Both political parties have until December 12 to comment on redistricting proposals. Meanwhile, the four current members of the U.S. House from Mississippi said they were confident that the court map will be a favorable one
With one of the earliest filing deadlines in 2012 for Congressional elections (January 13), there is a sense of urgency in getting a map implemented for candidates to see which district they would like to run in.
Next week a series of redistricting hearings will begin to decide the fate of new maps for New Mexico’s congressional, state legislative and Public Regulation Commission districts. First up will be the congressional hearings, from December 5-8.
Early last week, there were talks of a possible redistricting compromise between Democrats and Republicans. However, these did not result in any maps to present to the court.
Meanwhile, earlier this week a district court judge told lawyers for Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez and Republicans that they could obtain emails, notes and other correspondences relating to the redistricting process that involved consultant Brian Sanderoff and legislators. Democratic legislative leaders had contended that such communication would be confidential and protected under state law. District Judge James Hall said that because Sanderoff will be a witness, that the privilege of confidentiality is waived.
New York received its first lawsuit over the state’s redistricting process on November 17 when a group of civic leaders asked that a three-judge panel appoint a special master to oversee the drawing of new congressional and legislative districts. The current process, they argue, is partisan and amounts to little more than incumbent protection that could hurt elections in 2012. The suit, Favors, et al v. Cuomo, et al, names Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Senate and Assembly leaders, and the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) as defendants.
A few days after the suit was filed, Citizens United, a good-government group, released a 100+ page report detailing partisan gerrymandering and the redistricting process in the state. The study found that 96 percent of incumbents have been re-elected since 2002.
Ohio House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D) and Representative Matt Huffman (R) are at odds over the existence of a compromisecongressional redistricting plan. Budish said he believes both parties “have an agreement.” Huffman, a GOP redistricting negotiator, contradicted Budish, saying that they “never reached an agreement.” However, a spokesman for House Speaker William Batchelder (R) stated that he is hopeful a compromise will be reached very soon. December 7 is the filing deadline for the March primary for potential U.S. House candidates. To avert a referendum and dual primaries, a new map must be approved by that date. Democrats have until Christmas day to collect signatures for the redistricting referendum.
Meanwhile, Congressman Steve LaTourette has asked an Ohio court to impose the embattled U.S. House redistricting plan for 2012. LaTourette intervened a suit filed by a Batavia resident which contends that the lack of a congressional redistricting plan is unconstitutional. Democrats asked that the case be dismissed, calling it premature. Dan Tokaji, a redistricting expert at the Moritz College of Law (OSU), argues that imposing the new maps would undermine the right to challenge the plan via veto referendum.
On November 22, the Special Commission on Reapportionment released three different proposed maps for the State Senate and two for theState House. The commission will now take their proposals to a series of public hearings around the state. Once approved the new maps will be presented to the General Assembly in January for final approval. Remaining public hearings are scheduled for December 5-8.
On November 23, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the state’s new legislative districts, denying the five lawsuits filed against the plans. While the court did not immediately issue an opinion explaining its decision, the court had shown hesitance in interfering with the legislative redistricting process. Plaintiff Thornton Cooper said the ruling is evidence that a constitutional amendment is necessary to take the process out of the hands of state lawmakers.
State GOP Chair Mike Stuart flatly disagreed with the ruling, but noted that the decision only upheld the plans with respect to the State Constitution. Stuart predicted that a federal case would ultimately challenge the legislative maps. In fact, the Putnam County Commission, one of the plaintiffs, is reportedly considering a federal challenge.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson County lawsuit against the state’s congressional districts moves forward. A three-judge panel, including one Circuit Court judge and two District Court judges, has been assigned to the case. Thorton Cooper has also been allowed to intervene as a plaintiff in the case. Jefferson County argues that the plan violates the “one person, one vote” principle. Further, the county argues that the exclusion of Hampshire or Mineral counties from District 2 dilutes representation for the Eastern Panhandle by splitting it into two districts. The county also maintains that District 2 is not sufficiently compact.
With Virginia Republicans looking to begin congressional redistricting early next year, Democrats are asking the courts to clarify the effects of Republican Senate gains. Republicans contend that, since Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) casts the tie breaking vote, the newly-tied Senate is effectively in Republican hands. Democrats contest this characterization, arguing that the tie-breaking power does not extend to organizational decisions, budget votes, and judgeships. If the Democratic position is vindicated, it could result in power sharing agreements on legislative committees and leadership positions–moves that could weaken GOP influence on redistricting.
In mid-November, the state’s five Republican U.S. House members filed paperwork to intervene in a lawsuit brought by a group of citizens seeking to have the new district maps thrown out. Three Democratic members of Congress also filed to join the suit. The group that originally brought the lawsuit argued against allowing congressional members of either party to join, saying it would open the floodgates to a myriad of parties only wishing to protect their own interests. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), who is representing the state in the suit, said he does not oppose allowing the Republican members of Congress to intervene and will most likely allow Democrats to intervene as well.
Meanwhile, Republicans filed a second lawsuit on Monday in their ongoing effort to require recall elections that take place next year be conducted in the newly drawn districts, which would favor Republicans. Democrats have targeted four Republican state Senators for recall in 2012 - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard. Democrats recently asked that the courts require any recalls to take place in the old districts the incumbents were originally elected. The new GOP suit was filed to make sure proper procedures are followed in the case.