Category Archives: Apportionment

How Low Can You Go? Below 50% …

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 22, 2021 — Now that the 2020 vote totals are finalized, analysis can be conducted to unearth what clues the election just completed provides for the 2022 cycle.

In looking at all 435 US House districts, we see that 168 electoral contests were decided with the winner receiving less than 60 percent of the vote. A total of 53 campaigns featured the victor receiving 52 percent or less. These 53 results yielded 27 Democratic wins and 26 for the Republicans. Of those, eight, four for each party, produced a plurality result with neither candidate obtaining majority support. It is these latter eight elections where we concentrate our focus.

A ninth seat, that of Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), did yield a majority winner, but with a scant six-vote margin, which was obviously the closest election of the 2020 cycle. Democrat Rita Hart is challenging the outcome before the House Administration Committee claiming that 22 uncounted ballots would give her a nine-vote victory, but so far, the situation has not been addressed. It goes without saying that Iowa’s 2nd District will be a major target for both parties in 2022.

Below is a quick synopsis of what one would think are top electoral targets for 2022, but, as you will see, many of these seats will either drop from the competition board or become a lesser target due to redistricting and other factors.


IA-3: Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) – 48.9%

Rep. Axne was re-elected to a second term in a virtual rerun of her 2018 campaign against then-Rep. David Young (R). As one of four top Iowa Democratic office holders, rumors are already surfacing that Rep. Axne could run for the Senate or governor, particularly if octogenarian Sen. Charles Grassley (R) decides to retire. Axne is not closing the door on a statewide run.

If she does run for the Senate or challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), a 3rd District congressional race becomes very different. Additionally, it appears that this Des Moines-anchored seat will have to yield approximately 60,000 residents to the adjacent seats in redistricting. The three other Hawkeye State CDs all need more population, from between 5 and 40,000 people per seat. Losing this many 3rd District inhabitants could make the seat less Democratic depending upon how the lines are drawn.

Iowa has the reputation of having the fairest redistricting system. A state legislative committee staff is given authority to draw maps based upon the straight census numbers without deference to the incumbent’s political standing or personal residence. The legislature, without amendment, must then approve or disapprove of the committee staff’s new map.

Regardless of the redistricting outcome, the IA-3 race again promises to be a national congressional campaign.


MN-1: Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) – 48.6%;

MN-2: Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) – 48.2%

The two plurality Minnesota seats will undergo drastic redistricting changes as their state appears set to lose a CD in reapportionment. With the 1st District requiring more than 125,000 additional inhabitants and the 2nd as many as 90,000, the two southern Minnesota seats will look very different in 2022. Additionally, with the legislature being the only one in the country where each political party controls one legislative chamber, the configuration of the next congressional map could be drawn in many different ways.

Obviously, both Reps. Hagedorn and Craig are in vulnerable political situations, with the former wanting to see more Republicans added to his district, while the latter needs an influx of Democrats coming her way.

Regardless the redistricting picture, these two seats will again likely be prime electoral targets.


NV-3: Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) – 48.7%

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District has been the site of close elections throughout the previous decade. Containing part of southern Las Vegas, the seat covers all of the state’s southern triangle region that lies between California and Arizona.

Nevada will not gain a seat in this year’s reapportionment as it has in the past two census decennials. There will be significant movement among the districts, however, with the 3rd being the prime focus. The latest population figures suggest that CD-3 will have to shed approximately 90,000 residents to other districts.

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More Redistricting Delays – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 20, 2021 — Yesterday, we covered the Census Bureau announcement that delivering new population data to the individual states will again be postponed, and what effect receiving numbers in October, if then, will have on the redistricting process.

Today, after previously analyzing the states that appear poised to gain seats, we look at those that will probably lose districts. At this point, estimates project that 10 seats will be transferred. This, however, is only a projection as the current published numbers do not include the final changes in the previous decade’s last year.

At this point, all of the succeeding states appear positioned to lose one seat. The individual state logistical data comes from a study that the Brennan Center for Justice just released.


Alabama

It appears that Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat depending upon who is counted and where they reside. This specifically refers to college students and non-citizens. President Biden’s executive order countermanding President Trump’s directive not to count non-citizens may have an effect upon Alabama’s status. Officials there may sue over the apportionment if, in the final count, the state loses one of their seven districts.

It is likely that Alabama redistricting will be pushed into 2022 irrespective of the apportionment decision because the legislature will be out of session when the data is finally delivered. The state’s May 24 primary could conceivably be postponed.


California

For the first time in history, California is likely to lose a seat in apportionment. The 2010 apportionment cycle was the first in which the state did not gain representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven seats.

The Golden State has a redistricting commission, but the data postponement may force the process into a secondary mode since the redistricting completion deadline is Aug. 15. Unless the deadlines are changed, the state Supreme Court will appoint a special master to draw the map. California’s March 8, 2022 primary may have to be postponed, and almost assuredly their Dec. 10 candidate filing deadline will have to move.


Illinois

The state legislature has the redistricting pen, but Illinois also has a backup commission empowered in case the regular process is not completed. A March 15, 2022 primary and certainly a Nov. 29 candidate filing deadline, however, could and will face postponement.


Michigan

Voters previously adopted the institution of a 13-member commission to draw maps. The commissioners, now appointed, consist of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters.

With an April 1, 2022 candidate filing deadline and an Aug. 2 state primary, the Michigan system should have time to complete the redistricting process without changing their election cycle calendar.
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More Redistricting Delays – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced just before the Presidents’ Day holiday break that there will be yet another long delay in transmitting the census data to the states. Without the new numbers, redistricting becomes unachievable.

