Edited by Geoff Pallay
Only two states have yet to vote on a congressional apportionment bill — New Hampshire and New York. While there has been little news trickling out of New Hampshire, the process in New York has been mired in controversy.
Some information has started to trickle out about the new congressional map. Due to slow population growth, New York has to lose two of its 20 congressional seats. Reports this week indicate that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy‘s (D) Long Island district could be the first to go. It is expected that, if McCarthy’s district is in fact removed, that would be balanced by cutting a district from an upstate Republican. At least one congressman, Democrat Maurice Hinchey, has said he will not seek re-election. According to Assemblyman John McEneny (D) the congressional plan probably will not be seen by the public until early March. The primary is scheduled for June 26, which means that candidates will have very little time to see how the districts are drawn up before they have to file and run a campaign.
Meanwhile, at the meeting of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) on Tuesday, Sen. Michael Gianaris (D) called the Senate Republican’s plan blatant gerrymandering to protect their power and said it brought “shame” to the state. Republicans responded, calling Gianaris and the other Democrats hypocrites for not pushing for independent redistricting while they were in power from 2008-2010. Attendees at the meeting mostly criticized the plan for dividing neighborhoods. The meeting was the fifth held since LATFOR released proposed Senate and Assembly maps on January 26. Three more are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has said the plan is “wholly unacceptable” and will veto it unless it is substantially altered.
Last Friday, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska’s Fourth District Superior Court ruled that House Districts 1, 2, 37, and 38 violate the Alaska Constitution. McConahy found that districts 1, 2, and 37 violated the compactness criterion of the state constitution. In addition, he found that District 37 violated the contiguity condition and that District 38 violated the socio-economic integration condition. McConahy was less sympathetic toward the plaintiffs’ claims of partisan gerrymandering, but he noted that the Voting Rights Act justifications offered for the districts were wanting. The Alaska Redistricting Board appealed the decision on Districts 37 and 38. Plaintiffs plan to appeal McConahy’s decision on Districts 6 and 38, arguing that the problems with District 38 were not fully recognized in the ruling. Oral argumens before the Alaska Supreme Court have been set for March 13. The signature filing deadline for candidates running in the 2012 state house elections is June 1.
- The full ruling can be found here.
Last week, we detailed the measures being introduced in Arizona that are intended to change the redistricting process in the state, as well as allow for a vote on maps to replace the commission-drawn versions. This week, the State Senate Government Reform Committee voted 4-2 to send to the floor a resolution that would eliminate the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. A proposal floated by Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) would have simply altered the composition of the commission, but that idea died in committee.
|Quote of the Week
“We were told … that we would be sued no matter what the lines were, no matter how the districts were drawn. My father used to say, ‘Some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope,’ and I think we had people who all along had a lawsuit strategy and hoped that somehow they could find some judge, somewhere, who would agree with their contentions.”– Don Gaetz (R), chair of the Florida State Senate Redistricting Committee, on the recent lawsuit filed over legislatively-approved districts.
“The Senate passed maps that fail to meet the plain meaning of Fair Districts.”
– Rod Smith, Florida Democratic Party Chairman
The Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday regarding the proposed map of congressional districts drawn up by court appointed special master Nathaniel Persily. Attorney for the Democrats, Aaron S. Bayer, defended Persily’s plan as “principled” and “fair” while Republican attorney Ross H. Garber called it “an anachronistic, gerrymandering scheme.” Persily took over the task following the failure of the reapportionment commission to meet their deadline. His plan makes minor changes to a map that was proposed by Democrats and closely resembles the map that is currently in place. The dispute comes down to the 5th district, part of which is surrounded by the 1st district like a clamp. Democrats are pushing to move 523 residents out of the 5th in order to meet population requirements, while Republicans want to move the entire city of New Britain into the 1st.
The court has until February 15 to approve its final plan and submit it to the Secretary of State.
The Florida State Legislature has given final approval to the state’s redistricting maps. The congressional plan now moves to the Governor’s desk, and the legislative plan now moves to the state Supreme Court for approval. State Democrats immediately filed suit against the congressional map in state Circuit Court. Other community and advocacy groups plan to sue as soon as Governor Rick Scott (R) signs the maps. Both contend that the new districts violate the recently approved “fair districts” amendment. Republicans, however, maintain that plans fully comply with the new requirements. Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz (R) noted that even if the maps happen to favor Republicans, that doesn’t prove (for the purposes of the amendment) that the maps were drawn with partisan intent.
