Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.
ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court failed to grant impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis (I) a stay over the state Senate and governor’s decision to remove her from office. The Court has agreed to hear Mathis’ motion to overturn her removal, but the judicial body won’t allow her to return to the Commission before the case is heard. Thus, the Arizona congressional map is on hold for an indefinite period of time.
Mathis supporters and the Democratic Party were hoping the high court would reinstate her so the Commission would have time to pass the map that had been previously laid out for comment. The public is allowed 30 days to express opinion after which changes can be made. That period ended just days after Mathis was removed, thus denying the panel a clear majority to enact the plan. Over the course of time, the Mathis map would likely produce a 5D-4R Democratic majority in the Arizona delegation.
Should she lose her legal maneuvering, the process to fill the Mathis vacancy would begin anew as a different chairman would be chosen as defined through the procedures governing commission membership. By law, the IRC must have two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent who becomes the chairman.
COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The state court drawing the de novo map released its plan and basically adopted the Democratic outline. This is not a surprise, as the Colorado courts have repeatedly favored the Democrats in previous decades. The most endangered member of the delegation now appears to be sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), as his Arapahoe County-based district now wraps around into Adams County, northeast of Denver, and adds a much higher number of Democrats to what was his safe Republican seat. The 6th District goes from 46 percent Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to 54 percent Obama, suggesting that the district will become highly competitive in the 2012 election and likely beyond.
The big winner for the GOP is freshman Rep. Cory Gardner in the 4th District. Formerly a safe Republican seat, the 4th went Democratic for one term prior to Gardner’s victory in 2010. His eastern Colorado seat goes from 49 percent Obama to 42 percent Obama, representing a substantial jump in Republican voters.
The other districts remain in about the same partisan ratio as they were during the previous decade. This means the 3rd District of freshman Republican Rep. Scott Tipton remains as a swing seat. CD-4 changes from 47 percent Obama to 48 percent. The map, which is unlikely to be challenged, will create an even more competitive plan than in the past decade.
The state court was forced to draw the map because the legislature deadlocked over the congressional plan during the regular session.
NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) – It appears the Republicans will not challenge the lower court-drawn congressional map. Petitioning the state Supreme Court would be the next step in the process. It is unlikely the high court would overturn what the lower court devised, so such action is futile, Republican leaders apparently believe. The court created a 1D, 1R map with two seats rated as competitive.
OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans are still trying to put a two-thirds coalition together in both houses of their legislature to pass a modified congressional map. At this writing, the chances of forming such a consensus appear slim. Failure to pass a new map means reverting to the previous enacted plan over which Democrats are currently gathering petition signatures to force a ballot referendum. If successful, the map will go to the voters in the general election of 2012, meaning a court will draw an interim 16-seat Ohio map for the current election cycle.
SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – A new Voting Rights lawsuit was filed against the state’s recently enacted congressional map that should return six Republicans and one Democrat to Washington. The lawsuit, brought by a group of African-American voters, claims that too many black voters were packed into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D) 6th District. Because the US Justice Department has already granted pre-clearance to the South Carolina congressional plan, any lawsuit charging illegalities over minority representation is unlikely to succeed.
VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – As expected, now that Republicans will assume control of the state Senate, the new leadership announced they will wait until the next legislative session, when they are officially in control, to move a congressional map. Expect the 8R-3D ratio to be strengthened and remain locked for the ensuing decade. The new session begins in January.