The new target date is Sept. 30, postponed from their first postponement date of July 30. At this point, the postponed apportionment release date remains April 30, long after the statutory deadline of Jan. 1. Apportionment is the first critical step in the redistricting process since this informs the states how many congressional seats they will be awarded for the current decade.

The late September target (and there’s no guarantee even this date will be met) will make it difficult for many states to finish their redistricting on time, and could force the process into the courts if state legislatures are unable to convene or meet a legislative calendar in terms of allowing public input. Even now, at least several states will have to enact emergency legislation to change deadlines to avoid violating pre-existing legal redistricting deadlines.

The delays have already changed the political situation in New Jersey and Virginia. With both states having odd-numbered year state legislative elections, the two are always the first to receive their new census data. In both states, legislative elections will now proceed under the 2011 maps with previously enacted amendments. When the lines are eventually completed, it is possible that new elections, possibly for 2022, will be ordered in Virginia. New Jersey voters passed a referendum in November that allows redistricting to occur before the 2023 state legislative elections.

Another problem could be lawsuits filed against the eventual apportionment. Apparently, the principal problem for the delays is exactly which people to count and where they are placed. College students, for example, are typically counted at the university campus on which they reside. Now, however, so many are not attending in-person classes. Therefore, arguments are ongoing as to where this group should be counted, either at school or back at their primary residence.

Additionally, one of President Biden’s new executive orders reversed Trump Administration policies about whether or not to count non-citizens. This change of direction has also created further delays.

Based upon these controversies, and others, it is probable that at least one potential losing state – apparently Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat but may not depending upon the counting criteria – could sue over the apportionment conclusion meaning even further delays as various potential lawsuits wind their way through the judicial process toward final determination. All of this could conceivably mean redistricting is postponed until the 2024 election cycle.

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CO-3: Rep. Boebert Challenge Looming

By Jim Ellis

2nd Amendment activist, local restaurant owner and now US Rep. Loren Boebert represents Colorado’s 3rd CD.

Feb. 8, 2021 — Colorado freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt), who first upset then-Rep. Scott Tipton in the 2020 Republican primary and later overcame more than $6 million in combined spending from her general election opponent and outside organizations, can count on seeing another tough campaign in 2022.

Already, candidates are lining up, and the most prominent one in the early going announced late last week. State Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan (D-Gunnison) released a video announcing that she will forego re-election to the state legislature in order to challenge Rep. Boebert in the next congressional campaign. Rancher Gregg Smith and former state House candidate Colin Wilhelm had previously declared their intentions to compete for the Democratic nomination.

Lauren Boebert is a Florida native who moved with her family to the Denver area when she was 12 years old. She then re-located to the Western Slope region in 2003 and, with her husband, opened their restaurant, Shooters Grill, in 2013.

Congresswoman Boebert has attracted much national attention so far with her insistence of carrying a firearm on the House floor. Such is nothing new since she has always holstered a side arm in her restaurant establishment and made defending the 2nd Amendment the cornerstone of her congressional campaign effort.

Despite being heavily outspent, Boebert carried the general election against former state representative and 2018 congressional nominee Diane Mitsch Bush (D) by a 51-45 percent margin, meaning a spread of 26,512 votes. Former President Trump, who recorded only 42 percent of the statewide vote, also carried the 3rd District in a similar 52-46 percent margin.

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Early House Outlook – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 21, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral stage preview for the US House, today we look at 12 states in the country’s central region. Tomorrow and the following Monday, we move further east.


• Arkansas – 4 Seats (4R)

Arkansas holds four Republican districts, and the GOP controls the redistricting pen. They will obviously attempt to draw a new map that protects all four incumbents, and they should be able to do so with relative ease as the state continues to move toward the ideological right.

Arkansas had previously received Justice Department approval to draw a map where all of its 75 counties whole within the individual congressional districts, and thus exceeding the plus-or-minus one individual congressional district population variance requirement.


• Iowa – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Iowa has a hybrid redistricting system. The legislature voluntarily cedes power to a particular legislative committee, which then draws the four congressional districts based upon a mathematical population algorithm without regard to incumbent residences or political preferences. The legislature must then approve or reject the map without amendment.

The current map has produced competitive districts as is evidenced in the 2nd District being decided by just six votes in the 2020 election. Three of the state’s four CDs have seen both Republican and Democratic representation during this decade. It is likely we will see the process produce a similar map later this year.


• Kansas – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Both parties have seats at the redistricting table as Republicans control the state House and Senate while Democrats have the governorship. Republicans will attempt to at least protect the status quo but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly can be expected to hold out for a 2R-2D plan. Any prolonged impasse will send the map to either a state or federal court in order to produce an interim map for the coming 2022 election.


• Louisiana – 6 Seats (0D4R; 2 Vacancies)

The more immediate political task Louisiana sees is filling its two vacant congressional districts. The New Orleans-Baton Rouge 2nd District has no representation because Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned to accept a White House appointment from the Biden Administration. Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R) tragically passed away after his election and before he was officially sworn into office. Therefore, both seats will be filled in a two-tiered March 20/April 24 special election calendar.

Republicans control the legislature, but Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) holds the veto pen. The number of seats will remain constant since the population appears relatively even through the state’s six districts. The 1st (Rep. Steve Scalise-R) and the 6th (Rep. Garret Graves-R) are over-populated while the 4th (Rep. Mike Johnson-R) and the 5th (Letlow vacancy) will need to gain residents.
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