- The Democratic Party’s complaint can be downloaded here.
- A draft of the community groups’ complaint can be found here.
Georgia legislators have approved revisions to the state’s legislative redistricting plan. The intent of the revisions is to reorganize districts in Hall County. Currently the county is divided among seven House districts — that number would be reduced to four under the revised plan. Democrats objected to re-opening the redistricting process (which will require DOJ approval of the revisions) and some Republican’s asked for other changes to be made. The modifications passed the House last Friday, February 3 by 101-53 margin.
|Total States with Lawsuits filed:
||35 See full list here
|Total States where courts have altered/changed the final map: 13
|Maps submitted for vote: 126 out of 142 (88.7%)**
||AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (3), CT (3), DE (2), FL (3), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), ID (3), IL (3), IN (3), KS (2), KY (3), LA (3), MA (3), ME (1), MD (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (3), MS (3), NC (3), NE (2), NH (1), NJ (3), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), PA (3), RI (3), SC (3), SD (2), TN (3), TX (3), UT (3), VA (3), VT (2), WA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
|States that have completed Congressional Maps
||37 (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, LA, MA, ME, MD, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NM,NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, )
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps
||37 (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, IA, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NM, NC, ND, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI,SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WA, 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)
On Thursday, February 9, the Kansas House of Representatives gave bi-partisan approval to its new chamber map. The plan was approved by a 109-14 margin and garnered the support of the speaker and minority leader. Republicans currently control the House by a 92-33 margin. The plan pairs eight lawmakers in four districts — seven of the eight lawmakers are Republicans. Overall, the maps shifts powers from rural areas into Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Kansas State Senate approved a controversial congressional plan by a 23-17 margin. The plan consolidates Lawrence in US House District 2, and moves Manhattan (and, thus, Kansas State University) from District 2 to District 1. The plan would slightly weaken the Republican base in District 1 and has drawn fire from more conservative lawmakers. Ultimately, only 15 Republicans supported the plan (with 17 opposed). However, with all eight Democrats supporting the plan, it was finally passed. The map now moves to the state House where Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) has expressed concerns about the bill.
Earlier today, the Kentucky State Senate approved a congressional redistricting compromise by a 29-7 margin. The House is expect to approve the map later today. The bill reportedly makes significant changes to the existing districts. These events come just one day after a lawsuit was filed asking the courts to take over the congressional redistricting process.
In other news, a Franklin Circuit Court ruled on January 7 that Kentucky’s new legislative districts are unconstitutional, saying that the districts exhibited unacceptable population disparities and divided too many counties–both violations of the Kentucky Constitution. The state plans to appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Both the state legislative and congressional filing deadlines have been moved once already to accommodate the delays in finalizing maps. The primaries are scheduled for May 22.
Last Friday, a Missouri Circuit Court judge upheld the state’s congressional redistricting plan. The judge had previously dismissed the lawsuit, but was ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court to consider the case on the merits. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal to the state State Supreme court. They argue that the maps violate the Missouri Constitution’s compactness requirement. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) has expressed support for the lawsuit, presumably hoping to restore his former district eliminated under the map.
This week the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit regarding the court-drawn map for the New Mexico House of Representatives. The hearing lasted about two hours, and judges said they will issue an order soon — however, no actual deadline was announced. Democrats contend that the new map did not adequately protect minority voting interests. The signature filing deadline for state house candidates is March 20.
On Monday, January 6, a three-judge Superior Court panel ruled that the lawsuits against the North Carolina redistricting maps can proceed. The state had asked for the two lawsuits to be entirely dismissed, but the judges ultimately retained more than half of the 37 claims made by plaintiffs. The consolidated cases were originally filed by state Democrats, the NAACP, and community groups.
Meanwhile, allegations of gender bias in the NC redistricting effort have surfaced after analysis showed that female Democrats were more likely to be targeted under the map than either Democratic males or Republicans of either gender. More broadly, the maps appear to have triggered a number of Democratic retirements–so far, one senator and 10 representatives have decided not to seek re-election to their present office (2 are seeking higher office). Republican lawmakers have denied any intentional gender bias in the maps, calling them both legal and fair.
|This Week’s Redistricting Highlight
Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) signed new congressional and legislative districts into law on Wednesday. Republicans, however, are threatening a lawsuit over what they call gerrymandering in House District 47. They argue the district was changed to remove Republican neighborhoods and the home of a Republican challenger, giving an unfair advantage to Democratic incumbent Cale Keable.
A week and a half after ruling the new Senate and House maps unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court rendered their full opinion on February 3. Chief Justice Ronald Castille said most appeals were rejected for only showing how a particular region was drawn unconstitutionally, but cited two as having a big picture focus and showing how the whole map could be drawn better. One was submitted by Senate Democrats and the other came from Amanda Holt, a 29-year-old piano teacher and Republican committeewoman. The court said Holt’s map proved the Legislative Redistricting Commission failed to meet the criteria that municipalities and wards should only be split if absolutely necessary. She initially showed her map to the commission at a hearing on September 7, 2011, but they went on to release a map on December 12 that had more than twice as many splits as hers.
With the maps thrown out, the April 24 primary looked to be in jeopardy. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) said the legislature may consider moving the date back in order to give the commission more time to create new maps. Democrats, however, have said they will fight to block any attempt to push back the date. The redistricting commission said it plans to issue revised maps next week and vote on them on February 22. That, however, may be unnecessary as U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled on Wednesday that the election cycle is already too far along to delay it, especially with no viable alternative available. He said that forcing Secretary of State Carol Aichele to alter the election schedule would only complicate things and that she needs to know how to proceed. Therefore, he has ruled that the state legislative elections this year should take place using districts created based on the 2000 Census.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) said a new map could be in place in time to meet the primary date, as long as they shorten the time for public comment and appeal. Under the state Constitution, the public has 30 days to comment on the map, with another 30 days allowed for appeals. Democrats shot back at Turzai’s suggestion by saying those time periods are guaranteed and altering them would mean ignoring the Court and the Constitution.
Hopes of a redistricting solution that would allow the Texas primaries to remain on April 3rd date fell dead in the water this week after a federal judge rejected a proposed agreement between the Texas Attorney General and several minority groups. The San Antonio court gave the parties in Texas’ prolonged redistricting battle until Monday, February 6, to reach an agreement if they wanted to save the April 3rd primaries.
On Monday Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) announced that a temporary agreement had been reached between the state and some of the minority groups in the case – unveiling a plan that added two Hispanic-majority congressional districts. But the deal was opposed by some of the most notable groups on the plaintiff side, including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and the Legislative Black Caucus. These groups claimed that while the proposed plan added two new Hispanic districts, it weakened other minority districts in exchange.
After reviewing arguments from both sides, the San Antonio court issued an order rejecting the proposed agreement – squashing any hopes of a unified April 3rd primary. A final solution is still up in the air but it seems likely that the court will now attempt to redraw the interim maps and set a new primary date.
The Virginia General Assembly is poised to delay the state’s primary until August 7. The House of Delegates voted 97-0 to approve the delay. The new date is meant to accommodate the DOJ review process and pending lawsuit.
John Milem, a retired attorney from Vancouver, Washington, filed a petition with the state Supreme Court on February 8, 2012, asking them to redraw the lines in order to meet legal requirements of compactness, equal representation and competitiveness. Per the state Constitution, the court has until March 1 to intervene in redistricting.
Milem argues that the state redistricting commission did not draw the lines as outlined by state law and the state constitution. The current plan, he says, limits competition and does not represent communities as best as it could. The new congressional map splits nine counties, two more than the previous map, while the legislative map splits 17. According to Milem, it is only necessary to split three to four for congress and 11 for the legislature.
Seven months after the state’s new district lines were signed into law by Governor Scott Walker (R) a court case is continuing to bring to light controversies from the process. According to GOP documents released this week, all Republican legislators, with the exception of two senators and two representatives, signed legal agreements not to discuss the maps while they were in progress. Also among the documents was a memo of talking points instructing Republican legislators to ignore the public’s comments about the map wherever they differed from private discussions.
The secrecy agreements all have the signature of attorney Eric McLeod of Michael Best & Friedrich, who was one of the attorneys who advised legislators during the map-making process. In a deposition, Adam Foltz, a legislative aide to Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), said he probably helped write the talking points, but did not remember doing so. When asked about the stated suggestion to ignore public comments, Foltz said he didn’t know what that was exactly referring to. While Fitzgerald has yet to comment on the matter, his brother, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), said he had never seen the talking points and that they were not put together for him.
The documents came out of a lawsuit originally brought back in June of last year. Republicans sought to keep the documents private under the guise of attorney-client privilege, but a three-judge panel ruled that nearly all information requested had to be released. The ripples from their release continue to grow–yesterday, 13 Democratic legislators sent Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) a letter requesting an investigation by the Department of Justice.